Anyone who knows me or follows me on Twitter knows that, for better or worse, I’m a die-hard Miami Dolphins fan. For the better part of the last two decades, it’s been a whole lot of “worse.” Since this fan started high school back in 2001, the Dolphins have made just two playoff appearances. They couldn’t muster a win in either of those appearances, either. To say that it’s been a rough go of things would be an understatement.
Watching this team make the same mistakes year after year after year has been…frustrating, to say the least. Chief among those mistakes has been the team’s unwillingness to draft high-caliber offensive linemen early, and their failure to develop the talent when they have done so. Luckily for the Dolphins, there are several talented options along the line in this class. Will the team finally pull the trigger and get Ryan Tannehill some help up front? Or will the 2018 squad see more of the same?
Let’s take a look at a potential Dolphins haul in my first 7-round mock draft with Breaking Football. All selections made with the help of the “On the Clock” mock draft simulator from our friends at Fanspeak.
Round 1: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama
Truth be told, I would have loved to be able to address the Dolphins needs up front right away. I’ve said multiple times, and I’ll continue to say, that if Quenton Nelson is available, he should be the pick. Nelson is probably hands-down the safest pick in the entire draft, and he addresses a massive area of need for the Dolphins. What Nelson could do for the offensive line in both the run and pass game is exactly what the doctor ordered for Miami.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option in this mock. The simulation had Nelson off the board with the third pick in the draft to the Indianapolis Colts. Selecting Nelson that high might be too rich for a lot of people, but he’s well worth it, especially for another team with protection issues. With Nelson off the board, the Dolphins should look to strengthen the back-end of their secondary and grab another one of the safest picks available, Minkah Fitzpatrick from Alabama.
Fitzpatrick would bring a ton of versatility to the table for the Dolphins. They could line him up at safety opposite Reshad Jones in base packages. They could line him up outside as a slot cornerback in nickel and dime packages. They could even ask him to drop down a level and spend time at linebacker to help out one of the worst groups in the NFL last season. The possibilities are nearly endless with Fitzpatrick. He’s a no-brainer if he’s on the board at 11.
6. S/Minkah Fitzpatrick
Football junkie. Saban’s most favorite player ever. Very versatile. Can play on the roof of the defense, guard TEs or WRs in the slot or be used as a blitzer off of the edge. Ultimate chess piece.
NFL Comp: Malcolm Jenkinspic.twitter.com/pogrEph2Oa
— J.R. (@JReidDraftScout) January 28, 2018
Round 2: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
I could — and probably will — go on for days about the Dolphins failures in addressing their needs up front. It’s been something that has plagued the club for years and shows no signs of stopping. However, the offensive line is far from the only position group the Dolphins have failed to adequately address over the years. Tight end is another one of those positions the team has been sorely lacking in production from for….well, as long as I can remember. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t tell you the last time the team had a truly productive tight end for more than a year or two. Randy McMichael, maybe?
I struggled with whether or not to take South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert with this pick. When I’m running a mock draft, I like to approach them with the mindset of “this is what I would do if the board fell this way,” but I also try to keep things realistic. Which can sometimes be hard this early in the process. If you frequent mock drafts, I’m sure you’ve seen some truly outrageous results floating around. Right now, I have a late first-round grade on Goedert. But I do think that there is some debate in draft circles as to who the top tight end in this class is. Ultimately I don’t think it’s that absurd to see Goedert falling to the middle of the second, and Miami should run to the podium if that’s the way things play out. If the Dolphins are bringing back the other tight end, Anthony Fasano, he and Goedert could make a lethal 1-2 punch at the position.
Goedert doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table when it comes to the blocking responsibilities a tight end has, but that’s where Fasano excels. Where Goedert excels is in the pass-catching aspects. With the way the NFL has evolved in recent years, that’s the far more useful facet of the game. And one in which the Dolphins have fallen behind the rest of the league. Giving Tannehill a safety valve across the middle who catches everything around him should be of paramount importance this off-season. The team needs weapons, and that’s what Goedert is.
Round 3: Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas
I’ll be the first person to admit that I don’t have any idea what I’m looking at when it comes to the offensive line. It’s probably my weakest area in all of scouting right now. Rather than sit here and give you some elementary analysis and uniformed opinions, I thought I would reach out to the Breaking Football offensive line guru, Michael Peterson, to field this next pick. Be sure to be on the lookout for more offensive line — and every other position — analysis in the Breaking Football Draft Guide, coming in April! “Frank Ragnow is one of the sole “maulers” in the entire 2018 center class. While watching Ragnow, it’s incredibly apparent he is two steps ahead of everyone else on the field in terms of mental processing. It’s as if he knows where defenders are going to be before they themselves make the decision. Has the experienced eyes to decipher even the most complicated stunts/twists. In 2016, Ragnow was the highest rated center by Pro Football Focus and was well on his way to that title once again before his season-ending injury.” – Michael Peterson
Round 4: Dante Pettis, WR, Washington & Sklyer Phillips, G, Idaho State
In the fourth round, we come to another selection that was hard for me to make, for completely different reasons from Dallas Goedert. Jarvis Landry has been one of my favorite players since he came into the league. I’ve been one of his biggest proponents on Twitter, but it’s time for fans to wrap our collective heads around the idea of not seeing Landry in Miami any longer. The facts of the situation are that Landry isn’t a #1 receiver in the NFL, but wants to be paid like one. And some team will pay him that money; it just won’t be the Dolphins. So what does life after Landry look like for Miami? If they take Washington wide receiver Dante Pettis, it can look much the same, but better. Pettis, for my money, is a plus version of Landry on the field. Pettis is the same type of quick, slot receiver, but has better deep-threat ability and can be used in the special teams game to be a deadly punt returner. Pettis brings an element of versatility and athleticism to the position that Landry doesn’t. The biggest question I have is whether Pettis can bring the intangibles that Landry brings. The best part of Landry’s game is the intensity he brings each and every game. That will be missed more than his on-field play.
