The biggest knock on Miami has been that it didn’t take a quarterback to play behind Ryan Tannehill and challenge him long-term.
“Dolphins fans who saw Rosen sitting on the board until No. 10 have to be let down,” NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal wrote. “Given that it feels like this team is stuck in quicksand, an indefinite future with Ryan Tannehill as the quarterback is hard to get excited about.”
The Dolphins, it turns out, are actually quite excited about Tannehill. Adam Gase has been touting his return as one of the biggest reasons he believes the team will improve offensively this season after relying on Jay Cutler and Matt Moore the last year-plus.
Tannehill, who turns 30 this summer, has not played since December 2016. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in a win over Arizona, then rehabbed it and reinjured it in training camp.
Prior to the injury, he was putting up some of his best numbers. He posted career-highs in completion percentage (67.1), yards per attempt (7.7) and passer rating (93.5).
Miami didn’t have many chances to take a quarterback in this year’s draft after deciding in advance it would not trade up. The first four passers went in the first 10 picks, and the Dolphins opted for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick at No. 11. Also, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson went at the end of the first round, 10 places ahead of the Dolphins’ next pick.
They bypassed Mason Rudolph and Kyle Lauletta at No. 73 in favor of Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker. Rudolph went three picks later, and Lauletta went in the fourth round. They were 10 picks away when Tennessee chose Luke Falk.
Here’s a refresher on the full Dolphins’ draft class, which will be in Davie for rookie minicamp next week:
First round, No. 10 overall: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
Second round, No. 42 overall: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
Third round, No. 73 overall: Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State
Fourth round, No. 123 overall: Durham Smythe, TE, Notre Dame
Fourth round, No. 131 overall: Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State
Sixth round, No. 209 overall: Cornell Armstrong, CB, Southern Mississippi
Seventh round, No. 227 overall: Quentin Poling, LB, Ohio
Seventh round, No. 229 overall: Jason Sanders, K, New Mexico
In the end, the team wrapped up the draft Saturday with eight draft picks and not a single quarterback among them — not even a seventh-rounder who could be a developmental project.
And that might not be a big deal.
The Dolphins are all-in on Ryan Tannehill as their starter this year, and any quarterback they took in the draft might not be ready to work as a viable backup this season anyway. It’s not an enormous problem for Miami to revisit the quarterback position a year from now.
If they do, Missouri’s Drew Lock is the early leader in that class. He’s 6-foot-4, 225 pounds and offers an array of skills as a pocket passer.
Lock, who is coming back for his senior season in the fall, led the country with 44 touchdown passes last year. He completed 57.8 percent of his passes, averaged 304.9 yards per game and had just 13 interceptions out of 419 pass attempts as the Tigers went 7-6.
Former Florida dual-threat quarterback Will Grier should be near the top of most draft boards, too, Now at West Virginia, he will be 24 years old when he hits the 2019 draft.
Grier has good mobility and terrific accuracy. He completed 64.4 percent of his passes, averaged 317.3 yards per game and had 34 touchdowns against 12 interceptions last year. He also ran for two touchdowns.
There are many other candidates, including Michigan’s Shea Patterson, Clayton Thorson of Northwestern and Jarrett Stidham from Auburn, but the upcoming class isn’t thought to be as strong as this year’s.
Led by Baker Mayfield at No. 1 to Cleveland, last week’s draft saw five quarterbacks go in the first round. That’s the most since Dan Marino’s 1983 class.
Mayfield and Sam Darnold (No. 3) were well out of Miami’s reach, but a somewhat unexpected opportunity emerged when Josh Allen and Josh Rosen slipped past Denver at No. 5. The Dolphins could have traded up to get either of them, but were content to stay at No. 11 and didn’t want to give up future assets.
For an idea of what the price might have been, take a look at what the three teams who traded up to get top-10 quarterbacks paid.
The Jets gave up three second-round picks to go from No. 6 to No. 3 last month. On draft night, Buffalo spent two second-rounders to jump from No. 12 to No. 7 so it could grab Allen. Then, one spot ahead of the Dolphins, Arizona traded up from 15th to 10th for the cost of a third and a fifth.
That last one wouldn’t have been an overwhelming sacrifice, but Miami was never totally sold on Rosen and was thrilled to get Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick so late when it had him graded as a top-six player in the draft.
