With the Combine and most free agency activity over, has the Miami Dolphins draft strategy changed? Let’s find out with another Miami Dolphins mock draft.
The Miami Dolphins have made some big moves so far in free agency. They kept their own in Kenny Stills and Andre Branch. Then they went out and signed linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Finally, they pulled off a trade to bring in William Hayes. How do these moves affect draft strategy? It’s time for another Miami Dolphins mock draft.
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At the end of the day, I don’t think that any of the moves made in free agency change a whole lot with regards to the draft. The moves feel like they are planning for the future. They’ve brought in older guys on short contracts, seemingly as a stop-gap measure until the draft guys are ready to step up and move the franchise forward. Stills and Branch are going to be with the team for years to come, but Timmons and Hayes, both on the wrong side of 30, especially are here to mentor.
With big questions still looming on both sides of the ball, what is the best way for the Dolphins to approach the draft? Should they load up on defense early, in a class rife with talent, and save the offensive questions for later? Should they bank on that defensive depth and target the offensive line on Day 1?
For answers to those questions and more, here is a post-Combine, early free agency Miami Dolphins seven-round mock draft. Note: This mock draft was compiled using FanSpeak’s On the Clock mock draft simulator.
Anthony Steen. Kraig Urbik. Ted Larsen. As of today, two of those three are going to be your starting guards. If a shiver went up your spine reading that, you’re not alone. I trust the Dolphins front office knows just how much of a disaster this has the potential to be. They must have a plan to address the offensive line further.
Enter Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp. Much like Laremy Tunsil in last year’s NFL Draft, Lamp is thought to be one of the best offensive line prospects in the class. Also like Tunsil, Lamp would likely slide inside to the guard spot in Miami. Unlike Tunsil, however, I think that Lamp’s permanent position in the NFL is guard. And I think he’ll excel at it.
Lamp comes from a small school and for the most part has not faced the level of competition that NFL scouts look for. However, if you think Lamp can’t hold up against stiff competition, go to Draft Breakdown and throw on the matchup against Alabama. Lamp held his own very well against easily the most talented front-line in all of college football.
Lamp has the size and athleticism to be an impact guard at the NFL level for many years to come. He put on a show at the NFL Combine, finishing among the top performers at his position in the 40-yard dash, bench press, broad jump, and 3-cone drill. Numbers that solidify that, despite coming from a small school, he has the makeup of an NFL-caliber starter.
If he slips to Miami at 22, I wouldn’t hesitate to draft him and leave the other problem area, linebacker, for the second round.
Sep 19, 2015; Lexington, KY, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Keanu Neal (42) and linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) celebrate during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium. Florida defeated Kentucky 14-9. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Round 2: Jarrad Davis – LB, Florida
At this point, it’s no secret how I feel about the 2016 Miami Dolphins linebacker corps. They weren’t good. In fact, they were bad. Very bad. Only the 49ers and Browns were worse against the run than the Dolphins last season. Their defense against the pass was middle-of-the-road statistically, only because they were so bad against the run. If you watched them play, the tape tells a different story.
Whether against the run or the pass, the Dolphins group of linebackers needs to improve. This is something the front office knows, and they’re taking steps to improve the situation. They went out in free agency and brought in a proven winner in former Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Timmons is a great piece that will have a big impact on whoever the Dolphins decide to draft.
And make no mistake about it, I believe they will draft at least one linebacker. They aren’t going to be satisfied going into the season with this group. The 2017 draft class has a lot of top-end talent at the linebacker position, and the guy I like for the Dolphins in the second round is Jarrad Davis from Florida.
The Dolphins could decide to flip priorities, drafting a linebacker in the first round and addressing the offensive line in the second, but I think doing things this way is the better value. Guys like Forrest Lamp and Garrett Bolles won’t be available in the second round. Whereas someone like Jarrad Davis, Zach Cunningham, or Raekwon McMillan is likely to slip into the second.
