Around a month ago, I sent in an article looking at the various groups that I thought we’d be targeting in the draft. This was before free agency, and the moves were made. At that time, it was my intention to then follow up with a short series of articles breaking down the position groups I’d looked at.
Then we traded for Jalen Ramsey.
We moved mid-round picks for a premium player. A player ranked #9 in the Top 100 list this time… in a supposed ‘down year’ if you listen to some circles. A player ranking #9 in an off-year for mid-round picks… YES, please.
But this deal committed a lot of cap space; this had a knock on to other free agency moves, which were much more humble in comparison. And that, in turn, impacts where we could be looking in the draft.
In my first look, I looked at Linebacker, Running Back, Tight End, and Cornerback. And the name I had my eyes locked on the most was Deonte Banks. The Ramsey move means that not only is that more unlikely, but also unnecessary, and I am not too proud in my own opinions to accept that.
As I sit here having a second look and looking at the pieces we have picked up in free agency, I am keeping the majority of those categories the same, giving my updated opinion but removing cornerback after the Ramsey deal. See what you think….
This feels like the best place to start for Miami right now. This position has the majority of people talking, excited, and speculating. In free agency, we lost Mike Gesicki. A loss that was expected entirely; while he had his fans, myself included, it is evident that #88 didn’t fit into what Coach Mike wanted from his TEs, and the receiving threat became very underused for someone of his size and talent. A parting here became inevitable, but with him landing at the New England Patriots further highlights the deficiencies of our TE usage.
Gesicki’s best friend, Durham Smythe, however, DID get himself a tidy extension in South Florida. A move I was happy to see get done. Smythe isn’t a big name, but he has become a productive player in his TE2 role. Yes, there are highlights out there of him missing blocks, but there are many highlights of him securing them and making safety valve receptions in key moments. A good deal for Smythe and a good deal for Miami.
On top of Smythe’s extension, Miami also picked up Eric Saubert from the Broncos. He is a player who comes on a value contract and who was best known in Denver for his Special Teams expertise. That is not to be sniffed at, our special teams stunk last year at times, so more knowledge there is not a bad thing. But he is also a lot more in line with what a TE should look like in this scheme. He can line up at the end of the OLine and hold his own in a block and don’t be sleeping on his reception skills either. But it is undeniable that he yet has much to prove to elevate himself into TE1 categories.
It is also true that we offered a deal to Irv Smith and also had conversations with other available TEs, so with such a deep TE draft class this year, it is believable that we will have our best eyes on some of the hottest TE prospects. The most obvious one right now is Darnell Washington, the name that has the majority of the Fins fanbase debating. Like with a lot of prospects, he is unlikely to be available by the time Miami picks. But with this one, it does feel different. There are legitimate arguments that could place Washington as TE4 in this year’s draft, and typically, the TE4 is usually available in the 50s. Add in that the depth at TE this year is very good, and teams may use their picks to fill other needs and gamble on the later-round TEs, and there are legitimate arguments. Washington is a unique physical specimen and an elite blocker; he has a huge range and a dominant physical presence. Someone will fall in love with his profile I am sure, and he becomes unavailable at #51… but if they don’t… boy, oh boy, this could be the pick for us.
But if he is not, then the other name getting a lot of love right now is Sam LaPorta. The TE out of Iowa has seen his stock rise as he made his way through this pre-draft process. Recently, reports suggest that a league coach has been talking up LaPorta’s abilities and that many teams think he has the ability to do it all at the next level. While I feel that #51 is a bit high for this pick, I can get on board with a TE that can do it all in a Mike McDaniel offense.
Then if Washington does rise up and into those higher picks, there is the chance that someone else slips into that TE4 slot, whilst Dalton Kincaid and Luke Musgrave have downsides that could be spun against using pick #51 on them if Washington is off the board then both of these guys have traits that we could get extremely excited about.
Further, down the order, names like Tucker Kraft, Josh Whyle, and Brenton Strange become names that could go into that TE group to make us better. Whilst none of them immediately claim that TE1 spot, they add to the group in a way that enables us to be better. We know we have met with Kraft and that they spent time with Strange at his pro day, so TE at some point in this draft seems likely.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) April 11, 2023
So in free agency, we addressed our linebacker need. The obvious move is the addition of David Long Jr, a fantastic piece at fantastic value who can come into Vic Fangio’s scheme and be productive. This was a low-key but crucial move and one I think we will be talking positively about throughout his time in Miami. An under-rated move was the retention of Andrew Van Ginkel into that group. The man plays with so much heart and always finds a way to impact. He never seems to be the featured guy in any defensive setup, yet he always finds a way. He seemed to be leaving; he posted his thanks as if he was leaving, so to get him tied up for another year is a great thing for us. Then taking the outside backer of Malik Reed, who knows Fangio and his methods and produced his best football in Fangio’s system is also a plus. To lose Melvin Ingram was a knock, but the hope is that Reed can mitigate that somewhat.
