The conclusion of the NFL Draft is a time of hope and excitement for all NFL teams, including the Miami Dolphins. However, the 2017 NFL Draft was a mixed bag for the Dolphins and a redraft would help this team tremendously.
The Dolphins spent the 2017 offseason looking to upgrade their defensive line and offensive skill positions. The team traded for William Hayes, an underrated pass rusher from the Rams to start opposite Cameron Wake. They also re-signed receiver Kenny Stills, and former starting tight end Anthony Fasano.
I will take a look at the success and failings of the Dolphins during the 2017 NFL Draft while offering alternate options to upgrading the team in the long run. Miami missed chances to add All-Pro talent with their selections and now get an opportunity to right their wrongs below.
Dolphins spurn Charles Harris with first 2017 redraft pick, instead grab future All-Pro T.J. Watt in the first round
The Dolphins entered the 2017 NFL Draft looking to upgrade their pass-rushing unit and add some youth to help All-Pro Cameron Wake. Harris was a standout rusher in college, from a school that has produced quite a few defensive end prospects in recent years. However, just as players like Kony Ealy, Michael Sam, Shane Ray, and Aldon Smith fizzled out in the NFL, Harris met the same fate in Miami.
The Mizzou prospect never made a significant impact on the defensive line, despite numerous chances. Harris was subsequently traded to the Falcons this past offseason for a 2021 seventh-round pick. In stark contrast, T.J. Watt has become one of the most feared sack-artists in the league since 2017. The young Pittsburgh phenom was a candidate for AFC Defensive Player of the year last season, as he accumulated 14.5 sacks and a staggering eight forced fumbles.
For a team that ranked in the bottom-six in turnover differential last season, Watt would have been an infinitely better selection and budding star on an improving Miami defense. Paired with eventual 2018 third-rounder Jerome Baker, this unit would be a strength for this Miami team and cancel out any pass-rushing woes that seemingly face the Dolphins heading into the 2020 NFL season.
Miami stays the course at linebacker with Raekwon McMillan in the second round
While a player like Alvin Kamara looks enticing here, the team still featured Jay Ajayi as their starter and a young, talented duo of Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams behind him. In between the Dolphins’ 2017 second round and third-round selections, a host of tremendous, young pass-catchers were available and made for intriguing picks here for Miami.
Detroit’s Kenny Golladay, Tampa Bay’s Chris Godwin, Los Angeles receiver Cooper Kupp and Pittsburgh dynamo JuJu Smith-Schuster were all available for the Dolphins. However, along with the RB position, the wide receivers were a real strength for the 2017 team. That group featured young stars like DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, and Jarvis Landry.
Based on what was available for the team, this pick ultimately came down to the retention of McMillan or upgrading the back end of the defense and secondary. I believe the Dolphins would stick with the selection of McMillan in this 2017 redraft. He is an ascending young talent and leader of the linebacker group. Aside from McMillan’s first year with the team, which he lost due to injury, he has been an integral piece to the Dolphins’ defense.
Miami keeps the focus on secondary and grab Iowa’s Desmond King over Tankersley in the third round
Despite the presence of young up-and-comers like Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain, the Dolphins were still in search of another outside corner in the 2017 NFL Draft. Tankersley was an extraordinarily productive and experienced boundary corner prospect for the Tigers during his career at Clemson. He racked up nine interceptions, and 20 passes defended in his final two years as a starter.
Therefore, when the Dolphins were able to snag him with a third-round selection, it seemed like a steal and perfect pairing. Tankersley played surprisingly well as a rookie before dropping out of the lineup the past two years due to injuries and inconsistency. The Dolphins made the right call with the position here in the third round but missed out on the right guy for the job.
Since being drafted by the Chargers out of Iowa, King has been one of the better young players on defense and special teams in the AFC. He offers steady and productive return ability paired with a great technician and playmaker from the nickel corner spot. If the Dolphins were able to grab King instead of Tankersley, the secondary would be more versatile, and Jakeem Grant would be able to focus more on his prowess as a weapon in the passing game.
Miami makes the switch with the first pick in fifth, lock up starting safety with Xavier Woods
This Miami team was in a difficult spot here in the fifth round in terms of offensive line talent. Looking back, the team desperately needed help up front, and options were almost non-existent. At the time, the selection of Asiata was a good fit for Miami as a power player coming from a good Utah offense. However, he was never effective enough against speed rushers, and his lack of mobility affected his ability to maintain a spot in the starting lineup.
