MDD Assistant Editor: Chad Pullen
As we approach the draft and the free agent market begins to dry up, here is a look at how the Dolphins could address the needs of the team as well as infuse yet more youth onto the team. There are various ways to approach each draft dependent on the needs each season. Offense heavy, defense heavy, a balanced draft filling needs on either side, or a simple best player available strategy. With the current state of the Dolphin roster as is, we will lean towards a balanced draft that fills needs, and infuses talent on both sides of the ball.
Round 1 Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Miami fans have been noticing ever since draft season began that Austin stands out in film study like few others. He is not the prototypically sized receiver you would covet as a #1 receiver, and especially not this early in the draft; however Austin would tie everything else in the Dolphin offense together. He would complement the deep speed of Mike Wallace with speed underneath, quickness off the line. The possession talent of Brian Hartline on the outside, with the same possession talent of Austin in the slot on the inside. If Wallace occupies the attention of one safety, Austin could keep the other safety busy, allowing Lamar Miller to never face an eight man front. Austin in the slot would open up the middle of the field for Dustin Keller. The possibilities are endless. Miami wouldn’t be just drafting Austin at 12 to carry the team or the offense, but rather to gel the entirety of the unit together and make it a well-oiled machine. They wouldn’t be the fastest show on turf, but they would have a shot at fastest show on grass, and in today’s NFL, fastest anything is a necessity.
Round 2 Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford and Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State
With two picks at their disposal, Miami can build on what they’ve already started. In taking Austin in round 1, they would be passing on TE Tyler Eifert who would also be quite useful in the Miami offense. Choosing to go with the elite speed of Austin does not mean however that they would then ignore the TE spot entirely. Ertz provides a big target and someone that would be useful in the red zone. He played at Stanford with Andrew Luck and was a teammate of OT Jonathan Martin. Ertz has decent hands and uses them to grab the ball rather than catching it with his body. With Keller signed for this season, it would allow Miami time to work with and evaluate both Ertz and last year’s third round TE Michael Egnew, although the hope would be that Ertz could in fact play right away in two tight end sets.
The cornerback position is the area of biggest need on defense however if Richard Marshall returns to form from injury last year and with Dimitri Patterson back with a full offseason to work, the Dolphins would have a total of four corners on the roster capable of playing, just needing an infusion of talent upgrades where possible. Enter Taylor who is a tough, physical corner that GM Jeff Ireland typically prefers in his corners. He can play in either scheme, zone or man which makes him valuable as he can adapt to whatever coverage is needed.
Round 3 Dallas Thomas, OT, Tennessee and Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
As was the case in round 2, Miami has two picks at their disposal to work with, and can fill in two gaps on their roster while plenty of talent is still on the board. Thomas played LT in college and could be switched over to RT if the Dolphins feel that Jonathan Martin can handle the left side. If they prefer Martin to play on the right, then Thomas could be asked to protect Tannehill’s blind side. My guess would be Martin playing even one year is better than having a rookie come in and be expected to protect the QB’s blind spot. Thomas is a physical tackle and has the size needed for the position only needs to hone his skills to truly be an effective player. Miami could even start him on the bench until they see him progress enough in practice to warrant the starting spot.
With Hunt, Miami would once again be taking a raw but talented pass rusher in the third round, similar to Olivier Vernon last season. Hunt, however, is much more physically imposing than Vernon is and with proper coaching could turn into a diamond in the rough rather quickly. The Dolphins would in effect be doubling down, hoping either one, Hunt or Vernon pick up the position quickly, and have Jared Odrick in the fold as well in case neither one steps up. The thinking here would be to try and upgrade the pass rush, and use Odrick in his more natural spot of backup DT. With Cam Wake on the opposite side, neither Hunt nor Vernon should need to worry about double teams, helping them do their jobs a little easier.
Round 4 J.J. Wilcox, SS, Georgia Southern
Chris Clemons re-signed this offseason to a one year deal, the thinking being that Miami may be trying to improve the position alongside Reshad Jones who was outstanding for the Dolphins in 2012. Enter Wilcox who may not be ready to take the starting spot from Clemons on day 1, but may be able to grow into the position going forward. Wilcox started his college career as a receiver and was converted late in his career. That transition may help him to understand covering the field as he learns the Safety position better at the next level. Also worth a mention that both Clemons and Jones were found in the fifth rounds of their respective drafts, Jeff Ireland has done well finding late round safeties previously; this may be one of those opportunities again.
Round 5 Brandon McGee, CB, Miami and Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida
The local talent that the state of Florida provides is always ripe with NFL prospects. You could field an entire roster of players from Florida, Florida State, Miami, as well as the smaller Floridian colleges, and that team would be one of the better ones in the NFL. Miami avoided players out of the state of Florida for several years before Ireland took Lamar Miller and Vernon out of Miami last season. McGee is a very fast corner who was most likely undercoached in college similar to Packers CB Sam Shields. In the fifth round of the draft, he could be a high upside pick that can be coached up and become useful for the Dolphins at some point in the near future. Technique he can be trained to work and improve, the speed is something you either have or you don’t. The Dolphins can teach McGee the techniques he’ll need at the NFL level; McGee can provide the speed part of the equation.
Gillislee played at Florida and would be a solid choice as a third back behind Miller and Daniel Thomas. He has all the tools needed to be useful including the ability to pass block and catch out of the backfield. He’s a tough runner and not quite the burner that Miller is, but not exactly slow either. The NFL has proven time after time that late round running backs can and will be successful in the NFL and given that this would be the eighth pick for the Dolphins with two rounds and three picks left to go, Gillislee would be a solid value at this juncture.
Round 7 Sean Renfree, QB, Duke – Marcus Davis, WR, Virginia Tech, and Duke Williams, SS, Nevada
With extra picks in this draft, it would be wise for the Dolphins to add another QB to stash on the practice squad to compete with Pat Devlin and eventually take over the backup role currently held by Matt Moore. With Moore signing a two year deal, Miami could opt to trade Moore to a team that is in search of a QB at some point for a future draft pick and either Devlin or Renfree would then elevate to Tannehill’s backup. Renfree played several years at Duke and has a lot of snaps at the college level. He will never be a starting caliber NFL QB but he does have the size and arm needed to at least warrant a job.
Davis is the type of WR Miami doesn’t currently have at 6-3 with 4.5 speed as well as big hands and the ability to go up for the ball. He’s not polished at receiver, but in round 7 it can’t be expected of him to be. The bottom line for Davis is his physical tools are worth a look in the seventh round to see if he could turn into a Marcus Colston situation which would thrill the Dolphins to know end.
Williams would serve as protection in case Wilcox doesn’t work out as hoped and at work may be able to contribute on special teams. He has good size and speed and at Nevada did work in man to man coverage at times. If even one of these three from the seventh round pan out, Miami would be very happy, but Ireland has managed to find useful players recently in Jimmy Wilson, Rishad Mathews, and Kheeston Randall so it’s quite possible someone from this round could stick with the team and at worst provide some depth to their respective unit.