At the tail end of the first round, Baltimore put together a package to swap its No. 52 pick (second round) with Philadelphia’s spot at No. 32. The Ravens exchanged fourth-round picks with the Eagles, moving Philadelphia up seven spots, and sent over a 2019 second-round pick. Essentially, they gave up a future second-round pick so they could take Lamar Jackson.
There’s nothing wrong with Miami’s aversion to get involved in those bidding wars, and delaying the quarterback pick to next year has some logic to it.
Perhaps Tannehill has a gigantic comeback season and continues the progress he showed under Gase in 2016, and there wouldn’t be much motivation for the team to plan for a post-Tannehill future if he’s a 30-year-old Pro Bowler this season. And it’s possible Gase knows how to unlock something in David Fales or Brock Osweiler, both of whom are 27.
Maybe all the Dolphins’ plans, including betting so big on Tannehill, will backfire and send them spiraling toward a 3-13 year. In that case, they’d have a significantly higher pick with which to address the quarterback situation.
The Dolphins’ patience made sense this time around, and it’ll take a year to see how well that decision plays out. If it doesn’t, they’ve got good options next spring.
DAVIE — On a night when everything seemed to be lining up for the Dolphins to grab a top quarterback in the NFL Draft, they walked out of the first round without one.
They ended up with Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick at No. 11, and maybe in a year or two the phrase “ended up with” will look foolish. Miami already has big-money safeties in Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald, and Fitzpatrick will have to outplay them over time and force them out to make this a smart choice.
But everyone knows the Dolphins need a prized rookie quarterback, and it was a turbulent night waiting to see if one fell to them.
Months ago it looked like 11th was high enough, and in most years it would be. As teams maneuvered and draft boards shifted, Miami’s chances dwindled.
Then came a jolt of hope. The Giants opted for running back Saquon Barkley, and the Broncos veered for defensive end Bradley Chubb at No. 5. That left Josh Allen and Josh Rosen to tumble through the next five picks since none of those teams were in the market for a quarterback.
The Dolphins must’ve been thrilled. They were in line for more than mere leftovers. They’d actually get their choice of Allen or Rosen, and they’ve loved Allen and Baker Mayfield throughout the process.
“Really, the way it all played out, we didn’t think any of the quarterbacks would make it to us,” general manager Chris Grier said. “For us, we talked to a couple of teams about maybe moving up or down, but nothing real serious. For us, at the end of the day, if one of those guys was there, we would have talked about it. But we just didn’t think anybody would be there.”
Grier’s been around long enough to know that luck rarely smiles upon the Dolphins.
The problem was they couldn’t afford to sacrifice anything from their supply of picks as they try to build the roster into a contender over the next two years. They made that decision before the draft and, a credit to them, didn’t give in impulsively amid the frenzy taking place with the picks ahead of them.
They watched helplessly but calmly as the Bills traded two second-rounders to jump to No. 7 and take Allen. Then, on the brink of Miami landing Rosen, Arizona swooped in at No. 10 by giving up a third and fifth to move up from No. 15.
Well in advance of the draft, the Jets ponied up three second-round picks to go from sixth to third to ensure they got a quarterback. They chose Sam Darnold.
Mayfield was the quarterback they coveted, particularly coach Adam Gase, and that dream died immediately when Cleveland stunningly took him No. 1. The Jets took Sam Darnold third, and he’ll be a problem for the Dolphins for years if he’s as good as people think. Many analysts had him as the best overall quarterback in the draft.
Losing out on these quarterbacks will sting even more if Darnold and Allen turn out to be stars and haunt the Dolphins from within the AFC East. The only thing worse than wandering without a franchise quarterback would be watching the Jets and Bills find theirs.
Whether this was as unlucky as 2005, when the Dolphins happened upon a precious No. 2 pick but the best player available was Ronnie Brown, hinges on how good Fitzpatrick becomes. He’s a certified talent from a program that’s as close to the NFL as a college operation can get, so there’s good cause to believe he’ll be an instant contributor.
But nothing’s ever as important as quarterback, and Miami’s rolling toward the upcoming season with Ryan Tannehill coming off knee trouble that’s kept him out since December 2016 and a pair of unproven backups in David Fales and Brock Osweiler.
