The NFL Draft is just a week away, and so much has changed in the NFL landscape since our first Miami Dolphins mock draft. The peak of the NFL free agency period has come and gone, with a slew of big-name players changing teams. The NFL Draft itself is going completely virtual this year, a first in the league’s storied history. But the more things change, the more they inevitably stay the same, as is the case with the Dolphins pertaining to their draft needs.
Coach Brian Flores took a stripped-down roster from GM Chris Grier last season and drove it — somehow — to a five-win season. Now, it’s Grier’s turn to hold up his end of the bargain and start to re-tool the roster for Flores. That process starts with the NFL Draft and addressing the many, many holes in the Miami roster. Nearly every position needs an upgrade. Fortunately for Flores and the Dolphins, there is plenty of draft capital on hand to address these needs.
This updated 7-round mock draft again eschews draft-day trades and ponders what a draft could look like if the Dolphins were to hold on to every pick where they’re currently slotted.[sv slug=mocksim]
It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that the Dolphins have holes across the board. Free agency went a long way towards mitigating some of the Dolphins’ depth issues. However, most of the team’s needs remain the same. They signed players at a few key positions, but the signings should not preclude the team from selecting players at those positions.
The Dolphins top NFL Draft needs are the same today as they were when I wrote the first edition of this mock draft. They desperately need their quarterback of the future. Who that quarterback will be is anyone’s guess, but no one can deny it is by far their most pressing need. Looking beyond the quarterback, they’re going to need someone who can protect their quarterback, and they need someone who can rush the other team’s quarterback.
With the team signing Kyle Van Noy in the free agency period, it’s possible Miami holds off on grabbing an EDGE until day 2 or 3. Even with Van Noy in the fold, they will likely take at least one outside rusher to give themselves some depth at the position, as well as giving Van Noy some competition – an essential factor for Flores.
Round 1, Pick 5: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
We start off the latest Dolphins mock draft with a selection that’s sure to upset some folks within the fan base. Ultimately, no matter what the Dolphins do in the first round, some fans are going to be upset. Whether they trade up to #1 for Joe Burrow, take Tua at the 5 spot, or pass on Tua for Herbert, someone is going to be upset. That shouldn’t be any of the decision makers’ concerns. At the end of the day, this team desperately needs a franchise quarterback, and they need to do whatever it takes to get them, whether that’s Burrow, Tua, Herbert, or someone else.
I have believed all along, and I still believe, that quarterback is Tagovailoa. The former Crimson Tide star likely would have given Burrow a run for the #1 pick in this draft had he not suffered the hip injury. His detractors are going to point to the two ankle injuries and the hip injury to place the “injury prone” label on him. It’s a valid concern, but several doctors have renounced those concerns, stating that Tagovailoa is at no increased risk for reinjury. That’s good enough for me.
Round 1, Pick 18: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Now that the Dolphins have their franchise quarterback in the fold, they need to worry about how to protect him. Left tackle is less important with a left-handed quarterback, but there’s no way the team can afford to go into the season with Julie’n Davenport as the starting left tackle.
In a dream scenario for the Dolphins, one of the top tackle prospects in the draft falls to them at 18 in this mock draft. Andrew Thomas provides the Dolphins with an immediate plug-and-play LT who can protect the quarterback for years to come. Other tackle prospects have gotten more buzz this cycle, but I’d put Thomas up against any one of them.
Round 1, Pick 26: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Not one, but two Alabama Crimson Tide players for the Dolphins in the first round of this mock draft. With the departure of long-time Dolphins staple Reshad Jones, along with the mid-season trade of another former Crimson Tide player, Minkah Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins have a glaring hole in the back end of their defense. In another bit of good fortune for the Dolphins, arguably the best safety prospect is still on the board for them at 26.
Xavier McKinney possesses a lot of the same traits that Fitzpatrick did. He’s a rangy safety who can cover in the slot, can play the centerfield role, and isn’t afraid to come into the box and provide stout run support. This pick would cap off what would be a dream scenario for the Dolphins in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Round 2, Pick 39: Cesar Ruiz, OC, Michigan
Now that the Dolphins have addressed the outside of the offensive line, the focus shifts inside. Miami knows the interior of their offensive line needs work, and their free agency spending reflects that. The team went out and spent money to bring in guard Ereck Flowers from Washington and center Ted Karras from New England. Neither of those signings should be seen as permanent answers at those positions, but rather as depth.
Cesar Ruiz is one of those players I would pound the table for on Day 2 of the NFL Draft. He would immediately provide the Dolphins with an upgrade over Karras and give the team something it hasn’t had in years, depth and options along the o-line. Ruiz may not have prototypical size for the position, but he makes up for it with athleticism and a mean streak. He’s technically sound, and an animal in both the run and pass game.
Round 2, Pick 56: D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
Here’s where things begin to get tricky for the Dolphins in this mock draft. Some look at the Dolphins’ situation at running back and think the team should spend one of the three first-round picks on someone like Jonathan Taylor from Wisconsin. Others look at the team signing Jordan Howard and say Miami should wait until Day 3 for someone like Zach Moss of Utah or Anthony McFarland of Maryland — if they draft a running back at all.
I believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Taking a running back in the first round, even when you have three selections, is a misallocation of resources. However, Howard is a running back by committee type, and no one should feel comfortable with the other half of that committee being Kalen Ballage. D’Andre Swift from Georgia can provide the Dolphins with the 1-2 punch they need at the position to make the most use out of both their draft capital and their free-agent spending.
