So the games are over, and that oh-so-short window of the calendar year is done with for now. But that opens up the door to all the wonderfully speculative and hope-filled off-season decisions; I am a sucker for getting involved. With Vic Fangio in the building bringing hopes of an elite defense, as a fanbase, we are invested in the hope for next year already.
One aspect of the off-season formalities that I love every year is the NFL Draft. I can’t get enough of the potential, the hope, the hype, the promise, and the performative element of it all. It’s a showpiece that this league does so brilliantly.
As a UK fan with non-NFL following friends, telling you that I am staying away to watch an event that starts at 1 am, where a middle-aged man will come onto the stage and read cue cards every 10 minutes or so for 4 – 5 hours, there is no way of describing it which does it justice. Yet even without Miami having a round 1 pick (at this stage), I will be awake, watching, and excited.
So I started thinking about the picks that Miami DOES have and what we could do with those picks. This article will be the first of a few where I look at the potential moves we could make. This one will look at an overview of what I perceive to be key positions we could upgrade through the draft but will be followed by a short series of deep dives into those key positions over the coming weeks.
There are a whole host of fantastic prospects this year, and some are well within the range of our Dolphins and our current pick positions. I will be ignoring Offensive Line as a position for now; while I agree it needs to improve, Chris Grier has not done a good job of drafting productive linemen in recent years and has also publicly committed to those draft picks moving forward. I believe if we do add to that group, it will come through free agency, and so I have left them out of this piece for the most part.
So what groups AM I talking about? Read on below…
I think it is common perception for the majority of Miami fans that Linebacker is our current highest position of need. There are a few, but the general consensus seems to be that we have underperformed in that area in recent seasons. We have missed too many tackles and blown too many coverages, and with Vic Fangio in, looking for talent to fit within a new system, it is expected to see some turnover of personnel in that group.
Now there is not a massive number of top, top-level players being projected from this draft class in this position. So much so we could be in play for the third-best option deep in the second-round territory. That lack of higher-skill guys could mean needier teams reach and take some lower projected players out of need. But if we look at where we sit currently, we could be primed to take Jack Campbell. He is an interesting one as he could add to what we have been missing. One of the biggest faults has been missed or broken tackles. Well, Campbell comes in as an option to help that. With 83 solo tackles in 13 games last season and 95 solo tackles in 14 games the year before, he will get his hands dirty and ground opposition players.
Should we look beyond him? I don’t know who else we take before those later rounds. Noah Sewell and Demarvion Overshown are names that I see in some mocks of middle rounds, but with Sewell fixing up to Blitz and Overshown having a weakness in his tackling, these both have upsides but don’t seem to fit the direction of a Vic Fangio defense. So unless we go looking for a diamond in the round in the later rounds, Jack Campbell seems to be the best name available for Miami.
It is my own opinion that last year was our best running back play in some time. Raheem Mostert and the trade for Jeff Wilson led to some good RB play that provided us with some offensive dimensions that we haven’t seen for a while. But with both of these out of contract, we could look to draft an exciting prospect for this position. There is a chance both of these guys could be back; Wilson especially is a good age, knows Coach McDaniel, can block as well as run and cost us a pick to acquire him in trade. I would expect him to be back. Mostert, on the other hand, has an injury record that is not ideal for a player of his age, so while we COULD bring him back with some confidence, it doesn’t mean they will. So who could they replace him with?
The whole league will be dreaming of Bijon Robinson, Miami should be looking elsewhere. Unfortunately, the Texas RB won’t get anywhere near us, but there are plenty of players who may do. I am a firm believer that Chris Grier will NOT go Running Back in this draft; his history is all I need to make that argument; RBs are not his preference. But if he bucks that trend and Jahmyr Gibbs is available, then we could become very excited. With pace and elusiveness that suits the identity of this offense, the Alabama grounding, and coming off a 900+ yard, 7TD season in that elite college grouping, he would be a player who could get Miami fans cheering from Year 1.
But if, as expected, Chris Grier goes elsewhere with our first pick this year, there are value players to be had later on at our later picks. My favorite realistic Running Back option would be taking Zach Charbonnet with one of our 3rd rounders. He’s leaving UCLA with over 1300 yards rushing on under 200 attempts and 14 TDs to boot. He could be of great value and add to our group immediately. Other names like Chase Brown could be an option, who went for over 1600 yards last year but comes with a lot more tread on his tires after taking 328 attempts at Illinois. And if we go later still, into the 5th round and beyond, Tank Bigsby, Zach Evans, and Kendre Miller could provide Mike McDaniel with new toys to bring into his offense.
