Now that we’ve had some time to digest the picks, how did the Miami Dolphins fare in the 2017 NFL Draft?
Some fans love them. Some fans think they’re a waste of time and that even the “experts” don’t know what they’re talking about. Yes, I’m talking about the dreaded “post-draft grades”. Whether you love them or hate them, they serve an important role now that the draft is over. They give us something to talk about. Something to argue about. Something to debate. Who doesn’t love that?
With that in mind, for my first piece here with the Breaking Football team, I’d like to give you my thoughts on each pick from the Miami Dolphins. Opinions seem to vary wildly on just how successful — or unsuccessful — the team was in the 2017 NFL Draft. Most of the draft experts give the team high marks for getting a ton of value with their picks.
On the other hand, you have a significant portion of the fan base upset about how the draft played out for the Dolphins. Some fans are upset that the team took a rotational edge rusher in the first round instead of near-consensus top linebacker Reuben Foster. Others are angered by the fact that the Dolphins front office chose to ignore the safety position in it’s entirety. Still others feel Miami could have done more to bolster a rush defense that finished 30th in the league in 2016.
As for my thoughts on the draft, I think it was incredibly strong. Let’s look at it pick-by-pick.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) April 28, 2017
Round 1: Charles Harris, EDGE – Missouri
It may be a bit of a controversial opinion around the scouting community, but the more that I look at it, the more I think that Charles Harris is the player we want Derek Barnett to be. Harris, the Dolphins first-round selection out of Missouri, has a similar physical make-up to Barnett. They are the same height, with Harris weighing in just slightly less than Barnett.
From an athletic testing standpoint, the numbers are again similar, with a slight edge going to Harris. Harris had the better 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and 20-yard shuttle. The difference is slight in each test, but it confirms what I thought heading into the draft. Harris is a bit more of an explosive athlete than Barnett.
Barnett proponents will point to his productivity in the SEC as a huge point in his favor. Harris wasn’t far behind Barnett when you actually look at their numbers. For the two seasons they were both active, Harris had seven fewer sacks, only two fewer tackles for loss, and one more forced fumble than Barnett.
Perhaps the biggest point in Harris’ favor, however, is the ceiling. Harris has a lot of room to develop into a complete defensive end, whereas Barnett feels like a player who is pretty close to his ceiling. No matter how you slice it, Harris is a better value at the position than Barnett.
Defensive end wasn’t an immediate need for the Dolphins with Cam Wake, Andre Branch, and Terrence Fede already in the fold. However, I applaud the front office for acknowledging that Wake can’t play forever and Branch only has one solid year of production.
First Round Grade: A-
Round 2: Raekwon McMillan, LB – Ohio State
In the second round, the Dolphins made up for passing on Reuben Foster by drafting Raekwon McMillan, arguably the best run-stopping linebacker in the entire class. The former Ohio State linebacker should come in and immediately challenge Koa Misi for a starting job opposite Kiko Alonso in the Dolphins base 4-3 defense. Alonso, the team’s middle linebacker last season, will likely shift to the outside with the arrival of former Steelers middle linebacker Lawrence Timmons.
Shifting Alonso to the outside, bringing in a highly-respected veteran, and drafting McMillan instantly turns what was a position of weakness into a real strength. The 2016 linebacker corps left a lot to be desired, both against the run and pass. While I have my doubts about how this group will do in the pass game, the run defense should instantly improve with McMillan in the fold.
The debate over whether or not the team would have been better off taking Reuben Foster in the first round and an EDGE in the second will likely continue for years. There are some valid points to be made in favor of the flip. In the moment, I was on that bandwagon as well.
However, the more I look at what Harris and McMillan can become, the more I feel the front office made the right decision. The news that Foster’s shoulder surgery may not have taken and could require further work just solidifies that feeling.
Second Round Grade: B
Dolphins wanted to address all 3 levels of their defense. Done: Charles Harris, Raekwon McMillan, Cordrea Tankersley. Not bad. — Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 29, 2017
Round 3: Cordrea Tankersley, CB – Clemson
To round out the second day of the draft, the Dolphins made their most puzzling selection. Cornerback wasn’t a position of need coming into the draft. If you had asked just about anyone, I don’t think they would have said the team was likely to select a corner. The 2016 season started out shaky for the group, but they really solidified themselves down the stretch.
Having said all that, I can’t help but really like what Miami got by taking Clemson’s Cordrea Tankersley. The Dolphins were rumored to have been targeting Tankersley in the first round as a “worst-case scenario” option if none of their targets were available. To be able to draft that player in the third round instead is incredible value. Tankersley will join Byron Maxwell, Tony Lippett, and Xavien Howard in a now crowded defensive backfield.
Tankersley fits the mold that it seems GM Chris Greer and Adam Gase want from their cornerbacks. At 6’1”, he becomes the team’s fourth corner over the 6’ mark. With that length, Cordrea has a knack for harassing wide receivers and always finding himself around the ball. In his two seasons as a full-time starter, Tankersley hauled in nine interceptions.
That combination of size and ball skills should make Tankersley a lock for a roster spot, and could give him the opportunity to challenge for significant playing time. Long-term, the Tankersley selection likely means that Bobby McCain is on his way out of Miami, and that Byron Maxwell may find himself a salary cap casualty after the season.
Tankersley follows the theme set with Charles Harris in the first round. A guy who is going to be great for the future of the franchise, with a chance to make solid contributions right away. It was a confusing pick when it happened, but I think the Dolphins hit a homerun here.
Third Round Grade: B+
Round 5: Isaac Asiata, G – Utah
The best selection Miami made in terms of marrying talent, value, and positional need came in the fifth round. The o-line situation in Miami has been in dire straits for years. Ryan Tannehill has taken a beating behind a turnstile line since he arrived. Laremy Tunsil’s arrival last season was a shot in the arm, and appears to be the beginnings of a turnaround up front.
