Jan 1, 2014; Tampa, Fl, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Jarvis Landry (80) prior to a game against Iowa Hawkeyes at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Grading The Dolphins 2014 Draft



It’s so meaningless to grade a draft that has yet to see one single player take the field in either a game or a practice.  Yet everyone seems to do it.  This “grading” is not a grade on the players but on the selections and talent that has been drafted by the Miami Dolphins now that the 2014 NFL Draft is concluded.  My grades are based on my opinion and whether you like them or not, they are mine.  I will do my best to let you know why I chose the grade I did and why I believe the pick is a good one or a bad one.

I do find it funny however that as one member of our forum pointed out, if Jeff Ireland had made these picks the draft would have been a joke.  I’m not quite going to go that far as only time will tell.  What I will say is that it does seem very clear that Joe Philbin had a lot of input and that high-character was a concern for the team.  Here are my grades.


Round One:

Ja’Wuan James – OT – Tennessee Grade B – :  

This grade is not a grade on James.  James has the tools to be a very good G/T in the NFL and has the right attitude to make it work.  He will however compete for the starting job although most believe that he will already be penciled in as the day one starter.  The low grade however is more to what Dennis Hickey failed to do.  Gather more draft picks.  The reality is that he had offers and chose to take a player that would likely have been available at 26 or 27 where both Cleveland and New Orleans traded up from.  New Orleans traded up to the 20th spot and gave up a third round pick.  The reality here is that Hickey should have taken that offer.  There are some that have pointed out Kansas City was interested in James shortly after Miami’s selection but that was not the case.  Those I have talked to indicated K.C. had a low first – second round grade.

The good news is that James didn’t cost Miami any of their own selections and fills a huge gaping hole on the right side of the line of scrimmage.  He should develop into a long term starter for the Dolphins however if he ends up playing guard it will be a disappointment.

Other Options:  There really were no other options.  Ryan Shazier, C.J. Mosely, and Eric Ebron were all already taken at this point.  The best move and the more strategic move for the team would have been to trade down.  If James had not been there, Miami could have drafted Cyrus Kouandjio or Xavier Sua’ Filo.


Round Two:

Jarvis Landry – WR – LSU – B + :

While some felt the Dolphins again reached for Landry here in round two the reality is they went into the draft wanting WR help and they found it with Landry.  Landry is not a speed WR and doesn’t posses a lot of size but he plays fast and is able to work the inside of the field with very crisp routes.   His ability to use his body allows him to gain separation from his defenders and has what some in the media are calling the best hands in this year’s draft.   The selection of Landry also gets a grade bump by the two trade downs Dennis Hickey made.  The Dolphins moved from the 18th selection in round two down twice until finally settling on the 31st pick.

Landry should see plenty of time working with the number one offense through training camp and could supplant Rishard Mathews as the 4th WR.  Possibly even Brandon Gibson who is returning from a knee injury.

Other Options:  We would need to look at the two trade positions here as well.  Had the Dolphins stayed at the 18th pick in round two (they received a 4th rounder to trade back) they could have drafted Cody Latimer, WR, or RB Carlos Hyde who went to San Diego after the Dolphins second trade down at number 25.  At this point of the draft the Dolphins did well by moving back to 31 and gaining two extra picks.  Most of what they could have had at both trade out spots may not have really helped the team as much as Landry might.


Round Three:

Billy Turner – OT/G – North Dakota State – C :

Turner could be a future star on the Dolphins offensive line.  Or he could be a monumental bust.  He has the all the physical tools and the mind set to be very good but he is very raw and will need some work at honing his skills to the NFL level.  To me, the fact that Turner may not be NFL ready for 2014 has dropped this grade.  The Dolphins not only took Turner number three overall in round three, they traded the 116th pick, a fourth rounder, to move up to get him.  In fact it was the Dolphins first of two fourth rounders.  The fact that Turner is viewed as a prospective starter who will compete for time is concerning to me given the trade up and draft slot.  I fully believe that he would have been on the board when Miami picked at 81.  In the span from 67 to 81 two centers and one guard were taken.  It’s a high price to pay for a player who is talented but universally hailed as “raw”.

Other Options:  For starters the Dolphins would have kept their pick in round four at 116.  Had the stayed at the pick they could have drafted OG Gabe Jackson, CB Phillip Gaines, NT Louis Nix, OG Trai Turner, or possibly even Billy Turner himself.  Again Turner has all the tools to be good but potential at the top of round three is not what I’m looking for…I’m looking for an impact player.


