Dolphins use draft to address defense, add depth
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — The Miami Dolphins’ defense, statistically the worst in team history last year, might not have added a single 2017 starter in the draft.
Miami devoted its top three picks to defense, a franchise first, but those rookies will likely begin their NFL careers as reserves.
First-round choice Charles Harris of Missouri will be groomed as an eventual replacement for five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake, who is 35. This season Harris could see limited duty as the fourth end in a four-man rotation that also includes Andre Branch and Terrence Fede.
Also joining the depth chart as backups are second-rounder Raekwon McMillan, a linebacker from Ohio State, and third-round choice Cordrea Tankersley, a cornerback from Clemson.
Football operations chief Mike Tannenbaum said the Dolphins are taking a long view rather than focusing on the lineup for the season opener versus the Bucs.
“If Charles Harris plays one play or 50 against Tampa Bay, that will all sort itself out,” Tannenbaum said. “The same thing with Raekwon, and down the line with the rest of them. I do feel it takes about three years to evaluate the draft overall, but I think we got good players and good people. They’re really good fits for what we believe we need to put a winner together.”
The selections Saturday were two fifth-round choices, Utah guard-center Isaac Asiata and LSU defensive tackle Davon Godchaux; sixth-round pick Vincent Taylor, a defensive tackle from Oklahoma State; and seventh-round selection Isaiah Ford, a receiver from Virginia Tech.
The 260-pound Harris went 22nd overall, lasting that long in part because of doubts about his run-stopping ability. He may be a pass-rush specialist as a rookie.
“I am ready to get to WORK!” Harris tweeted Saturday. “No more talking, no more cameras, none of that. Just Football!”
McMillan is expected to compete with veteran Koa Misi at outside linebacker. McMillan will also back up free agent acquisition Lawrence Timmons in the middle for the Dolphins.
“They said I can play any linebacker position,” McMillan said. “Wherever they need me to play, I can play it.”
Veteran Kiko Alonso is expected to start at the other outside linebacker spot.
As for Tankersley, the Dolphins are already talking about him helping on special teams, signaling that as a cornerback, he’s a developmental project.
“We’re encouraged by some of the pieces we added,” Tannenbaum said. “How much better we are, we’ll see. We’re excited about where we’re headed.”
Things to know about Miami’s final-day selections:
The Dolphins were the last team to draft an offensive player when they took Asiata, who started 43 games at Utah and has NFL bloodlines. He’s the cousin of Minnesota Vikings running back Matt Asiata.
Projected to go as high as the third round, Asiata is seen as a potential starter at guard or center in a year or two.
“I believe an offensive lineman needs to play with intellectuality and brutality,” Asiata said.
Godchaux was suspended briefly by his team last September when he was charged with domestic abuse and child endangerment. The charges were quickly dismissed because physical evidence did not support them, and the woman who accused Godchaux of grabbing her hair and shoulder made inconsistent statements to investigators, a prosecutor said.
“It is a very serious allegation,” Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said. “It’s something we spent a lot of time with. Once we got the facts and interviewed the kid and talked to people in Baton Rouge about it, we felt comfortable with the information we had gotten.”
LSU coach Ed Orgeron tweeted an endorsement: “Enjoyed every day coaching Davon Godchaux! He will be a tremendous player for the Dolphins!”
Taylor’s family moved to San Antonio from New Orleans because of damage to their house caused by Hurricane Katrina. He spoke about the draft mindful of the ordeal 12 years ago.
“My roof fell in,” Taylor said. “We lost everything. Losing everything and now hearing my name called is a blessing. It is a testament.”