The Dolphins had one of their best draft classes in recent memory, and it could prove to be a catapult to long-term success in just a few short seasons.
In his grading of the Dolphins 2017 NFL Draft, PhinPhanatic’s own Brian Miller gave the Miami Dolphins a solid A for their draft class. I couldn’t agree more. There may have been teams with better overall draft grades, but the Dolphins did an excellent job with what they had. It’s not as if they were sitting atop the draft class with a double-digit amount of picks. No, Miami was sitting in the back-end of the first round, with a standard seven amount of total picks.
We do have to point out that the Dolphins had some help from other teams leading up to their first round selection in Charles Harris. Leading up to the draft we made it a point that an early run on quarterbacks could help lead some defensive players to fall to Miami at 22. That’s exactly what happened. Three quarterbacks were taken within the first twelve picks, and when it was all said and done, Harris was there for the taking. Miami didn’t believe he would fall to them so when he did, it didn’t take the team long to rush to the podium to select their pass rusher of the future.
Many fans groaned that the Dolphins didn’t take Reuben Foster, but Miami made the wiser choice here. Foster may turn into a great linebacker some day, but character issues since the Combine and a shoulder injury are good enough reasons for the Dolphins to steer clear. They just finished with the nightmare that was Dion Jordan.
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Harris will need to learn some things like setting the edge, and becoming a better run defender, but these are things that can be easily taught. He may not be starter ready just yet, but behind Cameron Wake, and regularly involved in the rotation, Harris could become a major impact player in his rookie season.
In the second round, Miami addressed another serious position: Linebacker. Raekwon McMillan became the Dolphins first linebacker taken in the draft since Jordan Tripp in the fifth round of 2014. McMillan could be a day one starter as he’ll likely battle Koa Misi for the starting strong side position. The pick was viewed as a bit of a reach, but if the Dolphins really liked him then he was well worth it at pick 54. He would not have been available when the Dolphins next picked at 97.
Again, some fans argued here for Zach Cunningham, who had been mocked to the Dolphins for months in the first round, and was still on the board. While Cunningham is a tremendous athlete, his tackling issues are a concern. The bottom line is if you can’t tackle at this point of your career chances are you’re not going to get any better. Like Jon Gruden pointed out numerous times during the draft, it’s not even something you get to practice. McMillan, on the other hand, can be taught to improve his limitations, and is already a solid defender against the run. Something the Dolphins drastically need.
Miami finished Day 2 with a solid value pick in Cordrea Tankersley. Cornerback may not be the Dolphins most pressing need, but they do need depth at the position. A tall corner with tremendous speed, Tankersley shows comparisons to Byron Maxwell. He could have very well been a round 2 player, possibly even round 1 in recent years, but the deep draft of defensive players helped him fall to the third. Even if Tankersley is expected to spend his rookie year primarily as a special teams contributor, taking a player with his amount of upside in the third is well worth it down the road.
The Dolphins were phenomenal with their Day 3 selections. With no selections in the fourth, Miami waited patiently for their turn in the fifth, where they had three selections initially. The Dolphins watched Isaac Asiata drop until two picks ahead of their first pick on Day 3. That’s when they pulled off a trade with the Eagles to move up. This is widely viewed as Miami’s best selection as Asiata was widely considered a Day 2 prospect.
Many critics of the Tankersley pick felt that the Dolphins dropped the ball by not taking Asiata in the third. The fact that they got a potential day one starter in the fifth round makes it hard to argue against it being Miami’s best pick. Improving the Dolphins offensive line makes it even sweeter.
The Dolphins used their next two selections on defensive tackles, putting real pressure on Jordan Philips to improve this season. Both Davon Godchaux and Vincent Brown will challenge Philips for the starting position. Godchaux could have been selected much higher, but a domestic battery incident that got him arrested during college led to his draft stock slide. Those charges were eventually dropped.
Godchaux was a three-year starter at LSU. He was excellent against both the run and the pass, which is music to any Dolphins fans ears. Despite the domestic abuse, Godchaux is a solid selection for Miami that could very well be a day one starter as well. The idea that the Dolphins may have selected two day one starters in the fifth round is incredible. Miami followed that up by taking Brown early in the sixth to add depth at the position. The Dolphins clearly want to help Ndamukong Suh on the interior, and in one afternoon did just that.
It may have seemed puzzling that the Dolphins would take a wide receiver at all with the depth they already have at the position. But with their final selection, Miami clearly went with who they felt was the best player available in Isaiah Ford. Ford has great route-running abilities, and could be viewed as a draft day steal even if he doesn’t have the ideal speed. Drawing comparisons to current Dolphin Kenny Stills, Ford could fight for a roster spot this season, possibly leaping Leonte Carroo or Jakeem Grant on the depth chart. It’s likely, however, that Ford spends at least his first season on the practice squad, but becomes a valuable part of the rotation for Miami in a couple seasons.
This year’s draft is one of the first to get really excited about for Miami in quite some time. They went heavy on defense as they should, and drafted players in all rounds that can come in and contribute immediately. Even if they are not day one starters at the moment, you can already picture each player fitting into the Dolphins long-term success. It’s a good feeling, and one that the Dolphins management team should feel very proud of at this point.