Therefore, I decided to continue to add depth and a potential future starter here with the Cowboys’ Xavier Woods. Since being drafted in 2017, Woods has started 33 out of 45 games for the Cowboys at the free safety position. Woods would have been outstanding competition for veterans Nate Allen and T.J. McDonald in 2017 and a great long-term running mate for Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones.
Following the loss of Jones this offseason, Woods could start at either safety spot in 2020 as a young centerpiece in the secondary for coach Flores. A secondary in 2017 of Xavien Howard, Bobby McCain, Desmond King, Xavier Woods, T.J. McDonald, and Reshad Jones would be a real strength for this Miami team moving forward.
Dolphins re-select defensive line steal Davon Godchaux with a second fifth-round pick
The LSU Tigers have produced great defensive line talent in recent years, and Godchaux was a real coup for the Dolphins in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He is an extremely underrated piece of this Miami defense and like Woods, has started every game the past two seasons. In 2019, he had a career-high 75 total tackles, seven quarterback hits, and two sacks as a “disruptive force” on this defensive line.
davon GODchaux is a disruptive force. this play never had a chance. pic.twitter.com/Icc92mJhCA
— josh houtz (@houtz) December 31, 2019
The Dolphins made a great selection here in 2017 with Godchaux and would keep that pick in a redraft today. Along with 2019 first-rounder Christian Wilkins, the Dolphins have one of the better young defensive lines in the league. Unlike Asiata, the second of Miami’s 2017 fifth rounders has paid big dividends for general manager Chris Grier and company.
Miami declines DL help with Taylor and instead turn to center position with Roullier in the sixth round
Since entering the league in 2017, Chase Roullier has been a steady, underrated force on the offensive line for the Redskins. He started every snap in 2018 and 14 games in 2019 while dealing with some minor injuries.
With very few options available at the end of the 2017 NFL Draft, Roullier was an excellent value pick for the Redskins and would be a long-term starter for the Dolphins at the center position. After struggling on the offensive line this past season, the team brought in New England free agent Ted Karras to shore up their offensive line.
Miami’s original pick, Vincent Taylor, earned some meaningful snaps during his first few seasons, but it wasn’t enough to stick with the team in 2019. With the switch here, and Roullier patrolling the middle of the offensive line, the Dolphins would have more flexibility in free agency and a much brighter outlook on their young offense moving forward.
Dolphins keep up-and-coming receiver Isaiah Ford in the seventh round
The seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft featured Oklahoma State rusher and eventual Seattle Seahawks’ workhorse Chris Carson. Carson has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons for Seattle and looks like one of the better young backs in football. As previously mentioned, the Dolphins had a very competitive backfield committee heading into the 2017 NFL Draft and likely would have made the same decision regarding their draft selection of Isaiah Ford.
Ford, a highly productive receiver from Virginia Tech, spent time on the Dolphins’ practice squad until he signed onto the active roster in 2018. He is a solid route runner with great hands and found some time in the lineup in 2019. Ford made a significant impact down the stretch and recorded 21 catches in the final four games. He could be an impact player in the lineup in 2020 aside 2019 breakout star DeVante Parker and second-year darling Preston Williams.
2017 Redraft Summary
Round 1, Pick 22: T.J. Watt, LB Wisconsin
Round 2, Pick 54: Raekwon McMillan, LB Ohio State
Round 3, Pick 97: Desmond King, CB Iowa
Round 5, Pick 164: Xavier Woods, S Louisiana Tech
Round 5, Pick 178: Davon Godchaux, DT LSU
Round 6, Pick 194: Chase Roullier, C Wyoming
Round 7, Pick 237: Isaiah Ford, WR Virginia Tech
In this redraft of the Miami Dolphins’ 2017 NFL Draft, the team was able to fix their pass-rushing needs and add some depth to the secondary, while keeping some of the young, emerging talent on the Dolphins already. Also, the addition of Roullier is a foundation piece for the offensive line, a unit that has struggled mightily in all aspects the past few seasons.
Heading into the 2020 season, the outlook for this Dolphins team would improve following this 2017 redraft. While the long-term of the franchise and quarterback position remains a question mark, the offense and defense would be well-balanced and much improved as a result.
Scott Gorman is a writer for PFN covering the Miami Dolphins and the 2021 NFL Draft. You can follow him @sgormanPFN on Twitter.