Note: With Dolphins training camp set to begin today, the Palm Beach Post used the past week to take a look at the five biggest questions surrounding the team. We conclude our training camp preview with a look at which rookies can make an immediate impact for Miami this season. For a look at the other questions we discussed this week, check the bottom of this post.
It’s never wise to rely on rookies.
But the Dolphins are hoping a few first-year players can make an immediate impact this season. Miami’s 2016 draft class is made up of eight players, including six on offense.
The obvious candidate to step into a starting role and contribute right away is offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, who was selected with the 13th overall pick of this year’s draft. Tunsil is competing with Dallas Thomas to be Miami’s starting left guard this season, but Tunsil is expected to win the job.
If the Ole Miss product starts the season as Miami’s starting left guard as expected, he will probably be the Dolphins rookie who makes the biggest impact this season.
Looking at the rest of the Dolphins’ 2016 draft class, cornerback Xavien Howard, running back Kenyan Drake and wide receiver Leonte Carroo are other rookies who could see significant snaps this season.
Howard’s impact probably won’t be felt right away. Howard, who was competing for the starting job opposite Byron Maxwell, begins training camp on the physically unable to perform list. The second-round pick will likely miss all of training camp, but coach Adam Gase said he expects Howard back “at worst” by the regular season opener in Seattle on Sept. 11.
Meanwhile, Drake is expected to be part of Miami’s running back rotation this season behind Jay Ajayi and Arian Foster. Drake — a third-round pick — won’t start many games as a rookie, but his speed and big play ability will get him on the field.
Carroo — a third-round pick — has an opportunity to show he deserves to be a starter in training camp. At 6-feet, 217 pounds, Carroo is a sturdy and strong receiver with good hands, and impressed enough to line up with the starters during minicamp. Obviously, DeVante Parker, Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills are Miami’s top three receivers, but Carroo can work his way into that group quickly if he continues to flash his skills.
Sixth-round pick Jakeem Grant also has a chance to make a pretty big impact as a rookie on special teams. The 5-foot-7, 172-pound speedster is one of the top candidates to be the Dolphins’ return man this upcoming season.
If the Dolphins are going to make a big improvement this season, they will probably need a few rookies to turn into reliable and valuable assets right away.
DOLPHINS TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW
Will Dolphins RBs overcome inexperience, injuries?
Will new-look Dolphins secondary be effective?
Will Dolphins offensive line be improved this season?
Can Adam Gase turn Ryan Tannehill into a franchise QB?