Add in that these moves should allow Jerome Baker to focus more on his strengths and maximize his talent, that Jaelen Phillips will continue to grow, and Bradley Chubb should be settled and ready to show us his best, and you’d be forgiven to for thinking Miami were now more set at Linebacker.
Yet this is still something I expect us to address in the draft. It is common knowledge that we had negotiations with other linebacker options ON TOP of the move for David Long, only for them to take their alternate offers from elsewhere. So it’s clearly on their minds.
First and foremost, I struggle to look past Jack Campbell. I mentioned him in my first-look article. If he falls to pick #51, then he would be hard to look past. The guy who can immediately impact the defense and help immediately improve on that poor missed tackle rate comes in and challenges to be a starter on day 1… but it looks more and more unlikely that he will get anywhere near us. But if he does, regardless of free agency, I would run his name up to the podium.
A much more realistic name that I think we can look towards, and one who could go in the 2nd round but who could also be around for us in the 3rd round, is DaMarvion Overshown. Another name I touched on last time around, but now we live in a world where we know he had positive talks with Dolphins reps at the Combine and has also been brought down to Miami for one of our 30 visits. There is clearly an interest from Miami, and it’s not hard to understand why. A payer who comes into that group with good stats, tape, and reputation can compete right away. Coming outta the same college that gave us Brandon Jones and new free agent signing DeShon Elliott, he’d add to our group without a doubt.
Trenton Simpson is another name that we know Miami spoke to at the Combine, but again, another name likely to be gone by the time Miami select their first player in this year’s draft. The Clemson product is not short of admirers, and plus, the talk around his name and Miami seems to have cooled since the Combine… Or is that just Chris Grier’s smoke and mirrors? Does he know all he needs to know already and keep cards close to his chest where Simpson is concerned? He is unlikely to be around at #51, but it’s easy to see the fit if he is.
If Miami goes elsewhere with their first two picks, later-round names that I like include Florida Gator Ventrell Miller and LSU’s reliable open-field tackler Mike Jones Jr. Two names that I am not exactly excited about; I don’t expect them to contribute right away, but who would make nice Miami Dolphins and work well with what we’re building here.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) April 11, 2023
Free agency became all about running it back, at running back. Last year’s room of Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr, Salvon Ahmed, and Myles Gaskin are all back on team-friendly deals. So that should be that, then? All four RBs back, all with experience in Miami and of Coach Mike’s system. Then consider that Chris Grier has not drafted running backs highly in his tenure in Miami, preferring to find value in the market. So with all that considered, running back seems off the agenda then, Business as usual, right?
Well, that may be the case. That could well be the situation, and if it is, we may not be extremely excited by it, but we can feel assured of its modest productivity as a group. Stable, consistent, hungry, and selfless, they’re a group that we can trust to continue to find ways of supporting our passing game… But could it be more than that?
I am not advocating for any of these players, but I am making the point that maybe the narrative of Grier and big-time running backs is not wholly accurate. We KNOW that Grier contacted the Vikings to check in on Dalvin Cook’s availability. We KNOW that he tried to trade back into the first round to try and select Najee Harris, and we KNOW he had an interest in Javonte Williams before Denver jumped up ahead of us. Maybe, just maybe, he IS the kind of GM to look for a top-tier running back now that he has assembled a high-caliber roster; he only does these deals on his terms.
In my first look, I was adamant that we would not select a running back, in my opinion. But with the news that we called about Cook and the contracts for Ahmed and Gaskin being extremely easy to get out of, then I believe that Jahmyr Gibbs could be a player to make Grier show his true colors where RBs are concerned. The biggest issue is that Gibbs is unlikely to be available at #51. He is heavily regarded as the 2nd best back in this draft, and with that in mind, he likely won’t get past the early second round. But if he does, we could see him in aqua, and we could become excited by that really easily.
A name I have been put onto since my last look is Israel Abanikanda; his tape is fantastic, his stats are great, and his Combine and the pro day has him testing off the charts. A name that initially looked like a day-three pick is now looking like a certainty to go in the third round. If Miami were the team to select him there, then linking him up next to Tua could be a pairing that we could really get behind. But beyond that, there is some quality in this draft class; we could look at our third-round pick and beyond and still find some value.
