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The 2018 NFL Draft is only 3 weeks away and we are gearing up to predict who will become the next beacons of hope for the Miami Dolphins.  It seems that every year we say how difficult it is to guess who Miami will be drafting but I must admit this year is tougher than usual.  There are an unusual number of quarterbacks that will go in the top 10 and that will drive several elite prospects down to where Miami is picking at number 11.  The flip side to that is Miami has not been shy about showing their interest in those top quarterback prospects due to the health concerns of Ryan Tannehill.  You can't become a franchise quarterback if you can't get on the field.  Rather than do a complete 1st Round Mock Draft I will look at guys Miami can target with each pick this year, but to do so we will have to examine who will go prior to Miami's first pick.  We'll also take a look at Miami's major needs even though they will look at value with each pick.

 

As previously mentioned, Miami will be selecting a quarterback this year but probably not in the 1st Round.  Ryan Tannehill is cemented as the starter for 2018 and probably 2019 unless a drafted rookie pulls what Russell Wilson did in 2012.  Brock Osweiler, David Fales and Brandon Doughty will fight for roster spots but not challenge Tannehill nor do they give the Dolphins a reason to skip drafting a quarterback.  My guess is that unless Baker Mayfield somehow slips to the 11th pick that Miami will be targeting a guy with starting capabilities but who probably projects as a really good backup in his first couple of seasons.  We saw that Jay Cutler and Matt Moore were not "break in case of emergency" guys who could hold up for more than a few games.

 

The other position on offense Miami must target is tight end.  It just came out today that the Dolphins were the only other team besides the Jets to put in a claim on recently waived Clive Walford.  They are hungry for help.  Currently only AJ Derby and Marquise Gray project to make the roster and neither has flashed enough to comfortably be named starter.  It is rumored that Patriots' tight end Rob Gronkowski is hitting the trade block but the cost may be too high for Miami and I strongly doubt New England deals him to a divsion rival.  Regardless of his injury history and flirtation with the WWE, Gronk is still a force who has a few great years left in him.  

 

Kenyan Drake will get his shot to be a star running back and Frank Gore will help mentor him.  Miami will definitely target a back in the draft or as a priority undrafted free agent.  Adam Gase likes guys who can be a utility knife so I wouldn't be surprised if Miami opts for a late pick who can both block and catch.  Remember, there will be a lot read option, misdirection and play action with Tannehill under center.

 

As for the other offensive positions I think Miami has locked up what they need and will look for reserves and project types in the later rounds.  On the other side of the ball is where things get interesting...

 

Matt Burke and Adam Gase have mention linebacker and safety as priority positions.  This draft is loaded with talent for each spot and Miami has been scouting guys heavily.  Burke has been quoted as saying Miami needs hybrid guys in the slot to take on today's tight ends (HINT HINT ROUND 1!).  There is a name I am very excited about who analysts are saying is getting a lot of hype but will slip on draft day due to the quarterback pursuit.  Gase recently said he was disappointed that Reshad Jones and TJ McDonald did not mesh as fast as he hoped.  I have also seen it written that McDonald's extension will stop Miami from pursuing a safety early.  If the season started today Miami would have Raekwon McMillan, Kiko Alonso and Stephone Anthony as their starting linebackers.  So that is a guy who hasn't seen a snap due to injury, a guy who got torched playing out of position and another team's discard who probably fits best as a backup.  Me thinks Miaim will be targeting a linebacker early, or, will get a guy who can cover and rotate him into a 4 man unit.  With teams playing a lot of nickel scheme these days it wouldn't be unheard of for Miami target linebacker in the middle rounds to fill out a spot rather than target an every down difference maker.

 

The release of Ndomakung Suh leaves a huge whole on the defensive line.  Miami appears to be set at defensive end with the addition of Robert Quinn to pair up with Cameron Wake, Andre Branch and Charles Harris.  Hybrid linemen William Hayes will set the edge on early downs and kick inside for passing downs.  That puts a lot of pressure on Jordan Phillips to be the lead dog, and second year defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor to eat up offensive linemen to cause disruption.  There are a lot of rumors flying around about Miami targeting a defensive tackle in either Round 1 or 2, but my guess is they save that for Day 3.

 

Okay, enough rambling.  You know what the team needs and you've probably heard of several of these prospects.  Again, this isn't what I would do but rather what I think Miami will do on draft day.  The key things to remember here are scheme fits and locker room culture.  Gase, Burke and Dowell Loggains have all prioritized getting smart players who understand the nuances of their positions and the scheme being implemented.  You may be surprised by some of these names.

 

First Round

 

1. Cleveland - Sam Darnold  QB 

 

2. Buffalo via trade - Josh Allen  QB

 

3. New York (Jets) - Josh Rosen  QB

 

4. New York (Giants) via trade - Bradley Chubb  DE/OLB

 

5. Denver - Baker Mayfield  QB

 

6. Indianapolis - Saquon Barkley  RB

 

7. Tampa Bay - Derwin James  S

 

8. Chicago - Quenton Nelson  OG

 

9. San Francisco - Tremaine Edmunds  LB

 

10. Oakland - Denzel Ward  CB

 

11. Miami - Minkah Fitzpatrick  CB/S  Alabama

 

Okay, couple of quick things here to digest.  Buffalo is trying to trade like crazy to get a quarterback and Cleveland is also open for business.  The Giants get Buffalo's 1st Round picks and then some.  They then flip some of that haul to go back up and grab Chubb who fits the new 3-4 defense.  It is possible however unlikely the Odell Beckham Jr. could be in that deal.

