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.

[A look inside the Dolphins’ process for making draft picks and who makes the final call]

[What the Dolphins think of skill players in this year’s NFL Draft]

[Frank Gore’s on a mission with Miami Dolphins]

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2018 NFL Mock Draft: Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser | Version 4.0

Sam Darnold hasn’t proven himself as the clear No. 1 quarterback. (Getty Images)

The NFL Draft starts Thursday, which means the Dolphins will have their board set no later than Tuesday in preparation for all the wild wrinkles that can happen when teams start trading and prospects start sliding.

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.

[A look inside the Dolphins’ process for making draft picks and who makes the final call]

[What the Dolphins think of skill players in this year’s NFL Draft]

[Frank Gore’s on a mission with Miami Dolphins]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.

2018 NFL Mock Draft: Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser | Version 3.0

The Dolphins want Baker Mayfield. Will they get lucky? (Getty Images)

The Dolphins are in the home stretch of their NFL Draft preparation, which includes preparing for every possible scenario. They make all the hypothetical decisions they might face in advance, which coach Adam Gase says turns the actual draft into an easy process.

“It’s such a less controversial thing than everybody else tries to make it out to be,” he said last year. “When you’re like three picks away, you throw five names up on the board and it figures out itself… It’s not as hard as everybody makes it out on draft day. It’s really kind of easy. If anybody makes it out to be more than that, they’re full of (it).”

That’s what happened when the Dolphins lucked into Laremy Tunsil at No. 13 in 2016. Could something like that occur again this year with one of the top four quarterbacks sliding to them at 11th overall? It’s unlikely, but Miami will be ready if it breaks that way.

Here’s the latest projection of how the first round will unfold:

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, Southern Cal
The Browns have maintained that they might wait all the way until draft night to announce their intentions, but it’s straightforward: They need a quarterback, and Darnold is the best this year.

2. New York Giants: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Allen is considered a little bit of a project, but his upside is too great to ignore.

3. New York Jets: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
The closer it gets to the draft, the more it seems like the Jets will play it safe by picking Rosen over Baker Mayfield.

4. Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Defensive end Bradley Chubb will be a temptation here, but the Browns need an offensive spark more than they need another pass rusher.

5. Denver Broncos: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Like the Dolphins, Denver has been linked to Mayfield throughout the last three months and won’t be able to skip past him here.

6. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
If this ends up happening, it’s probably what the Colts would have done anyway if they’d stayed at No. 3.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Buccaneers would love to land Barkley, but he won’t last this long. They need help at cornerback and safety, and Fitzpatrick could play either spot.

8. Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
New Bears coach Matt Nagy will be eager to put some weapons around Mitchell Trubisky, and Ridley is the best receiver in this year’s class.

9. San Francisco 49ers: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

The 49ers need help up front to protect $137 million quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, so Nelson makes sense as an immediate starter.

10. Oakland Raiders: Derwin James, S, Florida State
James has been one of the fastest rising prospects in the draft over the last month, and the Raiders will jump on him here.

11. Miami Dolphins: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Miami needs another starting linebacker this year and a long-term answer at the position. Smith and Raekwon McMillan could be a tremendous duo going forward.

12. Buffalo Bills: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
Left tackle is a must for the Bills this year and it’s too important of a position for them to wait and see who’s left at No. 15.

13. Washington Redskins: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
The Redskins would be happy to get Smith here, too, but it’s doubtful the Dolphins would skip past him.

14. Green Bay Packers: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
Miller is a smart pick here to help Green Bay’s offensive line and should be a mainstay for the Packers.

15. Arizona Cardinals: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Cardinals have all kinds of holes and quarterback is the biggest one, but this is too early to reach for anyone outside the top four prospects.

16. Baltimore Ravens: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
Defensive tackle isn’t one of Baltimore’s biggest needs this year, but Vea is too talented to pass up this late. This is a case of taking the best player available.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
The Chargers are putting together an incredible defensive line, and Payne would be a great addition to it.

18. Seattle Seahawks: Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio
Defensive end is one of the highest-valued positions in the NFL right now, and Davenport is excellent.

19. Dallas Cowboys: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Kirk won’t have to travel far if he lands with the Cowboys, who can bolster their receiving corps by picking up a player who can play inside or outside.

20. Detroit Lions: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
The experts remain divided on whether Hurst or Dallas Goedert is the best tight end in this year’s class, but the Lions will happy to land either of them.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
The Bengals better shore up their defense, and Jackson has the potential to be a lockdown corner in the NFL.

22. Buffalo Bills: Courtland Sutton, WR, Southern Methodist
Sutton had more than 2,300 yards over the last two years and presents a big threat at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds.

23. New England Patriots: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
Williams could patch a hole at guard if needed before eventually growing into a starting tackle, or the Patriots could play him at tackle right away.

24. Carolina Panthers: Will Hernandez, G, Texas-El Paso
The Panthers aren’t far from being a contender in the NFC would do themselves a big favor by building up their offensive line.

25. Tennessee Titans: Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State

Defensive end is a need for the Titans, and Hubbard had seven sacks for the Buckeyes as a junior last season.

26. Atlanta Falcons: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
Goedert would instantly be the favorite to win the starting job in Atlanta and would add an important element to the offense for Matt Ryan.

27. New Orleans Saints: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner would land in a perfect spot to learn behind Drew Brees and play in one of the NFL’s strongest offenses.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
The Steelers are a Super Bowl contender this year, and Hughes can be a special teamer until it’s time for him to take over a starting job.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
It works out nicely for the Jaguars that they need a tight end and there’s a really good one available here.

30. Minnesota Vikings: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
It’s never a bad thing to be loaded at cornerback. Alexander is a good choice for Minnesota at the end of the first round.

31.  New England Patriots: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
Unless the Patriots are in love with Mason Rudolph, they can probably wait on picking a quarterback until they pick at No. 43 overall. Rudolph might even still be there.

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Reid, S, Stanford

The Eagles need to be thinking about value more than anything else here. They need a player who could grow into a star or become a treasured trade asset.

[Insane 2017 Miami Dolphins season made Adam Gase a smarter coach]

[Will Dolphins’ passing game have better ball distribution this year?]

[Are the Dolphins going to turn Ryan Tannehill loose as a runner after two knee issues?]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

2018 NFL Mock Draft: Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser | Version 2.0

Any team looking for linebacker help at the top of the NFL Draft will look at Tremaine Edmunds. (Getty Images)

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.

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