2018 NFL Draft: Miami Dolphins prepare for Round 1 surprises, snags

What are the chances the Dolphins can get Baker Mayfield? (Getty Images)

The NFL Draft always seems predictable right up until the teams actually start making picks. Then it gets crazy.

Highly thought of players fall, and a supposed “reach” goes early. Maybe a scandal shakes it up, like when Laremy Tunsil plummeted from potentially being the first overall pick to landing with the Dolphins at No. 13 two years ago after someone hacked his Twitter and Instagram accounts. And the price of trades fluctuates based on desperation and impulse.

That’s the environment the Dolphins are preparing to enter when the first round begins Thursday night. They’ve got the No. 11 pick and they aren’t making assumptions about who’s going to be sitting there for them.

“We’ll have an idea, but there’s always a wrench that gets thrown in from someone on draft day,” general manager Chris Grier said.

For example, conventional wisdom this year is that Miami won’t have a chance to grab any of the top four quarterbacks. Many mock drafts have Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen gone after the first five picks.

The Browns go first, followed by the Giants and Jets. Cleveland has the No. 4 pick as well, and Denver chooses fifth. A quarterback is logical for all four teams.

But the Dolphins aren’t operating with that as a certainty. Perhaps the Giants will fall in love with Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. He’s far and away the best skill player in the draft, and some of New York’s offseason moves suggest the team might try to make the most of what it has rather than dive into a full rebuild.

If that happens, the teams picking sixth through 10th aren’t thought to be in the market for a quarterback. All five of them have a starter who is 28 or younger.

That scenario would leave Miami with whoever’s left out of the four, which would likely be UCLA’s Rosen. The consensus is that Allen and Darnold will be the first two picks. There’s also a slim chance that Mayfield slides — it’d be great fortune for the Dolphins to have their choice of the two — if the Jets and Broncos aren’t sold on him and opt to go a different direction to solve their quarterback issues.

Miami doesn’t seem to have any reservations about Mayfield based on what coach Adam Gase said about him last month.

“There’s a competitiveness that you love to see,” he said. “You can tell that he doesn’t want to lose at anything that he’s doing… As a coach, you always love guys like that… You want to make sure you do more for that guy to put him in a better position.

“When you get that kind of energy from guys, it’s fun to be around. I’ve enjoyed the amount of time that we’ve been able to spend with him, whether it be the Senior Bowl, the Combine, when we do our workouts, Pro Days, things like that.”

But even if one or two non-picks go Miami’s way, any top quarterback that slips out of the top five will probably prompt trade attempts from teams like the Bills (picking No. 12 and 22) and Cardinals (No. 15).

If one of those teams makes a move, the Dolphins are unlikely to do anything about it. It is extremely unlikely they will sacrifice other picks to move up this year, so they’ll probably address a different need at No. 11 if the quarterbacks are gone.

It would be ideal for Miami to extract a starting linebacker and tight end from this year’s draft. No. 11 is too early for a tight end, but there are two enticing linebackers expected to be available in that spot: Georgia’s Roquan Smith and Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds.

The Dolphins might also find a team that wants to move up, which would give them additional assets as Grier, Gase and vice president Mike Tannenbaum try to fine tune the roster.

They could trade back in the first round, grab a tight end like Hayden Hurst, and pad their stock of picks heading into Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday. That could set them up nicely to get one of the second-tier quarterbacks who could help them as a backup this season and be a possible replacement for Ryan Tannehill down the road.

Regardless of what transpires, the key to navigating the wild world of the NFL Draft is flexibility and planning ahead. Teams need to make critical, possibly franchise-altering decisions on the fly, so they prepare by hashing out those choices in advance. The Dolphins are in their final few days to get ready and they aren’t ruling out anything.

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