As you may have heard, hot takes are kind of my thing. More accurately, bad hot takes. But as I sat down to work out the Dolphin’s 53-man roster I found myself struggling to think outside of the box.
The reason, this looks to be one of most obvious and apparent rosters the Dolphins have had in recent memory. This could mean one of two things.
1. Miami either didn’t do a good job of creating competition
2. They have finally built the depth we’ve been craving for on this team for over a decade.
After breaking it down player by player, in an extremely amateurish way I might add, I’m going with the latter. So, without further delay, here’s my 2018 53-man roster prediction.
Quarterback (3): Ryan Tannehill, David Fales, Brock Osweiler
Ryan Tannehill is back. You might have heard. Most fans love it and the national media couldn't give a rip, going as far as to exclude him from many "notable players coming back from injury" lists this season. You know, those same national media guys that tried to convince you a retired Jay Cutler was an upgrade over Tannehill.
Sorry for those of you who bought into that.
Some thought we may see a name like Baker Mayfield or Josh Rosen in this group, but that was not to be. However, we did move on from Matt Moore after half a decade. The signing of Brock Osweiler doesn’t exactly give Miami fans warm fuzzies and reports out of mini-camp are David Fales has a leg up on Osweiler for the backup role.
Gase has history with both these men so it will truly be a best player wins scenario. I’m not sure he’s sold on either one of them enough to discard the other so I believe he will roll with three QBs considering the injury nightmare he’s dealt with at the position over the last two seasons.
Running back (3): Kenyan Drake, Frank Gore, Kalen Ballage
This is a nice group. Kenyan Drake wasn’t given enough touches his rookie year. A theme common with Gase and rookies not drafted in the first two rounds many times.
A theme, I will add, I don’t love and feel will need to change this season but that’s a discussion for a different article.
Once Gase (forcibly) saw the light, it allowed him to move on from the crybaby fan favorite in Jay Ajayi and place the weight of the starting position on Drake. Leading into 2016, the word out of the Miami Dolphins facility was that Ajayi was the man, but we saw plenty of action to the contrary.
Some similar moves may indicate they don’t have as much faith in Drake as some think, but I believe in this case it was just a matter of improving the position as a whole and making sure not to wear Drake out. He’s never been a guy, even at Alabama, to get a bunch of carries week after week. So the three players above are obvious in Drake, Gore and the rookie everyone’s excited about, Ballage.
The reason for only keeping three will be apparent and explained in the next group. But I believe three will be the number with a fourth stashed on the practice squad.
Wide Receiver (6): Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola, DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant, Isaiah Ford
There's much debate about whether Miami even keeps six wide receivers this season considering the logjam we now have at the position as well as tight end. But this team has a solid - barring injury - five-man receiver rotation who are absolutely going to make this team.
It only leaves one position left to battle for. Why keep six wide receivers and only three RBs? There aren’t any running backs after Ballage that you can’t risk losing to stash on the practice squad. However, you take a great risk cutting Ford to do the same.
Miami’s only play here would be to hide Ford and not really play him, then camouflage him as an early roster cut playing it aloof as if they really dislike him that much. We all know Gase is a fan of guile (see 2018 first round draft) but I don’t think he takes that chance here.
The big reason?
Right now, Ford is the guy to step up and take that bigger wide receiver role when Parker "Parkers" and gets hurt or forgets to eat breakfast or is late to the game, too busy trolling Dolphins fans on Twitter. They picked up Parker’s fifth year option but at $9 million-plus, I don’t see Parker making it to a fifth season, increasing the value of Ford.
Half of me wanted to have Parker traded before week one but I don’t think Gase is ready to give up on him even if I am. As for Carroo, this guy has been a healthy scratch in enough games to know where Miami stands there. We moved on from Landry aka “Salty AH” so we signed two free agents and we get Ford back to compete as well.
The writing is on the wall for this guy. I will add that it looks more like Miami has a good overall group with several twos and threes but I don’t really see a number one WR. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This group has enough talent, if used and schemed correctly, to give any defense trouble. More speed than I’ve seen as a group and plenty of shiftiness.
Tight end (4): Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, MarQueis Gray, Gavin Escobar
After complaining for a decade about Miami not investing in the tight end position they go out and get super young, drafting a tight end in rounds two and four. Even as a rookie, Gesicki is likely to see a lot of action at the position.
He’ll probably be asked to do less tight end-like things at first and be lined up more like a slot receiver, especially in the red zone. But this position is far from fixed for 2018. Tight end is one of the hardest positions to make the transition from college to the NFL. Gesicki will appear lost and make many mistakes especially when asked to take on the full responsibilities of an NFL tight end.
Smythe is even less likely to see heavy snaps at first. Gase has never been one to put a lot on mid-to-late round rookies and there are plenty of examples of that over his first two seasons. Plan to see plenty of Gray and Escobar.
Why Escobar over Derby? With two rookies on the 53, you don’t have room to play games and experiment. Derby along with Gesicki and Smythe sound great in theory but that just isn’t enough experience for such an important position. It will be necessary to balance out the unit on the field and in the film room and I believe that Escobar, as unexciting as a pick that may be, does that.
Offensive Line (9): Laremy Tunsil (T), Ja’Wuan James (T), Jesse Davis (G/T), Josh Sitton (G), Daniel Kilgore (C), Sam Young (T), Ted Larsen (G/C), Isaac Asiata (G), Eric Smith (T)
Dolphins fans are less worried about the offensive line than in recent years. That doesn’t mean it’s fixed or top 10. Just more likely Tannehill won’t be the most sacked QB in the league in 2018, and we’ve all seen what he’s capable of when given what most other QBs have in the way of time to throw.
As far as the mix of lineman it will be Laremy Tunsil and Ja'Wuan James manning the bookends with newly acquired Josh Sitton along with the exciting and young Jesse Davis at the guard positions. After the Dolphins moved on from Mike Pouncey, they traded for a reliable starting center in Daniel Kilgore.
This unit also has better depth heading into the season. Pay close attention to the mix of players they keep on the 53. We head into training camp with seven tackles alone. A clear goal this offseason was to make sure we have depth there. As you see above I have kept four pure tackles along with Davis who can play the position if asked to.
Also, with some age in the position it is necessary to be young where possible. I don’t believe they are ready to give up on Isaac Asiata just yet. Sam Young is old faithful and stays around another season. Ted Larsen is versatile and good when healthy but not being asked to start out of the gate unless injuries deem it necessary. Eric Smith rounds it off with checking both the youth and tackle depth boxes.
For those not doing the math along the way that’s twenty-five players so far. Definitely some debatable choices in the offense but nothing too crazy. We could probably go on for days about the offensive line at the eight and nine spots. Three RBs vs. Six WRs vs. 4 TEs vs. 3 QBs and so on. But in the end, we’re probably arguing over maybe four to five players total on offense.
Much different in past years where we were just hoping someone would step up and take the job because we hadn’t done what we needed to in the off season of addressing certain positions. One of the biggest reasons for this, the one I’m most excited about, it’s the best drafting the Dolphins have done in consecutive years since the Jimmy Johnson era. I think you’ll see that’s especially apparent on the defensive side of the ball. Catch the completion of this roster prediction in my next article where I break down the defense and special teams.
This story was written by Ron Canniff. Follow him on Twitter: @FinsBroadcaster
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