As the NFL Draft approaches, the rankings of the CBS Sports NFL Draft Prospects continue to change and become updated. I decided to do an updated Round-by-Round Players of Interest for the Miami Dolphins.
Here is a glimpse of my previous list and where those players are ranked now:
LB Zach Cunningham #25 à #26
OT/G Taylor Moton #59 à #64
FS Desmond King #57 à #68
DT Jaleel Johnson #98 à #90
FS Marcus Maye #103 à #46
OLB Matt Milano #165 à #191
FS John Johnson #168 à #128
TE Jonnu Smith #179 à #154
DE Josh Carraway #176 à #204
ILB Ben Gedeon #183 à #149
C Jon Toth #185 à #223
DE Joe Mathis #188 à #178
CB Jeremy Clark #229 à #239
The Science behind my approach:
I am using the CBS Sports NFL draft board as the guide for my selections. I am also using NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein’s scouting reports. Zierlein began his role as an NFL draft analyst and content provider for NFL.com in November 2015 and continues in that role today. He is responsible for writing the strength and weaknesses for over 500 draft profiles each season and is one of the lead analysts on the NFL Now mobile platform during combine and NFL draft broadcasts.
My players of interest are a combination of the Miami Dolphins needs as well as my personal opinion of the best player available based on Zierlein’s reports and light game film for the “eye-test”. I stayed away from players who were labeled “inconsistent” or had questions of work ethic and love for the game. I will not factor in trades, I will simply use the Miami Dolphins draft picks, and players ranked roughly 5 positions above and below – 5 Positions ABOVE and BELOW--the Dolphins selection spot according to the CBS Sports Draft Board (So as not to be too farfetched with my selections).
“Hold on to your butts...”
Round 1 (pick 22 overall):
DISCLAIMER: I have veered away from the idea of drafting a Defensive End in the 1st Round. This is partly due to Miami Dolphins GM Chris Grier’s recent comments on 4-3 Defensive End Prototypes and how they are open to using “undersized d-ends” in newly promoted DC Matt Burke’s system. Also, having Cameron Wake and a re-signed Andre Branch on a 3-year/$24M contract, I question the amount of opportunities a 1st-Round DE selection will have to see the field on this Dolphins team.
POI’s: LB Zach Cunningham #26 and DT Malik McDowell #23
LB Zach Cunningham—Vanderbilt
The Dolphins need an outside linebacker to pair with Kiko Alonso(outside) and Lawrence Timmons(middle) to complete the unit. Cunningham will be an intriguing option. He has had high production in his years at Vanderbilt making a combined 88 tackles, 14 for loss, and 4.5 sacks in 2015. As a junior in 2016, he surpassed those statistics with 125 tackles, 16.5 for a loss. He has the instincts and play-making ability to make an early impact. Some may question his tackling skills, but as long as he gets to the ball, I don’t really have a problem with that. According to Zierlein, Cunningham is a perfect fit as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 attacking defense, which is the same defensive style of the Miami Dolphins.
Round 2 (pick 54 overall):
POI’s: OLB Tim Williams #54 , G Dan Feeney #55, G Dion Dawkins #58, G Dorian Johnson #63
This is probably my favorite round. So many players in this round to meet the Dolphins needs— whether it be defensive end, guard, free safety, or cornerback. I would be highly surprised—SHOCKED— if the Dolphins miss out in this round.
Williams is a pass-rush specialist. In 2015 and 2016, He played 25 games and had a total of 18.5 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss. Now that’s production! He might have played outside linebacker for the Crimson Tide, but struggled when tasked with other responsibilities. Leading me to believe he is best suited as a 4-3 defensive end. He is explosive off the line of scrimmage and can bend around the edge. With DE Cameron Wake is in his later years and the lack of quality pass-rushers on the team, Williams can fill a void for the Dolphins. He is a better pass-rusher than DE Andre Branch and can come off the bench to fill in on passing-downs. Eventually becoming an every-down starter. As Wake ages, it would be nice to have a future heir to the throne.
