Miami Dolphins: NFL draft
- Brian Coyle of the Dolphins team site writes about the friendship of Miami rookie Jarvis Landry and New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
- Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel has a plan for the Dolphins to create $40 million in cap room.
- Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post does a seven-round mock draft for the Dolphins.
- Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes the Dolphins aren’t performing to the salary cap.
- ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. re-grades the 2014 NFL draft for the Dolphins.
- Alain Poupart of the Dolphins team site writes that Hickey sees a deep draft in 2015.
- Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald writes that Dolphins left tackle Branden Albert is recovering quickly from a torn ACL.
Let’s see what is on the mind of Dolphins fans.
Walker: As long as Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert (knee) returns in time for the regular season, I rate linebacker as Miami's biggest need. This is a position where the Dolphins could (should?) have a complete overhaul. Philip Wheeler, Dannell Ellerbe and Koa Misi all have sizable contracts and could be released. Miami's defense was ranked No. 24 in the NFL and the linebackers made few game-changing plays in the passing game. Jelani Jenkins is the only keeper of this group. The secondary has needs but nothing major. Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes and safety Reshad Jones are two very good players. Miami just needs others to step up.
@JamesWalkerNFL bigger draft concern, offensive line, linebacker, or secondary?— J.T. Seymore (@JTeatsBurgers) January 14, 2015
Walker: This is a tremendous question. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin made a point from Day 1 to not deal with high-maintenance personalities. Philbin traded receiver Brandon Marshall before Marshall got a chance to work with the coach. Philbin gave Chad Ochocinco a chance but pulled the quick hook after his off-the-field incident. Most recently Philbin has had issues with defensive tackle Jared Odrick and he's unlikely to return. Sometimes talent brings high-maintenance personalities. Philbin is not a fan of high maintenance, but he must learn to deal with that from time to time if Miami wants to get to the next level.
@JamesWalkerNFL can Phillbin learn to handle diva personalities with talent?— TexasPhinMan (@TexasPhinMan) January 14, 2015
Walker: Yes, it does. The Dolphins will and have tried to put the best face on this. That is their job. But adding Tannenbaum to oversee the front office signals Dolphins owner Stephen Ross didn't have faith in Hickey being the boss of the front office. Keep in mind, Hickey was not Miami's first choice. Ross was turned down by candidates numerous times. Tannenbaum certainly has a lot to offer Miami. But it does add pressure on Hickey to continue to produce.
@JamesWalkerNFL Does the Tannenbaum hire demonstrate Ross's lack of confidince in Hickey?— Eric Houston (@houstonloves) January 14, 2015
But who will back up Tannehill in 2015? It's an important question the Dolphins must address this offseason.
I talked to Moore a couple of weeks ago and he was unsure of his return.
"If the situation is right, that will happen," Moore said. "If there's a situation elsewhere that is intriguing, it might also happen. ...I'm going to kind of feel my way through it."
Translation: If Moore gets an opportunity elsewhere to compete for a starting job and with a higher salary, he's most likely leaving Miami.
The Dolphins will explore cheaper alternatives at backup quarterback, especially now that Tannehill is a proven starter. The easiest route would be to draft an affordable, developmental quarterback in the middle or later rounds. They also could look for a veteran in free agency if they are willing to spend more.
Tannehill's durability has been stellar. He started 48 consecutive games since Miami drafted him No. 8 overall in 2012. But a backup quarterback is always one play away.
The Dolphins must find a decent player behind Tannehill who also fits within their budget.
There will be plenty of debate and speculation of who the Dolphins will take in April. But before looking ahead, let’s look back at the previous players taken in Miami’s draft slot to get an idea of the quality of prospects available.
- 2014: Chicago Bears CB Kyle Fuller
- 2013: Carolina Panthers DT Star Lotulelei
- 2012: St. Louis Rams DT Michael Brockers
- 2011: St. Louis Rams DE Robert Quinn
- 2010: Seattle Seahawks S Earl Thomas
This is a strong five-year window of players. Thomas, Quinn and Lotulelei are among the best at their respective positions. Fuller made an immediate impact in Chicago last season and has a bright future, while Brockers is a contributor in St. Louis.
The recent track record of the No. 14 overall pick should provide optimism that Miami can land an impact player. The Dolphins have various needs such as linebacker, defensive tackle, guard and tight end.
For a preview of potential prospects, check out my first Dolphins mock draft of the offseason.
Plenty of Dolphins fans have questions. So let’s take a look into the Twitter mailbag.
@JamesWalkerNFL Tannenbaum signing: step forward (towards playoffs), step back (towards reboot), or just Ross hedging his bets?— George Wallace (@BiggestHobbit) January 8, 2015
James Walker: It's too early to say, George, considering Tannenbaum doesn't start until Feb. 1. There is some confusion of his actual job description, since the team says general manager Dennis Hickey has say over the roster and head coach Joe Philbin reports directly to owner Stephen Ross. The trio will work together this year and see how it goes. But this move, more than anything, provides long-term protection. If Miami doesn't make the playoffs next season, I expect the team to clean house and Tannenbaum likely will have a chance to bring in his own people.
