2018 NFL Draft: Miami Dolphins arrive at NFL Combine with many needs

Sam Darnold is thought to be one of the top four quarterbacks in this year’s class. (Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS—The NFL Combine presents an intriguing checkpoint for the Dolphins as they try to rework their roster following a 6-10 season that left everyone in the organization questioning themselves.

This week in Indianapolis, the team will have a large delegation that includes coach Adam Gase and general manager Chris Grier. They’re tasked with evaluating more than 300 players who will be doing drills and sitting down for interviews this week, and that should sharpen their focus on how they plan to proceed with their stock of seven picks in April’s draft.

Any priority lists they make here will be written in pencil considering free agency is right around the corner. The moves Miami makes when the market opens March 12 could alter what it believes it needs to find in the draft.

The biggest issue for the Dolphins is to determine the best possible way to handle the No. 11 overall pick. If they keep it, they should be in range to land one of the top four quarterbacks in this year’s class: Wyoming’s Josh Allen, USC’s Sam Darnold, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and UCLA’s Josh Rosen.

All of those players will be in town for the Combine, but ESPN reported Darnold will not throw. The others are expected to do so Saturday.

The Dolphins already got an up-close look at Allen and Mayfield in the Senior Bowl. Gase flew in specifically to see them, and executive Dan Marino was on hand for that as well.

The supposed experts are all over the place in how they rank the quarterback prospects, illustrating how difficult it might be for teams to sort them out. There’s also the issue of whether most analysts are overlooking 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, who starred at Boynton Beach High School before going to Louisville.

Furthermore, the needs of teams currently picking ahead of the Dolphins could change between now and April. The Broncos or Jets would be unlikely to spend a top-10 pick on a quarterback if they sign Kirk Cousins or trade for Nick Foles. The Colts might feel less certain about Andrew Luck’s future by then, which would put them in the mix for a quarterback at No. 3.

The Dolphins don’t feel pressed to find an immediate starter given their expectation that Ryan Tannehill will be back to full strength for the upcoming season, but they hope having this high of a selection is a rare opportunity, so this might be the time to strike. If a first-round pick can be a capable backup this year and good enough to ultimately overtake Tannehill, that would be an ideal outcome for Miami.

If the Dolphins trade the pick, a possibility vice president Mike Tannenbaum was quick to mention after the season, or aren’t sold on any of the top four quarterbacks, they could address other needs first and look to add a passer in the middle or late rounds.

Beyond short-term and long-term concerns at quarterback, this figures to be an offense-heavy draft for the Dolphins. They need a promising, dynamic tight end. They might need a receiver because of the sluggish start to DeVante Parker’s career and the tenuous status of Jarvis Landry. And, as usual, they need help on the offensive line.

Grier’s philosophy is to prioritize talent over needs. He’s not likely to sketch out a draft plan that has the team taking a tight end in the second round, a lineman in the third and a linebacker in the fourth, for example. If an exceptional guard is available when the Dolphins pick at No. 42, Grier would generally jump on him regardless of where the depth stands at other positions.

There are countless moving parts as the team tries to square away its draft board and many of the twists and turns can’t be predicted. But the Combine represents a big step in the Dolphins’ process of informing themselves about the tough choices they’ll face over the next two months.

[Dolphins feeling good about where they stand at cornerback–for now]

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[The Palm Beach Post‘s first 2018 NFL mock draft]

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

Colin Kaepernick fits Miami Dolphins’ QB need behind Ryan Tannehill

Colin Kaepernick (7) makes sense for the Dolphins for football reasons. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

The answer to the Dolphins’ quarterback uncertainty is sitting there to be had. He’s waiting for their call.

With no guarantee on Ryan Tannehill’s left knee, they need a sound backup plan to avoid the fiasco they got into last summer in which they were begging broken, old Jay Cutler to take their $10 million.

There’s a highly available 30-year-old who’d be happy to hear from them. He’s still in his quarterbacking prime and, believe me, very well rested. Plus, if Miami brings him in soon, he’ll have ample time to adapt to the offense.

Much like Tannehill, this guy is good, not great. He has taken a team to the Super Bowl. He possesses the mobility coach Adam Gase believes is an absolute necessity, and over the past decade he’s been one of the five safest quarterbacks in the league when it comes to interceptions. In his most recent season, he put up a better passer rating than Tannehill’s career average.