Round Four:

Walt Aikens – CB – Liberty – Grade B  :

Aikens could prove to the steal of the draft and possibly the best draft pick that Dennis Hickey made on day three.  Aikens was expected to be drafted somewhere in the fourth round and has a very high ceiling.  Had he attended a bigger name school, he would have been drafted higher.  Aikens is one of those corners that could mount a serious claim to playing time.  Fluid in motion with his hips when in coverage and aggressive, Aikens also can keep up with some of the faster WR’s clocking in a 4.49 40 yard time.  Aikens has some development to do of course, he needs to work on his run/pass read and must resist his aggressive fails when biting on fakes.

Other Options:  Safety Brock Vereen may have been another option here but given the talent on the board in the next 10 picks or so, Aikens was a smart move by Dennis Hickey.


Round Five:

Arthur Lynch – TE – Georgia – Grade C+ :

The Dolphins once again took a project TE.  The drafting of Lynch almost assuredly put Michael Egnew out of a job.  The Dolphins will carry Dion Sims and Charles Clay for another year but Egnew would be hard pressed to make the roster this August.  Lynch has the physical tools and size but is more of a blocker than a pass catcher.  The Dolphins still have not caught up with the rest of the NFL who showcase TE’s in seam routes and mismatched coverage. Lynch is more Anthony Fasano than anything else.  In fact, Charles Clay offers more upside in the passing game than Lynch does right now.  Lynch will get better but his ceiling in terms of the NFL’s deeper TE routes won’t be reached.


Other Options:  For starters the Dolphins may have tried to address the position early but outside of C.J. Feidorowicz taken at the top of round three, the Dolphins were never really in position to draft a TE without taking a Jace Amaro or Austin Seferian-Jenkins later in round one over a lineman.  Despite  the addition of Lynch, the teams TE squad is still a concern for deeper threats and Miami should give Jermichael Finley a look if he can clear medical.


Jordan Tripp – LB – Montana – Grade B :

Not my first choice for Miami when it comes to mid-round LB’s.  Tripp however has a non-stop motor and is a true football player.  His ability to cross the field laterally will help him at the next level but he is not going to challenge anyone for playing time on Sunday’s outside of special teams where he is expected to make an impact.  Tripp has work to do to bring his play under more control as he can get a little wild from time to time.  A solid pick however.

Other Options:  Between Lynch and Tripp I may have given serious consideration to QB Aaron Murray to replace Pat Devlin and possibly Matt Moore.  After Tripp, at this point solid special team players with above average prospective ceilings is good value.


Round Six:


Matt Hazel – WR – Coastal Carolina – Grade C+ :

Another WR?  The Dolphins obviously are not sold on Rishard Mathews and Armon Binns and maybe not Brandon Gibson.  Hazel has a lot of potential but grades out more as a practice squad player at this point.  He is quick and can play outside or in but has quite a bit of talent in front of him including WR Jarvis Landry.

Other Options:  The Dolphins could have probably looked at Safety here.  They failed to address the position in the draft.  They could have also looked at another G/T.


Round Seven:

Terence Fede – DE – Marist – Grade D :

It’s really hard to grade a 7th round pick as most don’t make the roster.  I should probably bump this to a C simply because no one from Marist has ever been drafted into the NFL.  I honestly couldn’t even tell you were Marist is at.  However, the Dolphins seem to be thrilled with yet another small school prospect.  He will have a very hard time making a team that is loaded with talent on the defensive line.

Other Options:  I would have like to have seen DE Mike Sam taken here.  Despite the fact that NFL teams said his coming out gay was not an issue I have to imagine that many teams passed to avoid the media circus that would follow.  The reality is that despite hiccups in his game, Sam actually has some solid fundamental tools and may have had a shot to make the practice squad.


Overall Grade:  B – / C + :  This years draft was very underwhelming and I believe that given the depth of talent in this years pool, Hickey reached too often for players he could have later.  The move up for Billy Turner doesn’t sit well with me and honestly I think a 4th was too much to pay.  I also don’t believe that Ja’Wuan James is a 19th overall talent.  Despite my own nitpicking, it is a relief that they addressed the right side of the line.  Hopefully both turn out to be the answers at those positions but I would caution to not get too excited just yet.

