The Miami Dolphins seemed to exceed expectations in the 2016 season. In order to get over the hump, the NFL draft must be a success story for the Dolphins, injecting the right amount of youth and talent into the roster.
Below is a combination of what I think Chris Grier and Mike Tanenbaum will do along with what I would do if I were to make the decision on the clock. This draft is full of talent in areas of need for the Dolphins, so Miami could look like a very well-rounded young team by the end of April.
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22nd Overall Pick: Forrest Lamp, OL – Western Kentucky
This pick is much more difficult than people realize. Yes, help in the defensive front 7 would be wise, but Taco Charlton and Derek Barnett will be gone while Hasson Reddick and Reuben Foster will also both be off the board. Those are great talents that the Dolphins would love to take but quite frankly, so will many other teams. Zach Cunningham and Malik McDowell are both late 1st, early 2nd round picks so they should not be overdrafted at 22nd overall.
With that said, the Dolphins nab perhaps the most gifted offensive linemen in the draft for two straight years. Forrest Lamp, out of Western Kentucky, is a natural talent and also fills perhaps the biggest area of need for the Phins. Although not a sexy pick, Miami will reap the benefits through a strong running game along with stability along the offensive line for years to come.
Another very strong possibility is a trade-down scenario for the Dolphins. Lamp could very well be gone and there are not many talents deserving of 22nd overall. Mike Tanenbaum has also told the media that they are always looking to have more picks in the draft. Maybe there is a quarterback available at 22 that would cause the Browns or Texans to trade up and give Miami some more picks.
54th Overall Pick: Tanoh Kpassagnon, DL – Villanova
In this round, Miami starts to take advantage of the depth of this draft. The goal should be to take the best edge rusher available at this point, as there are 2nd round talents that could have been taken in the 1st round in years past. In my opinion, Kpassagnon’s rise up draft boards lands him in South Beach in the middle of the 2nd round.
Miami has been very fond of Kpassagnon throughout the draft process, as they have stayed in constant communication with the freakishly big athlete. Standing at 6’7” and weighing in at 289 lbs, Kpassagnon can be a scary sight for starting NFL tackles. TK needs to be coached into his body, as he is a big ball of potential at the moment and could one day be one of the more dominant edge rushers in the league.
The former Villanova standout would come in and be a much better upgrade over the departed Jason Jones, as he can serve as a reserve role at DE and also slide in at DT with his massive size. Position flexibility can be a major factor in TK’s game. Within a few years, when Cameron Wake decides to hang up his cleats, Kpassagnon could slide into a starting role and have a long and effective career. The positives with this pick outweigh the negatives by a landslide.
97th Overall Pick: Marcus Maye, S – Florida
Miami could go a few different ways with this pick, as defensive tackle and linebacker has yet to be addressed. But the best player available will likely be in the secondary, which is where Matt Burke would love to add some depth.
Although the Dolphins signed Nate Allen and T.J. McDonald, it is unclear who will be the long term solution opposite Reshad Jones. Maye has great physical attributes, standing at 6 feet tall and weighing 210 pounds. He has the skill set to be a fill-in for Reshad Jones, but more importantly, he also has the skill set to serve as a compliment to Reshad in the secondary for many years to come.
Again, position flexibility is a major factor in this pick, and Maye has all of the qualities to be an above-average player as early as his rookie season. This is something that Adam Gase and company cannot pass up in round 3 of the draft.
Justin Evans, a player Miami has been reported to have an eye on, could drop to the Phins and very well may be the pick. Also in the secondary, both Cordrea Tankersley and Rasul Douglas could still be on the board and warrant serious consideration. But Marcus Maye brings his talents to Miami in this mock, where he is likely to fit right in.
166th Overall Pick: Shaquill Griffin, CB – UCF
This seems like another situation where the player would not be a steal or a reach, as this seems like exactly where the former UCF corner will be slotted. Griffin ran a blazing 4.38 at the combine, turning out to be one of the fastest times of all DBs in this years class. His head-turning combine performance is enough to push Miami to take him in the 5th round.
Shaq would come right in and be an immediate contributor on special teams and also an adequate fill-in starter for Howard or Maxwell in the case of an injury. With the size and speed combination that modern NFL coaches covet, Shaquill Griffin could be a very special talent.
He can run with receivers and has an adequate amount of hip fluidity. He also has the physique to contest Sammy Watkins and other big-body receivers. His game, along with sufficient coaching (come on… Miami finally has it), can pair together to become an elite talent at the next level. It’s just a matter of time.
178th Overall Pick: Elijah Lee, LB – Kansas State
Having not addressed the linebacker unit as of yet, I see the Dolphins getting a talented player late in the draft. Miami has been rumored to have a positive opinion about Lee, who will come in and compete as Kiko Alonso’s backup.
As of now, Lee does not have the power to take on heavy blocks at the SAM linebacker spot. Perhaps a few years down the road, after an NFL diet and NFL workouts, he could bulk up and man the position. Either way, Lee is a great add because of his coverage ability. When Bobby McCain comes in at nickle and Lawrence Timmons subs out for passing downs, Miami needs a linebacker who can excel in pass coverage and Lee can do just that.
184th Overall Pick: Tanzel Smart, DT – Tulane
There is still time in the free agency period, but as of now, the Dolphins are not comfortable with their rotational depth at DT. Jordan Phillips may need another year or two to become a good NFL starter, but until then, he cannot be relied on to play a full game.
Smart would be a very good move- or a very SMART move. He has desired determination for the position. Although he may be a tad too short and overweight (which he could trim off), Smart has the disruptive nature that has led to his stardom at Tulane.
Smart would come right in and be a rotational player with Jordan Phillips, meaning that he could very well get as much playing time as Phillips and possibly even more. He has great pass rush ability and also has one of the best mentors in the game in Ndamukong Suh to learn from. Miami ends the 5th round on a pretty good note, hoping to have even greater success than the 5th round from 2015 that gave them Bobby McCain, Tony Lippett, and Jay Ajayi.
223rd Overall Pick: Sean Culkin, TE – Missouri
The only positions that seem set are quarterback (Dolphins signed David Fales) and runningback (Gase said he likes his group). If Jalen Reeves-Maybin is still on the board, then they take a look at him, as linebacker depth is always a good move. But the Dolphins nab a quality run-blocker with great size here in the 7th round.
This draft is very deep at tight end, which plays into Miami’s strength. It does not take much for an injury to occur in today’s NFL. With Anthony Fasano nearing his age-32 season and the injury history of Julius Thomas, Sean Culkin would be a quality add. I see this pick as a better insurance plan than both Thomas Duarte and MarQueis Gray. If Fasano got a concussion in week 15 and Julius Thomas gets the flu right before a playoff game, I would trust Culkin over anybody currently on the roster at tight end.
Many teams covet the pass-catching tight end who creates mismatches. This will cause Culkin to be overlooked by many teams. Culkin’s strength is his blocking- we can teach him to run routes. The offensive mastermind in Adam Gase can call plays that suit his strength. This caps off a strong 7 rounds for the Miami Dolphins.