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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?