The 2017 Miami Dolphins rookie preview

December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Raekwon McMillan (5) tackles Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) in the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Raekwon McMillan (5) tackles Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) in the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

This draft class for the Miami Dolphins provides optimism for the team down the road. Here is a further look into what each player is bringing to the table for this year and the upcoming years.

Charles Harris DE – Missouri

Many teams had Harris as the 3rd best edge rusher in this draft class, while others had him further down the list. No matter his ranking, he is extremely gifted at getting to the passer and the Dolphins are very content with drafting him. He has a variety of moves to get through the offensive line and into the backfield.

He is a disruptive presence with a burst off the line like no other. This helps him create sacks, whether for him or his teammates. But with such efficient effort getting to the quarterback, he lacks the run-stuffing presence to become a quality NFL starter right away.

That is something that can very well be fixed with NFL coaching and training. In the meantime, he will serve as a pass-rush specialist, which he was born to do. In interviews, he has already mentioned that he loves ‘3rd and long’ situations. When it is a passing down, Harris will come in and provide a major boost in pressuring the quarterback.

With Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh and Charles Harris getting to the quarterback, the defense should have ZERO trouble getting  off the field. There are only so many offensive linemen to put in front of this defensive line. With the respect drawn to Suh and Wake, Harris should see many one-on-one’s which plays to his advantage due to his head start he gets off the line on nearly every play.

In the near future, Charles Harris is going to replace Cameron Wake and be the primary edge rusher on the team. He will have some big shoes to fill, but has the potential to meet, if not exceed, those expectations.

When teams find franchise players like Cameron Wake, J.J. Watt, or Tom Brady, the best way to sustain the success beyond their departure is to groom a player and not replace the guy. For instance, instead of frantically searching for a quarterback once Tom Brady retires, the Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo- who was not ready to start immediately- and let him learn from Brady in order to become the best he could possibly be.

Charles Harris is not ready to start, but he enters the perfect situation in Miami because he will not be asked to start. He will get the opportunity to learn from one of the best in the game on and off the field. While Branch and Wake get the starts, William Hayes will replace Wake on running downs and Charles Harris will replace Branch on the passing downs.

There is a quality defensive line building for the present and the future in Miami. The Dolphins are and should be very grateful that Harris fell right into their lap. Something is brewing on this defense and it is looking to be one of the best in the league in the near future.

Raekwon McMillan LB – Ohio State

This is a pick that many fans were not very fond of. Their main argument is that Zach Cunningham was still on the board. Cunningham does not have the bulk to play in the middle of the defense or as a strong-side linebacker. So the best he could have done in Miami is served as a backup to Kiko Alonso.

McMillan was the best player left on the board for Chris Grier and Mike Tannenbaum, and it is easy to see why. Raekwon has been the leader for the Ohio State defense- one of the best defenses in college football- for the past few years. His character and leadership is unquestionably exceptional and a very good advantage to have. It has been said that McMillan may very well become a fan favorite for the Miami Dolphins.

On the field, McMillan is a superb tackler that provides a run-stopping presence in the middle of the defense. His football IQ is very high and he is going to work hard to learn Matt Burke’s playbook, which should come easy for him. The knack on McMillan is his coverage issues. But he has the size, speed, and mindset to overcome that obstacle with the the help of Matt Burke and Kiko Alonso, a quality coverage linebacker.

He is expected, as of now, to kick outside to the SAM linebacker spot, where he will asked to do more in coverage than a middle linebacker. He and Koa Misi will compete for the starting spot and ultimately McMillan should get the nod. This would give Koa Misi (and his injuries) the chance to use his talents to the fullest and not risk injury as much as he would if he were to start.

In the pass-happy NFL, the Dolphins will often be using a Nickel defensive arrangement, which calls for another cornerback to come on while a linebacker leaves. With Lawrence Timmons and Kiko Alonso on the field, that gives the team the opportunity to not let Raekwon McMillan get his weakness exploited. In the meantime, McMillan will improve his coverage limitations en route to ultimately unseat Lawrence Timmons later down the road.

Cordrea Tankersley CB – Clemson

This was Miami’s plan to begin with. Almost take the cornerbacks completely off the draft board until the 3rd round, because there will be some very talented prospects drop into round 3. This was the deepest draft in the secondary in the last decade, if not ever. After addressing the pass rush and the linebacker position, they take a look at who is available in the secondary in round 3. Between Tankersley and Rasul Douglas, Tankersley was the pick.

For the third pick in a row, this guy’s character off the field is exceptional. That seems to be a fairly important attribute for the Miami Dolphins, because they do not want any risk of another Dion Jordan incident repeated.

On the field, Tankersley looks the part of a dominant cornerback, standing at over 6 feet tall and running a 4.40 at the combine. His size and speed are enough to get him drafted alone, but on top of that, his ball skills are impressive as he has amassed 8 interceptions in his two years as a starter.

As they say with just about EVERY draft pick, he will need to add more muscle to his frame to become a lock-down boundary corner. He also must improve his run-stopping instincts, as he has been known to be lackadaisical in that area at times. He has also been known to use his hands too often, and transitioning to the NFL will only magnify that unless he works hard to get rid of those instincts.

With Byron Maxwell looking to become an expensive piece to the defense in 2018, adding a player to replace him was crucial. As I previously said, grooming is better than replacing. Tankersley will have time to learn the game and improve in every aspect with NFL coaching. His pure talent provides enough reason to believe he could be very special in this league.

