Draft season is in full swing with the 2017 NFL Draft three weeks away, so it’s time for another Miami Dolphins seven-round mock draft.
After a disappointing season in 2015 that saw the Miami Dolphins finish outside the top 20 in total offense yet again, the Dolphins entered the 2016 NFL Draft with a clear strategy. Fix the offense with a barrage of new, young talent. Last season’s draft class saw the Dolphins use six of their eight selections on the offensive side of the ball in an attempt to fix their woes.
The jury is still out on just how effective that 2016 draft class will be, but they attained some very mixed results in their first year in the league. The Dolphins first-round pick, Laremy Tunsil, performed well in his first year at the left guard spot. This season Tunsil will be kicking outside to the left tackle spot, his natural position. Tunsil will look to anchor an offensive line looking to build on some momentum from last season, ahead of franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill and emerging running back Jay Ajayi.
The Dolphins enter the 2017 NFL season coming off a surprise playoff run, but with many questions swirling about the team, primarily on the defensive side of the ball. The team finished near the bottom of the league against the rush, finishing just behind the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers. The team was middle-of-the-road against the pass last season, but if they want to build momentum and re-establish themselves as a winning franchise, the run defense must improve.
What answers does the 2017 NFL Draft hold for the Dolphins? How can they use a deep defensive class to hopefully yield more consistent results than last year’s class? Let’s take a look with another Miami Dolphins mock draft.
Mar 5, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Temple Owls defensive back Haason Reddick participates in a workout drill during the 2017 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Round 1: Haason Reddick, EDGE/LB – Temple
The Dolphins need to set the tone for the 2017 NFL Draft early, and there’s no better way to do that than with Temple’s Haason Reddick. A four-year starter for the Owls at defensive end, Reddick doesn’t have the size to play the position at the NFL level and will likely move up a level to the linebacker position. A position the Dolphins are desperate for an upgrade at.
The team spent money in the offseason to bring more talent to the linebacker corps in the form of former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons, and he’s a great pickup for the Dolphins. He’s going to provide a mean streak and leadership quality the locker room needs. But he’s not a permanent solution at the position. Reddick is. Timmons will be a great mentor, but Reddick is the answer for the future.
Reddick lined up all over the field during his time with the Temple Owls, playing both left and right defensive end. He has experience playing with his had in the dirt, and dropping back in coverage. That experience dropping back shows he has the ability to handle the responsibilities asked of a linebacker. Reddick excelled when asked to play a coverage role last season. In his senior season with the Owls, Reddick notched six passes defended and hauled in his only career interception.
Whether asked to come off the corner and rush the passer, set the edge and contribute in the running game, or drop back in coverage against a tight end or running back, Haason Reddick can do it all. The first round is rife with defensive talent and there’s going to be no shortage of good players available when Miami is on the clock. Haason Reddick is, in my mind, the best option.
Oct 15, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) against the Missouri Tigers during the first quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Round 2: Jarrad Davis, LB – Florida
In a draft with this much talent on the defensive side of the ball, it’s a pretty safe bet that some really talented players are going to slip out of the first round. There are a number of linebackers that I feel have first-round talent, but numbers say that at least one of them is going to have to wait to hear his name called. Jarrad Davis, the ultra-talented linebacker from Florida, is the guy I think most likely to have to wait until Day 2 to be selected.
And the Miami Dolphins will reap the benefits if they decide to double-down on the linebacker position. Davis seems to be kind of a forgotten man this draft season, with his cornerback teammates Jalen “Teez” Tabor and Quincy Wilson taking up the lion’s share of the publicity. Both players are likely to be selected in the first round, but Davis may be the most talented of the bunch.
Unlike the first pick in this Miami Dolphins mock draft, Davis isn’t a guy who you’re going to ask to rush the passer on obvious passing downs. Davis is much more of a traditional linebacker, playing exclusively without his hand in the dirt. Where Davis is going to excel at the NFL level is exactly where the Dolphins need the most help, run support.