@JamesWalkerNFL why was Lamar Miller highly underused despite averaging 5 ypc and being a good pass catcher out of backfield?— Ken Ciantar (@KCiantar3) January 8, 2015
Walker: "Highly underused" is a bit strong, Ken. Lamar Miller was underused and probably could've helped the team with about 35-40 more carries this season. It's clear the Dolphins' coaching staff doesn't believe Miller is a "bell cow" running back and prefers to keep a rotation. He never received 20 carries in any game last season. I don't expect that to change next season.
@JamesWalkerNFL how much does it suck having to cover this dumpster fire of a team?— ralph (@hplar96) January 8, 2015
Walker: Covering the Dolphins is tremendous, Ralph. I absolutely love my job. I've never had any rooting interest in any teams I covered, and I think that's what some readers struggle to grasp. That's part of being a professional. It doesn't matter to me if the Dolphins go 0-16 or 16-0. My job is to produce good, objective content and explain why things are happening. If the stories are more positive one year, so be it. If the stories are more negative the next year, so be it. This is a place where Dolphins fans can get honest news and analysis on their favorite team -- good and bad.
Walker: I do not see Ingram as a fit, Jeff. The Dolphins went the veteran running back route last year with Knowshon Moreno and it didn't work. Now that starter Lamar Miller is coming off a 1,000-yard season, Miami has the luxury not to overspend for a veteran tailback in free agency. The Dolphins will look to add a bigger back. But it most likely will come via the draft. There are some good options this year in the top half of the draft who can fit the role at a cheaper cost.
If you questions about the Dolphins, feel free to send them my way @JamesWalkerNFL.
Here is a recap of Miami's first-year grades:
- First-round pick OT Ja'Wuan James: A-
- Second-round pick WR Jarvis Landry: A
- Third-round pick OT Billy Turner: D
- Fourth-round pick DB Walt Aikens: C+
- Fifth-round pick LB Jordan Tripp: D+
- Seventh-round pick DE Terrence Fede: B+
- Undrafted LB Chris McCain: B
- Undrafted RB Damien Williams: B
Overall, the Dolphins got solid production from their rookie class. First-year general manager Dennis Hickey made several solid picks and also had some nice finds in the late rounds and undrafted players.
The key will be for Miami (8-8) to continue developing its young players in an effort to get over the hump and into the playoffs next season.
Let’s continue our series on Miami’s rookie class and examine the season of undrafted rookie Chris McCain:
Positives: McCain was a hidden gem discovered by Dolphins first-year general manager Dennis Hickey. McCain started fast with a sack and blocked punt against the New England Patriots in Week 1. It was clear as early as training camp that he has talent. McCain showed an explosive first step rushing the quarterback, and his length and agility cannot be taught. However, McCain went undrafted due to several off-the-field issues in college and, to his credit, he stayed out of trouble. A year without issues goes a long way for McCain to prove he can be trusted at the NFL level.
Negatives: McCain remains very raw and has a long way to go to learn the NFL game. He's fine with very specific assignments. But Miami’s defense can be very complicated – sometimes too complicated – and that makes it hard for young players like McCain to see extensive playing time. McCain also had some issues with injuries and must stay healthy in future seasons.
Walker's rookie grade: B
Next up we have undrafted running back Damien Williams:
Position: Running back
Stats: 36 carries for 122 yards, 21 receptions, one touchdown
Positives: Williams deserves a lot of credit for being a longshot to make the team and contributing down to the final game. He his biggest impact as a third-down back, where he caught 21 passes for 187 yards. He is another first-year player who didn't hit the rookie wall for Miami. Williams played some of his best football down the stretch, and got more opportunities when starting running back Lamar Miller had minor injuries.
Negatives: Williams must work on his elusiveness to take his game to the next level. He had plenty of opportunities to make bigger plays but failed to break tackles, which is key in the NFL. Williams averaged just 3.4 yards per carry.
Walker's rookie grade: B
Tannenbaum's track record has come to the forefront in South Florida after the Miami Dolphins hired him as executive vice president of football operations this week to take over the front office. On Tuesday, Tannenbaum stood by his record in New York.
“When you look over the 16 years I was there and the seven years as GM, I am proud of our record,” Tannenbaum said on a conference call with the Miami media. “Not every pick worked out. It usually doesn’t. I go back to what I said earlier that I wouldn’t trade the last two years for anything. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve really had a chance to reflect and spend time with college coaches, basketball coaches, player procurement, be it whatever sport. There are a lot of different things you can learn.”
Here are several hits and misses during Tannenbaum’s tenure as Jets’ general manager from 2006 to 2012:
- Tannenbaum usually shines in the first round. He has a list of home runs with New York’s top pick, which includes cornerback Darrelle Revis, defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson and D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Miami has a quality pick this year at No. 14 overall and needs to get this pick right.
- On the flip side, Tannenbaum has a history of second-round busts. He drafted quarterback Kellen Clemens in the second round in 2006, offensive lineman Vladimir Ducasse in 2010 and receiver Stephen Hill in 2012. All three were didn't work out. Tannenbaum’s only good second-round pick during his seven-year as general manager was linebacker David Harris in 2007.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Chris SzagolaThe Jets missed on several second-round picks under former GM Mike Tannenbaum, including WR Stephen Hill.
