With the season ended and Senior Bowl concluded, it’s time for another Miami Dolphins 7-round mock for the 2017 NFL Draft.
So much has changed since the first Miami Dolphins mock draft. The Dolphins qualified for their first playoff appearance since 2008, thus sliding a few spots down the draft board. The Senior Bowl has been completed, giving teams a chance to scout the nation’s best seniors up close and personal. Underclassmen have officially declared for the draft, greatly expanding the available talent pool.
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The biggest change that will affect the Miami Dolphins draft strategy, however, comes from within. Shortly after the Dolphins were ousted from the playoffs by the Pittsburgh Steelers, they lost their defensive coordinator. Vance Joseph moved on from the Dolphins to become the head coach for the Denver Broncos.
With Joseph’s departure, former linebackers coach Matt Burke assumes the role of defensive coordinator. How does this affect how the Dolphins handle the upcoming draft? What defensive philosophies will Burke bring, and which players will be the best fit for his scheme?
Honestly, it’s hard to say. A more aggressive zone scheme makes safeties and edge blitzers a higher priority while a strong man-to-man scheme leans more heavily on cornerbacks and defensive linemen. Unfortunately, the answers to those questions are well above my pay-grade.
With that in mind, the picks for this mock draft are based on best overall value and the assumption that the new defense will be at least somewhat similar to the old.
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Round 1: Takkarist McKinley, EDGE – UCLA
We kick off our Miami Dolphins mock draft with a versatile pass rusher from UCLA. The Dolphins have more pressing needs on the defensive side of the ball than an edge rusher. Chiefly among them is outside linebacker. So on first glance, this pick might seem like a wasted one. However, with the talent that was already taken at the LB spot, and the talent Takkarist McKinley has, I’m confident in this pick.
McKinley really came on in his senior season for the Bruins, earning himself All-Pac 12 honors thanks to 18 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, and six pass breakups. He has established himself as a skilled pass rusher, even if he is a bit raw at the position. Where I think that McKinley has value, and is a good pick for the Dolphins, however, is thanks to his athleticism.
McKinley was a track star in high school, and his tape shows a great deal of speed and agility. Call me crazy, but I think that McKinley has a skillset that would not be terribly difficult to transition to linebacker. Much like what I think the plan would have been with Dion Jordan, had he ever been able to stay on the field consistently.
Whether the Dolphins would attempt to move him up a level to play outside linebacker, or would keep him on the defensive line to spell an aging Cam Wake and Andre Branch, McKinley would be a tremendous pick for the squad.
Tre’Davious White, cornerback from LSU, is a guy that I really like in this draft. I have a first-round grade on him, so to see him slip to the Dolphins in the second would leave me ecstatic. White doesn’t fit with the Vance Joseph mold of corners, as he’s a smaller guy with a slight frame. That being said, the kid is one of the best pure cover corners in this draft, bar none.
White shows exceptional quickness and has the mirroring skills to be left alone on an island. Where White really separates himself from other corners is his instincts. White trusts what he’s seeing on the field, along with his athletic ability. You rarely see him committing to a play early, showing impeccable timing to the ball.
If instincts are White’s biggest selling point, his agility isn’t far behind. White is very adept at being able to start and stop on a dime. Even the craftiest of receivers has issues with how well White can shadow them. Small corner or not, Miami is in desperate need of that kind of player.
Where White struggles, and what may drive him down several teams’ draft boards is his finesse. White is a small guy. He doesn’t show much willingness to stick his nose in and make a tackle. He’ll do what he has to, but he’s not eager and that will turn some teams off from him.
As it stands today, the Miami Dolphins don’t have a selection in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. This is a pick that was given up in the trade with the Minnesota Vikings that allowed the Dolphins to select Leonte Carroo in last year’s draft.
However, it’s likely that Miami will receive at least one compensatory pick for free agents lost last season. I have to imagine that is why the people over at FanSpeak have this pick belonging to Miami. It’s a bit difficult to project a pick here knowing that it’s not one the team currently has, but I would be thrilled to see the Dolphins awarded a compensatory pick and be able to use it on Pat Elflein.
