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Todd McShay’s 2018 mock draft 1.0 has Dolphins filling need

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NFL: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL season has reached the final three weeks of the year, with teams trying to position themselves for the postseason. It also means, it is the time of the year to start looking ahead toward 2018, and specifically the 2018 NFL Draft. ESPN’s Todd McShay released his first projection for the draft this week, giving a run down of where teams could be looking in April.

McShay does immediately point out that “a ton will change between now and April 26, including the final draft order, team needs, free agency and grades on many of our top prospects as they go through the postseason process.” What makes mock drafts useful this early is not necessarily who each team is projected to select, but rather using the projection as a chance to learn some of the names who will be making news throughout the draft process.

In McShay’s 2018 NFL Mock Draft 1.0, he starts with two quarterbacks with the top two selections, then a third in the top five. Sam Darnold from USC is selected with the top pick by the Cleveland Browns, followed by Josh Rosen being selected by the New York Giants, theoretically giving both teams their franchise quarterbacks. Before the third quarterback is selected, the Indianapolis Colts use the third overall pick on North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Church and the San Francisco 49ers select Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick with the fourth selection. The Denver Broncos then use their fifth overall pick to select Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen.

Jumping to the Miami Dolphins with the 14th overall selection, McShay projects the team to grab an offensive lineman:

14. Miami Dolphins

Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame*

Guard is a glaring need for the Dolphins, who need to protect whomever is at QB and get more push in the running game. Nelson is the most NFL-ready offensive lineman in this class and a road-grader (listed at 6-foot-5, 325 pounds). He's ready to start right away.

Nelson seems to be a popular early pick for the Dolphins at this point, and he does make a lot of sense. Miami needs to finally fix their offensive line, and that could mean multiple players selected along the line throughout the three-day draft process. Adding a top guard who is “ready to start right away” could be the smartest pick the team can make. Opening running lanes for Kenyan Drake in 2018, and, maybe more importantly, protecting Ryan Tannehill as he returns from his knee injury, will be paramount to the team’s success next year, and Nelson is one step in that process.

As McShay said, plenty will change between now and the actual draft, but Nelson could be a name we see next to the Dolphins’ pick throughout most of the offseason.