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2015 Dolphins Draft Picks
This question is somewhat akin to the old (somewhat tasteless) joke… “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the show?” And to fully answer the question would take more space than a single blog can address, but I believe there is a fundamental problem in the defensive scheme as it was used by our coaching staff last season.
There were MANY problems with the defense this past season, not the least of which was the tremendous strain put on the defensive unit by the multitude of injuries suffered by defensive starters. Koa Misi. Jelani Jenkins. Reshad Jones. Byron Maxwell. Xavien Howard. Kiko Alonso. Earl Mitchell. Isa Abdul-Quddus. All of these were presumptive starters or at least significant rotational players who missed at least a game if not more due to injury. Most of the season, we were fielding a patchwork linebacking corps and defensive backfield, featuring players in both units who weren’t even on the roster (or any other team roster) at the start of the season.
Compounding this problem was our team’s pitiful lack of depth at certain positions, notably defensive end and linebacker. I will say that we saw encouraging growth from players like Mike Hull and Neville Hewitt, but overall it says a lot that were starting players picked up off of the scrap heap by the end of the season. Usually, if a player is unemployed, there is a very good reason.
This brings me to my point. The failure of the wide 9 to function this season was a result of one cause primarily, in my opinion. It comes down to the front office. Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier need to go get the players that are needed to make this defensive system work. The way I see it, this defensive system requires team speed at the edges. A strong rotation of fast, athletic, versatile players at defensive end and outside linebacker; players that can get to the edge on running plays and play instinctively. In the middle, it requires stout run-stuffing defensive tackles (THAT’S PLURAL!) and a smart, instinctive and stout middle linebacker that can call the signals and shed blocks efficiently.
The 2016 Miami Dolphins just did not have the players to make that system work. Perhaps they did not have the players to make any system work, given their injuries and lack of depth. Nonetheless, it is now the responsibility of the front office to go and get players to fit the system. On offense, Adam Gase adjusted his philosophy to match the talent on the offense, which led to a reliance on Jay Ajayi and the running game that went somewhat contrary to his natural bent to throw the ball. The result of this willingness to adjust the scheme to the personnel of course was a playoff berth. On the other hand, the defensive staff stuck to the scheme in spite of the lack of functional linebackers and lack of depth at defensive end (once Jones and Williams proved to be bad fits for the team). I don’t know if they could have done otherwise, but it would have been nice to see them try something, ANYTHING different after getting run over, around and through game after game.
What went wrong with the defense in 2016? Everything. Bad drafting, bad luck with injuries and an inability by the coaching staff to adjust the scheme to mask the deficiencies of the roster. Ultimately, though it now rests on the personnel department to fix the mess. Go get players that will make the system work. Coaches, be flexible… fit the system to match the strengths of your players. Only then can we as fans feel confident that the playoff trip we enjoyed this year was a sign of things to come.
There are several directions that teams in the Top 10 can go due to a plethora of top defensive talent prospects combined with a polarizing group of quarterbacks for teams in dire need of both. The Cleveland Browns will own this draft having two picks in the Top 12 to go along with multiple picks in several other rounds. Will they finally nail it or continue their track record of underwhelming prospects (Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel to name a few)?
Our Miami Dolphins find themselves in an interesting slot with Pick 22. They are in prime position to trade back if a team at the top of Round 2 wants to jump in front of the New York Giants and Houston Texans to grab a quarterback who might slip out of the Top 20, or, one who a team wants to get before Round 2. The Dolphins' defense has many needs including help at linebacker, defensive end and defensive tackle. There are several prospects who bring incredible value, fill a need and should be available at Pick 22.
The landscape will change once teams start purging their rosters, seek trades and open their wallets for free agency. Also remember what might be the most important detail - Mike Tannenbaum's wheeling and dealing reputation. In 2015 he sent Dannell Ellerbe and a 3rd Round Pick to acquire Kenny Stills, Mike Wallace to Minnesota which landed Jay Ajayi and a package of picks to move up for Tony Lippett. Last year he traded back from the 8th Pick to the 14th pick to land Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell. Little did we know a gas mask and Twitter post would land top prospect Laremy Tunsil in Miami's lap at Pick 14. Miami also moved up in the 2nd Round to secure Xavien Howard and traded a 2017 3rd Round Pick to move up for Leonte Carroo. Long story short, I have a hard time believing Mikey T won't burn out his cell phone batteries trying to move picks. For now, we go with what we have.
1. Cleveland - Myles Garrett DE - The consensus top rated player in the draft goes to a defense that desperately needs help getting after the QB.
2. San Francisco - Mitch Trubisky QB - Kyle Shanahan gets his guy to build with and Trubisky has the arm, accuracy, mobility and poise to reward his QB Whisperer.
3. Chicago - Jonathan Allen DL - John Fox will want to rehab his defense and Allen can play multiple spots to wreak havoc in both the run and pass defense.
4. Jacksonville - Leonard Fournette RB - Doug Marrone will not want another First Round Bust QB sinking his ship so he uses Fournette as his work horse to bring balance to that offense.
