DAVIE — This works.
It’s not amazing, it’s not particularly thrilling, but it’ll do.
The Dolphins got most of what they needed out of this year’s NFL Draft, including at least two players who should be instant starters at need positions, and they look a little better today than they did at the start of the week. Filling holes and getting better is what the draft’s all about, and Miami accomplished both of those.
And the team got all that done without giving in to any impulsive trades that sacrifice its chances of continuing to upgrade next spring. All eight picks for 2019 remain intact.
“You always want to make sure you have ammunition for next year,” said general manager Chris Grier, who added that the Dolphins would’ve made a trade if a good one presented itself. “We got great value.”
And, as vice president Mike Tannenbaum pointed out, they’d already brought in former all-pro defensive end Robert Quinn for one of this year’s fourth rounders, and they weren’t going to pick anybody better than him this late in the draft.
The crown jewel of Miami’s class is No. 11 pick Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was thought to be a borderline top-five talent out of Alabama. At the time, it seemed like bad luck for the Dolphins that all the best quarterbacks were gone before its spot came up, but that’s part of the reason Fitzpatrick fell to them in what they believe will be an incredible value pick.
They had Fitzpatrick as one of the six best players on their draft board and were surprised he was available. If he overtakes T.J. McDonald for a starting safety job this summer, it’ll be a good early indicator that the Dolphins played it well in the first round.
There were quarterbacks they liked in that top group, especially Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield, but they made the decision well in advance that they weren’t mortgaging the future — like the Jets and Bills did — to move up and take one of them. It was tense in the draft room waiting to see if someone would slip to them, but restraint reigned.
Are there bigger needs than safety? Definitely. But it’s an important enough position and a talented enough prospect that Miami had to pounce.
Addressing needs came later, and the Dolphins showed conviction once again by taking tight end Mike Gesicki in the second round at No. 43 overall. He’s the guy they believed in, even though most analysts had Dallas Goedert ahead of him at the position.
Goedert was thought to be going late in the first round at one point, and Gesicki was cast as possibly a fourth-rounder early in the pre-draft coverage. The Dolphins vetted both of them and stayed true to their board, which had Gesicki second only to South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst.
Gesicki and fourth-round pick Kalen Ballage, a speedy running back who can also make an impact in the passing game, give Miami some badly needed playmaking threats in an offense that has been dull and ineffective for way too long.
Adam Gase was brought in to change that and hasn’t been able to do so yet. Over his two seasons as head coach, the Dolphins have ranked 24th in points, 27th in yardage and kept the ball on offense more than just six teams. Bad and boring.
Gesicki and Ballage aren’t bad or boring. They bolster the speed and athleticism of a collection of skill players Gase says is very close to what he envisioned when he took the helm.
The big letdown of this draft is that Miami didn’t land a quarterback, and the roster certainly seems like it needed a promising rookie to work behind Ryan Tannehill this season and eventually challenge him.
But Gase warned everyone a month ago that might happen. If there’s one area in which he deserves to be trusted, it’s quarterbacks. Question him on a bunch of other things, but he’s built his career off his expertise at this position. He wasn’t on board with taking a quarterback just to appease people and get someone in the pipeline.
“Are we taking a guy just to take a guy?” he said in March. “I mean I’d love to add a quarterback as much as anybody else but at the same time, I want it to be the right guy for us.”
After the draft, Grier added, “We weren’t going to reach for any quarterback.”
None of the top four were convincing enough for him to sell of big-time future assets. He wasn’t sold on Mason Rudolph, a highly rated prospect from Oklahoma State who was available at No. 73 overall, and the Dolphins went for Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker there instead.
Baker solved another problem for a roster that was, and maybe still is, woefully thin at linebacker.
Everything after the fourth round is usually about scouring the list for talent that can at least make an NFL roster, but the Dolphins also made good use of that opportunity by locking in kicker Jason Sanders from New Mexico with their final pick rather than having to scramble for an undrafted free agent in frenzy of phone calls that always follows the final pick.
Filling the two most glaring roster needs in the first three rounds is sensible, and adding a talent of Fitzpatrick’s caliber makes that a good haul already. If Ballage and anyone else materializes into an asset, even better.
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