Ideally, this would have been the time to bring in a top-shelf rookie who could be the No. 2 quarterback this year and put Tannehill on the clock for the long term. In a dream scenario, someone like Mayfield would have come in and immediately challenged for the top job.
“Ryan is our guy,” Grier said, echoing what seems to be the Dolphins’ offseason motto. “We believe in Ryan. He’s going to be our starter.”
He is because he has to be, especially now. The Dolphins might truly believe in Tannehill, but even if they didn’t, they don’t have a choice. They’re committed to however that goes, just like they were when they stood firm at No. 11.
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.
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.
“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.
The biggest mystery remains whether they’ll take a quarterback, be it at No. 11 or later in the draft.
Here’s the latest projection for the first round:
1. Cleveland Browns: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Allen’s raw talent has propelled him past Sam Darnold and everyone else at the position to make him the likely No. 1 overall pick.
2. New York Giants: Sam Darnold, QB, Southern Cal
There’s a thought that the Giants have become infatuated with running back Saquon Barkley, but Darnold is a really good option as a successor to Eli Manning.
3. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Mayfield has successfully convinced teams he can do the job despite size and personality concerns, and he won’t last long on draft day.
4. Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
If Barkley’s here at No. 4, it’s a great pick for the Browns. They’d go into the season with several nice pieces on offense.
5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Rosen’s getting knocked down on a lot of draft boards and would be intriguing for the Dolphins. If Denver passes on him, the next five teams aren’t thought to be in the market for a quarterback.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
Chubb would be a potential No. 1 pick if not for there being so many quarterback-hungry teams up high.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Buccaneers need tons of help in their secondary, and Fitzpatrick is thought to be the best defensive back in the draft. He can play safety as well.
8. Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
The Bears are usually conservative in the draft and will be tempted by Quenton Nelson, but Mitchell Trubisky gets a big-time threat here.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
Nelson should be an instant starter on a San Francisco offensive line that needs some upgrades after last season.
10. Oakland Raiders: Derwin James, S, Florida State
James has shown the potential to be a proficient safety in coverage and playing up in the box as a run stopper.
11. Miami Dolphins: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The Dolphins need offense, but this is a good consolation prize after missing out on the top four quarterbacks and Saquon Barkley. Smith is thought to be pro-ready and provides flexibility going forward.
12. Buffalo Bills: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
Assuming the Bills don’t get desperate and trade up for a quarterback, they’ll land the top left tackle here.
13. Washington Redskins: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Edmunds is a dangerously athletic prospect and he enters the draft at just 19. The word upside gets overused at draft time, but it’s definitely appropriate in this case.
14. Green Bay Packers: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
Moore has climbed toward the top of the receiver class and would be a welcome addition to the Green Bay offense.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Rather than give up a huge ransom to take a quarterback high, the Cardinals can get a potential top-10 talent in Ward.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
Vita Vea is an impressive defensive tackle, too, but there are concerns about his weight, plus it always seems safer to take an Alabama guy.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
Speaking of Vea, he’ll join a well-established defensive line here.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
This offensive line needs tons of help, and Miller can play either tackle spot for the Seahawks this season.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Courtland Sutton, WR, Southern Methodist
The loss of Dez Bryant makes it imperative that Dallas dig a top receiver out of this draft, and Suttons a nice target at 6-foot-4.
20. Detroit Lions: Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio
Davenport is a bit of a question mark because he faced low-level competition in college, but new coach Matt Patricia will get him up to speed.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
The Alabama guys continue to get the benefit of the doubt, and Evans should be a big help to a Cincinnati defense that needs it.
22. Buffalo Bills: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Were the Patriots really interested in Jackson, or was it a ploy to entice teams ahead of them to take him? Either way, the Bills are in.
23. New England Patriots: Will Hernandez, G, Texas-El Paso
Hernandez is the best guard in this class after Nelson and he’s a good value pick for the Patriots this late.
24. Carolina Panthers: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Alexander is an excellent cornerback, which helps a Panthers team that looks thin at the position.
25. Tennessee Titans: James Daniels, C, Iowa
The Titans need interior line help and could use Daniels at guard if that’s where they need him most this season.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
Hurst will be a nice pickup for Atlanta’s offense, and this is the perfect spot to take him. He’s the best tight end available this year.
