2017 NFL Draft: Is tight end a need for Miami Dolphins?

Julius Thomas is with Miami now, but he doesn’t solve everything. (Getty Images)

One of the hardest parts of draft projections, right from the start, is that there’s often disagreement on team needs. Some are inarguable, but some are up for debate.

That’s certainly the case when it comes to forecasting what the Miami Dolphins will do when the NFL Draft kicks off Thursday. While the defensive needs are practically inarguable, a couple spots on offense are fair to question. Even offensive guard might not necessarily be a need for those who believe that position can always be filled by free agents.

Tight end is probably the most intriguing spot. Miami got minimal production from that spot last season and tried to fix that problem by trading for Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas. He’s a two-time Pro Bowl selection, making both of those when he was with Adam Gase in Denver, but had a rough time the past couple of seasons.

Obviously part of Thomas’ dropoff is attributable to health and playing in Jacksonville, but even with both of those issues remedied now—he says he’s healthy—the Dolphins have him on a two-year deal and can cut him fairly easily a year from now if things don’t work out.

Gase wanted to pair Thomas with Dion Sims, but that idea evaporated when Sims went to the Bears for $18 million over three years and a chance to be their No. 1 tight end. So after Thomas, the Dolphins have Anthony Fasano (33 years old), MarQueis Gray (26 career catches), Thomas Duarte (one career game) and Chris Pantale (five games; none since 2014).

If the Dolphins decide they need a tight end, it seems unlikely they’d jump at one in the first or second round, where they must address defensive concerns. Barring a trade, that puts them sizing up tight ends no early than their third-round compensatory pick at No. 97 overall.

The best tight ends–O.J. Howard, David Njoku and Evan Engram–will be long gone by then. Adam Shaheen and Gerald Everett probably will be off the board as well. That puts the Dolphins considering someone like Michigan’s Jake Butt, Virginia Tech’s Bucky Hodges, Louisville’s Cole Hikutini or Clemson’s Jordan Leggett.

If Miami isn’t ready to go for a tight end at that spot, its next picks come in the fifth round at Nos. l66, 178 and 184. That potentially puts the team in the market for Toledo’s Michael Roberts or Arkansas’ Jeremy Sprinkle.

That fifth-round range is likely where the Dolphins will shop. Look for them to bring in tight end prospect to compete against Duarte, last year’s seventh rounder, and others this summer.

[What the Miami Dolphins asked for when the NFL made their schedule]

[Dolphins say this won’t necessarily be a defensive draft. Are they bluffing?]

[Latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft (updated version today)]

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