With the draft only two weeks away, does the Miami Dolphins defense have the most prominent holes to fill?
As the NFL Draft continues to creep its way forward, the Miami Dolphins will find themselves on the clock with the 22nd overall pick. And if the old adage of “defense wins championships” strikes a chord for second year general manager Chris Grier and sophomore coach Adam Gase, then there are a bevy of quality players to choose from.
First of all, there has to be a case made to draft defensively. This is a deep draft pool for defensive players, particularly edge rushers. Sitting at number 22, the Dolphins know they have a big hole to fill at linebacker and free safety. Miami finished the 2016 season 29th overall defensively and a dismal 30th against the run, allowing just over 140 rushing yards per game. That has to change.
Alternatively, Miami could certainly use some help at the guard position. The Dolphins must do a better job of protecting Ryan Tannehill next season, and beefing up the o-line would also benefit breakout running back Jay Ajayi. That would ease some of the pressure on Tannehill’s shoulders, making for a more balanced attack. Miami is stacked with playmakers after re-signing Kenny Stills and adding tight end Julius Thomas in free agency, who thrived under Gase during their tenure together in Denver.
There are a plethora of great players to choose from when the Dolphins are on the clock. Here are a few names that make the most sense.
Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
You don’t need to sell me on Cunningham. The kid was a playmaking machine at Vanderbilt, and had an impressive combine that drew a lot of attention from scouts. With Kiko Alonso and newly signed ex-Steeler Lawrence Timmons as his mentor, Cunningham could become a premier linebacker in the NFL. He’s a consistent tackler that will prevent extra RAC yards, and has the speed and vision to close the gap quickly. If he isn’t taken earlier on, this would be a no-brainer for Miami.
Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
If the Dolphins are lucky, they’ll have their choice of linebacker with either Cunningham or Davis. Davis was a born leader with the Gators, and impressed with his quickness and vision during his final year with Florida. The NFL is becoming more of a mobile quarterback hot spot, and Davis would fit in very well with Miami in spying quick-footed signal callers. He also has tremendous closing speed that would help against tight ends and slot receivers. Davis might lack consistency, but he has a high ceiling that coaches would love to teach up.
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Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Miami already bolsters a strong defensive front thanks to players like Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh, but it would be scary to think about how good this line could be with the addition of a player like Taco Charlton. The Michigan alum is amazingly still growing, and he harbors freakish athletic ability. Charlton can explode off the ball and has the strength and speed to either push guards back or blow past them to reach the quarterback. The kid needs some polishing, but if he’s somehow available at 22, the Dolphins should seriously consider bringing him on board to bolster their run defense.
Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
I said earlier that the Dolphins need to beef up their offensive line, and selecting Bolles would go a long way to filling that hole. There are a lot of rumblings about his lack of strength and experience, but the positives outweigh the negatives here. Bolles is a feel good story, and he has a fierceness on the field that you love to see from your tackles. His height, speed and footwork are pro bowl caliber already, and most of his shortcomings can be corrected with the right training. Although Miami has more needs on the defensive side of the ball, Bolles would be hard to pass up if he’s still available at pick 22.
As previously mentioned, this is a deep defensive draft class. Outside of a few guaranteed top ten talents, I don’t see a lot of reasons for Miami to trade up this year unless they just fall in love with a player that they know won’t be available for them later on in the draft. But I believe there’s enough quality positional players to go around, and even if they do trade up, I don’t think they’ll have to move up more than two or three spots to get the guy they covet.
Don’t sleep on a surprise pick, however. What if Christian McCaffrey, the standout all-around player from Stanford, is still there while they’re on the clock? There’s not a predominant need for running back, but do the Dolphins also consider Dalvin Cook from Florida State if he’s available? Either choice would give the Dolphins another solid playmaker, adding depth to an offense than finished a disappointing 24th last season. After all, there’s no guarantee that Ajayi will repeat his magical 2016 season in which he rushed for over 200 yards in a game three times.
With the draft now only a little over two weeks away, let the conjecturing begin.