27. New Orleans Saints: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Kirk fits nicely as a versatile receiver in New Orleans’ system and he’s one of the most polished receivers in his class.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Reid, S, Stanford
Reid would be fortunate to land in Pittsburgh, one of the perks of not being a top-10 pick. He’d join a stable organization that’s well-equipped to develop him.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
This would be an interesting spot for the Dolphins to trade up to if they think they can get Goedert or Hurst late in Round 1.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock ranks Hughes as the third-best cornerback in the draft.
31. New England Patriots: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Jackson has slipped a bit this spring, but it’s hard to forget that he had eight interceptions for the Hawkeyes last season.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
One fun thing about being world champs is that you don’t have to draft for need. Bryan’s the best player left, and the Eagles will snatch him up.
If the Dolphins are boxed out from getting one of the top four quarterbacks in this year’s NFL Draft class, they’ll turn their attention to the next tier. The best of that bunch might be Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph.
As far as consolation prizes go, Rudolph’s not bad. He’s a 6-foot-5, 235-pounder who looks exactly like the guy Central Casting would send out to play the role of pocket passer. Once he took over as Oklahoma State’s starting quarterback his sophomore year, he piled up 86 touchdown passes and had just 22 interceptions while averaging 327 passing yards per game.
He might end up being a second- or third-round pick because he’s not as good, for now, as the top quarterbacks, but his potential is unmistakable.
“My ability to throw the ball down the field accurately, I’ve done it for three years,” he said. “I think accuracy in general, across the board, I’m one of the most accurate in the class. My production for three years, my wins as a starter, 32, and my ability to play with injuries speaks for itself. I’m confident.”
The Dolphins are committed to Ryan Tannehill as the starter for this year and probably the next two, but it’s imperative they take a quarterback in this year’s draft class.
At the moment, they’re going into the season with David Fales, Brock Osweiler and Brandon Doughty as the backups for a quarterback who has had two major knee issues and hasn’t played since December 2016. Fales and Osweiler are journeymen, and Doughty has been on the practice squad since Miami drafted him in the seventh round two years ago.
The Dolphins can’t stay that way, and their effort to find a quarterback in the draft can’t be something negligible like taking a flier on a late-rounder. They need someone ready to contribute as a backup immediately.
They’d certainly like to get a chance at Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Sam Darnold or Baker Mayfield, but it’s a dicey proposition hoping to get one of them at No. 11 overall. There’s a good chance the top four passers will go in the first five picks, and if they don’t, there’s still no certainty one of them would slide all the way to Miami’s spot. Even then, the Dolphins would be settling for whoever’s left rather than choosing their guy.
The Dolphins met with Rudolph, and he got a good vibe from coach Adam Gase when they spoke.
“A lot of respect for Coach Gase and what he’s done, not only in Miami but at a number of places in the league, and the type of offensive mind guru he is,” Rudolph said. “He’s been with a lot of great quarterbacks and had a lot of success.
“I think a younger guy, for sure, is always fun. You kind of naturally have more connection to someone like that. But like I said, unbelievable offensive mind, very personable.”
Rudolph wasn’t as impressive as the big names in throwing sessions at the Combine, but he still has a lot to offer.
He consistently improved over his four years at Oklahoma State, particularly in his completion percentage, and has the physique and arm strength NFL teams covet. He’s not much of a running threat and clocked a 4.9 in the 40-yard dash, but showed good pocket mobility.
Rudolph is also a proven winner, leading Oklahoma State to a 30-9 record his final three seasons and a No. 14 finish in last year’s national rankings. He went 3-2 against ranked teams last season—the Cowboys scored a total of 83 points in the two losses—and completed 60.4 percent of his passes for an average of 357.8 yards with 15 touchdowns against five interceptions in those games.
He comes from a spread offense with the Cowboys, which can be viewed either way. Some teams have doubts about players like that transitioning to the NFL, but others have implemented elements of the spread into their offense and like the idea of a quarterback who thrives in that style.
“I think you’re definitely starting to see a lot more of those concepts, and the high-tempo type offenses, NFL teams adopting more of that philosophy,” Rudolph said. “Whatever organization I get to, whatever playbook, whatever offense they run, I’ll be excited to learn and to begin to master.”
With the bulk of free agency done, the next step around the NFL is attacking needs in next month’s draft.