The knock on Davis is that he can be too aggressive, taking bad angles to the ball and missing tackles due to his aggressive nature. If that’s the biggest knock on a linebacker, sign me up every time. I want my linebackers to stick their nose in there and want to make a play on each and every down. Coaches can work with him on taking better angles, and I don’t think he misses as many tackles as his detractors would have you believe. Getting Davis and pairing him with Haason Reddick would be a dream scenario for the Miami Dolphins.
The defensive side of the ball is where the Dolphins are likely going to focus their draft efforts, and rightly so. There are a ton of question marks on that side of the ball, and finishing in the bottom-five against the run again isn’t going to cut it this season. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dolphins look to address some of their offensive questions in this draft, too. I don’t think they’re going to spend every pick on defense.
One of the questions on offense that needs to be addressed sooner or later is “What is Miami going to do without Mike Pouncey?” When he’s healthy, Pouncey still plays at an elite level, and he was a catalyst for Jay Ajayi’s back-to-back 200 yard performances last season. The caveat “when healthy” has been the major issue for Pouncey recently, and it’s likely to remain an issue for the rest of his playing career.
Just how healthy is that hip? Is Pouncey going to be able to recover and play a full season? How many seasons does he have left, and what’s the back-up plan at Center? These are questions the Dolphins are going to have to ask themselves, and questions that I think can be answered in the third round with LSU’s Ethan Pocic.
The biggest benefit to Pocic, over the other top center prospect in this draft Pat Elflein, is the versatility that Pocic presents. I’ve talked a lot in my previous draft pieces about versatility, and it’s something the Dolphins desperately need, especially along the line. Pocic has experience at all three positions along the offensive line, and would be able to jump in to a starting role should someone go down to injury.
Round 5: Jeremy Cutrer, CB – Middle Tennessee State
After a brief foray into the offensive side of things, the Dolphins kick off the first of their three fifth-round picks by returning to the defense, this time addressing the need for depth in the defensive backfield. Middle Tennessee State’s Jeremy Cutrer is a Day 3 prospect that I think could surprise a lot of people. He has the skills that I think he could even challenge Byron Maxwell for a starting position right away.
The biggest knock on Cutrer is his size. The Dolphins, and the NFL as a whole, have seen a shift in recent years towards bigger cornerbacks. Cutrer just doesn’t fit that mold right now. He comes into the 2017 NFL Draft measuring just over 6-1 and not even 170 pounds. He’s got some good height, but he’s going to need to hit the weight room hard if he wants to see consistent playing time at the next level. If Cutrer can put on 15-20 pounds, he has the talent to play on the outside and hold his own against the best this league has to offer.
Coming to the league from Middle Tennessee State, Cutrer is inevitably going to have to face the questions about the level of competition he faced. I’ve mentioned many times that I think the school a kid went to is overblown, and that’s a hill I’m willing to die on if need be. If a kid has the skills to play, he has the skills regardless of the school he attended. Cutrer has those skills.
In his two seasons at the FBS level, Cutrer has been nothing short of a ball-hawk. He pulled in three interceptions in each of his two seasons, and was around the ball seemingly on every pass play. He tallied 29 passes defended in just two years at the position. Cutrer has also exhibited some useful skills coming off the edge as an occasional blitzer. He racked up seven tackles for loss and one sack in his two seasons.
He’ll need to make a contribution on special teams to start his career, but I believe Cutrer has the talent to blossom into one of the steals in this draft a few years down the line.
Nov 28, 2015; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners defensive tackle Charles Walker (97) against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium. The Sooners defeated the Cowboys 58-23. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Round 5: Charles Walker, DT – Oklahoma
On a pure talent basis, Oklahoma defensive tackle Charles Walker is easily a third-round prospect, and probably a guy who could slide up into the later portions of the second round. He has a ton of talent and has prototypical size for someone on the interior of the defensive line.
However, when you factor in his injury history and questions about his effort and motor, the red flags on Walker drive him down a lot of draft boards. I would venture to guess that there are some teams that won’t even have Walker on their draft boards. Walker is going to be a risky pick, but with three picks in the fifth round, I think it’s a risk that Miami should take. If they hit, they’re getting the run-stuffing defensive tackle they need to pair alongside Ndamukong Suh.