There’d be little question about it if his name wasn’t Colin Kaepernick.

The Dolphins’ power trio of Gase, Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier can’t let anything hinder them from doing their sole job of assembling the best possible roster. Politics, regardless of whether their views and Kaepernick’s are aligned, don’t show up on scouting reports.

That’s the opinion of their boss, anyway.

When Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was asked last year whether Kaepernick’s stances, including being the originator of the national anthem protests, were keeping him out of the league, he couldn’t fathom that being true.

“A lot has been written about it, but you know owners, or coaches… they’ll do anything it takes to win,” Ross said. “And if they think he can help them win, I’m sure—I would hope they would sign him.”

Kaepernick can help the Dolphins win. He wouldn’t be coming in to compete against Tannehill, who will be Gase’s unquestioned starter if healthy, but he’s a more proven option than David Fales or anyone they might pick up in the draft.

It’d be ideal for Miami to find some veteran backup as a contingency, a point underscored by seeing Josh McCown go to the Jets last year and far outperform Cutler for about half the cost. Considering how tight the Dolphins’ salary cap situation figures to be, however, their budget will put serious restrictions on who they can get.

So what does a 6-10 team with limited finances do? It scrolls Craigslist looking for bargains like Kaepernick. Finding undervalued assets is enormously important for a team like the Dolphins.

Based on what’s been reported, it appears he just wants to play. It’s highly doubtful he’ll be holding out for a huge contract offer or demanding a chance to be the starter. He’s precisely the bargain Miami needs.

Would signing Kaepernick look a little desperate? Probably, but the Dolphins are desperate. Ross unloaded his frustration after the team plummeted out of the playoff race with three straight losses to end the season.

“You put as much as I put into a team and you try to do all the right things to win, how can you not be disappointed?” he said.

Doing all the right things to win means basing football decisions on football criteria. The three men running this team can’t be scared off by the likely public relations headache that accompanies signing Kaepernick, and they ought to know another 6-10 season wouldn’t bode well for job security.

The first thing he’d need to do is rectify his past support of Fidel Castro, but everything else he’s voiced over the past few years has now become commonplace in the NFL. The league saw entire teams kneel after Donald Trump’s criticism in September. Six Dolphins players did so that weekend, and many more players and staff wore #IMWITHKAP t-shirts before the game.

It’s not a huge leap from #IMWITHKAP to #KAPSWITHUS.

Tannehill’s standing within the organization is secure enough that he shouldn’t be upset about them bringing in Kaepernick as insurance. If he was too frail for that, it’d be an issue no matter who the Dolphins bring in, and given his knee injury, they can’t afford to ride into next season without a Plan B.

Gase seems sturdy enough to manage it, too. Remember all the times he held his ground when fans called for him to bench Tannehill and Cutler?

“I’ll make the decision on quarterback,” he said. “We’re not going to take public polls.”

Fine. Don’t take one on Kaepernick, either. Instead, recognize the gift of being able to acquire a low-risk, high-reward backup quarterback and make the decision that makes this team better.

[Jarvis Landry stars in 2018 Pro Bowl, which could be his final game with Miami Dolphins]

[Jason Taylor weighs in on Jarvis Landry’s free agency saga]

[Dolphins legend Don Shula asks for patience for coach Adam Gase]

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

2018 NFL Draft: Dolphins’ Dan Marino scouts QBs, leaves them starstruck

With the Dolphins open to taking a quarterback, Dan Marino is serving as an extra scout this year. (Getty Images)

MOBILE, Ala.—The Dolphins are using a uniquely qualified quarterbacks expert since they’re considering taking one in this year’s NFL Draft.

Hall of Famer Dan Marino is deeply involved in the evaluation process, doing everything from watching prospects on the field to sitting in on their meetings with the organization’s top decision makers. He’s part of the team’s scouting delegation at the Senior Bowl this week and was at Ladd-Peebles Stadium to get a look at possible first-round picks Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen, among others.

“It’s good to have Dan around,” general manager Chris Grier said. “Obviously, a player of his caliber and one of the all-time greats and someone that is very respected, it’s great having him in the meetings. We’ll sit and we’ll pick his brain, and he’ll ask us questions as well. It’s another opportunity for us to learn and for him to learn as well.”

