The NFL's free agency period may be upon us, but that does not slow down Mock Draft Season. ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., released his third 2016 NFL Mock Draft, taking a look at how he could see the first round playing out when the Draft rolls around next month. Kiper does, however, caveat each of his selections with a second pick for each team, giving an idea of how free agency could impact what a team chooses to do with their prospective draft targets.
Kipers starts his draft where is seems like everyone is starting their draft these days, with Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil being selected by the Tennessee Titans. He then sees the Cleveland Browns using the second overall pick on North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz, followed by the San Diego Chargers picking up Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley. The Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars round out the top five selections with Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner and Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, respectively.
The Baltimore Ravens use the sixth selection to pick Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa in Kiper's mock, with the San Francisco 49ers then using their seventh pick on California quarterback Jared Goff. That puts the Miami Dolphins, with the eighth overall pick, on the clock.
The Dolphins on Monday night agreed to a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles that, barring any issues with physicals, will send cornerback Byron Maxwell and middle linebacker Kiko Alonso to South Florida. That will help the Dolphins in two of their three biggest areas of need this year, but Kiper does not have them addressing the third at this point. Instead, he sees them pick up another linebacker, likely solidifying the position for the next few years as Miami rolls out a starting corps of Jelani Jenkins, Alonso, and:
Myles Jack, linebacker, UCLA.
The move would be a perfect one for the Dolphins, though there are other options that could be considered here, including potentially doubling down on the cornerback position instead, targeting Florida's Vernon Hargreaves, who Kiper has being selected ninth by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Kiper explains his pick of Jack, writing, "A top-five player on my board, I think Jack could benefit any team in the league thanks to his skill set at linebacker and special ability to cover from that position." Picking eighth and getting a top five player on the "big board" is never a bad thing - this could be one of the rare situations where best player available and need go hand-in-hand.
How could free agency change Miami's target with this pick? Kiper writes about that as well, "Free-agency effect: The Dolphins could be in the market for a pass-rusher if Olivier Vernon is too expensive, and that could push a guy like Shaq Lawson up the board."
That would not be a bad selection either, especially if Miami loses Vernon but does not land a defensive end in free agency. The team has met with Mario Williams already and is said to have interest in several other pass rushers if they lose Vernon, but drafting a player like Lawson could solve the issue.
Kiper has Lawson, out of Clemson, being selected with the tenth overall pick by the New York Giants.