It is officially the season of water-cooler draft analysis. Sure, it’s fun for your coworkers to all think that their team is going to draft Ezekiel Elliott because they watched him in the National Championship game, but it isn’t accurate.
The Miami Dolphins now have to be hoping that several key players drop down to their pick, as they moved back in their deal with the Eagles. Several key players have surely caught the team’s eye, so what would it take for those players to fall down to the 13th overall selection?
Vernon Hargreaves (CB, University of Florida):
I would say that out of the "pipe dream" prospects, Hargreaves could be the least far-fetched in terms of the probability that he falls to 13th.
Every team represents a hurdle as the Dolphins attempt to steal a prospect outside of the top 10. In order for them to land Vernon Hargreaves, he will have to clear three substantial obstacles:
Earlier in the process, when Miami was picking 8th, the team would have benefitted from an extra QB rising into the top five selections. Now, they need QB’s to drop.
The team’s best chance at Hargreaves getting past the Eagles is if they can select Jared Goff or Carson Wentz 8th overall. Philadelphia could not be delusional enough to think that Sam Bradford is their franchise quarterback. So, it makes sense that if a passer fell to their range that they would pull the trigger.
Regardless, the Buccaneers seem somewhat likely to pass on Vernon Hargreaves after signing Brent Grimes. However, their strategy depends on Alteraun Verner. When the Buccaneers signed Verner as a free agent from the Titans, he was supposed to become the number one corner in their secondary. That has not worked out, and the team brought in Grimes to add some temporary reinforcement. However, the Buccaneers could also use help on the offensive and defensive line. The team needs to keep Jameis Winston upright and develop a pass rush on the other side of the ball. If they feel either of those needs are more crucial, then there is a good chance Hargreaves slips out of the top 10.
The New York Giants have a philosophy of building through the defensive/offensive lines, and they will likely look towards those positions in the draft. Especially after signing Janoris Jenkins, they cannot invest a first round pick in a cornerback.
The Chicago Bears have a similar philosophy in terms of building on the line but do not have any assets in the secondary. The team is still looking to replace Charles Tillman. However, they also have one of the NFL’s worst pass rushes. They need to pressure opposing quarterbacks and might not be able to pass on one of the stellar linemen in this year’s class.
The New Orleans Saints do not represent a threat in my eyes; they have so many other needs and want to acquire an instant contributor that can help them get back to the playoffs. They know that Drew Brees’ time is running short, and they cannot afford to let the receiving corps or pass rush slip any longer.
So, if those situations unfold as the Dolphins hope, Vernon Hargreaves could be available with the 13th overall pick. The team would be able to select one of the draft’s best defensive backs and sure up a secondary that looks to be a huge red flag heading into 2016.
Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame):
This isn’t the sexy pick, but the Dolphins need a left tackle that can step in for Branden Albert after this season. Albert is getting older and has a history of injuries. The team needs to find his replacement.
The main hurdles in being able to acquire Ronnie Stanley are the Ravens, Buccaneers, Giants, Bears, and Saints.
So no, it doesn’t look great.
I see Stanley’s floor as the 10th overall pick with the Giants. Their team was built in the trenches, and they can rejuvenate the offensive line by selecting the tackle out of Notre Dame.
All of the other teams mentioned above have strong reasons for selecting Stanley as well. In the NFL, you can’t succeed unless your quarterback is upright. Joe Flacco, Jameis Winston, Jay Cutler, and Drew Brees could all be facing subpar protection in 2016, giving their teams plenty of reason to use their first-round pick on an offensive lineman.
It doesn’t seem very probable that Stanley reaches the 13th overall pick. If he were to fall that far, regardless of other prospects available, the Dolphins would probably have no choice but to select Stanley.
Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State):
Yes, folks, I saved the best for last.
There are very few prospects in this year’s draft with the level of talent possessed by Ezekiel Elliott. He is definitely the top player at his position and should be able to contribute instantly on an NFL roster.
The Dolphins have struggled to create a talented running back rotation this offseason. The team had Lamar Miller signed away from them, and then had C.J. Anderson yanked back by the Denver Broncos. Now, with Jay Ajayi as the only solid player on the roster for that position, the Dolphins need help.
Ezekiel Elliott could feasibly fall to the Dolphins. It wouldn’t be easy, but there is a shot.
The first team that could select Elliott is Dallas. The team lacks a true threat at running back and had their best season in recent memory when they placed the load on DeMarco Murray. Now, could they look to reinforce the position? The answer, in all likelihood, is no.
While Elliott is a very good running back, the position’s short shelf life and lower value make it difficult to justify choosing him over a player like Deforest Buckner or Joey Bosa.
There is then a relatively safe period for the Dolphins if their hope is to land Elliott. The Jaguars, Ravens, and 49ers are all likely to pass on the Ohio State prospect. Then, we enter the danger zone.
The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants are the main obstacles standing between the Miami Dolphins and Ezekiel Elliott. The Eagles need help at running back, and the Giants can use any help they can get with a roster that appears to require talent at all but two positions (QB and WR).
The only situations in which the Eagles pass on Elliott involve either a quarterback or Hargreaves. If Jared Goff or Carson Wentz fall to the Eagles at pick number 8, they will in all likelihood pull the trigger. If not, the team could consider drafting Vernon Hargreaves. The Eagles already have Ryan Matthews and almost surely place cornerback as a higher need on their board, even over running back.
The Giants look to be the floor for Ezekiel Elliott. They could have one of the most dynamic offenses in the league if they were to pair him with Manning and Beckham. However, drafting running backs early is not the Giants’ prerogative. The team has built themselves on the defensive and offensive line and will probably focus their attention on those positions rather than focusing on skill players. However, with Odell Beckham being their best shot at continued success, they might flow with football’s revolution towards offense and try to secure their running back of the future.
If Ezekiel Elliott can make it past those two teams, he should fall right to the Dolphins. The Bears have John Fox as their head coach, and Fox has made a living by getting it done with a committee of backs. After Chicago’s pick, the Saints will be on the clock. They already have Mark Ingram and need to help their disastrous defensive roster.
Ezekiel Elliott falling to the Dolphins would be outstanding for the team, and if he makes it past the Cowboys, Eagles, and Giants, the Dolphins’ hopes of landing the star running back could become reality.
The Miami Dolphins’ trade to move from 8th to 13th could seem like a curse rather than a blessing at this point. They appear to have slid out of a position to select one of the draft’s top players and seem set to settle on a prospect that sits in the middle of the pack. However, the Dolphins could see a payoff in this massive risk.
If one of the aforementioned prospects happens to slip to the 13th overall pick, the Miami Dolphins surely won the trade. They filled needs on their roster and managed to still select a top player in this hypothetical.
The other consideration is that this year’s talent is strong even through Miami’s current position in the draft. The team will be able to find talent on defense regardless, with one of the deepest defensive line classes in recent memory.
Overall, the Dolphins will need plenty of help to land one of the draft’s top prospects. If they don’t slide to 13, it is not the end of the world. If they do fall in one of the situations discussed above, the Dolphins could be the clear winners of their trade with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The moral of the story: whether or not a top prospect slips, the Dolphins will be fine….but it would be pretty nice for Dolphins fans to see Hargreaves, Elliott, or Stanley wearing an aqua jersey in 2016.