 

Word on the street is that Minkah Fitzpatrick holds more value with draftnicks than with the actual scouting community.  Like we've seen in previous years, there is always a sure bet guy who suddenly falls out of the top 10.  Miami is rumored to LOVE him and he is exactly what Gase and Burke are talking about in that hybrid situation.  He has the flexibility to play cornerback as well but his responsibility would be the slot and taking out bigger tight ends.  I almost had Miami moving up to get him until I read Louis Riddick's evaluation of Derwin James.  This isn't the first time I've seen an analyst list him as the do it all safety everyone is sleeping on.  To me he makes more sense for Tampa at 7 rather than the popular pick of Fitzpatrick.  Now I realize a lot of you may say "but Roquan Smith is still available???".  Remember what was written earlier about teams playing the nickel more often than base packages to accomodate a pass heavy league.  Smith would be an ideal linebacker for what Miami needs but I think the value Fitzpatrick brings is much higher at the 11th pick.  There are a lot of speedy, coverage linebackers to be had later in the draft who can rotate in with McMillan, Alonso and Anthony.  Fitzpatrick will be a vocal leader in the locker room.  A month ago you would have a tough time convincing me he falls out of the top 6 so this would be a huge win for Miami.

 

Here are the remaining picks:

 

Round 2 - Hayden Hurst  TE  South Carolina

 

I mentioned the move to claim Clive Walford as evidence Miami is on the hunt.  I believe the primary target is Dallas Goedert but he will be gone before Miami picks in Round 2.  Hurst offer the complete package as he can both catch and block.  His only downside is that he is already 25 years old due to playing professional baseball for a few years.  Miami has met with him and word is they (along with many teams) came away impressed.  AJ Derby is more of a receiving threat who line up in the slot and Marquise Gray is more of a fullback/tight end hybrid.  Hurst gives the Dolphins and Tannehill a dangerous threat up the seam who can also open up holes for Kenyan Drake.

 

Round 3 - Luke Falk   QB  Washington State

 

If it were me I would go with Mike White, but remember when I mentioned leadership?  Luke Falk has been one of the most productive quarterbacks in college football.  He had a down year in 2017 but we found out that was due to a hidden injury in his non throwing hand.  Falk has been compared favorably to Kirk Cousins for good decision making, rhythm style passer but only an average arm.  He comes from an air raid offense so it will take time to adjust to an NFL offense.  His preparation has been described as maniacal in the mold of Tom Brady.  He was a walk on and carries some swagger.  I think Gase will love him and see him as a guy who can start in win games eventually.  The reason I think Miami goes for him over smaller school prospects like Mike White and Kyle Lauletta is exactly what their description includes - small schools.  It also would not surprise if teams went after those guys before Miami picks because they each offer better passing upside than Falk, but he has won at a high level and is worthy of a Day 2 spot.

 

Round 4 - Dorian O'Daniel  LB  Clemson

 

Another under the radar linebacker who coaches love and fits the coverage needs for Miami.  He exploded on his Pro Day, is raved about by Dabo Sweeney, and is a big game player.  I don't think it would take long for him to get significant snaps on defense and should be an immediate contributor on Special Teams with his speed.  This pick may be more wishful thinking on my part because analyst Tony Pauline pegs him as a Day 2 selection now, but cross your fingers he is still on the board.  It wouldn't shock me if Miami packaged both 4th Rounders to jump into the late 3rd if they get nervous he will be taken earlier.  Tannenbaum has a history of making aggressive moves to get guys that Gase wants in the draft.

 

Round 4 - Tavarus McFadden  CB  Florida State

 

Cornerback?  But Miami has a ton of youth already?  This isn't about need.  Tavarus McFadden ran with cement boots at both the Combine and his Pro Day.  Word is his stock dropped tremendously.  Miami jumped on the value pick of Cordrea Tankersley last year and I suspect if a great prospect falls they'll do the same here.  McFadden was a top 20 pick in many mock drafts only a few short months ago.  Xavien Howard has injury concerns, Tony Lippett is coming off a torn Achilles and Bobby McCain works better in the slot.  In his first season Gase said you can never have enough cornerbacks.

 

Round 6 - Justin Jones  DT  North Carolina State

 

Miami needs to fill the void left by Suh and while I don't think Jones is that guy he can certainly be a disruptive presence as a backup.  They have shown interest in Jones and its possible he slides into the later rounds after being overshadowed by his teammates on a dominant NC State line.

 

Round 7 - Kalen Ballage  RB  Arizona State

 

Ballage has everything Miami is looking for in a running back's skill set, but as analyst Matt Miller puts it - he is either fool's gold or a potential steal.  Ballage should have been a Day 2 pick and is now more of a 5th or 6th Round prospect.  We've seen bigger names fall out of the draft completely and I think Ballage is the type of risk Miami goes after.  His ability to be a return man will take some pressure off of Kenyan Drake and allow him to be more of feature back.

 

Round 7 - KC McDermott  OT/OG  Miami

 

The Dolphins take a chance on a local product who has some position flexibility and probably should go higher than the 7th.  Ja'Wuan James and Sam Young are currently on 1 year deals, and last year's rookie Eric Smith missed significant time after an impressive camp.  

 

Well there you have it.  See you all on the boards!

 

 

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