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Friday, March 1, 2013
Why Dolphins are my sleeper pick for 2013

By James Walker

Joh Philbin, Ryan Tannehill and Cameron Wake
Miami's Joe Philbin, left, has a nucleus led by QB Ryan Tannehill and sack artist Cameron Wake.
Potential franchise quarterback? Check.

Solid defense? Check.

Plenty of resources in the draft and free agency? Check and check.

I've picked a sleeper team nearly every year since joining ESPN.com's blog network. This season's under-the-radar pick is the 2013 Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins were 7-9 last season and appear poised to take the next step. Enough good things already are in place to persuade me that Miami will be a threat to make the playoffs next season.

My track record for picking sleepers is pretty good. In 2008, I picked the "sleeper" Baltimore Ravens, who drafted a lesser-known quarterback named Joe Flacco and advanced to the AFC title game. In 2009, I picked the Cincinnati Bengals, who surprised many with an emotional run to the playoffs.

I didn’t see a sleeper in my former division in 2010 or 2011, so I took those years off. I resumed my sleeper picks in 2012 by going out on a limb with the Buffalo Bills, which was a mistake. (Remind me not to pick the Bills again until they prove something and end the NFL’s longest playoff drought.)

But I really like what is going on in Miami, which laid the foundation last season. The Dolphins are the biggest threat in the AFC East to the perennial dominance of the New England Patriots.

Here is why Miami is poised to surprise the NFL in 2013:
The Patriots are in their own league in the AFC East. Neither the Jets nor the Bills are in the same ballpark. But Miami at least has the infrastructure in place and the offseason resources to close the gap.

That makes the Dolphins my sleeper pick for 2013. You heard it here first.