The draft produced only one potential playmaker in Jarvis Landry while the others are players who will need to get much better before they make an impact.  At some point in time someone should have told Hickey he was allowed to visit big colleges.  Hickey drafted a player from North Dakota State, Marist, Liberty, and Coastal Carolina.  Four players from small schools representing 1/2 the teams draft picks.  The above grade reflects the Dolphins need for certain positions.



Jarvis Landry – I like the upside of this kid and I really like his leadership and practice ethic.

Walt Aikens – Great potential and best player on the board at the time of his drafting.

Least Favorites:

Ja’Wuan James – Didn’t like him being drafted at 19 and would rather have had Xavier Sua’ Filo in a trade down.

Billy Turner – Like the pick just not moving up to get him.

Terrence Fede – good for Marist but really?

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Tags: Dennis Hickey Ja'Wuan James Jarvis Landry Miami Dolphins NFL Draft

  • Frank B13

    As you first said you shouldn’t be grading this draft for at least 2 more years. Right now grades from ANYONE don’t justice for anyone even for the first pick of the draft. Why do it? Remember a certain DE from Akron(small school) just one example!!! So stay calm and lets see what happens

  • Johnny

    Grade??? D-.. Just cause l like this WR Landry.. Scrappy, Physical, Great Hands… Other then that ??? All reaches.. And what’s up with all these Small Schools?? Going against Small School opponents, then jumping to the NFL will be too overwhelming for these kids.

    • LostSok

      Small-school have certain upside big schools guys often don’t. Compare Ju’Waun James to Kouandijo. James was a mid-level recruit when he came out, goes to a (somewhat) smaller program…and becomes a four-year starter. Kouandijo was an elite line talent in high school, one of if not the top in the country.

      Sits for two years at Alabama, making a TOTAL of 25 starts. Any wonder he’s a bit raw compared to James?

      Look at one of our own picks. Did you know there are only two former 5-star high school talents in this draft? Sammy Watkins and…Jarvis Landry. So, coming out of high school Landry was one of the two highest rated kids in the freshman pool…and sits. Only starts for two years.

      Big schools can hurt players just as much as help them. In addition to sitting for 1-2 years in many if not most cases, they are also surrounded by much higher talent. Did you notice the long-slow slide of almost ALL the Alabama players? I suspect it’s because many scouts feel they were elevated by all the OTHER talent around them. They rarely had to play beyond their natural limit, and even more rarely had to play in a position where they were facing better competition collectively.

      Compare that to Demarcus Lawrence from Boise State, a 2-star recruit that Dallas traded two picks to move up and get. Think they cared he often faced New Mexico St. and Air Force? Now BSU has a history of great positional coaches, so they more than most 2nd tier or lower schools have a reason for sending so many former nobodies to the NFL (including a converted LT in Ryan Clady and 2-star running back in Doug Martin to the 1st round): they don’t just improve kids, they exponentially improve them.

      Bottom line: small school players are often just kids that weren’t that developed coming out of high school, or came from high schools in areas where football just isn’t that big so they were over-looked. Once in college, however, the small school guys PLAY. They become leaders much earlier, and are typically far, far more versed in fundamentals.

      The NFL, clearly, has started to notice.

      • Miami Jules (Julian)

        That’s an excellent analysis if I may say so.

      • Johnny

        There will always be a few Small School guys that make.. Also undrafted guys… But it’s simple.. Small school guys go against small school opponents… And to jump from a small school, then facing NFL Opponents??? Come on!!! Now, a SEC guy coming in will have an easier time adjusting…

  • DragonFly34

    Well, the good new is there are no more mock drafts.

  • Pygskyn

    With the exception of being just slightly higher on Turner (I’m cool with a developmental player, I have a feeling the kind might be for real in a couple years.) than you I pretty much agree with this from top to bottom. Overall I’m thinking “C” in the short term, “B” in the long term.

    • LostSok

      You’d have to give it a C because all but two players grade as reaches. That said, they also appear to fit our needs, and they may have been reaches due to being a bit off-the-radar. That’s as much hope as explanation, obviously, but there was a clear method to our choices: hard workers and team leaders.

      We didn’t just draft 8 players to challenge for roster spots. We drafted a whole new locker room culture.

