In just a few days, the Miami Dolphins will begin training camp for the upcoming season. New general manager Dennis Hickey has attempted to place his signature on the team by his dealings, and soon, fans will get to see it all come to fruition. Much as already been written and said about the moves Miami has made this year, but with minicamps and OTAs in the books, we have a better, albeit still incomplete idea of what this team has to offer. In part one, we looked at the free agency period. Part two will look at how the team navigated through the draft. The grades I give for this post are not reflective of how good or bad I think the player will become, but reflective of the usage of the pick versus players I would have preferred they drafted with that pick.
First Round: Ja'Wuan James, RT, Tennessee
Draft rumors are rarely to be believed, but when Miami said they were going to get their right tackle in the draft, they meant it. Some said that James was a major reach, but without knowing Miami's draft board, there is no way to honestly quantify that. I read something that said Miami had James as one of 5 offensive tackles with a first round grade. Most reports I read about him prior to the draft were pretty positive. Some draftniks I read thought he was a better prospect than the more highly touted Antonio Richardson, the other tackle from Tennessee. My personal preference for the first round was tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but I was neither surprised nor upset that James was chosen. Miami may have been able to trade down and get James, but they obviously rated him high enough that he warranted this pick. He should immediately start at right tackle and have a smooth transition as he played that spot in college. It was a need and the Dolphins filled it well.
Second Round: Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
All I knew about Landry before he was chosen was that he had a disappointing 40 time at the combine. When I saw that he was taken, I had to go watch some tape and see what he was all about. I came away impressed with what I saw. Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline are nice receivers; they get the job done. But they have limitations and the biggest one in my opinion is that they do not fare well going across the middle. When Miami traded Brandon Marshall, I stated that the Dolphins needed to find a receiver than can make those tough catches across the middle. Brandon Gibson made a few and Rishard Matthews plays tough. But neither has really stood out as the kind of player you want to throw a crossing route to on a 3rd and 6. Jarvis Landry can be that guy. He has very good hands, and plays bigger than he is. His toughness and willingness to go across the middle can become a welcome addition to the offense and will certainly help out Ryan Tannehill. He has stood out during OTAs and minicamp for his great hands and during the intra-squad scrimmage, gained 5 catches for 67 yards (stats unofficial). He doesn't have great speed, but still creates separation and finds ways to get open and make plays. He will most likely start the season as the 4th or 5th receiver, but I wouldn't be surprised to see his snap count increase as he gets more comfortable in the offense and after a few tough catches. I would have liked for them to have drafted Donte Moncrief, but after reviewing Landry's tape, I'm content with this pick.
Third Round: Billy Turner, OT, North Dakota State
I was excited when Miami drafted ‘Bootstrap' Billy Turner. He was my third favorite prospect in the draft behind ASJ and Donte Moncrief. Back in January, Keith Beebe told me I needed to watch some tape of this tackle prospect from North Dakota State. After watching the tape, I was sold. He has all the athletic and physical talents to be a dominant guard or tackle in the NFL. There are a few holes in his game, but that should be taken care of as he develops. He will start out as a guard, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him get time at left tackle. In my opinion, he's the backup to Branden Albert and perhaps his replacement in a couple of seasons. He will play guard right now though, competing for spots at left or right guard. But he may get some playing time at left tackle during preseason though.
Fourth Round: Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty
Aikens was a transfer from the University of Illinois due to an off the field issue. So while he was drafted from an FCS school, he had the talent for the higher division. Aikens is a taller corner, measuring in at 6'1" which gives Miami some size on the outside. He has played safety in his collegiate career and could eventually move there full time. Since the secondary is crowded, he likely won't get much time at CB or safety and will have to earn his playing time on special teams. There weren't too many players that I liked that Miami could have drafted in that spot instead, so I have no issue with the choice.
Fifth Round: Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia
Lynch falls into the blocking tight end category. He can be an Anthony Fasano type that blocks well, can make some catches, but isn't overly dynamic. With Charles Clay's emergence as a playmaker in the mold of the new type of tight end, Miami wasn't in a dire need to pick up a tight end. However, Dion Sims struggled as a blocker last season in the more traditional tight end role so adding another player in that role was needed. This season, Clay and Egnew should be the receiving tight end option and Sims and Lynch will compete for the 3rd TE spot. While this pick sorta-kinda filled a need, Miami could have used this pick to draft Aaron Murray or A.J. McCarron to develop behind Tannehill.
Fifth Round: Jordan Tripp, LB, Montana
Tripp was a standout linebacker for the Grizzlies. He has good athleticism for the position, testing well at the combine, and has shown good instincts, which was a trait lacking from the 2013 Dolphins linebacker group. He stood out during pre-draft All-Star events. Jordan will most likely be a core special teams player to start with, but could earn some playing time on defense once he develops and gets used to the speed of the NFL. The Dolphins have been using him at middle linebacker during OTAs and minicamp, which if Tripp can take over the starting spot there, will fill a huge need for the Dolphins. There were some players that Miami could have taken, but none that I liked so much that it clouded my approval of this pick.