- Tannenbaum struck gold on several trades and free agents that led to New York’s playoff success. Veteran acquisitions such as cornerback Antonio Cromartie, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, linebacker Bart Scott and receivers Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards helped fuel New York’s playoff runs in 2009 and 2010.
- As we mentioned early, Tannenbaum does not have a good history identifying quarterbacks. Clemons was a bust in 2006. The Tebow trade was inexplicable. However, the Sanchez pick is debatable. New York traded up in the first round (No. 5 overall) to get him and he helped get the Jets twice to the AFC title game. Those are positives. But Sanchez clearly didn’t improve and New York signed him to a contract extension that signaled the beginning of the end for Tannenbaum. However, the Dolphins already have their quarterback in place for at least next season in Ryan Tannehill.
- Finally, the Vernon Gholston pick at No. 6 overall in 2008 may be the biggest stain on Tannenbaum's résumé. Gholston remains one of the worst NFL selections in the past decade. He flamed out in three seasons and has been out of the league since 2010.
As with most personnel bosses, there are hits and misses. The goal for Miami is that Tannenbaum builds on his strengths and learns from prior mistakes.
Tannenbaum said Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey will retain control of the draft and personnel moves. But rest assured Tannenbaum will have his fingerprints on Miami's roster this upcoming season.
“Everybody’s going to have input, but ultimately who we pick and when we pick, the roster decision will rest with him,” Tannenbaum said of Hickey. “Again, I’ve seen him work. I know he’s a collaborative leader. That’s my belief.”
With that in mind, let’s examine the season of fourth-round pick Walt Aikens:
Stats: 15 tackles, one interception
Positives: Despite coming from a small school, Aikens didn't appear out of place in his rookie season. He did a decent job of making the jump from Liberty University to the NFL thanks to his prototypical size and versatility. The Dolphins rotated Aikens between safety and corner due to injuries to players ahead of him on the depth chart. He even got an interception and returned it 43 yards in a win over the Oakland Raiders in London. Aikens played in spot duty on defense and also added energy on special teams. He produced about what you expect from a decent fourth-round pick.
Negatives: Sometimes Aikens' versatility worked against him. He never settled into one position and, therefore, the Dolphins still aren’t sure if he’s a safety or corner heading into 2015. Aikens also got into some potential legal issues before the regular-season finale where he was held out of the Week 17 loss to the New York Jets. If that's cleared up, Aikens will have a chance to compete for a larger role next season.
Walker's rookie grade: C+
Next up we have third-round pick Billy Turner:
Position: Offensive tackle
Stats: Zero starts
Positives: Turner is young with good size. Those are attributes that could serve him well. He flashed in training camp and has the potential to be a good fit in Bill Lazor’s offense. But he has a long way to go. Turner did work his way up to be active for the final two games of the season.
Negatives: Turner proved to be too green to make a contribution. Perhaps that was due to his small-school experience in college at North Dakota State. There certainly were opportunities. Starting offensive tackles Branden Albert and Dallas Thomas both suffered injuries throughout the season. But Turner didn’t win over the coaching staff. Veteran backup Jason Fox got the nod and played decent football.
Rookie grade: D
Position: Wide receiver
Stats: 84 receptions, 758 yards, five touchdowns
Positives: The Dolphins couldn't have asked for more from Landry in his rookie year. He took over the slot receiver position from veteran Brandon Gibson a few games into the season and wound up leading the team in receptions. Landry has some of the best hands I’ve seen in my decade covering the NFL. The catches he’s made in games and practices have been highlight material. Landry also added 1,158 return yards in an unexpected role as a kick returner. His mental approach to the game is beyond his years. He’s definitely a building block on offense, along with first-round pick Ja'Wuan James.
Negatives: Landry’s scouting report was accurate in terms of athleticism. He’s not a game-breaker and finished with just 9.0 yards per reception. Landry needs to get better at making vertical plays. He also made some rookie mistakes returning kicks with ball security and decision-making.
Rookie grade: A
- Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports the Dolphins also will retain general manager Dennis Hickey in 2015.
- Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post writes about things the Dolphins need to fix.
- Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel writes Dolphins right tackle Jason Fox played well in his first start.
However, it’s not too early to look ahead to the offseason. Earlier this week, we previewed the offensive and defensive free agents. On Wednesday, ESPN's Todd McShay offered his first mock draft.
Here are some thoughts on McShay's selection for Miami:
Selection: No. 16
McShay's pick: Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
McShay's quote: “Thompson is a unique talent with an outstanding combination of size, speed and athleticism, and he could help upgrade Miami at linebacker.”
Analysis: It’s hard to pinpoint Miami’s biggest need at this early stage. But linebacker could be near the top of the list. The Dolphins have decisions to make with high-priced linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe. Both underachieved and are candidates to become salary-cap casualties. If that’s the case, Thompson could be a possibility. Miami had a nice find in second-year outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins. But the other two positions are open for next season.