The NFL Draft is still quite a ways down the road and a lot can happen between now and then but for the Miami Dolphins defense needs to be their primary focus.
Recently there has been a lot made of “interest” (gotta love this time of year) in the Dolphins and David Njoku, a local product from Miami University. It makes sense. Njoku (wasn’t he a dark Sith Lord in Star wars?) is a top 1-2 tight end heading into the draft season and the Dolphins happen to have a need at tight-end.
Furthering early speculation is that as of now Alabama’s O.J. Howard is the top tight-end in the class and Njoku is projected for now to fall around the 22 spot where the Dolphins are selecting. Sounds like a great fit for the Dolphins and for Njoku who gets to stay home. But let’s not get too excited just yet.
The problem for Miami is not on the offensive side of the ball. Young talent is starting to grow into the Adam Gase system and where Miami needs help offensively is on the line. The real help they need however is on the other side of the ball. Why? Because the defense has far too many holes and free agency isn’t going to fix it.
Linebacker is a massive and gaping hole. Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi could both be gone this off-season. Kiko Alonso is a restricted free agent but he too could be gone leaving the Dolphins with not one hole but three. And they run a 4-3 defense which means they need three new starters.
Free agency will provide one of those or should. Alonso staying fixes the other but that still leaves one spot open and the draft is where Miami needs to fill that spot. That does not mean it has to be in round one.
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If the Dolphins opt to not go LB in round one then their next focus should be on defensive end. Andre Branch is heading towards free agency and the Dolphins lack depth behind Cameron Wake. With Wake hitting 34 years of age Miami needs to find his replacement much sooner than later.
Part of the defensive issue isn’t simply LB’s and DE’s however. Miami still needs to decide on Byron Maxwell and if Maxwell is gone they will have another hole at cornerback. If Maxwell stays the still could have a hole at corner as Maxwell was up and down through 2016.
Prioritizing Miami’s draft needs this early is tough but it’s also a precursor to free agency. The Dolphins can fill some of their needs in the open market. A quick outsiders look should put priorities in this order.
Free agency – Linebacker, offensive guard, cornerback, tight-end
Draft – Linebacker/defensive end, linebacker/defensive end, tight end, guard
Guard is an important position for the Dolphins but Miami needs to finally spend some money at that spot instead of trying to piece together a line with depth players and cast-offs. Jermon Bushrod played well but Miami needs a better starting option with younger legs and more power. The Dolphins should address this in free agency.
David Njoku is a top blue-chip prospect coming out of a local University and for decades Miami fans have been clamoring for the Dolphins to dip into the local talent pool. Unfortunately the Dolphins really failed to address linebacker and guard last year and that has put those two positions along with DE at an off-season premium for Miami.
David Njoku may be a luxury player that Miami can’t afford. Even if they allow Dion Sims to leave via free agency. Tight-end may have to be addressed on day two or three instead. After free agency that may change.