Elflein is a center from the Ohio State University who seems to be rocketing up some people’s draft boards. The likelihood of him still being available in the third round isn’t very high. If he is available, Miami would be foolish to not snatch him up.
Jay Ajayi burst onto the scene last season in a big way. Thanks to a healthy offensive line in front of him, he was able to explode for back-to-back 200 yard games. Those efforts were anchored in large part by a healthy Mike Pouncey. When Pouncey went down with a re-aggravation of his hip injury, the effectiveness of the running game plummeted.
The reality of the situation is that Pouncey is an unknown right now. We don’t know if he’ll be able to come back from his hip injury. If he is able to come back, we don’t know how effective he’s going to be, or how long it will be before he’s out with another injury. Miami would be wise to start thinking about his replacement now. Before it’s too late.
In all of my years watching the NFL Draft, I can’t remember a class that was as deep at the tight end position as the 2017 class. There are no fewer than nine guys that have the potential to be significant contributors to their teams. One of those guys is Jeremy Sprinkle from the University of Arkansas.
Sprinkle is a big tight end at 6-5, 250+ pounds., and I think he’s got room to add even more weight if he’s asked to do so. Though he didn’t have outstanding production during his time with the Razorbacks, he’s shown a lot of flashes of potential as both a receiver and a blocker.
Tight end is a position of desperate need for the Dolphins. They’ve tried several different options at the position and none of them have panned out the way the squad had hoped. We saw flashes from Dion Sims this season, and he could be developing, but I think the Dolphins would be wise to take a chance on Sprinkle.
Sprinkle’s skill set is one that I think would normally have him a little bit higher than the fifth round, but there are some off-the-field concerns surrounding him. During the Razorbacks’ trip to the Belk Bowl, Sprinkle was busted trying to shoplift. That isolated incident may not be enough to drop him much, but it’s cause for teams to start digging. If that digging leads to other issues being uncovered, then the fifth round sounds about right.
As was the case with our third-round selection, if the draft were today Miami would not have multiple picks in the fifth round. Again, I believe this is FanSpeak projecting compensatory picks for the Dolphins. I’m going to make the most of the picks while I have them. Next up we have another versatile guy that I think, despite his listed position, could fill a hole in the Dolphins defense.
Just like first-round pick Takkarist McKinley, Dawuane Smoot from Illinois is a former track athlete. Smoot was such a stand-out track athlete, in fact, that he competed in the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics in the hurdles. Smoot has since filled out significantly, but you can still see that athleticism and agility.
For that reason, and because of Smoot’s short-comings as a consistent pass rusher, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him bump up a level and become an outside linebacker. Smoot has the speed and agility to be able to cover most tight ends in space, and has good enough footwork to be able to stick with guys down the field a bit.
Where Smoot is lacking is strength. He doesn’t play as strong as someone listed at 6-3, 255 pounds should play. He can find himself pushed around and bullied by otherwise less-talented offensive linemen. That’s not going to work in the NFL. What Smoot does have going for him is the coaching pedigree. Some teams will love that Smoot spent his senior season under the tutelage of former NFL head coach Lovie Smith.
Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
Round 5: Chad Hansen, WR – California
First thing’s first, I don’t expect the Miami Dolphins to draft a wide receiver in the 2017 NFL Draft. It’s an exceptionally deep class, and a lot of good talent is going to find itself waiting until Day 3. But the reality is that, as it sits right now, the Dolphins wide receiver corps is pretty stacked.
All-Pro caliber slot receiver Jarvis Landry continues his torrid start to his career, posting yet another season of 80+ receptions and 1,000+ yards. Landry set the all-time record for most reception in a receiver’s first two seasons, and he’s not slowing down anytime soon.
