The NFL season is winding down, and while the Miami Dolphins are still trying to fight their way into the playoffs, many fans are starting to think about next April's draft. Who should the Dolphins target in the first round? What is actually the team's biggest need? I had a chance this week to speak with Dan Kadar from SB Nation's Mocking the Draft to discuss the Dolphins' draft.
Kevin Nogle (KN): The Miami Dolphins clearly have holes on their roster, specifically looking at the playmaker areas. What do you see as the must address areas for the Dolphins heading into the offseason and draft?
Dan Kadar (DK): The Dolphins are a little hard to gauge because the future of Jake Long in Miami is up in the air. If he's gone, offensive tackle has to be considered their top need. I know they took Jonathan Martin and he can play the left side, but there would be a hole on the right side. If the top juniors come out, as expected, the tackle class is much better than wide receiver or running back. So it would be need/top player situation since Miami is going to be drafting in the early to mid teens.
KN: The Dolphins should be picking in the mid-teens range come April. Who should be their primary target?
DK: If cornerback is the first-round pick for Miami, they'll have some good options. Dee Milliner of Alabama would probably be gone, but Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State would fit perfectly in that secondary. He's a bigger, physical cornerback who can press and run. Where Miami should be picking may be a little early for someone like Xavier Rhodes of Florida State, but he would be a nice fit as well.
KN: Miami has five picks over the first two days of the draft. Can we expect the team to come away from the draft with the majority of their needs filled, or will something have to be overlooked or addressed in free agency?
DK: How Miami fills its needs will depend on if they move those extra picks. There may be a player they fall in love with in the first round where they trade one of those second- or third-round picks. I could see that happening if they lose Long and want to make sure they get a good offensive tackle. There probably isn't a wide receiver or cornerback they'd have to trade up for, but someone like Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan may require Miami getting up to the 10th pick range. But if they keep all the picks, of course they should be able to fill all their needs. They may have to if they get up near the salary cap re-signing some of their free agents.
KN: My personal plan for the Dolphins would be to look pass rusher or cornerback in the first round, use both second round picks on wide receivers, then come back in the third round and address the pass rusher/cornerback they did not take in the first, using their second third rounder on a tackle if they let Jake Long walk. Given the way the big board for this draft will line up, is that a viable plan, or should they look to make their selections in a different order?
DK: It's a viable plan, but a pass rusher in the first round may be tough. They could find one a little later in the draft. Jarvis Jones of Georgia or Barkevious Mingo of LSU may be gone when they pick. A second round gamble on Brandon Jenkins of Florida State could be good. But given how many early picks Miami has, just about any scenario could be argued.
KN: The two wide receivers I want to be in Dolphins colors next year are Tavon Austin and Cordarrelle Patterson. We have another group that is really getting behind Keenan Allen in the first round. Can you give us a quick scouting report on those three?
DK: Keenan Allen of California is the top wide receiver, pretty easily. Before he got injured this season, he put up numbers despite having one of the worst quarterbacks in the FBS. Allen has really good body control to make tough catches, can get up field and he's strong enough to break tackles. Other than his run blocking, he's actually pretty similar to Brandon Marshall.
Thank you to Dan for taking the time to discuss the Dolphins' draft with us. Make sure you check out Mocking the Draft, especially as we get closer to the actual draft. And, I'm sure we will talk with Dan throughout the spring.