While officially, it remains to be seen what will happen with Mike Gesicki; everything is pointing toward the end of his time in Miami. I am personally sad about this; as I have said, I love the whole draft process, and the year #88 was drafted, I was all in on him. His work at Penn State had me hooked, his combine was special, and then when his name was called on the second day of that draft, I was already pricing up jerseys. But it appears he will be moving on. Durham Smythe is someone I think should remain key to us, and Hunter Long is in the building, too, although you would be forgiven for forgetting that such has been his invisibility since being chosen. So could we add to this room a young rookie? I believe we could, and these are some names that could fall into the range.
The main name I see floating around is Darnell Washington. It is understandable to see why the man is a MONSTER and has all the traits to be successful in the NFL. Standing at 6ft 7″ and over 270lbs, the man has a size and physique that Coach Mike would be able to use to move body after body out of the way of his screens and skill players. We hear so much that McDaniel needs TEs who can block as well as play; well, Washington can do that and more. He turned his 28 receptions into 450 yards at an average of over 16 yards per reception, showing that he can be dangerous with his hands too. Personally, I don’t actually expect him to be available to us when we pick; his unique presence is likely to see him climb the draft boards, but if that is the name read out on day two, then I am celebrating.
A more realistic option, I believe, is Luke Schoonmaker. We know that Mr. Ross has connections to Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines, so we will not be short of intel on this guy. And at 6ft6 and 418 yards to is name last year, he is not lacking in size or production. While I don’t believe him to be the best pick in round 2, he is a realistic name I believe we could see in Aqua if the board falls right in the third round.
Honorable mention also going to another 6ft6 prospect in Josh Whyle, who turned his 32 receptions into 326 yards and 3 TDs last year; he could be a candidate for a late-round pick if the position is not addressed in our primary picks.
I really want to see us add a cornerback in this draft. It is my personal preference for that second-round pick. So I am somewhat biased here with my own opinion. I like Howard, and I think he will remain a Dolphin in the Fangio era, but Byron Jones’s apparent retirement coming out of nowhere confirms a hole we have been filling for a year already. Kader Kohou stepped up admirably and earned respect and a roster spot. Nik Needham is coming back from injury and, again, deserves his place in this group. But losing Jones, and with injuries attacking our secondary last year, a new, high-level talent on a rookie contract could be a blessing to this group and to our new DC.
So as I have said, this is the pick I want us to make, so of course, I have a favorite prospect here. That prospect is Maryland corner Deonte Banks. I don’t believe him to be the best corner in the draft, but I believe that with some luck, he could fall to Miami, and if so, I would sprint the ticket into the commissioner myself. His senior year saw Banks become a heavy starter, playing a lot of snaps and producing in every category. He has the skill to match up against Tight Ends and small, quick WRs, and contest for breakups against the bigger guys. He has a versatility and skill set that could have Vic Fangio licking his lips and playing a game that allows Jevon Holland, Brandon Jones, and others to be free enough to play their own game. If Banks is a Dolphin by the end of the draft weekend, we are immediately a stronger team.
Coming away from my clear favorite, we could look to target Jaylon Jones or Ji’Ayir Brown if they make it into the third, or maybe Florida boy Tyrique Stevenson too, all of who have skill sets that could enhance our group. I will delve into their production in my Cornerback edition, but for now, if I am talking cornerback, I am talking Deonte Banks.
BEST OF THE REST
And what if we don’t choose any of them? What if we go with the best player available, or I’m wrong about the OLine, or Chris Grier has ideas that I’m not considering? Who else could end up wearing the Aqua and Orange come week one?
Well, I initially said I would avoid looking at OLine, but those who know me know I am a sucker for a center. I have uncharacteristically left that off the list after Connor Williams won me round this year, but if Coach Mike and his new OLine coach want to move Williams back to guard, then John Michael Schmitz and Luke Wypler would be great additions to the OLine room. Grier has already committed to Austin Jackson getting another shot at tackle, but if Cody Mauch was to slip to him in the second, I would totally forgive him for making that pick. If the North Dakota State guy drops to us, and can transition to RT, then we could have a player on our hands there.
Mike McDaniel is on record stating he would draft an edge guy every single year, and there are plenty of edge prospects in this draft that could excite us. Luke Van Ness coming out of Iowa could be a nice addition, or even later than that, the likes of Zach Harrison or K.J. Henry could add to an impressive defensive line grouping, especially if the Dolphins decide to move on from Emmanuel Ogbah and his signed contract.
So we absolutely have options. We are disadvantaged by the situation surrounding our forfeited pick, which will no doubt be talked about and shone a light on during the draft weekend. But even so, we have options. Whilst I have made my preference clear, there are a number of players who we can take with that second-round pick that could excite the fan base, and even beyond that, as always, the draft will give us cause to hope, dream and get excited.
Look out for my follow-up pieces that will break these things down in more detail. In the meantime, keep those #FinsUp!