With Branden Albert sent to Jacksonville and Tunsil moving outside to fill the gap, guard was a major need heading into the draft. Unfortunately the 2017 class, for all its depth nearly everywhere else, was quite thin at the offensive line positions. To Miami’s credit, they may have found one of the real gems of the draft with Utah’s Isaac Asiata.
Not only does Asiata fill a position of need, he’ll come in and immediately have a chance at winning the starting job. He’s a beast when it comes to run blocking, and if last year was any indication, Jay Ajayi can produce heavily when given great blocking. I would expect Asiata to win the starting job opposite Jermon Bushrod on the interior, leaving Miami with a decent amount of depth up front.
Asiata is a powerful lineman with great technique and very good hand usage. He should prove to be a valuable asset for the Dolphins in both the run game and pass protection. He can sometimes struggle to lock onto a defender and keep him contained, but with some coaching up, I would expect that to be a non-issue quickly.
Pick 178: The Dolphins select interior D-lineman Davon Godchaux from LSU. #NFLDraft
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 29, 2017
Round 5: Davon Godchaux, DT – LSU
Up to this point, the Dolphins have had a very solid draft. They’ve taken players that presented great value, and for the most part are at positions of need. They also demonstrate that the front office is thinking not only about the here and now, but the future as well. Then there’s the pick the team made in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. This one is puzzling to me, for a number of reasons. Almost none of them have anything to do with the player’s ability on the field.
LSU’s Davon Godchaux has the potential to be a very good defensive tackle. He possesses a lot of the traits that you look for in an NFL-caliber player at the position. He’s surprisingly agile for a man of his size, and has the quickness to fight through double teams. In spite of poor numbers at the Combine, he looks like an explosive player on film. He’s not fast, but he’s got great burst off the line.
He maintains gap discipline well, and unlike his successor who we’ll talk about with the next pick, Godchaux has demonstrated a good repertoire of pass rushing moves. He has the skills to be a force on the inside in the coming years on passing downs.
Where the confusion comes in is that that’s not the sort of player that the Dolphins need. Where the team needs to improve is against the run, which is where Godchaux really struggles. He lacked the functional strength to deal with stronger guards at the collegiate level, which doesn’t bode well for his play in the NFL. He also struggled to shed blockers and go make a play.
If that were the only problem with the Godchaux selection, I could let it pass. After all, no one getting picked in the fifth round is a perfect prospect. They all have flaws that are going to need to be correct. All have aspects of their game that need to be coached up. What gives me great pause about the Godchaux pick is his off-the-field history.
Namely an incident in in September of 2016. Godchaux was arrested and charged with false imprisonment, domestic abuse battery/child endangerment. Both charges were misdemeanors, and both were dropped just days later. Everyone deserves a second chance, but those charges don’t sit well with me. At all.
Round 5 Grade: C-
Round 6: Vincent Taylor, DT – Oklahoma State
The strength of the Miami Dolphins defense, if not the entire team, is the defensive front four. Between Cam Wake, Ndamukong Suh, and Alan Branch, they have one of the strongest front lines in football. But for as strong as they are up front, they have been searching for years for someone to pair with Suh to take their game to the next level.
The Dolphins thought that Jordan Phillips could be that guy. They’re still holding out hope that he will be. But to date, he hasn’t lived up to his potential. He’s shown flashes in a few games, but overall his play has been disappointing. With that in mind, the Dolphins returned their focus to the defense with their sixth round pick, taking Oklahoma State’s Vincent Taylor, another defensive tackle.
Taylor was the most frustrating player the Dolphins took in this draft from an evaluation standpoint. He plays with such a high motor, unlike some of the more talented defensive tackles in the class. He has prototypical size and has great instincts at the position. He has a great first step, and wins at the point of attack more often than not.
But after that, things tend to fall apart for Taylor. His instincts allow him to read and react to plays well. However, Taylor often lacks the strength in his lower body to power through a blocker and make a play. He doesn’t have finesse moves to disengage from the blockers, either. That tendency to be eaten up after such promise is disheartening. More than that, it can make Taylor a liability against the rush, which is what Miami needs most in their defenders right now.
Round 6 Grade: C
Round 7: Isaiah Ford, WR – Virginia Tech
When you’re selecting a guy in the last round of the draft, you’re mostly just filling out your roster. The player you choose, more often than not, can make the practice squad at best. At worst, he’s a roster casualty when the team needs to slim down to 53 and he may go elsewhere. However, sometimes a talent miraculously falls to you that has a shot at making your active roster.
Such is the case with the Dolphins final pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, Virginia Tech’s Isaiah Ford. Ford is a wide receiver who most pundits had coming off the board about three rounds earlier. Having a player of Ford’s caliber still available in the seventh is a huge steal. At the same time though, it also sounds some alarms in my head. What was it about Ford that made him slip so far? It can’t be as simple as a poor combine performance. What do the teams know that we, as fans, don’t?
The answers to those questions are well above my pay-grade. On the field, Ford is a solid talent. One that I think could end up making a solid contribution to the team before this season is over. Ford will likely start the season on the practice squad, but in the event of an injury, should be able to step up and fill in admirably.
Ford is a thin-framed receiver who isn’t going to hold up well against big, physical corners. The player he is right now is going to get bullied and beaten up by NFL-caliber corners. However, if Ford can hit the weight room and put on some muscle, he could be a great cap to what ends up being a great draft for the Miami Dolphins. It’s said that you need three years to properly evaluate a draft class, but on first look, this one has all the makings of a very strong class.
Round 7 Grade: B+
Overall Draft Grade: B