Cunningham and McMillan were already gone at this point in the draft, so Davis was the obvious choice. I would put him third on that list of guys I just gave you, but I think both the team and fans alike would be pleased to have him in Miami.
The Dolphins front office came into the free agency period with one main objective: Keep our talent in-house, for once. After seeing guys like Olivier Vernon, Lamar Miller, and others bolt in free agency in recent years, Miami put a premium on this. They were able to keep their two biggest free agents, Kenny Stills and Andre Branch, in Miami with new deals.
Keeping Branch in Miami lessens the need for the team to draft an EDGE rusher. But it doesn’t completely eliminate it. They can get away without drafting one in the first two rounds, but they do need to bring in another young, fresh body. Cameron Wake, as great as he is, can’t play forever. He’s 35 and likely only has a couple years left in the tank.
Depth on the defensive side of the ball is a theme pervasive throughout the 2017 draft class. It seems like there’s a wealth of talent at just about every position. EDGE rusher is no different. Myles Garrett is likely to be the first name off the board in the draft, and a ton of his compatriots will follow suit. For Miami’s part, I love the value of Youngstown State’s Derek Rivers in the third round.
Rivers is a name that’s climbing up draft boards recently, and may not be there when the Dolphins are on the clock in the third. If he is, the team should run to the podium. Another small-school standout, Rivers has the physical tools to excel at the next level. He absolutely dominated his competition week in and week out, which is what you want to see from these guys.
Rivers put in an impressive Combine performance. He scored as a top performer for the EDGE position in the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, and 3-cone drill. Those results show that Rivers has an amazing combination of speed, power, and agility. At only 248 pounds, he’ll likely be asked to put on some weight at the next level. If he can maintain the agility and speed, he’ll be a force.
Mar 2, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; West Virginia offensive lineman Tyler Orlosky speaks to the media during the 2017 combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Round 5: Tyler Orlosky – C/OG, West Virginia
With the first of their three picks in the fifth round, the Dolphins would be wise to double-down on the offensive line. As I said, I can’t imagine Dolphins brass is comfortable with the idea of Larsen, Urbik, or Steen being the full-time starter at guard. The team survived last year with horrendous play from Jermon Bushrod, I don’t think they’re excited for a repeat performance.
Versatility is the theme with the picks for Miami on the offensive line. Lamp played tackle in his college days and, in a pinch, will be able to fill in at the position should either Tunsil or Ja’Wuan James go down to injury. This pick, West Virginia’s Tyler Orlosky, would serve much the same purpose. Not only would it give Miami another option at guard, it provides some insurance if center Mike Pouncey goes down to injury again.
Orlosky may be a bit undersized for the interior of an NFL line, but he plays strong for his size. More importantly, he has a mean streak that you want from your men up front. He is great with his hands and should be a very consistent blocker in the run game. With the emergence of Jay Ajayi last season, that has to be at the forefront of the front office’s minds.
The NFL is a brutal game. Sometimes a guy suffers an injury from which he’ll never recover. Such is the case for former Dolphins safety Isa Abdul-Quddus. Abdul-Quddus was brought in to be a force in the Dolphins defensive backfield when paired with Reshad Jones.
Unfortunately, Abdul-Quddus suffered a serious neck injury, ending his season prematurely. As of right now, it looks like the injury has also ended his career. Abdul-Quddus isn’t recovering well and was waived from the team earlier this week.
Much like the case with the offensive line, I believe the Dolphins front office isn’t happy with the answers they have in-house at safety opposite Jones. Right now, they have the newly-signed Nate Allen and special teams stand-out Michael Thomas fighting for that second safety spot. Thomas is a restricted free agent, and could find a new home, leaving Allen as the only option.
Luckily for Miami, the 2017 NFL Draft is exceptionally deep at the safety position. One of the real value picks could be Lorenzo Jerome, a little-known prospect from St. Francis (PA).