Marino, 56, has transitioned into a significant role within the organization and is constantly involved in day-to-day operations. His job is far from being a symbolic position. He’s at the facility most, if not all, days year-round and attends every game. He sits in on coaches’ meetings as well.

After a 17-season career with the Dolphins, he went into broadcasting for a few years before the team hired him as Senior Vice President of Football Operations in 2004. That appeared to be too much for Marino at the time, and he resigned three weeks later.

He spent another decade in television, then rejoined Miami in 2014. His new title is Special Advisor to the President and CEO. This role suits him extremely well, and though he doesn’t have direct authority over players or roster decisions, he is respected essentially as a coach and is one of the key leaders in the building.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase described him last season as “a good sounding board, especially for quarterbacks” and is always interested in Marino’s insight when they watch film together. He works directly with the quarterbacks, too.

“He’s seen so much football over his time and he always gives the quarterbacks a piece of advice that seems so small at the time, (but) it’s a big deal because it’s the way he saw it, and the way he saw things was special,” said Gase, who was also in Mobile to see quarterback prospects. “He’s always trying to help those guys. You almost have to ask him, though. He’s not overbearing in that way. He waits for you to come to him.”

Marino also mixed in a few acting performances amid all his years in football, most memorably in Ace Ventura. Current draft prospects were babies when he stopped playing almost 20 years ago, but they might recognize him from other work.

“The players are excited when they meet him too, which is always cool,” Grier said. “It’s not just the quarterbacks. Last year we had a linebacker walk in and he was like, ‘Oh, I loved you in Bad Boys II.’ That’s how the players and kids nowadays know him. It’s always cool to see how the guys react.”

[Drafting quarterback in 2018 Draft makes sense for Dolphins regardless of Ryan Tannehill]

[Dolphins players celebrate Jay Ajayi’s trip to the Super Bowl]

[Dolphins legend Don Shula asks for patience for coach Adam Gase]

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

How long does Dolphins VP Mike Tannenbaum need to rebuild?

The Dolphins’ brain trust has much to fix after going 6-10 this season. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

MOBILE, Ala.—One essential component of the Dolphins’ offseason evaluation is determining whether this roster is on the cusp of contending or in need of a more prolonged rebuild.

Vice president Mike Tannenbaum has been optimistic since the end of last year’s disappointing season and is particularly encouraged by the jump he saw from teams like the Eagles, Jaguars and Rams this year. He also knows a 6-10 season signals Miami needs significant changes.

“I would say we have a lot of work to do,” he said. “I think to have sustainability in our system, you have to evaluate your own correctly. We’ve been spending a lot of time talking about that and trying to learn from what happened a year ago.

“We have a lot of work to do, but we do feel like things are going in the right direction. We’re going to have make some obviously hard decisions and choices along the way, but in terms of our view of the program and what we want it to be, we feel like it is going in the right direction.”

One area that needs correction is quarterback, where the team believes it already has an upgrade lined up with Ryan Tannehill progressing nicely through his rehabilitation from a knee injury. Miami is also addressing its depth behind Tannehill in order to avoid the mess it got into last summer.

The critical question for Tannenbaum, general manager Chris Grier and coach Adam Gase is whether they have the patience and job security to be realistic about the scale of this project. If they feel the pressure to turn things around immediately, some of those quick fixes might backfire in the long run.

The good thing for that trio is that owner Stephen Ross seems to fully support them as he seeks to create organizational stability. Nonetheless, those three seem averse to sitting through an all-out rebuilding year knowing the Dolphins were in the playoffs just last season.

“Things can change so quickly by just a handful of plays,” Tannenbaum said. “For us, we’re going to start 0-0. We have a lot of work to do but we also know there is great opportunity there if we work hard and do things the right way.”

[Drafting quarterback in 2018 Draft makes sense for Dolphins regardless of Ryan Tannehill]

[Dolphins players celebrate Jay Ajayi’s trip to the Super Bowl]

[Dolphins legend Don Shula asks for patience for coach Adam Gase]

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

Dolphins’ 2017 NFL Draft class: Grading Chris Grier’s hits, misses

Charles Harris is off to a good start. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

For more than a decade, Chris Grier has helped the Dolphins mine late-round talent out of the NFL Draft. It’s an undeniable talent of his, and his latest hit looks like he could be a staple of Miami’s defensive line for years.

