Five diamonds in the rough the Dolphins should draft in April

Larry Csonka (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
Larry Csonka (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images) /

Approaching Super Bowl Sunday, you are either getting ready for the big game or you are like me — mentally preparing for the NFL Draft. The draft is 76 days away, but who’s counting? Dolphins fans may want to start the countdown.

As a draft junky, it is one of my favorite times of the football season. There are the sure-fire blue chip guys who are a lock to be first-round draft picks, but there are also the question marks whose floor and ceilings are completely unknown.

With the Dolphins’ lack of draft capital — including a forfeited first round pick — who are these diamonds in the rough this season who should be available for the Dolphins to select?

Cory Trice, CB, Purdue

Cornerback may be a position of need for the Dolphins this offseason.

Enter Cory Trice, the 6’3 defensive back out of Purdue University. Trice is not a highly-regarded prospect in this draft class, with most mock drafts slotting him as a day three pick.

The long Big Ten corner had a productive year with the Boilermakers, tallying nine pass breakups and two interceptions. Trice does not, however, have the blazing speed and agility that shoots prospects up draft boards, leaving his rare size, talent and playmaking ability available late in the draft if the Dolphins so choose to bring him in.

Here he is intercepting Tua’s little brother:

Atonio Mafi, G, UCLA

The Dolphins could use some interior offensive line help and should look no further from the 338-pound guard from UCLA, who for some reason is the 121st ranked prospect in ESPN’s big board.

Mafi is a mauler in the run game and holds his own in pass protection. The senior only allowed 3 sacks in 849 snaps with the Bruins in 2022.

On film, Mafi looks like a day two pick at the very lowest. However, scouts point out he does not possess the agility and athleticism to pull as a lead blocker at the next level, explaining his low position in many big boards.

The Dolphins would benefit tremendously from a rookie guard with the size, strength and proven success in a later round.

Will Mallory, TE, Miami

Mike Gesicki is a free agent this offseason and is looking for some serious money. It should not come from the Dolphins.

In Gesicki’s absence, it would be a good idea to draft his replacement.

Will Mallory, out of Miami, certainly fits the ‘diamond in the rough’ description. Projected to be a fifth round pick, at best, Mallory would be a fantastic value as a day three pick.

He is sneakily athletic and has the production to prove it. In 2022, Mallory caught 42 balls for 542 yards and 3 touchdowns. Mallory is a big target at 6’5, 239 pounds and is an excellent blocker on tape.

His primary weaknesses include the lack of separation he gets on certain routes when matched up against quicker safeties, which keeps him mocked as a late-round pick. However, if Mike McDaniel can scheme Mallory similar to how Mike Gesicki was used, the Dolphins can find a steal in this year’s draft.

Ivan Pace Jr., LB, Cincinnati

A projected fourth round pick, Ivan Pace Jr.’s tape will jump out at you.

Pace is all over the field for Cincinnati, making plays on every level of the defense. He is one of my favorite players in this draft class because of his motor and instincts to get to the ball on every play.

Pace racked up 84 tackles and 11 sacks for the Bearcats last year to go along with 3 pass breakups in coverage.

The one downside to Pace, according to scouts, is his size. He is 6’0 and 230 pounds and some scouts believe his smaller size will not translate well to the NFL against bigger, better competition.

However, someone being undersized should not scare the Dolphins away from drafting a potential playmaking linebacker in the middle rounds in April.

Samuel Jackson, OL, UCF

Here is my true ‘diamond in the rough’.

Samuel Jackson is not even in some 7-round mock drafts that I’ve seen. Most scouts probably have him as an undrafted free agent or have not even done any scouting on him.

As a UCF graduate, I may be biased, but after watching every game this season, Jackson can be a productive guard or tackle on Sundays. And I am not the only one who thinks so:

Plugging in someone like Jackson, who has played virtually every position on the offensive line over four years, could be beneficial to the Dolphins, especially as a seventh-round draft pick or as an UDFA.