It’s been at least a few years since a Dolphins’ draft energized the fan base, and this week might finally bring some excitement.
There’s drama surrounding what will happen with the No. 11 pick, whether Miami will catch a break and see at least one of the top four quarterbacks slip to that spot, but there are opportunities to find game-changers throughout the three days.
That’d be a breath of fresh air after the last two drafts, when the team opted for an offensive tackle, cornerback, defensive end and linebacker in the first two rounds. Miami has spent its first-round pick on the line of scrimmage in six of the last eight drafts.
Sometimes that’s necessary, but it’s rarely fun.
It could be much more interesting this year because this is expected to be an offense-first draft for the Dolphins, and coach Adam Gase is desperate to add anybody who can create a spark after seeing his team finish 28th in points scored last season. Miami managed two offensive touchdowns in the first four games and never truly turned it around.
So regardless of how deep the Dolphins might look at receiver or how crowded the backfield could be, they can’t turn down a dynamic playmaker at any position. They’ll have to balance that desire with the fact that they’re still in search of a starting tight end and linebacker, but real firepower isn’t easy to acquire.
If someone like Alabama’s Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore or Maryland are available at No. 11, which is likely, that’ll make it a very difficult decision.
Ridley is 6-foot-1, 190 pounds and clocked a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He averaged more than 900 yards per year and totaled 19 touchdowns in his three seasons with the Crimson Tide, putting him atop his position in most rankings.
Moore has roughly the same measurables except he’s 20 pounds heavier. He had 80 catches for 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
The Dolphins don’t have a true, established No. 1 receiver on the roster heading into the upcoming season.
Kenny Stills is their most accomplished player at the position and is in the prime of his career, but he has yet to break 1,000 yards. Perhaps this will be the year. It’ll be another offseason of Miami hoping DeVante Parker finally has that breakout season. And the combination of up-and-comer Albert Wilson and nine-year veteran Danny Amendola are responsible for patching the hole left by Jarvis Landry.
The team is weighing its 2019 option on Parker, Amendola is on a two-year deal and the Dolphins have Stills and Wilson signed through 2020.
At running back, third-year man Kenyan Drake takes over for his first full season as the chief ball-carrier, and the ageless Frank Gore is here to teach him how it’s done. Bringing in another student via the draft wouldn’t be a bad idea, and Gase would like to solidify a two-man backfield with Drake for the long term.
The runaway leader at the position is Saquon Barkley, who will go early. While the Dolphins won’t have any shot at him, he could be pivotal in their draft if a team like the Giants becomes fixated on him and allows a top quarterback to start sliding.
Miami will be more interested in the next tier of prospects. Someone like Sony Michel of Georgia or Ronald Jones II from Southern California would be tempting at No. 42, or the Dolphins could hope to pluck another Bulldog in Nick Chubb or San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny in the third at 73rd overall.
Each of those four backs put up a season of at least 1,200 yards as a collegian, including Penny with a staggering 2,248 for the Aztecs last year.
Kalen Ballage, a rushing and receiving talent, is in the group behind them and could be on the board in the third or fourth round. He and Penny each ran a 4.46 in the 40 at the combine, tying for the third-fastest time behind North Carolina State’s Nyheim Hines (4.38) and Barkley (4.40).
LSU’s Derrius Guice is another name that’s been linked to Miami, but the closer it’s gotten to the draft, the less of a fit that appears to be. Guice is such a compelling talent that he might not last to the No. 42 pick, but even if he does, it’s highly likely the team will go a different direction.
The only offensive skill players they’ve taken in the first two rounds over the last five years were Parker in 2015 (14th overall) and Landry (63rd) the year before.
Gase’s first draft class included Drake and receiver Leonte Carroo in the third round, but it took until late last season for Drake to make a big impact on the offense and Carroo has yet to prove he belongs in the league.
The last playmaker Miami drafted that went for 1,000 yards rushing or receiving was Jay Ajayi in 2015. Before that it was Landry and 2012 third-rounder Lamar Miller.
More than any other reason, Gase was hired to ignite a brutally boring offense. He’s had to clear out players who didn’t fit financially or scheme-wise and now he’s got the roster close to what he envisioned when took the job. He thinks he’s got some big-play threats in the lineup already, and adding at least one more in the draft should give him all the ammunition he needs.
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