Some of those priorities have changed based on player movement over the past few weeks, and that could prompt more picks being traded. Based on the current draft order, here’s where it looks like everyone is headed:
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, Southern Cal
The top four quarterbacks keep shifting without a clear-cut leader of the group, but Darnold looks like the best choice for the Browns as of now.
2. New York Giants: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming Allen’s got the biggest arm of this year’s quarterbacks, and the Giants can’t pass him up with Eli Manning being 37.
3. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
The Jets didn’t give up three second-round picks to take a non-quarterback here. If it’s Mayfield or Rosen, look for them to bite on Mayfield’s electric playmaking.
4. Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
There’s always a chance the Giants or Jets could become infatuated with Barkley and believe him to be an immediate game-changer, but if not, the Browns will scoop him up.
5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
It’s not that surprising to see four of the top five teams needing a quarterback. That’s why they’re in this position.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
The Colts are going to look like geniuses. They got great value from the Jets to switch spots and they’ll still end up getting the guy they wanted.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
Fitzpatrick is hands down the best defensive back in this year’s class, and the Buccaneers need help in the secondary. Perfect match.
8. Chicago Bears: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
The Bears will be tempted to jump on wide receiver Calvin Ridley here, but Nelson will be a big help on their offensive line for years to come.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Jimmy Garoppolo is going to love this pick. The 49ers need weapons, and this is an explosive threat on the outside.
10. Oakland Raiders: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
As Jon Gruden revamps the Raiders, he’ll be happy to see the best left tackle in the draft fall to him at No. 10.
11. Miami Dolphins: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
With the best quarterbacks out of the question, the Dolphins would be smart to trade down. If they don’t, bringing in a top-tier linebacker is the best way to help themselves.
12. Buffalo Bills: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
Miller would be an immediate starter for the Bills, who just traded left tackle Cordy Glenn.
13. Washington Redskins: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Washington’s defense isn’t good enough to win as is, but Smith would be a big boost in the middle.
14. Green Bay Packers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Green Bay always needs cornerback help and it’ll spend its top pick on one for the second straight year. Maybe that’ll fix the problem.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
The Cardinals have a ton of needs, including quarterback, but getting someone as talented as Vea this late in the first round is big.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Kirk has the chance to be the outstanding slot receiver the Ravens need after they weren’t able to swing a deal for Jarvis Landry.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
Payne would join a Chargers defensive line that already has Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram coming off the edges.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Richard Sherman will be watching this pick closely. Seattle needs to come up big with his replacement.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio
It’d be great fortune for the Cowboys if Davenport lasts this long in the draft, and their pass defense could use the help.
20. Detroit Lions: Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
Detroit will be thinking defense-first with new coach Matt Patricia, and he gets the chance to groom a quality pass rusher.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
With offensive tackle addressed via the trade with Buffalo, the Bengals get secondary depth by taking Hughs.
22. Buffalo Bills: Courtland Sutton, WR, Southern Methodist
The Bills could consider Mason Rudolph or Lamar Jackson here, but the consensus is that would be a big reach.
23. Los Angeles Rams: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Evans would provide the Rams a big hitter in the middle of their defense as they try to take the next step.
24. Carolina Panthers: Will Hernandez, G, Texas-El Paso Anything this team can do to fortify its offensive line gives it a better chance of contending in 2018. The Panthers are chasing the Eagles, Saints and Vikings, at minimum.
25. Tennessee Titans: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
Williams is a good fit for the Titans because he’s capable of playing tackle or guard for them this season. He’s probably a tackle long-term.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
This is roughly the range where the top tight ends should start going, and Goedert is the best of the bunch.
27. New Orleans Saints: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
Unless they sign former Dolphin Ndamukong Suh, the Saints will like getting Bryan in this spot.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Cornerback isn’t a pressing need for the Steelers, but this part of the draft is about taking the best available talent.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
With their quarterback plans firmed up, the Jaguars bring home Jacksonville product Hurst as a burly tight end.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
This team already has most of what it needs to compete for a spot in next year’s Super Bowl, and adding a corner is prudent.
31. New England Patriots: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
The Patriots need to find the next Tom Brady, even if they don’t need him right away. Rudolph would be fortunate to land in this situation.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Reid, S, Stanford
This is the best talent still on the board, and a team like the Eagles won’t feel pressured into trying to fill starting lineup holes via the draft.