Zach Charbonnet is another name that really could work out for Miami. The right profile, a fantastic scheme fit, impressive statistics and tape, this is another running back who would undoubtedly add to our pre-signed foursome. I doubt whether this is the name that gets Chris Grier over-excited enough to break his trend in the 2nd round, and I doubt that he slips into the third round to line up with Grier’s “value” for the position. So with that in mind, maybe it’s an unrealistic name, but the fit is undeniable.
Other names that could fit more in line with what we should expect from Grier in the later rounds include names like Eric Gray out of Oklahoma, a violent runner who could add to the group. As could names like Chase Brown, Deuce Vaughn, and Xazavian Valladay. I’m still not convinced we’re going in the running back direction, but there are names out there and whispers of Grier looking at upgrades that have me not so certain to rule it out anymore.
At the last stage, I said I wasn’t going to focus so much on the offensive line within my draft looks. But after our roster building, that seems like the most obvious position for upgrading. Yes, we can improve Running Back and Linebacker. Yes, we have a gaping hole at TE. But that LG spot and that RT spot are two positions that have underperformed and two positions that we need to better at.
Now, Chris Grier remains committed to the guys he drafted previously. He remains committed to his staff and their ability to coach Austin Jackson and Liam Eichenberg into being NFL Offensive Linemen. Mike McDaniel has remained steadfast that throughout his time in the league, they have to build Offensive lines on value players who suit a scheme. So it is by no means a certainty that Miami will look to draft another offensive lineman.
But they have looked at the competition, signing Dan Feeney as interior competition. We know they spoke with Brandon Shell, we know they spoke with George Fant, and no doubt they have spoken to other options for RT competition. Now, they could just be waiting for the inevitable June 1st cuts; plenty of players currently unavailable will become available over the coming months. Or they could be looking at the draft.
Ohio State’s Dawand Jones is a name that is getting a lot of attention from the speculative press, a big man with excellent footballing education and pedigree. A man that could do a lot for our line and a man who would add a lot of pedigree and talent to our protective unit. He is primarily projected as a Left Tackle, and our obvious need at right tackle could be part of the thinking against his selection. As could the desire to bring in competition for Jackson rather than a guy to start ahead of him. But if those two things are not in their minds, then Jones could be a very good piece.
Cody Mauch and Matthew Bergeron are other names that could be taken in that 2nd and 3rd round range who could come in and have an impact and push the current group to maximize their work. Mauch had a really impressive showing at the Senior Bowl and has carried that into his meetings and pre-draft process. Whilst Bergeron is a player who has shown a lot of good but is still an unrefined option. I think our first pick of this year’s draft is too high for a player as unrefined as he, but I understand the logic behind his selection.
In the later rounds, Tyler Steen is a name that fits that unrefined bill but is likely available at a spot that offers more value, in my opinion. He could come in and compete with Jackson but I expect a lower draft value level. Similar could be said for Blake Freeland, Carter Warren, and Jaelyn Duncan.
I’m not certain Miami will make an Offensive Tackle move this draft. I can see it, and in some cases, I would welcome it. But with many veterans still to hit the market as this off-season hits its later stages, and with our 2nd and 3rd round picks needing to have some sort of impact rather than being bodies to back up Jackson and Eichenberg, I personally think we will only see Linemen on day 3, if at all. But for Dawand Jones, I’d happily be wrong.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) April 11, 2023
There are other names out there, too, of course. We are still maybe moving on from Cedric Wilson… so could a rookie WR come into the mix? We know we made a competitive offer to Poyer before he went back to the Bills, and we know we have met with Keelee Ringo, so maybe they’re not completely out on Defensive Backs, either. No extension is currently in play for Christian Wilkins or Zach Sieler, and they didn’t yet replace the bodies lost on that DLine, so could Mazi Smith or Keion White be on their radar??
None of us REALLY know what Chris Grier has as Plan A, Plan B, or beyond. But that’s what is so exciting about the draft season. Every team will select potential. Many teams will get value from players they didn’t expect to, and be disappointed in players they had high hopes for. Who expected Kader Kohou to become who he is? Who remembers Hunter Long as the heir apparent to Mike Gesicki? None of us know, none of the TV experts know, and in a lot of cases, the coaches and GMs don’t know.
But it’s exciting to hope. So let’s hope Miami finds its missing pieces with those limited picks.