With the start of the 2014 NFL Draft merely a week away or so, each NFL GM is burning the midnight oil compiling each's draft board leading up to the primetime showcase next Thursday.
For us fans, we currently reside in what I like to call 'mock draft season', as countless outlets and writers give their own previews on what the draft could look like for each perspective franchise.
The draft represents hope for each NFL fanbase and while it remains a complete crapshoot, (no pun intended), every NFL fan has a right to be excited when the entire event wraps up after next weekend.
This excitement is definitely needed in Miami, where the Dolphins are coming off a mediocre (at best) season in 2013 finishing 8-8. The Dolphins have been seemingly stuck in neutral for years now, save a memorable playoff run in 2008 with QB Chad Pennington at the helm. (The jokes can start now....)
In control of their own playoff destiny as a potential wild card at 8-6, the Dolphins lost their last two games against two hated rivals in the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets. The effort was listless and the demise was honestly hard to watch, even from afar. Along with the late season collapse, controversial headlines found their way to Miami earlier in the '13 season in light of the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin fiasco.
Many people lost their jobs, including incumbent GM Jeff Ireland and several other front office executives. Head coach Joe Philbin remains, but his stranglehold on the job remains tenuous at best and the Dolphins must hit a homerun in this upcoming draft.
Team Needs- OT/OG, WR, ILB, SS/FS, CB, DT
Off-Season Additions- LT Branden Albert (Kansas City Chiefs), CB Cortland Finnegan (St. Louis Rams), Knowshon Moreno (Denver Broncos), FS Louis Delmas (Detroit Lions); Re-signed- CB Brent Grimes, DT Randy Starks
7 Round Mock Draft
Round 1- (19th Overall) OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Analysis- There is no question the Miami Dolphins' biggest weakness in 2013 was the offensive line. It's play was, well...downright offensive. QB Ryan Tannehill was sacked 58 times by the opposition. That's not protecting your franchise quarterback. Miami addressed this one the first day of free agency with the signing of bookend pro-bowl LT Branden Albert from the Chiefs but holes remain.
Lewan is a gifted physical specimen (6'7, 309) who is ranked near the top of all offensive line rankings by most draft experts. Some off the field questions have popped up during the pre-draft/workout process, thus Lewan's stock could be falling.
Bottom Line- Lewan presents the Dolphins with what every team looks for, two staple tackles for the next decade to keep Tannehill upright in his search for success in what will be his third year. If Lewan falls to 19, the Dolphins must make this pick. (Alternate pick- OT/OG Zack Martin, Note Dame)
Round 2- (50th Overall)- Safety Dion Bailey, USC
Analysis- The Dolphins could go in any number of directions in the 2nd round as projected first round value players will fall and boards change overnight from day 1 to day 2 of the draft. Many Dolphins' fans might want a playmaking WR or another offensive lineman with this next pick, but I believe the 'Phins must address the backend of the secondary.
Bailey is a ball-hawking safety with the ability to land the big hit who could easily slide in as a starter next to Rashad Jones and give the Dolphins a formidable safety tandem for years to come.
Bottom Line- The additions of Finnegan and Delmas represent stop-gap, no risk-high reward signings for the Miami secondary but a young playmaker is needed in an NFL where the passing game rules. The number of starting caliber safeties in this draft is very telling and I believe there will be a run on the position in the second round.
Round 3- (81st Overall) DT Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
Analysis- Football is a game won in the trenches. With the selection of Quarles, the Dolphins upgrade a need at defensive tackle after losing veteran Paul Soliai to free agency.
Quarles, 6'4'', 297, has great pass rushing ability and a huge frame to shed blocks. With some coaching up on his technique, I can see Quarles being a force at the NFL level.
Bottom Line- The Dolphins get younger at a position where depth is minimal outside veteran Randy Starks. Many fans might criticize a pick of this nature with a glaring need for a playmaker on offense but I believe the Dolphins get back to what do they do best and draft here in the third round.
Round 4- (116th Overall)- WR Paul Richardson, Colorado
Analysis- The 'Phins find a potential playmaker in Richardson in the 4th round. Richardson impressed at the combine running a 4.40 forty yard dash. He possesses decent size at 6'-0'' and was highly productive for Colorado in 2013 despite his critics for a slender-type build.
Bottom Line- Despite the Mike Wallace signing before 2013, the WR position has been an area of need for the Dolphins for several years now. WR Brian Hartline is in the final year of his contract and the time is now to start grooming potential replacement weapons to aid in Tannehill's ongoing development as a pocket passer. Richardson fits the mold and hopefully drops into Miami's hands. (Alternate Pick- WR/RB Dri Archer)
Round 5- (155th Overall)- OG Trai Turner, LSU
Analysis- The continued theme continues with the addition of Turner here in the 5th round. Turner opened some eyes at the combine and could ultimately start right away for a beleaguered offensive line after the losses of Incognito and Martin.
Bottom Line- Turner is more known as a powerful run blocker and will need to improve his pass protection for the NFL but gives the Dolphins a nice piece to build around on the interior portion of the line lining up next to all-pro center Mike Pouncey.
Round 6- (190th Overall)- RB/WR De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
Analysis- Despite the addition of Moreno to the Dolphins backfield, the 'Phins might be ready to move on from both incumbent running backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, whom have both proven to be bust-worthy in south beach.
Bottom Line- Thomas possesses blazing speed for the position and would give Miami fans the type of homerun threat every team covets. Thomas could open up the entire offense as a Reggie Bush-like clone, and provide kick/punt returning skills to a team that sorely needs it. The Dolphins must get more explosive on offense, period.
Round 7- (234th Overall) TE Jordan Navajar, Baylor
Analysis- The Dolphins find a late round sleeper at tight end with the selection of Navajar here in the 7th round. Starter Charles Clay, a converted fullback filled in admirably after the season-ending injury to free agent Dustin Keller in the preseason. Clay proved he can play the position but the Dolphins could use some depth in their offense behind him.
Bottom Line- Navajar, a transfer from Stanford was hardly used in the pro-style Baylor attack in 2013 but is considered a decent route runner with smooth hands that could project well at the next level. I expect the 'Phins to also look to free agency even after the draft to acquire another potential TE, Jermichael Finley comes to mind.
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