Guards: Dan Feeney—Indiana, Dion Dawkins—Temple, Dorian Johnson—Pittsburgh
The Dolphins have a chance to solve their guard issue in this round. The team has quality depth at the position with Craig Urbik, Anthony Steen, newcomer free-agent Ted Larson on a 3-year/$5.65M contract, and returning veteran RG Jermon Bushrod on a 1-year/$3M contract. However, the Dolphins do not have a bonafide starter. There are a number of Guards here for Miami around this spot: Dan Feeney, Dion Dawkins, and Dorian Johnson. Offensive Tackle/Guard Taylor Moton who visited the Dolphins this offseason is also in this area, but further down the board at #64.
Zierlein Report: G Dan Feeney
Zierlein Report: G Dion Dawkins
Zierlein Report: G Dorian Johnson
Zierlein Report: OT/G Taylor Moton
Round 3 (pick 97 overall)
POI’s: CB Cameron Sutton #95, C Tyler Orlosky #93, OT David Sharpe #101
CB Cameron Sutton, Tennessee Volunteers
Despite the offseason rumors, the Dolphins seem set at cornerback—at least for now. 2016 2nd-rounder Xavien Howard and 3rd year CB Tony Lippett are two young and ascending players and did a solid job last season. However, the Dolphins could use an upgrade at the 3rd CB spot. Bobby Mccain is serviceable but not a difference maker, and demoted free-agent acquisition Byron Maxwell is too expensive to be kept on the team in this role. Enter Cameron Sutton— a player with high competitive character and team-first attitude. He meets the mindset that head coach Adam Gase is instilling on this team. Sutton is an outside corner with man-coverage capabilities and solid production during his career. However, concerns of his lack of size and speed could lead him to transition to slot corner.
Miami needs to think about an insurance policy for their Pro-Bowl Center Mike Pouncey. If Pouncey cannot stay healthy this season, the Dolphins might be inclined to move on from him. I do not suggest using a 3rd round selection on a potential replacement, but I struggled to find players I was sold on in this spot based on the CBS Draft Board. Tyler Orlosky has the entangibles, leadership, and mean mentality to be an average starter in the NFL. Although he is ranked at #93, Zierlein has him as a 6-7 round pick.. Should he fall to those later rounds, I would definitely take a chance on him.
Although Sharpe played left tackle for the Gators, he does not have the athleticism to succeed at that position in the NFL. So a switch to another position will be needed. He can either fit the Dolphins need for a guard or a future right tackle should Miami decide to move on from JaWuan James. James struggled during the 2016 season and the team might not decide to pick up his 5th-year option. Either way, at 6’6 and 343lbs, Sharpe has the size to be a potential monster at guard for the Dolphins.
Round 5 (pick 166 overall)
POI’s: DE Dawuane Smoot #163, DT Jarron Jones #166
In 2015 and 2016, Dawuane Smoot combined for 12 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss. He is a player with a good motor and enough athleticism to get around the edge. Like I said before, the Dolphins need pass-rushers. Smoot brings enough traits to be a rotational DE for Miami.
University of Miami fans should be familiar with Jarron Jones. He gave them headaches when the Irish and Hurricanes faced off this past season. He has experience playing nose tackle for the Irish, but his height, athleticism, and body type make him an intriguing 4-3 DT prospect. He was already disruptive getting double-teamed as a nose tackle, imagine what he could do with single-team opposition alongside Ndamukong Suh. His motivation and work ethic are a concern and Zierlein compares him to current Dolphin DT Jordan Phillips. However, the difference is the Dolphins would be risking a late-round pick on Jones, instead of a 2nd rounder like they did on Phillips.
Round 5 (pick 178 overall)
POI’s: TE Jeremy Sprinkle #180, OLB Jordan Evans #183
TE Jeremy Sprinkle—Arkansas
Although the Dolphins brought back Anthony “The Italian Stallion” Fasano as a blocking tight-end, they will need to replace him soon as he is now 33 and only playing on a 1-year/$2.7M contract. Jeremy Sprinkle should be up for the task. Zierlein praises Sprinkle for his blocking and pass-protection. However, he may not be a factor in the pass-game as he is a heavy runner and lacks initial quickness, but his big body and height can become a redzone factor.