Round 3, Pick 70: Zack Baun, OLB, Wisconsin
In free agency, the Dolphins signed former Patriots and Lions outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy. In Van Noy, the Dolphins are getting a linebacker who can rush the passer from the outside, but who also gives them versatility in defensive fronts they can play. Under coach Flores, the Dolphins want to be a multiple front defense. To do that effectively, they need both versatile players and good depth. Enter former Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun.
While a bit undersized for the position, Baun has nice athleticism and speed. He should provide the Dolphins with a linebacker who can win with speed off the edge on occasion but will be more valuable for his ability to play in space. Baun has experience in both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts and should fit nicely with what Miami wants to do in mixing things up and keeping opposing offenses on their toes.
Round 4, Pick 141: Netane Muti, OG, Fresno State
Remember when I said things were going to get tricky? Well, now we’re in the thick of it! After the Dolphins make their selection in the third round, they don’t come on the clock again for another 71 picks. They have six picks in the top-70, and they may be content to let another 70+ players come off the board before they pick again. I think it’s more likely they package some of their fifth-round picks, along with something next year, to move up.
However, as I said at the beginning, we’re operating under the assumption Miami makes all of their picks here. That scenario gives the team former Fresno State offensive lineman Netane Muti, who would plug in nicely to the interior of the Dolphins offensive line. Miami signed Ereck Flowers in free agency to bolster the interior of the line, but they need someone opposite him. Muti is a strong, powerful player who flashes good athleticism for an interior lineman. His injury history is worrisome, and it’s why he’s still available on day 3.
Round 5, Picks 153, 154, & 173: Evan Weaver, ILB, Cal; Alohi Gilman, S, Notre Dame; Quartney Davis, WR, Texas A&M
Assuming the Dolphins don’t make a trade to wind up with a selection between 70 and 141, they’re left with three picks in the fifth round. And I like the talent available in this range. Were the board to fall like this come next Saturday, this could be the best value of the entire NFL Draft.
The Dolphins don’t necessarily need an inside linebacker with the presence of Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker, and the free-agent additions of Elandon Roberts and Kamu Grugier-Hill. However, if it’s competition coach Flores is after, Evan Weaver would likely give Roberts and KGH a run for their money for a roster spot. Weaver won’t give the team much in the way of coverage, but his instincts in the run game and ability to rush from the inside are valuable.
With the second of their three 5th round picks, we have the Dolphins double-dipping at the safety position. We found Reshad Jones’ replacement earlier, and now we find someone to pair him with in Notre Dame safety Alohi Gilman. In stark contrast to McKinney, Gilman isn’t the type of safety you want playing centerfield. Gilman is best when he’s allowed to come up and keep plays in front of him.
He’s not going to provide you with over-the-top help for the cornerbacks, but he is going to be able to cover tight ends and “big slots” over the middle, along with providing solid run support with the linebackers. He has his limitations, but he also has some value.
One of the few positions the Dolphins don’t absolutely have to address in the 2020 NFL Draft is wide receiver. DeVante Parker was finally able to stay healthy for an entire season in 2019 and put up good numbers. Before his ACL injury, rookie Preston Williams was looking like a legitimate number 2 wide receiver. Miami also has Jakeem Grant, Albert Wilson, Isaiah Ford, and a handful of other guys on the roster.
It’s not a great situation by any stretch, but with all the other holes on the roster, it doesn’t need early capital spent to fix it, either, which is why we wait until the 5th round for former Texas A&M wide receiver Quartney Davis. Davis is a receiver with nice size who can also contribute on special teams. He’s not a burner and lacks the second gear you want to see from higher selections, but should provide a good target in the middle of the field.
Round 6, Pick 185: L’Jarius Sneed, CB, Louisiana Tech
The one position the Dolphins do not need to address early in the 2020 NFL Draft is cornerback. Xavien Howard is one of the top cornerbacks in the game today. During free agency, the Dolphins went out and paid heavily to land former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones. They also have one of the best nickel corners in the game in Bobby McCain. The Dolphins are legitimately solid at cornerback.
But in today’s pass-happy NFL, you can never have too many good corners. Spending a 6th round pick on a boom-or-bust cornerback like former Louisiana Tech product L’Jarius Sneed could pay good dividends for the Dolphins. At best, he blossoms into a good cornerback in his own right, and you have quality depth at the position and a potential bargaining chip down the road.
Round 7, Picks 227, 246, & 251: Dalton Keene, TE, Virginia Tech; JaMycal Hasty, RB, Baylor; John Penisini, DT, Utah
With the Dolphins moving tight end Mike Gesicki to a more natural “big slot” position, there’s room on the roster for a more conventional tight end. Miami has Durham Smythe and Michael Roberts in-house already, but both could be beaten out by Dalton Keene.
Keene is a good mix of athleticism and blocking at the position, and could find himself supplanting one of the aforementioned players to earn a spot as the team’s third TE.
After Keene, Miami stays on offense and picks up another running back in former Baylor product JaMycal Hasty. Hasty is great value in the seventh round, and with the lack of talent Miami has at the position behind Howard, Hasty could find himself rostered and contributing right away.
With their final selection of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Dolphins take defensive tackle John Penisini. Penisini would likely be playing out of position in the Dolphins defense, but does provide some scheme versatility and is a stout body in the middle. With Miami relatively thin at defensive tackle, Penisini is certainly worth a late-round flyer.