As is the case after every NFL draft, every drafted prospect is seemingly an all-world starter right out of the gate; every team found that missing piece that they need to get to the Super Bowl. While I like the new attitude and approach to all things football with Adam Gase’s Miami Dolphins, I’m probably in the minority of fans regarding the outcome of the 2016 Miami Dolphins draft. I’m excited about a few picks, but overall I feel the team paid far too steep of a price for their draft haul this year.
Don’t get me wrong, I like many of the players that the Dolphins drafted this year, beginning with Laremy Tunsil, arguably the best available player in the entire draft. Tunsil instantly solves half of the offensive line problems from last year, whether he slides inside to play guard as expected, or if he stays on the outside and Branden Albert moves inside.
Either way, the left side of the offensive line is set for this coming season, and if the team develops another guard in the next year or two, Tunsil can move back to his natural left tackle position if or when Albert leaves (his contract runs through 2018, although his asking price may well be within an affordable range).
I also like the second round pick of Xavien Howard, and I was one of the few that had Howard projected as a Dolphins pre-draft target. But I don’t think the Dolphins needed to trade away their fourth round pick to move up a mere four spots and select him. I understand that general manager Chris Grier felt that another team was about to take Howard.
But not only do I think that Howard would have still been there at the 42nd spot, I think the team would have been smart to stay put regardless, as there were still some very viable players on the board along with Howard (Mackensie Alexander and Reggie Ragland to name two). Fourth round picks are valuable, and I think the Dolphins unnecessarily gave up that pick.
Having said that, Howard fills the biggest pre-draft need for the Dolphins, and will be given every chance to start at cornerback opposite of Byron Maxwell. In that respect, I give the PLAYER an ‘A’ grade, but have to ding the team for the cost paid to acquire that player.
The Dolphins third round pick, Alabama’s Kenyan Drake, puzzled me. I fully expected the team to draft a running back at some point in the draft, but I would have preferred they had waited one more round to address that position. With Jay Ajayi expected to take the bulk of carries in 2016, a mid-round selection at this position is going to serve as a backup or change of pace back, and in my opinion, the Dolphins could have taken Utah running back Devontae Booker in the fourth round, and had a player that compares very favorably to Jeremy Langford, who did an excellent job behind Matt Forte in Chicago last year.
With that in mind, I feel the Dolphins overreached for Drake here, as there were players still available that better filled needs, such as defensive end Shilique Calhoun and cornerback Kendall Fuller.
And my fears proved true just 13 picks later, when the Dolphins made a move that left me cussing the rest of the day. With Rutger’s Leonte Carroo still on the board, a player that the Dolphins listed as their second-highest rated wide receiver, the team threw a gauntlet of picks at the Minnesota Vikings, giving up their sixth round pick in this draft, plus two 2017 picks (their own third rounder, plus another pick that is expected to be a fourth round compensatory pick awarded for the loss of Lamar Miller).
Sure, acquiring a third round pick is going to be expensive, no matter how you look at it. But the Dolphins could have taken Carroo 13 picks earlier, then by waiting until the fourth round (and if Drake was gone), could have picked Booker. That would have yielded essentially the same results, but at a far lower cost.
And to top off my frustration, this (very, very costly) pick went for a position that is not a need for the Dolphins. I realize that Carroo could replace Kenny Stills as the third wide receiver if/when Stills’s contract expires after this year. But heading into this draft, the Dolphins had arguably the best depth at wide receiver of any position on the team. So again, while I applaud the PLAYER’s value here, I am appalled at the cost, since the Dolphins will now head into the 2017 draft missing two extra (and deserved) mid-round picks that would go a long ways in building this team.
Now without a fourth round pick (traded away to move up four lousy spots in the second round), the team would wait until the fifth round to make their next selection, watching some good running backs, defensive ends, and linebackers fall off the board. Grier must not have liked what was left, as they then pulled a stunner of a trade with the ever-hated New England Patriots, giving away their fifth round pick in exchange for two sixth rounders and an extra seventh round pick. For this, I applaud Grier; he obviously saw multiple players that could be picked later, and picked up extra picks to target them.
Sixth round pick Jordan Lucas, a safety from Penn State, was drafted by Miami as a cornerback. I like this pick, as it was well known that one of the weakest positions for the Dolphins coming into this draft was cornerback. Lucas could find himself on the field quite often, as he comes with excellent press-corner skills.
The Dolphins then traded their extra sixth round pick plus a seventh round pick to the Vikings, for… wait for it… the original sixth round pick that they’d traded to the Vikings the day before. They used that pick on 5’5-3/4”, 170 pound wide receiver Jakeem Grant. Grant will return kicks for Miami, and should excel in that role. His pick represents very decent value at this stage of the draft.
Early in the seventh round, the Dolphins traded one of their extra seventh rounders, plus cornerback Jamar Taylor to the Browns to move up and select quarterback Brandon Doughty, a highly-accurate passer from Western Kentucky. He’ll compete with Matt Moore for backup duties, and could eventually hold that role, but will likely serve as the third quarterback this coming season.
Trading away Taylor didn’t break the hearts of most Dolphins fans. Taylor has struggled with injuries his entire career, and has never lived up to his status as a second round pick. He did come on strong late in the season, but would have likely been relegated to backup duties behind the three new corners on the team (Maxwell, Howard, and Lucas).
I think he was worth more than a seventh round pick, but if the team viewed him as a borderline prospect to make the team, it’s better to get something for him now rather than wait and cut him later.
The Dolphins final pick was a hometown pick, Miami native tight end Thomas Duarte. Duarte is considered a hybrid tight end who can also play wide receiver, but for the Dolphins, he’ll be strictly a tight end, backing up Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims for now, but known for having glue hands, he’ll be given every chance to move up the depth chart.
So what do I think of the end result of the Dolphins 2016 draft? If you include the pre-draft trade that netted linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Byron Maxwell (and you really do have to include them), I think the Dolphins added four solid starters to this team (Alonso, Maxwell, Tunsil, Howard) and two guys that will contribute right away (Lucas, Grant).
The team addressed the running back spot, adding a change of pace back behind Ajayi (Drake). The rest of the picks, in my mind are luxury picks, as Doughty, Duarte, and Carroo will likely begin the season as backups (before you crucify me, understand that while Carroo does have a chance to beat out Stills for the third wide receiver spot, I don’t necessarily see that happening until after the season is underway).
Based on PLAYER VALUE alone, I feel the Dolphins deserve a B+ grade, and I only ding them for not addressing linebacker, and overreaching in the second and third rounds (see my explanation on that above).
But because of the price paid to make that second round move (entirely unnecessary in my opinion), and the ludicrous price paid for an extra third round pick (and again unnecessary to me), I have to ding the team’s overall grade. Having two, possibly three extra compensatory picks in 2017 was worth more to me than the picks the team ultimately acquired.
So Miami Dolphins, I hereby award you a "C" on your 2016 draft.
After having written all this, I do want to add that I’m excited to see what this team does on the field this year. I love everything I’m reading and seeing and hearing about coach Adam Gase and his approach to the game. Gase is obviously in control and has a clear vision and the requisite confidence to lead this team. I honestly haven’t been this excited to see what our new coach can do since Don Shula retired.
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
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