Walker, ideally, would play nose tackle in a 3-4 defensive scheme, but that’s not what Miami lines up in. Walker would be asked to shift inside and play as a tackle in a 4-3 scheme, which shouldn’t be much of an issue for Walker. Teams are outside of their base defense upwards of 60 perecent of the time anyways, and Walker will likely be in rotation with young defensive tackle Jordan Phillips.
At his best, Walker is a physical specimen who will be able to dominate in the run game. He is strong in both his upper and lower body, and has the explosiveness to get off the block and be a disruptor. Walker struggled at times with his play recognition and will have to answer questions about his motor, but he could provide the plug-and-play defensive tackle the Dolphins have been searching for.
Aug 10, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; A detailed view of a Miami Dolphins football helmet before practice at Baptist Health Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Round 5: Eric Saubert, TE – Drake
The 2017 NFL Draft class at the tight end position is likely the deepest class I have ever seen. Guys like O.J. Howard, David Njoku, and Evan Engram steal the show, but there is a ton of talent at the position deep into the draft. One of my favorite late-round tight ends is Eric Saubert from Drake—and not just because I’m an Iowa guy. Saubert has a skillset that will find its way onto an NFL roster. He’ll make a contribution in this league before all is said and done.
The Miami Dolphins don’t have a pressing need at the tight end spot, but Saubert is a guy who isn’t going to be on the board when the Dolphins come back on the clock in the seventh round. The fifth round might be a bit of a stretch for Saubert, but with three picks in the round, the Dolphins could easily make that leap without much hesitation.
Miami is solid at the tight end position heading into the draft. Thanks in large part to the series of trades with the Jacksonville Jaguars that ended in the acquisition of former Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas. In Miami, Thomas gets to be reunited with his old offensive coordinator Adam Gase. Under Gase’s tutelage, Thomas had his best seasons with the Broncos, catching 24 touchdowns over two seasons.
Thomas struggled in his two seasons in Jacksonville, and has been injury-prone both seasons. Both Thomas and the Dolphins are hopeful that the reunion with Gase will rekindle success. It’s always good to have a back-up plan, though, and Saubert could provide that security.
Jan 28, 2017; Mobile, AL, USA; South squad wide receiver Josh Reynolds of Texas A&M (81) fumbles the ball as he is tackled by North squad safety Lorenzo Jerome of Saint Francis (PA) (22) during the second quarter of the 2017 Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports
Round 7: Lorenzo Jerome, SS – St. Francis (PA)
With their final pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Dolphins will look to plug one last hole in their defensive backfield. This time at the safety position alongside All-Pro Reshad Jones. It’s not often that you draft someone in the last round of the draft who can make an immediate impact on your team. But I believe that Lorenzo Jerome has that capability.
Another small-school kid, I believe that Jerome has the talent to come in right away and compete with the recently signed Nate Allen for a starting job. Jerome will likely have to make a contribution on special teams if he wants to guarantee a spot on the roster, but I believe the kid has the talent and skills to push for starting time right away.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the Allen signing to begin with. However, there’s no question that the Dolphins need healthy bodies in the defensive backfield. The team was decimated by injury last season, and last year’s starter, Isa Abdul-Quddus, has likely seen the last of his playing days, at least for the foreseeable future. What’s more, T.J. McDonald is suspended for the first eight games of 2017, lessening the overall depth at safety for half the season.
Ball skills are really what separate Jerome from the rest of the pack at this position. Jerome has a natural ability to play the ball and always finds himself making a play. He doesn’t have prototypical size or speed for the position, but he always finds himself around the ball. During his four years as a starter, Jerome notched 18 interceptions and defended 47 passes.
If Jerome slips to the Dolphins in the seventh round—he feels like more of a fifth-to-sixth round prospect to me—the Dolphins could have themselves a very solid draft. How that translates to play on the field remains to be seen, but it’s a great start.