MIAMI GARDENS—It doesn’t matter which of the top quarterbacks the Dolphins like in this year’s NFL Draft if none of them are still around when it’s their turn to pick.
There was already some uncertainty about whether any of the big four would last long enough for Miami to get one at No. 11, and the past week has only made things worse. None of the teams ahead of the Dolphins landed coveted free agent Kirk Cousins, who signed a massive contract with the Vikings, and the Jets cemented their chances by trading with the Colts to move from sixth to third.
That deal makes it highly likely that four quarterbacks—Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield—will go in the first five picks. The Browns go first and fourth, the Giants are second, followed by the Jets and the No. 5 selection belongs to Denver.
All four of those teams badly need a quarterback, and unless one of them suddenly goes a different direction or one of those draftees slides, the only opening for Miami to get in the game is to make an offer for one of Cleveland’s picks. Had the Jets or Broncos signed Cousins and taken themselves out of the running, it would’ve increased the Dolphins’ overall chances and left them a second option of trading up to Indianapolis’ spot.
It cost the Jets three second-round picks to jump three spots, which puts the market price for a theoretical leap from 11th to fourth way out of the Dolphins’ reach. The Browns could essentially hold an auction, too, if the quarterback-deficient Bills (No. 12) and Cardinals (No. 15) showed interest.
If the Giants, Jets or Broncos becomes so enamored with Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, for example, it’s possible one of the quarterbacks would hang around until No. 11. The teams picking at Nos. 6-10 all have young quarterbacks and are not thought to be looking for one in the first round this year.
However, Buffalo and Arizona would still be a threat to leapfrog the Dolphins in a trade.
With quarterback likely doubtful in the first round now, the Dolphins’ first-round interests could spin off in a variety of directions. If they can get an elite wide receiver like Calvin Ridley, they can move on from DeVante Parker and dodge his $10.9 team option for 2019, and it’d be hard to turn down a top-notch lineman like Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson or Mike McGlinchey.
There’s also a need a linebacker, where Miami could consider Roquan Smith from Georgia or Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds.
Tight end has been a glaring need on the Dolphins’ roster for years, and it’s long past time to draft one high. They’re in the awkward position, though, of No. 11 being too early to reach for one in this class but their second-round pick at No. 42 being too late to have first choice.
One ideal scenario for the Dolphins would be trading back into the 20s, which probably allow them to choose between Dallas Goedert and Hayden Hurst.
Miami can’t abandon drafting a quarterback altogether, and waiting until the late rounds to take a flyer on somebody isn’t good enough considering the team’s current situation at the position.
The Dolphins have Ryan Tannehill under contract for three seasons, making this the opportune time to bring in a player who could develop behind him and eventually replace him. If that prospect doesn’t develop as planned, Miami can try again in the 2020 draft.
Adam Gase didn’t feel great about plowing ahead with Moore as his starter, so the team regrettably spent $10 million to lure Jay Cutler out of retirement.
“I think it’s really hard for quarterbacks to stay healthy for 16 games,” Gase said at the NFL Combine. “It’s a physical game. These guys are taking some shots, and a lot of times they don’t see them coming and that’s when the injuries occur. If we can get into a situation where we have two guys that we feel confident about, that’s going to benefit us.”
It’s especially a concern with Tannehill, who hasn’t played since December 2016 and has gone through two knee rehabilitations in the past year or so. Unless the Dolphins are fine with the idea of Fales, who re-signed last week, as their backup, they need to address the position early in the draft.
The next tier of quarterback prospects is highlighted by 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, who played at Boynton Beach High School before starring at Louisville. He’s got mobility, which Gase believes is a necessity, but his throwing mechanics need significant work.
Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph is another impressive passer and he might be a little more NFL-ready than Jackson. Rudolph is 6-foot-5, 235 pounds with good pocket presence and a quick release.
Rudolph and Jackson seem likely to be on the board when the Dolphins pick at 42nd. If they wait longer than that to secure a contingency plan at the most important position on the field, both now and for the future, they’re taking a big risk.
The critics have found plenty to nitpick about UCLA’s Josh Rosen, who stands as one of the top four quarterbacks in this year’s NFL Draft class.
He’s too mild-mannered.
He’s highly intelligent, which ESPN’s Trent Dilfer referred to as “almost a curse for him.”
He comes from money.
He used to play tennis. Somehow that’s a negative even though no one can explain why.
