The 2017 Miami Dolphins roster is loaded with Top Round talent. A total of 26 players on the roster have been drafted in the first 3 rounds of an NFL draft or have been a late-round pick that has risen to become a star in the league. The Dolphins have 12 players on offense and 14 players on defense that meet this criteria. Not all have lived up to their draft status, but at some point an NFL team believed they were deserving of a Day 1 or Day 2 selection.
Today, we will explore the “Top Round Talent” on the Dolphins offense.
Ryan Tannehill - 2012 1st-Round Pick
Although he is not perfect, Tannehill has shown improvement every year in some aspect of his game, and is by FAR the best quarterback the Dolphins have had since Dan Marino retired. Tannehill is a mobile quarterback with a strong arm who usually takes good care of the football, and at times flashes elite ability. He will not throw the dumb interception to lose the Dolphins a football game, nor will he dominate by dropping a ton of points on a defense. Under Adam Gase's system, playcalling, and use of the run-game, the Dolphins finally got consistency and efficient play out of their quarterback. In 2016, Tannehill established himself as one of the most accurate and best deep throwers in the NFL before he went down with a knee injury against the Cardinals in Week 15. According to Deep Ball Project, Tannehill connected 61% on throws that were 20+ yards(2nd in NFL), and his overall accuracy was 64.1%(4th in NFL).
Last week, the quarterback admitted that the game is “slowing down for him”, and he and Gase are on the same age. Now entering his 6th year in the NFL and 2nd season with Gase, Tannehill hopes to take the next step by becoming more fluent with the offense and taking the next step in his mental-game.
Laremy Tunsil LT - 2016 1st-Round Pick
After dropping a handful of spots after trading with the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso, the Dolphins selected Laremy Tunsil with the 13th overall pick. Arguably the best prospect in the 2016 draft class, Tunsil fell due to the infamous Gas-mask Bong video that was released, and the Dolphins got themselves a steal. Tunsil was forced to play Left Guard in his rookie year, but many scouts and analysts believe he has the skills to be an upper-tier tackle in the league. The Dolphins will find out this season as they have traded away LT Branden Albert to the Jaguars and will move Tunsil from Left Guard to Left Tackle.
JaWuan James RT - 2014 1st-round pick
After being a solid presence at Right Tackle for the Dolphins in his rookie and sophomore year(before befalling a toe injury to end the 2015 season), James struggled in 2016. Early in the season, he was benched at the end of 1 game, and the teams coaches internally discussed benching him at other times. As the season progressed, he remained inconsistent. However, the coaches and Adam Gase still believe James has all the skills to be a really good player. The Dolphins exercised the 5th-year option on James for 2018 paying him $9.3 million. This is a nice security move by the Dolphins in order to avoid a free agent frenzy over James if he can get it together in 2017. If he cannot, the Dolphins can still cut James before the 2018 league year without paying him any of the option money.
Mike Pouncey C - 2011 1st-round pick
The 3-time Pro Bowler has become an unreliable presence for the Dolphins at the center position. Pouncey has missed 17 games since 2014 with hip injuries. He suffered another setback before the start of the 2016 season and was forced to missed the first 5 games. Pouncey returned and the offensive line improved but it did not last long as he underwent another hip issue after the Chargers game in Week 10. The center is currently on Gase's "Bubble Wrap" plan and is being held out of practice as much as he can in order to heal. This season could be his last as a Dolphin due to his reoccuring injuries. Hopefully, he can return to his former self as the Dolphins are expected to run the ball even more this season, but that outcome isn’t likely.
Kraig Urbik G/C - 2009 3rd-round pick(Steelers)
Urbik will be turning 32 years old this September 23, which is funny because that is when he got his first start for the Dolphins last year(6 days after his birthday). He has played for 2 teams during his career prior to joining the Dolphins: the Pittsburgh Steelers(2009) and the rival Buffalo Bills(2010-2015). He was considered one of the Top guard prospects in the 2009 NFL draft, but has not lived up to those expectations. Urbik became the starting center in Week 15 after Mike Pouncey’s short-lived return last season and did a solid job. He is expected to do so again this summer until Mike Pouncey rehabs into playing shape.
Jay Ajayi - 2015 5th-round pick
Why is Jay Ajayi on the list?
Heading into the 2014 draft, Ajayi was projected as a 2nd-round talent, and probably would’ve been drafted there if it wasn’t for scouts concerns about his “bone on bone” knee. In his short time as the Dolphins starter, Ajayi has established himself as a Top 10 RB in the NFL with three 200+ yard performances and a Pro Bowl appearance. He has the most Yards After Contact(3.46), and his physical running style is feared by many defenders. This offseason, Gase says he wants to give Ajayi 350 carries. Ajayi is also working on his hands and route-running to become a dual-threat for the Dolphins. If there’s a Dolphins player I want on my fantasy team, it’s the Jay-Train. TOOT TOOT!