On the outside, the Dolphins have two great complements to Landry. Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker. With Stills they have the speedy deep-threat guy. Stills exploded this season for 726 yards on only 42 receptions, notching an impressive 17.3 yards per reception. Stills biggest contribution, however, was his scoring capability. He led the Dolphins with nine touchdown receptions, and left at least a couple of them on the field.
With Parker, they have the utility receiver. Parker has big-play, down-the-field potential like Stills, but doesn’t have quite the speed. Parker does, however, have more size than Stills and can be more of a threat in the deep-middle of the field. Perfect complements to each other’s skill sets.
Why then should Miami consider a wide receiver? I’m looking at worst-case scenario with this pick. In this offseason, Stills is going to be a free agent. With the season he had, he’s going to command a high price that I’m not sure Miami will be willing to pay. To make matters worse, the Dolphins are going to have to give Landry a hefty contract after next season or lose him, too. Drafting Chad Hansen would help ease those losses.
Much like Pat Elflein in the third round, Tedric Thompson is a guy that I don’t expect to get at this spot. The safety out of Colorado has a lot of traits to like in a player at the position. I think that he’s going to be a name we start to hear more and more about as we get closer to the actual start of the draft. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Thompson go a full two rounds earlier than this.
Why would the Dolphins even draft Thompson? If last season showed us anything, it’s that there is a pretty severe lack of depth on defense. Especially in the defensive backfield. When All-Pro caliber safety Reshad Jones went out for the season with a shoulder injury, Michael Thomas was tasked with filling the void. And at times it wasn’t pretty.
Then, to compound the issue, the Dolphins later lost their other starting safety, Isa Abdul-Quddus. The lack of depth was glaring at that point. Drafting Thompson would go a long way towards filling that deficiency.
Thompson is a tall safety at 6-1 (compared to one of the top safeties in the draft, Budda Baker, at only 5-10). He’s got good instincts at the position, and shows some nice burst to be able to play center field. A trait that is of paramount importance to the position. Where Thompson leaves much to be desired is in his physicality. Or lack thereof.
Thompson isn’t going to be the kind of safety that you can bring up into the box for run support. He’s just not physical enough with his slight frame. He also doesn’t show much willingness in run support, which compounds the issue. For the Dolphins, he would be a spot-starter at best, but that’s exactly what this team needs.
With the final pick in our Miami Dolphins mock draft, we find ourselves taking a bit of a luxury. Ryan Tannehill, for all his faults, made a lot of progress this season under rookie head coach Adam Gase. Tannehill is firmly planted as the team’s starting quarterback, and another year in Gase’s system is only going to yield more positive results.
Tannehill’s job is nothing if not secure for the foreseeable future, so this pick isn’t about selecting someone to supplant him. This pick is more about depth, and taking a shot. I’m in the camp that feels it’s a good idea to take a quarterback in nearly every draft. You never know when you’re going to hit it big with someone. Conversely, you never know when your starter is going to go down with an injury.
The Dolphins saw it this year. Everything was going well for the Dolphins.They were cruising towards their first playoff appearance since 2008. Then, with one hit, collective hearts skipped a beat. Tannehill suffered a season-ending knee injury, and it’s still unclear just when, or if, he’ll be 100 percent again.
Matt Moore came in and performed nicely in Tannehill’s absence, but he’s an aging veteran who isn’t going to be around forever. Seth Russell, the quarterback from Baylor, has some nice traits that could see him stick with whichever team takes a flyer on him late.
Were he healthy, Russell would probably be projected higher than the seventh round. He’s a pretty athletic quarterback and has pretty good arm strength. Teams are going to be scared off by his injury history and lack of playing time at Baylor. Russell wouldn’t be expected to see much, if any, playing time for the Dolphins and would likely be a practice squad player like Brandon Doughty was last year. I think it’s worth the risk.
Well, there you have it folks, my Miami Dolphins mock draft as of right now. Keep in mind, we still have a long way to go between here and the NFL Draft. We still have the Scouting Combine, individual pro days, and free agency to come before then. It will be fun seeing how those steps affect things.