Among Grier’s seven draft picks last year, none proved to be a better value than fifth-round defensive tackle Davon Godchaux. The Dolphins saw a premium talent despite some red flags and, after thorough investigation, found a starting-caliber player with the 178th overall choice. Not only did he play well, he adapted well to the team’s expectations of professionalism

“He’s been exactly what you want a guy to be,” coach Adam Gase said.

Godchaux wasn’t the only good pick in the Dolphins’ 2017 draft class, which produced starting cornerback Cordrea Tankersley in the third round and a promising defensive end in Charles Harris with the No. 22 overall selection. Vincent Taylor, a defensive tackle they took in the sixth round, also was a contributor.

Among the three rookies who didn’t do much on the field this year, linebacker Raekwon McMillan (second round) and wide receiver Isaiah Ford (seventh) were on Injured Reserve the entire season. Fifth-round pick Isaac Asiata, a guard, took what the staff described as “a red-shirt year” because he needed significant work to get ready to play.

On top of those selections, the Dolphins found six undrafted free agents who can hack it in the NFL. Linebacker Chase Allen, from Southern Illinois, was the best of them and appeared in all 16 games with four of those being starts.

Cornerback Torry McTyer, safety Maurice Smith and punter Matt Haack also showed long-term potential. Haack was eighth in the NFL in punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line this year.

Any look at Grier’s draft from last year—in the Dolphins’ power structure, he spearheads that operation—must begin with Harris. While defensive end might not have been the greatest need at the time, he was the top player on their board and looks like he’s going to be very good.

Very good? With only two sacks and limited playing time stuck behind Cameron Wake and Andre Branch?

Yes, very good. Harris’ advanced numbers give a fuller picture of how well he played as a rookie. He was among the Dolphins’ best defensive linemen when it came to causing opponents to commit holding penalties, hurrying the quarterback and knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage. He did that despite playing just 47.5 percent of the snaps, including four games of 38 percent or fewer.

“His disruption numbers have been trending positively for us, so I think that those are blocks to build on and to move forward with,” defensive coordinator Matt Burke said.

McMillan and Tankersley are already marked down as 2018 starters, and Harris will get a chance to compete against Branch.

McMillan would’ve almost certainly been Miami’s starting middle linebacker in the opener had he not torn his ACL in the first game of the preseason. Tankersley took a much different track, coming on slowly in the preseason before coming on to take Byron Maxwell’s job in Week 4.

Tankersley had been inactive the first two games, but issues with Maxwell’s performance prompted the Dolphins to thrust him into the starting lineup against Drew Brees for his pro debut. He held his own and became a full-time starter.

If Tankersley can grow into an unquestionable starter, that gives Miami optimism about its secondary going forward with him, Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain all 24 years old.

If the Dolphins intended to pit Godchaux and Taylor against each other to battle it out for a job, Godchaux has the clear lead after Year 1. He had 40 tackles and a forced fumble, working his way onto the field for 47.8 percent of the defensive snaps.

But Taylor looks like a quality piece as well.

“We gained a lot this season from seeing Vincent do all of the things we asked him to do,” Gase said. “He was one of our high-energy guys. He practiced hard every day and he gave us value on special teams, which is great to get from a defensive linemen. I do think he’s a guy that we’re looking forward to keep developing and seeing how far we can help him grow as a football player.”

Even at this stage, with Godchaux and Taylor still trying to prove themselves, it looks like Grier has once again made good use of the late rounds. His best find was Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones in the fifth round in 2010, and in the last few years he found talent in Jakeem Grant (sixth round) and Jay Ajayi (fifth).

And if three or four players from this class are already full-time starters by the beginning of their second season, that’s another strong year for Grier.

[Possible Dolphins 2018 NFL Draft target Baker Mayfield cleared for NFL Combine]

[What does Las Vegas think of the Dolphins’ chances in 2018?]

[Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry is headed to the Pro Bowl]

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

2018 NFL Draft: Possible Dolphins target Baker Mayfield clear for Combine

Baker Mayfield should be at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine over the next two months. (Getty Images)

The Dolphins should be able to get as much of a look at draft prospect Baker Mayfield as they want over the next three months. Mayfield is a possibility for them at No. 11 overall and he’ll be on the field at the Senior Bowl in two weeks.

