INDIANAPOLIS—The NFL Combine presents an intriguing checkpoint for the Dolphins as they try to rework their roster following a 6-10 season that left everyone in the organization questioning themselves.
This week in Indianapolis, the team will have a large delegation that includes coach Adam Gase and general manager Chris Grier. They’re tasked with evaluating more than 300 players who will be doing drills and sitting down for interviews this week, and that should sharpen their focus on how they plan to proceed with their stock of seven picks in April’s draft.
Any priority lists they make here will be written in pencil considering free agency is right around the corner. The moves Miami makes when the market opens March 12 could alter what it believes it needs to find in the draft.
The biggest issue for the Dolphins is to determine the best possible way to handle the No. 11 overall pick. If they keep it, they should be in range to land one of the top four quarterbacks in this year’s class: Wyoming’s Josh Allen, USC’s Sam Darnold, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and UCLA’s Josh Rosen.
All of those players will be in town for the Combine, but ESPN reported Darnold will not throw. The others are expected to do so Saturday.
The Dolphins already got an up-close look at Allen and Mayfield in the Senior Bowl. Gase flew in specifically to see them, and executive Dan Marino was on hand for that as well.
The supposed experts are all over the place in how they rank the quarterback prospects, illustrating how difficult it might be for teams to sort them out. There’s also the issue of whether most analysts are overlooking 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, who starred at Boynton Beach High School before going to Louisville.
Furthermore, the needs of teams currently picking ahead of the Dolphins could change between now and April. The Broncos or Jets would be unlikely to spend a top-10 pick on a quarterback if they sign Kirk Cousins or trade for Nick Foles. The Colts might feel less certain about Andrew Luck’s future by then, which would put them in the mix for a quarterback at No. 3.
The Dolphins don’t feel pressed to find an immediate starter given their expectation that Ryan Tannehill will be back to full strength for the upcoming season, but they hope having this high of a selection is a rare opportunity, so this might be the time to strike. If a first-round pick can be a capable backup this year and good enough to ultimately overtake Tannehill, that would be an ideal outcome for Miami.
If the Dolphins trade the pick, a possibility vice president Mike Tannenbaum was quick to mention after the season, or aren’t sold on any of the top four quarterbacks, they could address other needs first and look to add a passer in the middle or late rounds.
Beyond short-term and long-term concerns at quarterback, this figures to be an offense-heavy draft for the Dolphins. They need a promising, dynamic tight end. They might need a receiver because of the sluggish start to DeVante Parker’s career and the tenuous status of Jarvis Landry. And, as usual, they need help on the offensive line.
Grier’s philosophy is to prioritize talent over needs. He’s not likely to sketch out a draft plan that has the team taking a tight end in the second round, a lineman in the third and a linebacker in the fourth, for example. If an exceptional guard is available when the Dolphins pick at No. 42, Grier would generally jump on him regardless of where the depth stands at other positions.
There are countless moving parts as the team tries to square away its draft board and many of the twists and turns can’t be predicted. But the Combine represents a big step in the Dolphins’ process of informing themselves about the tough choices they’ll face over the next two months.
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