Cameron Wake was a Pro Bowler in 2016 and in 2017, he recorded more than 10 sacks in back-to-back seasons for the first time in his career.
But at the end of this month, he’ll turn 36 years old.
It’s not realistic to expect Wake to produce at the same level next season as he has the last two. It would seem more ideal, in fact, for Charles Harris to take Wake over in Miami Dolphins reps and to be able to use Wake in more of a pass-rush specialist role.
That’s not a knock on Wake. It’s just the natural evolution of the NFL cycle. At some point, one of those players you spent a high draft choice on better end up replacing a starter, usually at a lower cost and with lower health risk.
Jarvis Landry turned 25 years old in November, so he’s not eligible for this list. But Landry, who would otherwise be atop this list, is an example of the type of player any NFL team would want. He’s young, so young he’s about to enter his prime, and yet, he’s already proven he can produce at the highest levels.
It’s why Landry would be so attractive on the free agent market. And why it’s in Miami’s best interest to come to an agreement before Landry hits the open market.
Some of Miami’s top players, and former Pro Bowlers, have now played at least seven NFL seasons: Wake, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (31), center Mike Pouncey (28) and safety Reshad Jones (29).
A glance at Miami’s roster reveals youth and skill at wide receiver and defensive back. But it also shows a real need for an injection of youth at linebacker and the offensive line.
This is why, once again, Miami figures to focus on linebacker and offensive line in the draft and free agency.
We can’t say that enough — Miami needs more youthful talent at linebacker and offensive line.
That said, who does The Daily Dolphin view as Miami’s Top 10 players under 25? As in, in what order would an expansion team grab these players, in our opinion, if the draft was say, this Saturday night?
- Laremy Tunsil, LT, 23 years old — You’re going to tell me that Tunsil didn’t have a very good season in 2017, and you’d be right. But Miami better be right in their belief that Tunsil will be much, much better in his second season as a starter at left tackle. Tunsil needs to address all those pre-snap penalties. And he said he is working to perfect his practice habits. He has every physical tool needed.
- Xavien Howard, CB, 24 years old — Howard did not have the start to his second season that most observers expected, but he came on really, really strong down the stretch. Howard is physical and fast enough, to be at worst, a very good #2 cornerback in the NFL. He’s still learning and will also have a new position coach in 2018.
- DeVante Parker, WR, 24 years old — You’re going to tell me that Parker was very, very, very disappointing last season, and you’d be right. You’re going to say he’s injury prone and has seemed to lose his confidence and perhaps does not have the innate desire to fight for every single ball tossed his way. And I’m going to tell you he’s story isn’t completed just yet. We are going to admit that because two of the first three players on this list under-performed last season, something better change quickly.
- Kenyan Drake, RB, 23 years old — We called for Drake to receive more playing time and he capitalized, once Jay Ajayi was gone. Drake proved to be one of the most explosive, big-play threats in the NFL once he got his chance. Can he do it for 16 games? How would he handle carrying the biggest workload for an entire season? We may find that out in 2018.
- Raekwon McMillan, LB, 21 years old — Can you believe that McMillan just turned 21? Yes, we know he hasn’t even played a regular-season NFL game for Miami yet. But he plays linebacker. And Miami has a desperate need for a sure-tackling, aggressive, young, linebacker. Miami trusted McMillan enough that he was going to call the plays last year. After a redshirt, he should be even more ready to contribute.
- Charles Harris, DE, 22 years old — Harris had only two sacks as a rookie and was understandably frustrated at times. Harris a very, very serious young man, which is mostly good. He wants to be great. He knows he needs to get bigger and stronger. A year of learning about how to be more effective against the run will only help. And Harris, like Howard, will also have a new position coach this year.
- Cordrea Tankersley, CB, 24 years old — There are going to be three cornerbacks on this list, which tells you Miami has done a nice job in drafting cornerbacks with upside. This list won’t even include Tony Lippett, who is coming back from an Achilles injury. Tankersley’s ascendance to starter came quicker than expected, and he looks so far like a quality third-round choice.
- Davon Godchaux, DT, 23 years old — Give credit to Miami’s scouting staff for uncovering this fifth-round gem. Godchaux gives great effort, listens to his coaches and generally plays within the game plan. He needs to cut down on his penalties, some presnap and some with the way he uses his hands. Oh yeah, he’ll have a new position coach this year, too. Godchaux looks like a keeper.
- Bobby McCain, CB, 24 years old — Before last season, some wondered if Michael Thomas or Alterraun Verner or some draft choice was needed to replace McCain. Nope. McCain emerged as a good slot corner, quite good, in fact. Yes, he could stand to create a few more turnovers (an issue all Miami defenders must address next season). But McCain was solid and consistent, which is all Miami could ask for.
- Leonte Carroo, WR, 23 years old — It is true that Carroo hasn’t done much in the limited opportunities he’s been given. It is also true he has not yet proven to be worth trading up for, as Miami did. But the key here is opportunity. We’re still not sure what Carroo can do, given an actual opportunity, which yes, may have to come elsewhere. But don’t label him a bust just yet. That’s unfair.