He’s also expected to be at the NFL Combine, and the significant news on that front is that the NFL not bar him from participating based on his February 2017 arrest for public intoxication and resisting arrest, among other charges. That incident resulted in a plea deal and was resolved last year.

An NFL spokesperson told ESPN today that there is “no issue that would preclude him from attending” the Combine. Mayfield is nearly certain to be on the list of invitees when the NFL finalizes it. The Combine begins Feb. 27 in Indianapolis.

Mayfield, 22, will be the first Heisman Trophy winner to play in the Senior Bowl since Tim Tebow did so in 2010. As a senior at Oklahoma last season, he completed 70.5 percent of his passes, threw for 4,627 yards and had 43 touchdowns against six interceptions. He is widely thought to be a top-10 prospect, putting him potentially in reach of the Dolphins.

Dolphins general manager Chris Grier was vague in discussing the team’s plans with the 11th pick last week, but did not rule out taking a quarterback.

While players do on-field work and other testing at pre-draft events, the most valuable part for most teams is getting to sit down with prospects for extensive interviews about football and off-field concerns. Dolphins executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum and Grier were at the Senior Bowl with a team of scouts last year, and coach Adam Gase joined them for the Combine.

Teams also can bring in up to 30 prospects for pre-draft workouts and interviews at their facility.

One player who won them over in their Combine meeting last year was LSU defensive tackle Davon Godchaux. He declared for early entry into the draft despite a variety of possible concerns, including an arrest for domestic violence that got him briefly kicked off the team, and withstood a thorough investigation by the Dolphins.

“Once we got the facts, we interviewed the kid and talked to people in Baton Rouge about it, we felt comfortable with the result and with the information we got,” Grier said at the time of the pick.

Godchaux also wowed the staff with his football I.Q., which Gase said solidified Miami’s interest in taking him. The Dolphins got him in the fifth round, and he was a starting-caliber player for them immediately.

[Ryan Tannehill’s 2018 return from knee injury at forefront of Dolphins’ minds]

[Miami Dolphins find a hidden giant in offensive lineman Jesse Davis]

[Longtime tight end Anthony Fasano weighs his NFL future]

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

Analysis: Is where Miami Dolphins are headed really where they want to go?

Dolphins coach Adam Gase (left) answers a question during a news conference with Mike Tannenbaum (center), executive vice president of football operations, and Chris Grier, general manager, at the team’s facility Wednesday. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

DAVIE — The three men steering the Miami Dolphins agreed on one basic premise Wednesday: that the season just ended and a lot of reflection and evaluation is necessary before a new one begins.

It’s tough to argue with Mike Tannenbaum, Chris Grier and Adam Gase on that one. When you’re in the process of winning just six games, answers don’t come easily. If they did, you wouldn’t be winning just six games.

And, to their credit, there was acknowledgement of the obvious disappointment everybody feels today. As Grier, the general manager, said, “We’re 6-10. We’ve got to get better. It’s not acceptable. We’re all ultra-competitive up here.”

Grier went off the rails at that point, saying Gase would “kill his own dog” to go to a Super Bowl. Luckily, two things immediately occurred: First, Grier sheepishly admitted he could have come up with a better analogy. Second, Gase disclosed he does not have a dog (adding, by the way, that it’s not because he finds canines incompatible with Super Bowls).

So there was a chuckle. There was a sprinkling of news (Ryan Tannehill will be the starter next season). There was frustration with a lack of poise and leadership shown by the players.

But something was missing — something that breeds confidence that those inside the building will take as critical a look at this situation as those of us outside it.

“We’re going to have to tweak some things, but overall, I believe in where we’re going.”

The fracas between the Dolphins and Bills, which led to Jarvis Landry’s ejection, was a low point in a season with too many of them. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)

Tannenbaum, executive vice president of football operations, said that, and if you need to draw a map in your head of where the Dolphins are going, Point A is a 10-6 team that made the playoffs last year. Point B is a 6-10 team that will draft 11th this year. The Mapquest term for this is south.

Later, Tannenbaum said, “In a perfect world, we want to keep as many of our own guys as possible and we’re going to look at that.”