Sixth Round: Matt Hazel, WR, Coastal Carolina
I wanted to give this pick a D grade, but I bumped it up to C-, simply because Hazel is a decent prospect. The low grade comes from the position itself. Perhaps they had Hazel highest on their board at that point, but why draft a player at arguably the most crowded position on the team? Wallace, Hartline, and Landry (draft status) are safe bets to make the roster. Gibson and Matthews have the upper hand for the next two spots and are clearly better than Hazel right now. The sixth spot is up for grabs, but Miami has veteran players in Armon Binns and Damian Williams that are likely better than Hazel at this point. They aren't keeping 7 receivers on the roster. So unless Matthews is REALLY in the doghouse and/or Hazel outplays Binns and Williams in camp, then he is destined for a practice squad position. As a prospect, Hazel has good tools for the position and could develop into a contributor. But the odds are stacked against him just on numbers alone. Miami could have used this pick on a number of players such as running backs Marion Grice or Storm Johnson. There were some interesting linebacker prospects in Jordan Zumwalt and Marquis Flowers available. Quarterback Tajh Boyd was available as was OL prospect Laurent-Duvernay-Tardif and big defensive tackle Daniel McCullers. In my opinion, each of those players would stand a better chance of making the roster than Hazel due to that spot being less crowded. I like the player, but the pick could have been used more wisely.
Seventh Round: Terrence Fede, DE, Marist
Thanks to Phinsider member Oscar Hazell, I'd heard of Fede prior to the draft. The prospect from small school Marist was a player that wasn't a well-known name to most however. Fede is a decent athlete with excellent size for the position. He has potential to work inside when the Dolphins use their ‘Speed Package'. Fede's chances of initially making the roster have improved with Dion Jordan's suspension, but the Dolphins were deep at the position. If Fede puts on a little more weight, he could possibly earn a roster spot at defensive tackle. Fede had a highlight reel moment in OTAs when he snagged a Matt Moore pass and then proceeded to get a decent return out of it. He's a developmental project right now, but the tools are there. The pick wasn't bad, but the Dolphins could have made better use of that pick. If Miami felt the need to pick up an additional receiver, Tevin Reese was available. They didn't need another WR, but he has game-breaking speed, and that may have given him a better shot at making the roster than Hazel. Cornerback Terrance Mitchell was available and could have been a good pick here. Some draft sites had him rated as a potential second round pick. Seantrel Henderson was available. Despite concerns surrounding him, he has the talent to be a starting OT in the NFL. Yawin Smallwood was a linebacker prospect that would have made some sense. Then there were a number of undrafted free agents that the Dolphins could have spent this pick on, such as talented, but troubled tight end Colt Lyerla, guard Anthony Steen, quarterbacks Conner Shaw and Bryn Renner, offensive tackle Antonio Richardson, linebacker Max Bullough, and many others. It's the seventh round so it's not a huge deal, but other players might have made a better shot at making the roster.
Undrafted Free Agents
Undrafted free agents always have a tough road to make an NFL roster. But sometimes, those players can not only make a team, but become stars like Miami's own Cameron Wake and Brent Grimes. The 2014 draft was supposed to be very deep and that means the undrafted free agency crop may contain some players that would have been drafted otherwise. Miami has three such players that I believe have a puncher's chance at making the final roster.
Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU
Johnson was considered a top 100 prospect in this draft, but went undrafted due to off the field concerns. He has the talent, but needs to get his act together. If so, he will be working with one of the best position coaches in the NFL in Kacy Rodgers. If Rodgers can get Johnson to tap into his potential, then Miami may have found a true diamond in the rough. Johnson was working with the second team in OTAs and minicamp, but Odrick and Aaitui were limited with injuries, so he naturally was the next man up. He will get his chance in camp to earn his spot and if so, could make the already talented defensive line that much better.
Tyler Larsen, C, Utah State
I thought Larsen was a draftable prospect, so I was pleased the Dolphins picked him up. There are some questions as to his fit in the zone blocking scheme, but he does have some talent and aside from Pouncey, may be the only true center on the roster. With Pouncey out for a while, Larsen has the opportunity to step up and win a roster spot, and perhaps even start at center.
Harold ‘Gator' Hoskins, H-back, Marshall
Every year, Dolphins fans seem to develop a following for some undrafted free agent. This year, Gator is the guy. While most of these fan favorites fail to make the team, I believe Hoskins has a decent shot. Hoskins is more of an H-back type tight end like Charles Clay, which makes him valuable as a potential backup in that role. Miami also doesn't have much proven depth at the position, so Hoskins isn't competing against players with safe footing on the roster. Another aspect, which I think is key, is that Gator finds the end zone. He was the top scoring tight end in the FBS last season, scoring 15 TDs. Hoskins was already being used some with the second team in red zone work during OTAs and minicamp. Given the players ahead of him, he has a better than average chance of making the team.
This was a solid draft as Miami picked up some players that should contribute immediately in key areas. Miami addressed areas of need on the offensive line and added some nice pieces, but I believe they could have done better with certain picks, addressing positions that they needed to fill or added players that would have had a better shot at making the team.