The 2016 NFL Draft is complete. The Dolphins, surprisingly, elected not to draft a linebacker with any of their selections.
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The Miami Dolphins went into the 2016 NFL Draft expected to go top-heavy on defense. Instead, they selected six offensive players and two cornerbacks in the three day process. In the days leading up to the draft, it was widely believed that Miami could select a linebacker in the first round for the first time since 1992. Not only did that not happen, Miami did not draft a linebacker at all in 2016.
Miami very likely would have selected UCLA’s Myles Jack in the first round but when OT Laremy Tunsil fell to the Dolphins as a result of the gas mask video of him smoking marijuana going viral, Miami could not pass him up. Fair enough. On Day 2, Miami moved up in the 2nd round in an attempt to select Jack who was still on the board. However, that plan backfired as Jacksonville moved ahead of Miami in a trade of their own and used it to select Jack. The Dolphins instead used their pick to draft CB Xavien Howard.
Miami elected to pass on other inside linebackers like Reggie Ragland and Deion Jones, both selected later in the 2nd round. The Dolphins trade with Baltimore sent the Ravens their 2nd and 4th round picks in 2016. The Dolphins used their 3rd round pick on RB Kenyan Drake to help fill the loss of Lamar Miller. When Miami completed a trade with Minnesota to move back into the 3rd round it was expected they would finally draft their inside linebacker, possibly Dolphins Zach Vigil’s brother Nick.
Instead, Miami went with WR Leonte Carroo out of Rutgers. Carroo was highly scouted coming out of college but doesn’t fill a need for the Dolphins, who already have depth at the receiver position. Nick Vigil was selected with the very next pick to Cincinnati. With rounds 1 and 2 completed, there was no way Miami would go all of Day 3 without getting a linebacker.
It took a long time for Miami to make a selection on Day 3. After losing their 4th round pick in the trade with Baltimore, Miami sent away their 5th round pick as well in a trade with New England of all teams for two 6th round picks and a 7th. When Miami’s turn finally came around to make a selection they again used it to draft a receiver. This time on Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant.
The Dolphins, essentially, had all day to draft a linebacker and simply elected not to do so. Dolphins fans were screaming for Miami to select someone like Arizona’s Scooby Wright III or Temple’s Tyler Matakevich after both fell considerably but the screams went unheard. Both players were passed on by Miami and selected late in the 7th round after the Dolphins had completed their draft.
In the end, Howard and S Jordan Lucas were the only defensive players selected by the Dolphins. Miami did not draft a defensive end either to backup Mario Williams and Cameron Wake, both of whom are getting up there in years. Lucas will play cornerback for Miami.
The Dolphins had an overall good draft but they missed on opportunities to build their defense. They drafted maybe two potential starters when you’d really like to get about four. Dolphins WR Kenny Stills likely has his bags packed already with Miami’s two receiver selections. The Dolphins would have been more wise to use at least one of those on a linebacker.
Miami is putting a lot of faith into newly acquired Kiko Alonso and veterans Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins. All three have a history with injuries and it will be tough for them to complete a full 16-game season. The Dolphins had trouble last season stopping the run and with their linebackers in coverage downfield.
Miami did sign three undrafted rookie linebackers at the completion of the draft, including Louisville’s James Burgess and Boise State’s Tyler Gray. However, all three will be fighting for a roster spot and will need to work extra hard just to make the team. Miami could still look to free agency but the big names have already signed on with other teams. One can only hope Miami finds their answer before it’s too late.