      I do think it has B potential if the impact is what it appears: dramatic improvement of the offensive line, and overall blocking in general (both backfield and downfield, as Landry is a plus blocker as well), and, in my mind, significant improvement of our special teams. Tripp looks like a special teams stud, and that’s not a bad thing.

      This isn’t and never will be an A draft, as we were hamstrung by our line need. Rebuilding the offensive line, even if successful, just isn’t sexy.

  • Johnny

    Honestly… You pick the 56th rank player with your 19th pick.. That’s a problem.. The 8th ranked Tackle with your 19th pick.. That’s a problem..
    Then you panick and trade up in the 3rd for a Small School “Developmental” Tackle and ask him to change positions (to Guard) in the NFL.. That’s a problem…Waste another pick on a TE that is garbage.. That’s a problem.. When you have 4 draftees from small schools (and a high 3rd).. That are asked to go from a small school and play against NFL caliber players…That’s a problem..(But, I like WR Landry and maybe LB Tripp might develop)…

    In all my years watching the Dolphins drafts… THIS IS THE WORSE EVER!!!!!

    And that’s probably there’s only 1 player that was actually drafted by the Dolphins make it to the Pro-Bowl… And that’s our Center!!! Pouncy!!!
    ONLY 1!!!

    I don’t know how much more of this I can take!!! Anybody want to buy my season tickets?????????

    • LostSok

      This was not the worse draft ever. Not even close. 2002, when we had not #1 due to the Rick trade…and used our 2nd on the LB Moore? That kid doesn’t grade even close to Tripp, whom we got late this year.

      It was a boring, unexciting draft. That’s a shame. It’s fun to get excited over some big play guy. But…this draft filled our major need: keeping Tannehill upright. Not only in the sure-starter in James and solid G candidate in Turner, but in a true in-line blocker in Lynch. That’s a solid fallback of Sims blocking doesn’t continue to improve.

      I would have liked to seen a bigger weapon added to the backfield, and some other minor quibbles, but overall we have a stronger, deeper roster…which is the real point of the draft.

      I think it could have been better, but it was not bad…let alone even CLOSE to “the worst ever.” Not by a wide, wide margin.

      • Pentax Shooter

        Worst ever – 1988, remember Eric Kumerow? *sigh*

    • Pygskyn

      Worst draft ever? LMAO… Oh wow… You already forgot 2007 I take it then? We had four picks in the top 100 and used them on
      9 – Ted Ginn Jr
      40 – John Beck
      60 – Samson Satele
      71 – Lorenzo Booker
      Yep, wasted the 9th pick in the draft on a kick returner, The 40th on a guy that has started 5 NFL games and lost all 5, A center that we eventually traded for a 6th round pick to the Raiders a couple years later, and a RB that has 230 Rushing yards… in his career.

      Compared to that group this one looks like the ’72 Steelers Draft.

      • Miami Jules (Julian)

        LOL… I’d rather forget…this is the best I have felt on the morning after the draft that I’ve felt since the Richmond Webb/Keith Simms draft.

  • Johnny

    Honestly… You pick the 56th rank player with your 19th pick.. That’s a problem.. The 8th ranked Tackle with your 19th pick.. That’s a problem..
    Then you panick and trade up in the 3rd for a Small School “Developmental” Tackle and ask him to change positions (to Guard) in the NFL.. That’s a problem…Waste another pick on a TE that is garbage.. That’s a problem.. When you have 4 draftees from small schools (and a high 3rd).. That are asked to go from a small school and play against NFL caliber players…That’s a problem..(But, I like WR Landry and maybe LB Tripp might develop)…

    In all my years watching the Dolphins drafts… THIS IS THE WORSE EVER!!!!!

    And that’s probably there’s only 1 player that was actually drafted by the Dolphins make it to the Pro-Bowl… And that’s our Center!!! Pouncy!!!
    ONLY 1!!!

    I don’t know how much more of this I can take!!! Anybody want to buy my season tickets??????? I’m done.. OUT!

  • Pentax Shooter

    I agree with the general tenor of Brian’s article. I like the Landry, Aikens and Tripp picks. I disagree that a failed 3rd-rounder can be a “monumental bust” – that’s simply hyperbole.

    I feel, though, that there was a lack of economy in the Fins’ draft. The same players could have been acquired, plus maybe a couple more mid-rounders, with some savvy yet equitable trading.

  • BartDePalma

    Hickey has been methodically filling holes through the entire offseason. This was a best player available in an area of need draft.

