DAVIE, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins checked off several roster needs in a busy three days during the 2015 draft and picked up seven quality players tasked with helping this team improve on its 8-8 record last season.
Of course, the most impactful newcomer will likely be receiver DeVante Parker, who was taken in the first round with the No. 14 pick. With his tall, strong frame and impressive resume, the consensus is that Parker will fit right in and become a reliable playmaker.
"We couldn’t be more thrilled with the result to get DeVante Parker with the 14th pick," executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said. "You run a lot of scenarios; you’re not sure which way it’s going to go. As I’ve said many times, the draft is just the next step and if we go back to February, and look at what we’ve been able to do with the addition of Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings, and seen the development of Jarvis Landry, we’re really excited about what we’ve done at that position."
Parker’s addition alone is a win-win for the Dolphins, and he shouldn’t face much opposition in making South Florida forget about Mike Wallace. The latter-round picks won’t carry that burden of high expectations but will still be needed to balance out a roster that faces heavy competition in the AFC East this season.
Miami began the final day of the draft Saturday by selecting guard Jamil Douglas in the fourth round and then made four selections in the fifth round: cornerback Bobby McCain (Memphis), running back Jay Ajayi (Boise State), safety Cedric Thompson (Minnesota), and WR/CB Tony Lippett (Michigan State).
Though each player fills a need, the Dolphins surprisingly bypassed several linebackers in the draft.
"Yeah, we do like our linebackers," general manager Dennis Hickey said. "We added Spence Paysinger and we have some young guys that we’re really excited about. Again, we stuck to our board and took the best player available."
By and large, this is a make or break season where the goal of making the playoffs is imperative. To that end, Miami made safe, solid choices and even picked up a few versatile players who can play multiple positions.
When it was all said and done, the Dolphins picked up a wide receiver, defensive tackle, guard, cornerback, running back, safety and a wide receiver who can also play cornerback. Any way you slice it, that’s a good haul that addresses holes in the roster with an immediate infusion of young talent that, for the most part, can come in and help the team right away.
PLAYER WHO SHOULD BE A STAR
Wide receiver DeVante Parker. Miami will be counting on Parker to develop into a star. By all accounts they were ecstatic he dropped to No. 14. He may have lost a step after his foot injury that kept him out of the first half of his senior year, but it’s the way he bounced back and still caught 43 passes and recorded 855 passing yards in just six games that has the Dolphins brass salivating. Just imagine what he can do fully healthy working in tandem with Ryan Tannehill, who can throw the ball high knowing full well Parker at 6-foot-3 will be able to bring it down.
Running back Jay Ajayi. Picking up a player with his pedigree so late in the fifth round brings little risk and high reward for a team that doesn’t need him on every down but can bring him along behind Lamar Miller for a potent one-two punch. The injury concerns are certainly valid, but if it weren’t for that, the Dolphins likely would haven’t had a shot at drafting him this late anyway. If he can be a dependable player who can stay healthy and also provide a boost on third downs, then this will be considered a solid pick.
"Big back, just a terrific just kind of runner," assistant general manager Eric Stokes said. "Didn’t really foresee this happening as the draft really unfolded, but really excited to get a big powerful back who’s had production. Brings physical presence, toughness, he has burst, speed and agility. I think you’ll be really impressed. Excellent hands out of the backfield, so he can really do it all."
Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. Miami’s selection of Phillips in the second round was a head-scratcher on several fronts. There was no pressing need for another big-bodied defensive lineman, his actual fit on the team isn’t very clear cut, and his game brings with it several question marks despite his size and athleticism. Hickey insisted the team stuck to their guns to draft the best player available with each pick, but the decision to use a high draft pick on someone with a debatable motor and drive seems questionable for now.
Leading up to the draft, the Dolphins brass said they were looking for quality players who love the game. It’s clear however that they’re rolling the dice on some of the draft picks who have had minor legal issues in the past as well as with some players who have battled injuries.
Douglas was arrested during his freshman year at Arizona State on burglary charges and had his charges later dropped to trespassing. Ajayi was arrested in 2011 for shoplifting clothing and sentenced to five days in jail.
"We judge each player and each situation on an individual basis," Hickey said. "Our scouts do such an amazing job with extensive research, equipping us with all the knowledge that we need. The interaction with the player in the live interview or maybe on a visit. Weigh all those things in and then you make judgments on each player, and it’s the same way with the medical with all the injury situations for every player. We talk and spend a lot of time with our doctors and we feel we own the best in the country with Dr. Johnny Uribe and our training staff under Ryan Grove. So the decision is based on the information that we have and that they have, and we talk it out and we put a value on them."