The Miami Dolphins surprised a few in the media last year when the draft turned out to be heavier on offense than defense. This year it looks like it will be the opposite.
There was little doubt when the season ended that the Dolphins needed to upgrade their defense which ranked near the bottom statistically. Add to that aging veterans and impending free agents and Miami’s defense could look a lot different. But will the Dolphins actually go heavy on defense?
According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald that is precisely what could happen.
"That from people familiar with the team’s current thinking. Indeed, one source said coach Adam Gase told some within the organization he expects the draft will be used primarily for the team’s defensive needs” – Armando Salguero"
It makes sense given the state of the Dolphins defense. Of course we are entering that part of the off-season where rumors and misdirection run rampant across the NFL landscape. It would however be nice to see a defense heavy draft.
Looking at the last four drafts it’s clear that offense has been more of a priority. In 2016 Miami drafted a corner in round two but didn’t take another defensive player until round six and he was the last player on that side of the ball.
2015 saw three defensive players with one in round 2, Jordan Phillips, Bobby McCain in round 5, and FS Cedric Thompson in round 5. 2014 had three players taken as well but the first player on defense wasn’t drafted until round 4 and then in round 5 and 7. Of the three only 7th rounder Terrence Fede is still on the roster and he is nowhere near starting material.
2013 saw the last defensive heavy draft by the Dolphins when Dion Jordan was taken in round 1 and Jamar Taylor was taken in round 2. Miami also added a 3rd round DB, Will Davis, LB Jelani Jenkins in round 4 and 7th rounder Don Jones.
For the Dolphins the problem is that these players either have not made an impact on the roster or are no longer on the team. Of the 13 defensive picks in the last four years only 8 are still on the team. This includes Dion Jordan who will more than likely be released before free agency and Tony Lippett who was drafted as a WR and converted to CB.
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Conversely the Dolphins have tended to spend more defensively in free agency and tend to stray from the top end players on offense. Ndamukong Suh, Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell, Andre Branch, Earl Mitchell, and Isa Abdul-Quddus all came from free agency or trade. While the Dolphins tend to buy low along the offensive line they did spend big on Branden Albert.
Perhaps this off-season will see the Dolphins spending money on both sides of the ball. The Dolphins need to upgrade at guard and frankly last year proved that a solid healthy offensive line can win them games offensively.
Miami needs to approach both the free agency period and the draft with a symbiotic approach. There is money to spend and the allocation of the money can shore up holes on both sides with the draft being a supplement. Still with more needs on defense Miami should try to address their bigger issues on offense in free agency thus freeing them to concentrate on defense late April.
Salguero points out however that while early intentions are to go defense that will change if a big offensive prospect falls into their laps unexpectedly. A similar situation to last years drafting of Laremy Tunsil.