That’s great when you’re talking about locking up a Kenny Stills or a Reshad Jones to long-term deals, as the Dolphins have, but not so great when you’re 25th in the league in offense or have millions invested in a defensive line that’s 25th in sacks. Pressed on why he’d put such on emphasis on keeping a six-win team intact, Tannenbaum curiously brought up the late-season signing of tight end A.J. Derby as a player who “may contribute for us for another year or two.”

He said the sustainable approach is “to have an identity here, and it’s meaningful to be a Dolphin and if you do the right things, play well, do the right things off the field, you’re going to get rewarded.”

Putting the finale against the Bills aside, you could say receiver Jarvis Landry fits that profile quite well. Most would agree he comes closest to being the heart and soul of this team. As we all know, he’s about to become an unrestricted free agent unless a deal gets done by mid-March. Even here, things get murky. Asked how high on the priority list re-signing Landry is, Grier waffled.

“As Adam said, we’ve really just started the evaluation of our team,” Grier said. “ … Jarvis is one of many players that we’ll be talking about over the next couple of weeks.”

Landry isn’t going anywhere — not without a fight that would make the fracas with the Bills look like “Dancing With the Stars.” And maybe that’s as far as Grier felt he could go. Coming on too strong could hurt the organization’s bargaining position. Fine.

But “Jarvis is one of many players”? Wasn’t there only one who led the league in receptions? Don’t we know all we need to know about Landry?

Gase, Tannenbaum and Grier should meticulously evaluate all aspects of the roster, but some truths are self-evident now.

I know, for example, that this team needs help at linebacker, and more of it than Raekwon McMillan could possibly provide.

I know that if this defense can’t cover tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will keep smiling.

I know we’ve had three years to answer the question of whether DeVante Parker is a No. 1 receiver. And I know we’re not one iota closer to confirming he is than we were the day he was drafted. And I know that’s a problem.

I know that the last time this team had an offensive line that inspired confidence, Richmond Webb and Keith Sims owned the left side of the line.

I know I cannot name many positions where there isn’t a great need.

In short, I don’t like where the Dolphins are going.

And I bet that when the Dolphins finish their evaluating process, they won’t, either.

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The Tape Don’t Lie: Miami Dolphins 2017 in review

Miami Dolphins: Who is this Dowell Loggains?

Miami Dolphins: Ranking Best 2018 Road Game Trips

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

2018 NFL Draft: Miami Dolphins open to picking quarterback at No. 11 overall

Baker Mayfield could be on the Dolphins’ radar. (Getty Images)

DAVIE—The Dolphins are adamant that they have the quarterback they need for next season in Ryan Tannehill and they plan on him being fully healthy by the time they start Organized Team Activities in May.

They also know taking a quarterback in the draft might be smart.

As Miami launches fully into offseason mode, it will be looking at quarterbacks with the No. 11 pick. There are generally thought to be five quarterbacks worth taking in the top 20 picks: UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Southern California’s Sam Darnold if he chooses to leave.

“We’ve said we’ll always take the best player on our board,” Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said when asked directly if quarterback was an option in the first round. “I’ve talked from Day 1. We talked about the J.J. Watt thing. At d-end, we had (Cameron) Wake and whatever, but if J.J. Watt’s on the draft board when we’re picking, we’re not gonna pass on J.J. Watt because at defensive end we feel good.

“All positions, we’re evaluating everything. It doesn’t matter if it’s quarterback, tackle, defensive tackle—everything’s wide open for us.”

Grier is the point man for Miami’s draft operation, and his reference to the 2011 draft gives insight into how he approaches it.
Wake was coming off an incredible year of 14 sacks and the team had him marked down as a franchise cornerstone. But if Watt had lasted all the way to No. 15, they couldn’t have turned down that opportunity.

Instead, Watt went to Houston four picks ahead of the Dolphins. They chose Mike Pouncey that year.

[Ryan Tannehill’s 2018 return from knee injury at forefront of Dolphins’ minds]

[Miami Dolphins find a hidden giant in offensive lineman Jesse Davis]

[Longtime tight end Anthony Fasano weighs his NFL future]

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

Miami Dolphins’ top 5 salary cap values of 2017 season

Kenyan Drake was very good–and very cheap. (Andres Leiva/The Post)

DAVIE—Every year it’s easy to hammer the Dolphins—or pretty much any team but New England—for some overspending that didn’t work out well.

