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.

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2018 NFL Draft: Mel Kiper explains Dolphins’ quarterback options

Would the Dolphins spend a pick on Kyle Lauletta? (Getty Images)

If everyone is operating under the assumption that the top four quarterbacks in next month’s NFL Draft are out of the Dolphins’ reach at No. 11, it’s time to sift through contingency plans.

The first task is figuring out what position to address with such a high pick, and the second is to determine whether there’s a worthwhile quarterback later in the draft. With regard to the latter, they could push that decision to the 2019 draft depending on who’s available to them this year.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper is among those who believe the first four quarterbacks will go in the top five picks, so he has Miami drafting Florida State safety Derwin James in the first round.

As far as quarterbacks go, he’d push for the Dolphins to take Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta in Round 2 or 3.

“You don’t want to force the quarterback pick at No. 11 unless you feel Lamar Jackson’s worthy of being that high of a pick,” Kiper said this afternoon. “I have him going No. 15 to Arizona. If you’re looking for a second- or third-round quarterback that’s intriguing to me, it would be Kyle Lauletta from Richmond.”

Kiper also suggested Western Kentucky’s Mike White as a possible second- or third-rounder and he likes Marshall quarterback Chase Litton, who turned pro after his junior year, in the late rounds.

He sees a high ceiling for Litton, if a team is willing to “put him on the shelf for a couple years.” That would require the Dolphins to roll along with David Fales or Brock Osweiler as the backup to Ryan Tannehill this season. Tannehill’s contract is up after 2020.

“Had he gone back to Marshall and had a big year, he probably would have been a second-round pick (in 2019),” Kiper said. “Now you may be able to get a guy like Litton in the fifth or sixth round.”

He would do something like that rather than punt until next season, when the quarterback class is more unpredictable than it was this year.

“You don’t know what’s going to be there next year,” Kiper said. “I mean, Drew Lock out of Missouri and Clayton Thorson out of Northwestern—You don’t know how that group’s going to develop. Brian Lewerke of Michigan State.

“These guys (in the 2018 class) were highly rated coming into this year. They didn’t just come out of the blue and magically appear.”

Kiper likes Lauletta for the Dolphins ahead of Mason Rudolph, who is thought by some to be a potential late-first-round selection.

Despite playing for the Richmond Spiders in the FCS, Lauletta has been impressive in the lead up to the draft. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and looks like a savvy passer who can improvise and function under duress.

He had 28 touchdown passes against 12 interceptions last season, completed 64.9 percent of his passes and averaged 340 yards per game.

“Watching him at Richmond and the way he played at the Senior Bowl, he just didn’t seem to be in awe of anything,” Kiper said. “He just fits in, goes out there and competes. The level (of competition) didn’t bother him coming out of the I-AA ranks. I like Kyle Lauletta. That’s a guy in the second or third round could be viewed as this year’s version of Jimmy Garoppolo.”

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Miami Dolphins: Potential 2018 NFL Draft Targets

Josh Allen of the Wyoming Cowboys is one of the most intriguing smaller-school quarterback prospects since, well, Carson Wentz. Watch the video below. Seriously.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

DAVIE — Dolphins general manager Chris Grier says he doesn’t want to have the 11th pick in the NFL Draft.

Neither does coach Adam Gase or executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum. Yet, here they are. And they cannot miss.

Miami has so many needs: tackle or guard, tight end, linebacker, running back and corner or safety.

Of course, the wild card is quarterback. It’s always going to be quarterback.

If Gase and Grier and his staff are of the firm belief that Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson or Baker Mayfield is very likely to be able to quickly deliver something of a much higher caliber than Ryan Tannehill, they must pull the trigger.

Of course, it seems more likely Miami would go for a quarterback they also like in Rounds 2-4 and fill a more desperate need in the first. That said, it’s about that time to look at some of the players now projected to be available in that area of the first round.

In January of 2017, we did this exercise, and correctly linked Missouri defensive end Charles Harris (Miami’s first round pick) and Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan (second round pick) among 12 players to watch.

In fact, we also correctly assigned Harris to Miami with the 22nd pick in our first mock draft in March of 2017. Hey, a bit of luck never hurts. But so too, does just using common sense. Miami really needed an heir apparent to Cam Wake. They hope they found that man in Harris.

Here are 14 players we figure to be talking a lot about in the next 100-or-so days before the NFL Draft:

Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia — Speed. Play-making. Speed. Play-making. VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama — Unlikely to be available, but if he is, send it in. VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame — So hard to take a guard so high, but, he’s legit brute. VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame — Elite size and technique; can play LT or RT. VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Connor Williams, OT, Texas — Solid, safe pick if offensive line is clear top priority. VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming — Unmatched arm; could develop behind Tannehill for 1-2 years. VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

• Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State — Speedy cover corner could be lock down answer. VIDEO HIGLIGHTS

Derwin James, S, Florida State — Speed and power. Could provide DB versatility. VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama — If Miami does not re-sign Landry or trades DeVante Parker. VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma — So, this would be fun, huh? VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama — Can cover the entire field. VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU — Perfect physical compliment to Kenyan Drake. VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma — Replaces Ja’Wuan James at a big savings. VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville — Explosive, athletic South Florida native. VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

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In the past 7 years, here are the players who have gone 11th overall in the NFL Draft:

• 2017: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State (Saints)

• 2016: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida (Bucs)

• 2015: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State (Vikings)

• 2014: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan (Titans)

• 2013: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama (Chargers)

• 2012: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis (Chiefs)

• 2011: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin (Texans)

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