Last year, Adam Gase, approached the NFL draft with the mindset that he needed to get players that fit his system. He wanted to address key positions on the offensive side of the ball, which work within his playbook. Reviewing the 2016 draft results, the Miami Dolphins used 80% of their draft picks on the offense, this year, they need to flip the script.
As the 2016 season started, the Miami Dolphins were the 20th youngest team in the NFL. That was a large drop in order, compared to 2015, where the Dolphins ranked 5th. If you take a look at the roster, the Dolphins average on offense is 24 years old, compared to the defense, 29 years old, you can honestly assess where the injection of youth is required.
The Miami Dolphins were exposed several times in the 2016 season, the biggest flaw was their run game. On the flip side, the Dolphins biggest strength was their defensive line, however, teams countered that strength by implementing 2 and 3 step drops for their quarterback to get rid of the ball. The Dolphins D-line, was unable to get to the quarterback in 2 seconds, thereby rendering their biggest strength as a useless asset.
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The age on the Dolphins defensive line is a concern. The Dolphins did approach previous drafts with the understanding that they needed to address this concern, by drafting Dion Jordan (1st round selection) and Olivier Vernon (3rd round selection). Jordan hasn’t played a snap in almost two years and Vernon is taking snaps in New York. Bottom line, the Dolphins draft picks, which are cornerstones in building a solid foundation, once again did not go the way they expected.
The linebacker position is another concern. Truth be told, the Dolphins cannot line up right now if the OTA’s started. Kiko Alonso is a restricted free agent, Jelani Jenkins is a free agent, same with Donald Butler, and Spencer Paysinger. Once again, the Dolphins used a 2nd round draft pick on Koa Misi, thinking that they will be addressing a key position for years to come, but MIsi hasn’t played a full season since he’s rookie year and didn’t dress up at all last year.
With the 2017 draft approaching the Miami Dolphins find themselves without draft selections in the 3rd and 4th round. They used those assets last year in a trade with the Vikings. The hope is that the Dolphins will be awarded compensatory picks due to the departure of Lamar Miller and Olivier Vernon. Nonetheless, let’s deal with the picks they currently have.
The Dolphins top two picks have to be linebacker in the first and edge rushers in the 2nd. The reasoning for linebacker is based on the depth of this year draft class. There are more elite edge rushers that can be found in the 2nd round, than starting linebackers. As such, based on that, the formula for success, should be linebacker in round 1, edge rusher in 2.
First round 22nd overall: Zach Cunningham LB, Vanderbilt
Zach is the name being linked to the Dolphins on the majority of mock drafts floating around. Zach definitely fits the mold, as he is a three down linebacker and would move Kiko to the right side and have provide a dynamic pairing in both base and nickel.
Raekwon McMillian, LB, Ohio State
Putting aside all the Wu-tang references that first come to mind, Raekwon is prospect that might start shooting up all draft boards after his pro day. He’s a legit back end first round pick that could eventually start getting consideration for top 15 pick. It’s early, but some people are comparing his play to Ray Lewis.
Second round 54th overall:
T.J Watt, Edge, Wisconsin T.J is the younger brother of J.J. Watt. If he can perform anything like his brother, the Dolphins would get a steal in the 2nd round. T.J played outside linebacker at Wisconsin, but could easily make the transition to an edge rusher in the Dolphins 4-3 scheme.
Demarcus Walker, DE, Florida State Best known in the state of Florida as the person who is responsible for the “block at the rock” that sealed a victory against the Hurricanes this past year by blocking an extra point, Walker has everything you look for in an edge rusher. 6’4, 280lbs – he will remind a lot of Dolphins fans of Kendall Langford.
The draft is months away. The speculation, rumors, and mock drafts are going to be running wild in a few weeks after the Super bowl is done. The biggest thing the Dolphins already know, is that they can ill afford to waste draft picks, specifically impacting their flaws that were exposed. The Dolphin front office selected an offensive heavy draft in 2016, 2017, has to flip the script.