Jerome is going to face the same questions that Forrest Lamp will. Coming from a small school, the level of competition just isn’t there in a scout’s eyes. It’s a hurdle that every small-school kid has to clear. Thanks to a stellar Senior Bowl performance, I think it’s one that Jerome has.
Though he’s a bit undersized for the position, his instincts more than make up for it. He’s a ball-hawking safety who can also contribute in the special teams game. Should the Dolphins lose Michael Thomas either this season or in the future, Jerome could be the guy who steps up to fill that role: special teams star and a serviceable safety. It’s not a ringing endorsement. But in the fifth round, it’s about the best you can hope for.
One of the few positions the Dolphins are actually pretty solid at on the defensive side of the ball is at cornerback. Last year’s second-round pick Xavien Howard started off slowly thanks to a knee injury, but his play developed nicely towards the end of the year. The same can be said for the previous year’s fifth-round pick, Tony Lippett.
Opposite the two young guns, veteran cornerback Byron Maxwell also has his struggles early. Maxwell came to the Dolphins in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. A trade that also involved starting linebacker Kiko Alonso.
Judging by his play early in the season, the Dolphins got the worse end of that deal, but Maxwell turned it on by season’s end. He wasn’t quite the player he was at the start of his career in Seattle, but he was a solid contributor.
That being said, it’s never a bad idea to stockpile talent, and the fifth round is a great place to take a flyer on a physical freak at the position, Central Florida’s Shaquill Griffin. As you can see from the tweet below, Griffin has all the physical tools you need at the position. His physical traits are some of the best at the position.
For more about what RAS is and how it applies, check out this article from Kent Lee Platte.
Judging from his performance at the Senior Bowl, those physical traits are going to have to be coached up before they translate on the football field. Griffin struggled at the Senior Bowl when paired up against Michigan’s Amara Darboh. However, with a good coaching staff and some time, Griffin could blossom into a very good nickel corner option.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver ArDarius Stewart (13) before the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Round 7: Ardarius Stewart – Wide Receiver, Alabama
With the first of their two selections in the seventh round, the Miami Dolphins take Alabama wide receiver Ardarius Stewart. If that sentence strikes you as odd, it should. For several reasons. First and foremost is that the Dolphins, at least as of today, do not have two selections in the seventh round. I can’t tell you why FanSpeak has us with two in the seventh, I can only go with what I’m given.
The second reason that sentence should strike you as odd is that the chances of Stewart still being on the board in the seventh round aren’t good. Slim-to-none, I would say. Stewart isn’t in the upper echelon of this year’s receiving class. But in a class that isn’t particularly deep, I don’t see any reason for Stewart to fall this far.
If you’re looking for a speedy receiver who is going to eat defenses alive with the ball in his hands, Stewart is your guy. He has an incredible knack for gaining yards after the catch. He’s elusive and will make some team very happy. I see Stewart more as a fourth or fifth round prospect. However, if Stewart should fall this far, I’d love to see the Dolphins snatch him up. He would give the Dolphins some insurance, should they be unable to lock Jarvis Landry up long-term.
Mar 4, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware speaks to the media during the 2017 combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Round 7: Ben Boulware – LB, Clemson
For a much more likely seventh round pick, the Dolphins close out their draft with a champion. Ben Boulware was an instrumental part of the Clemson defense on their run to back-to-back National Championship games, both against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Things didn’t end well for Clemson in the 2016 National Championship game, but they got their revenge this season.
Boulware isn’t looked at as a highly-sought linebacker prospect, but to be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure why. I get that Boulware doesn’t exactly have the size you’re looking for from a middle linebacker, but I think he’s got the intelligence, instincts, and physical tools to at least compete at the next level.
He’s not fast, and he has short arms. But his instincts are there, and I don’t think there is a tougher, more firey individual available in this draft. Boulware will have to make a contribution on special teams if he wants to find a permanent home in the NFL. But that should serve to only further motivate him. I think that, with some coaching to help minimize his flaws, Boulware could develop into one of the steals of the 2017 NFL Draft.