OLB Jordan Evans—Oklahoma
Linebacker depth was a problem for the Dolphins last season after injuries seemed to knock out everyone but Kiko Alonso. Miami has an opportunity to fix that by adding a quality highly-productive linebacker like Jordan Evans. Size, athleticism, coverage/ball-skills paired with high play-speed make him an ideally serviceable outside linebacker prospect. If he can improve his toughness and aggression, he has a chance to become a starter in the NFL.
Round 5 (pick 184 overall)
POI’s: ILB Blair Brown #184, SS Jadar Johnson #189
ILB Blair Brown—Ohio
I love this guy. Highly instinctive, highly disruptive, highly productive(2016 -128 tackles, 15 for loss, 4.5 sacks), screen-sniffer, run-stuffer, aggressive, strong—this guy has EVERYTHING… except size. Which reminds me a lot of what people said about Zach Thomas (also a 5th Round pick BTW). Now, I’m not saying Brown will be the next Zach, but the kid can play. Brown comes from the Mid-American Conference, Brown did not face a lot of Big School competition, but he did produce in games against Tennessee and Kansas last year. The Miami Dolphins biggest offseason acquisition was former Steeler LB Lawrence Timmons to fill the middle of the field. However, Timmons is on a 2-year contract and will be turning 31 in May. If the Dolphins draft Blair Brown, they could have a future MLB after Timmons departs.
SS Jadar Johnson—Clemson
Either for depth or starting talent, the Dolphins could use help at safety. Free safety Isa Abdul-Quddus suffered a season-ending neck injury and was released by the team, leaving a hole for a starter. The Dolphins are trying to fill this gap with the signings of former Eagle/Raider Nate Allen and former Rams safety T.J. McDonald. Jadar Johnson is a quality candidate to compete for a starting spot. An explosive athlete and former basketball player, Johnson is an instinctive safety who can high-point the football. Coaches and analysts question his desire to tackle, but that shouldn’t be a problem if Miami puts him at FS.
Round 7 (pick 223 overall)
POI’s: SS Josh Harvey-Clemons (unranked), DT Stevie Tu’ikolovatu #224, OLB Samson Ebukam #228
SS Josh Harvey-Clemons—Louisville
Like I said before, the Dolphins could use depth at safety. Unlike SS Jadar Johnson, Harvey-Clemons is not afraid to get down and dirty in the run game. The former 5-star recruit has the alpha-mentality Adam Gase is looking for and Zierlein compares him to Seahawks star Kam Chancellor. Scouts and draft analysts have character concerns about him due to his release from Georgia in 2014 for 2 positive tests for marijuana. However, after joining Louisville, Harvey-Clemons seemed to get his head on straight and has had no off-field issues. If he falls to the 7th Round, he could be a steal for the Dolphins.
DT Stevie Tui’kolovatu—USC
Apart from Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips, the Dolphins do not seem to have any quality defensive line depth on the roster after releasing Earl Mitchell in February. Tui’kolovatu can be the depth as well as a disruptive force for the Dolphins. He can eat up double-teams, has a strong initial punch, and looks to make plays. Perhaps he could challenge the inconsistent Jordan Phillips for playing time.
OLB Samson Ebukam—Eastern Washington
The Dolphins seem to be set at the defensive end position with Cameron Wake and Andre Branch, but like I mentioned before: they need more pass-rushers. Ebukam is a developmental pass-rushing prospect with the athletic traits and talent to succeed, but he is raw. The good news is he has the work ethic and mentality to improve and polish his skills. In 2016, Ebukam was highly productive with 9.5 sacks, 71 tackles, 15 for loss, 2 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries.
Honorable Mention: ILB Tanner Vallejo #221