It seems like he doesn’t love football enough. Rosen’s really heard enough of that one.
“If we didn’t like football, no matter how talented we are, we wouldn’t be in the position that we all are in,” he said at the NFL Combine. “I love football with all of my heart and soul. If I didn’t, I just don’t think I would’ve been able to make it through the grind of college.
“Football is an unbelievable team sport, and that’s what’s so cool about it is that I’m not playing exclusively for my own passions, I’m playing for all of my teammates. It’s cool when you can throw a touchdown at the Rose Bowl and turn to the sideline and see 120 of your best friends jump in joy… You’re playing for them.”
Surely some teams still aren’t convinced, but it’s hard to deny all that Rosen offers as the future of a franchise. If he’s available when the Dolphins pick at No. 11, he’s going to be tough to bypass.
At one point, he was touted as a candidate to go No. 1 overall to the Browns, but that projection has faded thanks in part to a report that he didn’t want to play for Cleveland (Rosen denied that) and the rise of Allen and Darnold. ESPN Todd McShay currently has him going 15th to Arizona, with the Dolphins opting for Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield instead.
Rosen threw 59 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions in three seasons for the Bruins, completing 60.9 percent of his passes and averaging 311.3 yards per game. He’s got ideal size at 6-foot-4, 226 pounds, and his mechanics are well-polished. He’s got the intelligence and skill to make him arguably more suited to start right away than any of the other prospects at his position.
Rosen didn’t seem like he was sweating about whether he impressed the Dolphins or any other team in Indianapolis. In his mind, what he did on the field should speak for itself.
“I think I’m the best quarterback here,” he said. “I think I can diagnose defenses and put the ball where it needs to be and make quick decisions.”
Some teams will view him as having exactly the kind of levelheaded approach necessary to play quarterback in the NFL, while others will see his demeanor as unenthusiastic.
For his part, Rosen accepts that coaches will have different interpretations of his personality and doesn’t intend to contort it to be what he thinks they want to hear. If a team thinks the way he handles himself doesn’t fit its locker room or doesn’t like that he’s “not really a big rah-rah guy,” he understands them passing on him.
“That’s for the teams to decide because teams are looking for different kinds of personalities and all different kinds of guys,” he said. “I’m not gonna present a fake image of myself… You have to be yourself, you have to be authentic and you have to show that you’ve learned and grown over the years.
“I’m trying to show who I really am, not who I’m trying to be. I want them to draft me. I don’t want them to draft someone they think they’re getting and then not get that guy. I think that’s also what your teammates want.”
The pecking order among the quarterbacks in this year’s NFL Draft is taking shape. Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Baker Mayfield have all firmly established themselves as first-round picks, and Lamar Jackson and Luke Falk are trying to break into that tier.
At the very top, it looks like Darnold and Allen are in the lead. The Dolphins are highly unlikely to have a chance at either of them unless they trade up from No. 11.
Darnold was the only one of the top four who didn’t throw at the NFL Combine last week, opting instead to do so in a more comfortable environment at Southern California’s pro day. Allen and Mayfield benefited themselves by doing so, according to ESPN analyst Todd McShay.
“Of any of them, Josh Allen seemed to surprise some people with how good he was on the board and how effective he was just interacting and just getting to know him a little more,” McShay said. “There are some people who came around on him, if you will, and were impressed by what he did when the cameras weren’t on.
“Then, obviously, his throwing session, we expected an impressive throwing session, but he couldn’t have performed a whole lot better than he did on the field that day.”
Allen has proven himself to have the biggest arm of the group, but there are issues with his accuracy and concerns about how he’ll do making the jump out of a small program like Wyoming, which doesn’t face nearly the level of competition his peers have.
As far as Mayfield and Rosen, McShay has Mayfield ahead at the moment. In his latest mock draft, he had the Dolphins taking him over Rosen at No. 11 and Rosen sliding to No. 15.
“Josh Rosen didn’t have his best day throwing the ball; from varying people in the league who I talked to, I didn’t get any negative reports about his interviews,” McShay said. “I got a lot of reports that said he was really good, but it’s a 15-minute interview and it’s tough to glean a lot from that, and I got some that said he was OK. Nothing really negative there.
“Baker Mayfield, I thought, was really consistent throwing the football and, from most people I talked to, he was really good in meetings.”