But, Miami also got some excellent value in 2017. Many of the team’s cheaper players were some of its best, and that’s a good start toward executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum building a winner. The Patriots find ways to perpetually fill holes with low-cost, high-talent players.

Based on their salary cap hits, here are the Dolphins’ top five values from this season:

5. DT Davon Godchaux
This is more about great drafting than anything, and credit general manager Chris Grier—head of Miami’s draft operations—for finding Godchaux in the fifth round at No. 178 overall. He cost them $515,484 in salary cap money and the Dolphins have him at $800,000 or less per season throughout his four-year rookie contract. This is exactly the type of payoff they need on the defensive line when they’ve committed so much to Ndamukong Suh.

4. RB Kenyan Drake
For $800,315, the Dolphins had a running back who outperformed Jay Ajayi once he got his shot. Drake led the NFL with 444 rushing yards over the final five weeks of the season, outdoing Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt, among others. Miami coach Adam Gase would ideally pair him with Damien Williams, but if the Dolphins don’t re-sign Williams this offseason, they still have very promising option in Drake, who will be 24 next season and doesn’t tip $1 million until 2019.

3. WR Kenny Stills
Overpaid? Maybe underpaid. The Dolphins got some criticism for Stills’ four-year, $32 million deal last offseason, but the first season of it was a steal. His cap hit was just $3.8 million (it goes to $9.8 million each of the next two years), and he delivered 58 catches, 847 yards and six touchdowns—second only to Jarvis Landry in each category. Miami got in on Stills at the right time and locked up what should be the prime of his career at a reasonable price.

2. OL Jesse Davis
This is great story for the Dolphins’ player development program. No NFL team wanted Davis out of college, the Seahawks and Jets (twice) cut him and he would’ve been fixing farm equipment if Miami hadn’t seen potential. The 2017 offseason program is where the team really saw progress, and that produced a starting lineman for a mere $465,000. He’s also under contract for $555,000 next year.

1. WR Jarvis Landry
There’s a good case for Landry being the biggest value in the entire league, let alone the Dolphins, considering his $1.1 million salary cap hit ranked 847th overall. Taking him in the second round four years ago already looks like one of the franchise’s best draft picks. He set a team record with 112 catches this season to go with 987 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns. He was the Dolphins’ best offensive player, and this was their last year getting him on the cheap.

[Ryan Tannehill’s 2018 return from knee injury at forefront of Dolphins’ minds]

[Miami Dolphins find a hidden giant in offensive lineman Jesse Davis]

[Longtime tight end Anthony Fasano weighs his NFL future]

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Dolphins owner Stephen Ross gives year-end thoughts on Gase, Tannehill, more

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross expected things to go much better this season. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

MIAMI GARDENS—Dolphins owner Stephen Ross couldn’t be happier to see the last few hours of 2017 tick away.

“It’s a new year,” he said. “We need it.”

Big time.

The Dolphins wrapped up a lackluster season with a 22-16 home loss to the Bills, who swept them, and Ross was exasperated by what he saw this year. The biggest problem he saw was losing Ryan Tannehill to a knee injury in August and replacing him with a washed-up Jay Cutler, and things spiraled from there to a 6-10 finish.

“I’m terribly disappointed,” Ross said as the Dolphins’ locker room emptied. “The season didn’t start out right with injuries, and you can’t replace good quarterback.

“Looking forward to next season, there will be adjustments. You put as much as I put into a team and you try to do all the right things to win, how can you not be disappointed? I (expletive) hate losing. Excuse me.”

Despite that frustration, Ross intends to retain the trio that runs the football side of his organization for the upcoming year. Executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum, general manager Chris Grier and coach Adam Gase will “definitely” be back.

As for Gase, who was a Coach of the Year candidate in 2016 before falling back to earth this year. He now sits 16-17 in two seasons running the Dolphins.

“I have a lot of confidence in Adam and the way Adam, Chris and Mike work together,” Ross said. “Adam is really a good football guy, and I believe in him. He’s as disappointed as I am. I talk to him a lot and I think he recognizes we need to make adjustments and I think we will.”

[Dolphins throw away strong seasons by five of their star players]

[Dolphins QB Jay Cutler says he won’t be a backup]

[A resurgence for Dion Jordan–and a warning for future Dolphins]

[Dolphins-Bills photo gallery]

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