Dolphins have choices with pick 13
By Brian Miller
The Miami Dolphins are now picking 13th in next months NFL Draft. While they now have no shot at linebacker Myles Jack and likely no shot at Vernon Hargreaves, III, they still have solid options with their selection.
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Miami still has unfinished business in reshaping or rebuilding their football team. With holes on both sides of the ball, Miami needs to use their draft picks wisely. The trade that sent Miami’s 8th overall pick to the Eagles is in the books and reality says that with that pick, Miami has already received two starters. Cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso. And they still have a first round pick.
The trade moved the Dolphins back five spots which isn’t an enormous drop this year. Miami had interest in Myles Jack, the linebacker many draft pundits believe to be the best player in this years draft. The question of whether Jack fell to 8 was a real one as many mock drafts have him off the board long before Miami selected. So who can Miami realistically target? There are some very solid names who could be Dolphins on the end of day one.
To begin looking at who the Dolphins could select, it’s important to know what they still need which would lend itself to giving some idea of what they are doing. The biggest problem Miami created this off-season was not the fact they failed to address certain positions but instead put them in a position to have a wide open draft where the best player available might be the best shot they have.
It’s easy to rule out quarterback but there are some who believe that Miami could be targeting a quarterback. It’s been reported on the rumor vine that there is interest in Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook but will the Dolphins spend a first round pick on a quarterback? It’s hard to believe that they would given the needs of the team but if the Dolphins do not view Ryan Tannehill as the future, Cook could be an option to replace him in 2017.
The Dolphins have an out with Tannehill after this upcoming season. His salary will balloon to around $20 million and Miami could create cap space and have a future signal caller under contract with a new head coach who might view quarterback as an area in need of improvement.
About the only position Miami doesn’t need to address in round one is the receiver position but they will likely address the 4th spot later in the draft or in free agency after the draft. Running back however is a hole that Miami will take a look at.
There are options for the Dolphins. In the draft, Ezekial Elliot is the top runner who projects as a first round talent. The Eagles, who need a running back badly, could take Elliot with the 8th overall pick. The one they got from Miami. If they don’t select him he could fall to the Dolphins at 13 and Miami would likely jump at the chance to add an explosive runner with his talents.
The biggest problem with drafting a running back however is that most running backs in today’s NFL are interchangeable and it’s unlikely that Elliot is the next Adrian Peterson. So using a pick in round one on a running back may not be the smartest use of the 13th overall pick.
No other position on the team is as glaring as the guard position. Miami wants to see if tackle Jermon Bushrod can slide inside. He has never played the guard position but Miami believes that he can. It’s a lot to ask and even more risk if their plan for fixing the offensive line is shouldered on their hopes he can transition.
The draft has some very good possibilities but 13 is a little high for guards. The one name that does pop up is Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin. Conklin is a very athletic tackle who can make an immediate impact at guard in 2016. This scenario is starting to gain some interesting momentum because it makes sense in two ways.
Conklin would immediately bolster the offensive line and in 2017 the Dolphins could slide him back outside to take over for Branden Albert who’s contract is high and nearing its end. Miami could save money by releasing Albert in 2017 and already have his replacement on the roster. This would allow the Dolphins to draft a deeper guard in this years draft and develop him ahead of the 2017 season.
Defensively the Dolphins need to make changes. They brought in Mario Williams but in essence it’s a one year deal with an option year. Miami doesn’t “need” to address the defensive line in this years draft but defensive end is somewhat of a priority.
Clemson’s Kevin Dodd is a player who has been mocked to Miami often. Dodd had a very strong 2015, his best by far at the collegiate level. His 12.5 sacks were the most of his career and his 62 tackles dwarfed his previous total of 21 tackles combined in three seasons. 23 of his tackles were for losses. The question is whether his season last year was the result of him finally getting playing time or just a timely good season.
Shaq Lawson should also be watched as well. Lawson lined up opposite Dodd. Some believe him to be a first round talent and others grade him out as a 2nd day selection. 13 may be a little high for Lawson but it shouldn’t be ruled out.
Linebacker has been a thorn in the Dolphins side. Bad draft picks and poor development have left the Dolphins looking for help and upgrades. Alonso could be very good but he has a history of injuries and has not played a full season since 2012, his rookie year. In addition, Alonso is on a one year contract and Miami will need to either re-sign him or replace him next year.
The top linebacker is Reggie Ragland of Alabama. Versatile and quick, Ragland could be the best option for the Dolphins at the position. Ragland is a good coverage linebacker and works well against opposing tight ends. The AFC East is a tough division with some very solid tight-ends including of course the bevy in New England.
Ragland is also a leader and has no off-field issues which would interest the Dolphins. In 2015 Ragland posted 102 tackles, 2 sacks, and two forced fumbles. He plays tough and Miami needs to get tougher at all three linebacker positions.
With the addition of Byron Maxwell, cornerback was supposed to be better but the Dolphins released Brent Grimes and that created another hole. Miami has not found success in drafting corners the last few years. The last time Miami made solid corner selections, Sean Smith and Vontae Davis, they let Smith leave in free agency and traded Davis. And they have hurt because of it.
Vernon Hargreaves, III was a good possibility at the 8th spot but it’s unlikely he drops to 13. If he does, Miami will have a lot of interest in taking him in that spot. Mackensie Alexander of Clemson is a real possibility but Alexander has mixed grades which put him drafted anywhere between the middle of round one to the middle of round two. 13 may be too high for Miami to draft him. Alexander is 5’10” and some believe that he will be best as a slot or nickel corner. Eli Apple of Ohio State is starting to see a rise on the draft boards but 13 may be a little high for him right now.
Overall the Dolphins have options. Defensive end looks to be strong this year and drafting Conlin makes a lot of sense for a team needing to upgrade their offensive line. While linebacker is strong, I would almost think Miami could wait until round two and draft Jaylon Smith who will likely miss all of 2016. Smith would have been the best player in this year draft had he not suffered a horrid knee injury. He might be worth the risk after day one and may even be on the board in the 3rd round.
No matter what happens, Miami needs to make their selection count and get that player on the field.