    1) MIA needed a starting RT to form a bookend opposite LT Albert. James was the best RT and arguably among the top 2-3 pass defenders in the draft. He started four years in the same zone blocking scheme MIA uses against SEC competition. James will be starting day one and Tannehill will be loving life a great deal more this year.

    2) This is inside ball, but MIA’s top slot WRs both suffered bad knee injuries last year and they still are not training. Landry is the best slot WR in the draft and he catches EVERYTHING. The man reminds me of Chris Carter. When you put on the LSU film, you notice Landry, not his higher drafted partner Beckham.

    3) MIA is looking to upgrade the inside running game and is looking for strong, violent guards who are athletic enough to shift. Turner played LT in Div II, but dominated when he played K-State last season and shined at the Senior Bowl at OG. I see him starting at LG That should be thee starters in three rounds for Hickey.

    4) MIA’s secondary is top ten, but they feature an array of smurfs. MIA was looking for a tall CB. Aikens was a starter for Illinois before he got in trouble buying a stolen computer from a so called friend. This is another Div II standout at the Senior Bowl. Aikens joins a fierce competition at CB with two 2013 picks who were largely injured last year. Aikens also has return skills.

    5a) MIA has only one decent blocking TE and that hole was a substantial part of the run blocking and pass protection problems last year. Enter Lynch from UGA, a Y-Type road grader with reasonable receiving skills. He will be a fixture in two TE sets.

    5b) More inside ball. MIA has been shopping for a MLB because Ellerbe is a better WLB and Wheeler was a bust at WLB last season. Hickey missed on D’Quell Jackson in FA and on Mosley in the first round of the draft. So MIA drafted the next best MLB IMHO in Jordan Tripp from Montana. Tripp can and has played all three LB positions in a 4-3 at a high level. His recognition skills are outstanding and he is athletic enough to run down QBs and RBs in the backfield and WRs or TEs in the flat. He was a star at the Senior Bowl. Reminds me of another MIA 5th round MLB pick back in the 90s. My personal favorite pick in the MIA draft and I would not be surprised if he starts in September.

    6) This pick surprised me a bit because MIA’s roster is already jammed with WRs and they filled their need at slot with Landry. Hazel is a tall WR from Coastal Carolina who has decent 4.5 speed and catches everything. He was the best WR at the East West game and performed well against South Carolina last season. Hazel will be in a fight for one of the six MIA WR slots, so he better play special teams well.

    7) MIA took a flyer on Marist’s first draft pick – DE Lede. MIA was one of only a handful of teams who scouted Marist. Lede has NFL level measurables and absolutely dominated Div II competition. How that translates to the NFL in general and to MIA in particular (their DL was already stacked at DE), I do not know. He will probably compete with Shelby for the last backup DE slot.

    • Miami Jules (Julian)

      Bart, I agree with everything you just wrote… no more words are needed.

  • Miami Jules (Julian)

    Ja’Wuan James: A+ (we could NOT afford NOT to get him)
    Jarvis Landry: B (I wanted height at the WR, but determination to GO n GET the ball may better than height)
    Billy Turner: B+ (If the Dolphins were in love with him, then it’s a good move. I wasn’t there so I have to trust)
    Walt Aikens: B (I loved Stanley Jean-Baptist & Jaylen Watkins, but it is the Phins’ guy not mine)
    Arthur Lynch: A+ (Fassano? The more reason I like, I’d been happy with either Fedorowicz, Gillmore or Lynch)
    Jordan Tripp: B (I didn’t study the guy so I just have to trust)
    Matt Hazel: C- (no reflection on this kid but I just don’t get this pick, we could’ve used a DT here)
    Terence Fede: C- (Who????? For that I would’ve drafted Brandon Coleman
    My total draft grade: B+
    My total draft grade is based on the average as well as a component for the addressing of priorities at areas of need. It is the pick that is graded and not the player.

  • Roger Peart

    I really liked the Ja’Wuan James pick. We really needed a right tackle and he was the best one available and he doesn’t have the serious injury concerns of Cyrus Kouandjio. The reason no tackle was picked right after James went might be that he was the last good tackle. No guarantee he would have been there later. Great pick.

  • Devin

    Personally I liked the Landry, James, and Tripp picks but it ABSOLUTELY BLEW MY MIND that we traded up to get turner…..wtf hickey