Kenyan Drake - 2016 3rd-round pick
Currently in a crowded backfield with Jay Ajayi and Damien Williams, Drake is the 3rd-string running back for the Dolphins. He received carries early in the season as the Dolphins were figuring out their RB situation. He got the most out of his opportunities with 33 carries, 179 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a 5.4 Yards Per Attempt average. Drake can be a pass-catching threat out of the backfield, he has hands and is an agile athlete. He made most of his money returning kicks in his rookie year with 13 returns, 397 yards, 1 TD, and a 30.5 Yards Per Return Average. His longest was a 96-yard return for a touchdown in the 4th quarter against the Jets in Week 9 to put Dolphins ahead 26-23.
Devante Parker - 2015 1st Round Pick
Coming off a lackluster rookie season in which he only played a handful of games, Devante Parker didn’t exactly have a breakout season in his sophomore year either. Parker improved statistically with 56 receptions, 744 yards, and 4 touchdowns, but Gase knew he wasn’t getting what he could out of him. The Dolphins believe Parker has elite talent, but needs to learn to push through pain and have consistent route-running. Parker has received the message and is working harder this offseason to improve his bad habits from last season. He is stretching more, hydrating, and eating correctly(sounds like common sense, right?). The wide receiver says he’s finally 100% healthy and Gase says the consistency is there. In OTA’s and minicamp, Parker has beaten Byron Maxwell and Xavien Howard for touchdowns.
Jarvis Landry - 2014 2nd-round pick
The heart, soul, and tone-setter of the offense, Jarvis Landry is just an all-around winner of this football team. Currently tied with his best friend Odell Beckham Junior for most receptions in first 3 seasons with 288 catches, Landry is a catch-machine with playmaking ability. He is regarded as one of the Top Slot Receivers in the NFL, and the best according to Pro Football Focus. A 2-time Pro-Bowler and 2 appearances on NFL Network’s Top 100 players, Landry’s resume’ speaks for itself.
Kenny Stills- Saints 2013 5th rounder, Dolphins traded 2015 3rd-rounder to acquire
Before the 2015 season, the Miami Dolphins traded a 3
round pick and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to acquire the Saints speedy receiver. Stills was a suitable and much cheaper replacement after the Dolphins traded away their deep-threat Mike Wallace and his huge contract to the Minnesota Vikings. After a 2015 season where he and quarterback Ryan Tannehill were still feeling each other out, the two gained great chemistry in 2016 and combined for 9 touchdowns. Stills is one of the better deep-threats in the league, and enjoys playing on the Dolphins. After his free agent year, Stills took less money to re-sign with the team—accepting a 4-year contract of $8 million annually compared to higher offers from other interested teams. Expect his chemistry with Ryan Tannehill to continue into 2017.
Leonte Carroo - 2016 3rd-round pick (dolphins traded 2016 6th rounder, 2017's 3rd and 4th rounder)
In the 2016 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins traded with the Minnesota Vikings to move up into the 3rd round to select Leonte Carroo. The Dolphins gave up their 2016 6th-rounder, and 2017’s 3rd & 4th-rounder in order to select a receiver they thought had stud potential. With a similar skill-set to Jarvis Landry, Carroo is a tough, physical, strong-handed receiver with good route-running and playmaking ability. Unfortunately, he struggled in his rookie year when he was tasked with learning all 3 wide-receiver positions as a backup to DeVante Parker, Jarvis Landry, and Kenny Stills. This slowed his progress down. The good thing for Carroo is the Dolphins wide-receiving core is so deep that he does not need to be rushed onto the field. Rumors are Carroo in endanger of not making the 53-man roster, but Kenny Stills has taken Carroo under his wing this offseason in order to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Anthony Fasano - Cowboys 2006 2nd-round pick
Originally drafted to be a compliment to Cowboys tight-end Jason Witten, Anthony Fasano found himself on the Miami Dolphins 2 years later when NFL legend Bill Parcells, head coach Tony Sporano, and GM Jeff Ireland came from the Cowboys to Dolphins in order to turn the franchise around (nice job BTW *rolls eyes*). Fasano was a solid presence for the Dolphins in a regime that was run-oriented, but later found himself on the Chiefs and Titans once Joe Philbin came in. He is one of the better blocking tight-ends due to his big frame, but he is not, nor ever has been, a receiving threat. Rated as Pro Football Focus #1 blocking tight-end in 2016, Fasano’s presence will be a benefit for an offensive line that is still a work in progress. His solid hands and big body can make him a red zone threat, and he will be a nice compliment to fellow tight-end Julius Thomas.
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