As for this upcoming season, he will be a depth addition- and a quality one at that. If Maxwell were to come down with an injury and Tony Lippett stepped in to start, I feel much more comfortable with Tankersley subbing in than I would with Lafayette Pitts. Our depth at the position is beginning to look very talented and it is starting to become a strength for our defense. With Tony Lippett, Bobby McCain, Xavien Howard and Cordrea Tankersley, we have a very talented young core of cornerbacks that will look to grow together and compete at a high level for the upcoming years.

Isaac Asiata G – Utah

This seems to be where the Dolphins have finally found a sure starter for this upcoming season. Having not addressed the offense until the 5th round, Miami seems to have struck gold with this pick. Asiata is a mauling man who will consistently move bodies in the interior of the offensive line.

Chris Grier praised him for his football IQ and love for the game, once again giving the Dolphins a high-character guy that will stay clear of suspensions of any kind. Asiata is a player that the fans will love, as he has a great personality and a love for the game that shows on the field.

The two players that benefit the most from this addition are Jay Ajayi and Jermon Bushrod. Asiata is a strong guard who has the ability to pull outside and block a defender to give Jay Ajayi a few extra yards and let him handle the rest. Asiata works well in a power running scheme which again will help Jay Ajayi gain those extra few yards on every play. Jermon Bushrod will not be asked to play a full season as a starter, giving him the chance to play his best football on every play. In his age 33 season, it would be best to let him serve as a backup. This will allow him to stay healthy and give the Dolphins an extremely talented veteran to come in and sub out different players.

Asiata is a powerful man, as many scouts have noticed watching his tape. He is a large man with power in his lower body to fend off bull rushers up the middle or blitzing linebackers. He will keep the interior clean with Laremy Tunsil likely directly to his left, keeping Ryan Tannehill’s blindside safe from defenders.

Nearly every facet of Isaac Asiata’s game is strong and it will only get better in the NFL. His draft day slide plays right into Miami’s favor as the could have possibly just landed the starting left guard for the next 5 years or more.

Davon Godchaux DT – LSU

This was a need for the Dolphins. Jordan Phillips might be able to maintain the starting job, but there is absolutely no talent beyond him. Bringing in another defensive tackle in the offseason was almost a guarantee.

Godchaux needs a bit of work to be trusted as a rotational DT in our scheme, but he very well may get there. Training camp will be huge for him as it will give him the chance to learn the game and ideally get as comfortable as possible with what he will be asked to do.

Godchaux has some efficient pass rush ability that can be be useful for the team, and that is likely when he wil come in (much like Charles Harris) until he gets better against the run.

He will need to improve his motor and get stronger in the offseason to enhance his chance of making the team. But there has to be some linemen on special teams, and that is likely what will earn him a spot on the 53-man roster.

He may be viewed as an undersized DT, but if the right work is put in, the coaches in Miami might’ve found a diamond in the rough at the bottom of the 5th round.

Vincent Taylor DT – Oklahoma State

Miami doubles down on a position of need, hoping that one of the two can be special. Taylor needs some work as well, as he also does not have all the attributes of a successful interior defender.

Vincent Taylor gets after the quarterback pretty well. Much like Charles Harris, Taylor’s burst off the line of scrimmage gives him an advantage in nearly every play. This will be a large part of the reason that he makes the roster, if he does.

Taylor is a big man but his balance has been questioned in college which will only be more emphasized in the NFL. He must become more of a two-way player, improving against the run. But he does have just about the best mentor in the game to learn from.

It would be wise for Ndamukong Suh to do his best to take these two rookies under his wing and groom them in the right direction. Suh is arguably the best interior defensive linemen in the league, both against the pass and the run. Taylor and Godchaux would be wise in looking in his direction at practice and seeing what he does in every facet of the game.

Just like the previous pick, special teams might be what gets Taylor on the roster. But there is a need for a third DT, so healthy competition between these two rookies should bring out the better player and give him the nod as a rotational interior defender.

Isaiah Taylor WR – Virginia Tech 

Devante Parker, Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and Leonte Carroo are a very good core of young receivers who are all just about locks to make the team. The debate is over who is going to be the 5th receiver on the team. Taylor will be competing with Jakeem Grant and Rashawn Scott.

Isaiah Taylor is a lean receiver who ran a slow 40 time at the combine, but he has great hands with the ability to reach over defensive backs for the deep ball. Taylor is just a few NFL offseasons away from looking like a scary receiving threat.

Undrafted Free Agents 

There are a lot of playmakers in this UFA class, highlighted by RB De’Veon Smith out of Michigan. The wide receiver room is going to be very crowded this training camp, which should bring healthy competition to our most talented position on the roster.

It is not likely that any of the UFA’s will make the 53-man roster. But if I were to pick one who had the best shot, I would say DE Cameron Malveaux out of Houston. He is a very large man with great size for the position, standing at 6’6″ and weighing 251 pounds. The DE room can use one more bodies outside of Wake, Branch, Hayes and Harris. Malveaux could finally unleash his potential that he has built up inside of him with the help of Cameron Wake and Matt Burke.

The truth is we cannot count anybody out just yet. Training camp will provide many answers for this team and will be a crucial start to the season. Miami is on the verge of being special and getting it right from the beginning of camp will be very critical for this team.

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