For the Dolphins second pick in the fourth round, we again turn to Michael Peterson for analysis: “Skyler Phillips is basically Will Hernandez ‘Lite.’ At roughly 6’3 and 320 lbs., Phillips sports a set of arms that are the size of most people’s thighs. He has some of the most refined hands in pass protection when it comes to his initial punch. It always lands straight and true, hitting the breastplate of his opponent with an immense jolt. Overall, Phillips had one of the best weeks of practice in Mobile. He displayed a hell of an anchor against Texas’ Poona Ford and showed some surprising athleticism against UTSA’s Edge rusher Marcus Davenport. While at Idaho State, played both guard and tackle positions over his five-year career. The one knock against Phillips is his ability to sustain blocks. After starting a run block off with a bang, he struggles to run his man out of town, usually falling off the block too soon.” – Michael Peterson
Round 6: Holton Hill, CB, Texas
In today’s NFL, you can never have too many good cornerbacks. It’s not necessarily a position of need for the Dolphins, as Xavien Howard and Cordrea Tankersley played well towards the end of the season. They also have Tony Lippett coming back from an Achilles injury. Add in the possibility of Minkah Fitzpatrick in the first round and his ability to slide outside to cornerback, and the position looks decently strong. But is “decently” good enough in today’s pass-happy NFL? Probably. But it can always be a little better. That’s why I have the Dolphins taking a bit of a gamble in the sixth round with former Texas cornerback Holton Hill.
On paper, Hill has all the talent to be a Day 1 selection. He’s the kind of lengthy, physical, shut-down cornerback that teams covet. Hill is 6’3” and comes in at 200 pounds, which fits in nicely with what the Dolphins have established as the type of corner they look for. He has the speed to stay in a wide receiver’s hip pocket down the field, and the length to disrupt a pass thrown anywhere in his vicinity. Hill also possesses big-play ability at the position. Though he only had three interceptions in his Longhorns career, all three were returned for touchdowns. Why, then, is he an option in the sixth round?
As is frequently the case with ultra-talented players who slip to the later rounds of the draft, there are myriad off-field questions circling Hill. The junior cornerback was suspended for the final three games of the regular season last year, and it’s rumored that Hill would not have been eligible to play in the 2018 season, had he not chosen to forgo his senior season and enter the draft. I don’t have the connections to know what Hill was suspended for beyond “violating team rules,” but if it’s serious enough that his eligibility next season would have been in question, it’s enough to give teams major pause.
Round 7: Riley Ferguson, QB, Memphis & Phillip Lindsay, RB, Colorado
The 2017 season for the Miami Dolphins was dead in the water before it even started, thanks in large part to the injury in the pre-season to starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill tore his ACL in the home stretch of the previous season, causing him to miss the Dolphins first playoff run since the 2008 season. In that off-season, Tannehill opted against surgery to repair the knee, choosing to simply rehab the knee. Then, in training camp, the face of the franchise re-aggravated the injury and was forced to get the surgery, shelving him for the entire season.
What ensued was a calamity of errors at the position that underscored just how important it is to have a capable backup who can come in and take the reins if the starter goes down. As if the Dolphins needed any more of a reminder how important that is, they just saw their division rivals get beat in the Super Bowl by a backup quarterback.
Certain sections of #DolphinsTwitter would have you believe that the Dolphins should use their first round pick on a quarterback. Some want Baker Mayfield. Others want Lamar Jackson. I don’t think the front office wants either. Nor should they. Tannehill, for better or worse, is the guy for the foreseeable future, but an upgrade to the backup slot is sorely needed. Enter Memphis’ Riley Ferguson.
Ferguson is the next in line from a Memphis program after Paxton Lynch had a breakout season in 2015 and was selected with the 26th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Lynch should not have been selected that high, as we’ve seen, and Ferguson doesn’t have the talent that Lynch did, both these things are clear. But Ferguson does have the talent to be a serviceable quarterback in this league with some molding. In Miami, he wouldn’t be asked to start and could get some tutelage to eventually become a solid spot-starter.
If you had told me back in August that Jay Ajayi would be a Super Bowl champion in 2018, I would have laughed in your face. If you would have then told me that the Dolphins would end up trading him and that’s how he’d get his ring, I would have thought you even crazier. If you had told me after the Ajayi trade that the Dolphins would wait until the 7th round of the upcoming Draft to select a running back, I probably would have cried and resigned myself to that being the kind of thinking that passes for a good idea in Miami these days.
But after watching what Kenyan Drake was able to do with a front line that was, quite frankly, offensive, I truly believe that the team is solid at the position. Drake earned the right to come into camp as the number 1 guy on the depth chart. If Damien Williams comes back healthy, he provides a nice 1-2 punch with Drake. But, as with most positions on the Dolphins roster, depth is an issue. Phillip Lindsay from Colorado doesn’t look like the prototypical NFL running back, but he sure plays like it.
When you watch Lindsay run, you don’t see a guy who comes in at only 5’8” and 190 pounds. He looks like a guy who is at least 3 inches taller and 20 pounds heavier when he puts on the uniform, and that’s going to help him at the next level. Lindsay doesn’t shy away from contact and has a way of squirting through the line to meet defenders head-on at the next level. He has powerful legs to drive through guys, and enough burst and agility to avoid, and then run away from them. Lindsay could provide the Dolphins with a late-round steal and the change-of-pace back they need to complement Drake and Williams.