The Miami Dolphins were expected to spend much of the 2016 NFL Draft addressing needs on defense, especially at cornerback and linebacker. The Draft appeared to be setup for them to solidify that side of the ball with a target rich environment, a task they began in free agency. As the Draft unfolded, however, Miami continually picked up players on offense, addressing the line, running back, wide receiver, tight end, and even quarterback. It was a Draft that should set up the offense for 2016 and the future, but it also confused fans, who aren't happy unless they are going Mach 2 with their hair on fire, and who were fully expecting the defensive heavy draft
The Dolphins did not completely ignore the effort to stop an opposing offense, selecting cornerback Xavien Howard in the second round and safety/cornerback Jordan Lucas in the sixth round. It was the selections of offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil in the first round, running back Kenyan Drake and wide receiver Leonte Carroo in the third round, wide receiver Jakeem Grant in the sixth round, and quarterback Brandon Doughty and tight end Thomas Duarte that should look to assist an offense that scored just 19.4 points a game last year, 27th out of 32 teams.
NFL.com's Lance Zierlein put together a list of six teams in the league who most improved their offenses in the Draft, and the Dolphins find themselves right in the middle of the list. Trailing just the Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams and Houston Texans, Miami comes in as the fourth most improved offenses from the Draft. Zierlein writes about Miami's offensive improvement:
The Dolphins landed an upper-echelon-to-elite talent in Laremy Tunsil, but the totality of their offensive moves was a win on that side of the ball. Kenyan Drake adds a change-of-pace element in the backfield and can also do damage as a pass-catcher. Leonte Carroo will come in and challenge for receiver reps right away, while Texas Tech speedster Jakeem Grant will compete for slot work as well as kick-return duties. The additions of backup quarterback Brandon Doughty and matchup tight end Thomas Duarte could pay off as roster depth this season.
The Dolphins could have landed the top player in the Draft in Tunsil, who fell to Miami with the 13th overall pick after a video of him appearing to smoke marijuana appeared on Tunsil's Twitter account just prior to the start of the first round. Tunsil had been seen as a near consensus first-overall pick prior to the Tennessee Titans trading out of the first spot, allowing the Los Angeles Rams to select quarterback Jared Goff. Tunsil then fell past several teams who could have utilized an offensive lineman, including two teams selecting tackles other than Tunsil. Selecting Tunsil provides Miami with a way to solidify their guard play for 2016, as well as gives them a franchise left tackle of the future for whenever current Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert retires.
Drake should be the wingman on the depth chart behind presumed starter Jay Ajayi, though the team could allow an open competition for the top spot on the depth chart. Drake has the speed to break any play at any time, and, once he adjusts to the speed of the NFL, he should be another option for Miami, and provide a solid safety valve in the passing game for quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Perhaps the most surprising move for Miami was the selection of Carroo, for whom Miami traded back into the third round to select. The Dolphins were not seen as needing a wide receiver, with Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills appearing to be set at the top of the depth chart. Carroo, however, was apparently a specifically targeted player for Miami, a player for whom they would ignore the fact that the pattern was full and go ahead and buzz the tower - they went and got the player they wanted.
Grant should immediately become the Dolphins primary returner (though Drake could also factor into the role), which free Landry, Miami's top receiver, from playing the special teams role. Grant fell in the Draft due to his size (5-foot-7), but he fills Miami's need for speed and makes him an intriguing option, both as a returner and on offense, where he could play in the slot or come out of the backfield.
As Zierlein wrote, Doughty and Duarte both should provide depth for the Dolphins, with neither player needing to see much - if any - playing time this year. Duarte, who played primarily as a split-out tight end in college, needs to develop his in-line and blocking skills, but he does give Miami some flexibility in multiple tight-end sets - which could see him make some appearances this year if he can establish himself during training camp and the Preseason.
The Dolphins really did engage the offense in the Draft, targeting players they wanted and going up to get them. After adding veterans to the defense in free agency, the offense added younger players, some of whom should make immediate contributions while others develop into future starters or key reserves. It was a great Draft for Miami's offense, and hopefully for the team as a whole. The Dolphins will be looking to use their new offensive weapons - that's right, they are dangerous - to take it to opposing defenses, get some butts, and finally start putting some points on the board.
(Side note: Happy 30th anniversary to Top Gun, released May 16, 1986.)