Steve Mitchell

Miami Dolphins Top Talent: Secondary

Michael Hernandez analyzes the "Top-Round Talent" on the Miami Dolphins secondary, and their current positional status with the team.

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 take a look at the 5 players of “Top Round Talent” on the Defensive Secondary.


Xavien Howard - 2016 2nd-round pick

Coming out of the 2016 draft, Howard was seen as a physical island-corner with short-area quickness and great ball skills-- totaling 9 interceptions in his last 2 seasons at Baylor. Unfortunately, the Dolphins did not get to see much of this as Howard had a tough rookie season missing most of training camp with a knee injury, and had a second knee surgery midseason that sidelined him for 9 games. However, during the 7 games that he played, the cornerback was able to manage 40 tackles, 6 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble.

Finally 100% healthy, Howard has been drawing rave reviews this offseason and is poised to have a breakout season.

“I think Xavien can be one of the top corners in this league.” - Dolphins Pro Bowl Safety Rashad Jones

Cordrea Tankersley - 2017 3rd-round pick

Nicknamed “Tootie” by his older brother, Tankersley comes from the Clemson Tigers. The cornerback also modeled his game after fellow Dolphin and Clemson-alumn Byron Maxwell.  In 2014 and 2015, he totaled 100 tackles and 9 interceptions. His turnover production, size, speed, and ball skills were good enough for scouts to take notice of him. But the prototype corner for the former-Vance Joseph defense comes with some deficiencies. Tankersley’s lateral quickness and change of direction are subpar, which could open the door for receivers to get open on the next level. His vertical speed helps on deeper passes, but he panics and gets grabby when receivers get behind him. Tankersley caught a lot of flack on Draft Day by ESPN and NFL analysts for his penalties in college (8 pass-interference calls in 2 seasons).

Tankersley could be the big-bodied replacement for cornerback Byron Maxwell should the Dolphins decided to move on from his pricey contract after the 2017 season. Tankersley might be the #5 CB on the depth chart after Xavien Howard, Tony Lippett, Byron Maxwell, and Bobby Mccain due to his lack of experience.


Reshad Jones - 2010 5th-rounder

Since playing his first full season in 2012, Jones has finished Top 4 in team tackles every season until his injury in 2016. The former 5th-round pick is regarded as one of the best safeties in the league and has appeared on NFL Network’s Top 100. In 2015, Jones led the team in tackles with 135 and caught 5 interceptions. After making his first Pro Bowl in 2015, Jones was playing at an All-Pro level in 2016 until he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. The Dolphins missed Jones’ run-support as the team’s rush-defense fell to 30th in the league during the regular season. The Dolphins have confidence Jones can return to his playmaking-self as they gave him a 5-year/$60 million contract extension this offseason.

TJ McDonald - Rams 2013 3rd-round pick

After making a mistake that “will never happen again”, McDonald pled guilty to his DUI and possession of drugs charge and is currently suspended for the first 8 games of 2017 regular season for violating the NFL's personal conduct and substance abuse policy. Seeing as how the team needs help after a season-ending/career-threatening injury to last season’s free agent signee Isa Abdul-Quddus, the Dolphins signed McDonald to a 1-year contract. The Dolphins are taking a small risk on a potentially high-reward player. McDonald is only 26, and is a hard-hitting safety who made drastic improvements in his coverage ability last season. According to Pro Football Focus, the safety allowed a QB Rating of 68.8 to opponents, which is an improvement over his first three seasons of 121.6. McDonald also has a slight on-and-off injury histroy. In his rookie year, he was placed on Injured-Reserve after fracturing his right leg, and was placed on Injured-Reserve again in 2015 after suffering a shoulder injury.

Nate Allen - Eagles 2010 2nd-rounder

Coming out of the 2010 draft, Allen was seen as one of the best safety prospects and looked like it as he made interceptions in his first 2 games as an Eagle. After having 4 interceptions in his last year as an Eagle in 2014, the team chose not to resign Allen and soon found himself on the Raiders in 2015. The team did not get much out of their free agent. Allen suffered a torn MCL in his first game as a Raider and was placed on Injured-Reserve to end his 2015 season. He did not see much time in 2016 either as he played as a backup to Reggie Nelson and Karl Joseph. Allen signed a 1-year/$3.4 million contract with the Miami Dolphins in March, and is expected to start opposite Reshad Jones for the time being.

Follow Mike Hernandez on Twitter: @FtBallMikeHern


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