5. Tennessee - Mike Williams WR - A legit Top 5 talent, Williams give Mariota a true top target and an incredible weapon to combine with a vicious ground attack.
6. New York Jets - Jamal Adams S - The Jets' secondary is a hot mess and teams had zero fear throwing the deep ball against them...until Mr. Adams makes them pay.
7. Los Angeles Chargers - Malik Hooker S - Hooker is another Top 5 talent who can step in for the sorely missed Eric Weddle giving LA a future Pro Bowler.
8. Carolina - Marshon Lattimore CB - When you're facing Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Jameis Winston regularly you need the best corner in the draft to answer the bell.
9. Cincinnati - Reuben Foster LB - Foster is an absolute Patriot Missile on the field with an uncanny ability to make the ball carrier beg to sit out the next series of plays.
10. Buffalo - Deshaun Watson QB - Watson is a pure winner and the chaos in Buffalo over the last decade requires a signal caller who will inspire and lead that locker room.
11. New Orleans - Derek Barnett DE - New Orleans was 31st in points allowed and registered only 30 sacks so they take the guy who broke Reggie White's sack record at Tennessee.
12. Cleveland - Deshone Kizer QB - If Hue Kelly can make Cody Kessler look decent then imagine what he can do with Kizer's skill set.
13. Arizona - OJ Howard TE - Howard's receiving ability becomes an immediate weapon and his blocking skills help defensive coordinators lose sleep over David Johnson carrying the ball.
14. Indianapolis - Soloman Thomas DE - Thomas was college football's best kept secret until his unreal bowl game performance so Indy gets a versatile stud for their defensive line.
15. Philadelphia - Dalvin Cook RB - Every mock draft guru says Cook is the ideal fit for Doug Pederson's offense so why should little ol' me screw up that narrative?
16. Baltimore - Corey Davis WR - Goodbye Mike Wallace and Steve Smith, hello touchdown machine to pair opposite Breshad Perriman.
17. Washington - Taco Charlton DE - If Washington returns to a 4-3 Defense (and signs a coordinator???) then Charlton brings the IQ, motor and production that the front four seem to be missing.
18. Tennessee - Teez Tabor CB - The rich get richer as the Titans land a Top 10 talent to improve their secondary.
19. Tampa Bay - David Njoku TE - The Bucs could be losing some weapons on offense and Njoku is a receiving threat that will give opposing coordinators fits with mismatches.
20. Denver - Ryan Ramczyk OT - Rumor has it Paxton Lynch will get his shot to start and Denver will want to keep him upright so he can unleash the hand cannon.
21. Detroit - Tim Williams DE - Off the field concerns keep him out of the Top 10 but he is unbelievable pass rusher that gives Detroit great value at this point.
22. Miami - Zach Cunningham LB
** Dear fellow Dolphins fans, this is the guy you want, trust me. I fell into the trap of overthinking some tackling concerns but immediately squashed them when I saw his Georgia game highlights. Cunningham's instincts and speed make him the perfect middle linebacker for Miami while simultaneously allowing them to move Kiko Alonso to the weak side. This pick improves two positions at once. Keep your fingers crossed that he lasts this long.
23. New York Giants - Malik McDowell DT - He brings great value here and New York could be losing defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins in free agency.
24. Oakland - Carl Lawson DE - If his injury concerns are behind him then he gives Oakland's paltry pass rush numbers an immediate boost in a division where every offense is very efficient.
25. Houston - Jabril Peppers S - Houston's defense looked pretty darn good in the playoffs and just imagine what the Crennel/Vrabel combo could do with a safety/linebacker/nickel hybrid (sorry Texans, no QBs worth taking here).
26. Seattle - Garrett Bolles OT - Dear Russell Wilson, meet the guy who is going to make sure you don't eat turf and throw wild interceptions like you did in the NFC Divisional Round.
27. Kansas City - Marlon Humphrey CB - When Alex Smith lulls you to sleep you need your defense to limit what opponents can do, so pair up another stud cornerback with Marcus Peters.
28. Dallas - Charles Harris DE - If Dallas could get after the quarterback they wouldn't have been clearing out their lockers earlier than expected, so here comes an elite pass rusher.
29. Green Bay - TJ Watt LB - Nick Perry, Julius Peppers and Datone Jones are all free agents so Green Bay takes a guy who helps them solve their tackling woes.
30. Pittsburgh - Takkarist McKinley LB - He should have been taken ten picks earlier but shoulder surgery will scare teams off (not Pittsburgh, they know a sack artist when they see one even if it requires patience).
31. Atlanta - Caleb Brantley DT - Brantley seems to be the forgotten prospect who will immediately make Dan Quinn smile with his ability to bring inside pressure (and oddly is a great Jonathan Babineaux comp).
32. New England - Screw 'em. Just kidding, but not really. Okay okay - Gareon Conley CB - Belichick loves Urban Meyer guys and CB Logan Ryan is about to cash in via free agency so I guess this fits for now.