The 2017 NFL Draft is over, and the undrafted free agent frenzy is underway. The Miami Dolphins selected seven players during the three-day Draft, and, reportedly, will sign 14 undrafted free agents. What did we learn from the Dolphins during this year’s draft? We have five things that stand out.
1. The Dolphins were willing to wait out the board.
Last year’s draft and the history of Mike Tannenbaum with the New York Jets all pointed to the Dolphins being active traders throughout the Draft. This year, despite a record number of trades made across the league, the Dolphins seemed content to sit back and wait for the board to come to them. They did make a trade up in the fifth round, but even then, it was a two spot trade, and they did not lose a pick, only dropping a fifth round pick back into a sixth round pick as compensation. Miami’s other trade was a trade back in the seventh round, while adding a seventh round pick in next year’s draft. The Dolphins were patient this year.
2. Miami was well aware of their visits.
The Dolphins admitted after their first-round pick of Missouri defensive end Charles Harris that they deliberately did not visit with him after an initial meeting at the NFL Scouting Combine. The team conducted an interview with Harris there, but then did not hold any other meetings or invite him to the team facilities for a private workout. Armando Salguero pointed out during the Draft that Miami only met with one of their first three picks, Clemson cornerback Cordrea Tankersley, prior to the Draft. The Dolphins seemed aware that they met with most of their draft picks in 2016, so they flipped it in 2017 in order to make it less obvious who they were targeting.
3. The Dolphins knew their needs and made sure to address them.
Prior to the draft, everyone knew the Dolphins were looking to upgrade their defense, and their needs were fairly obvious. The team needed a linebacker, guard, cornerback, defensive end, defensive tackle, and safety. By the end of the three rounds, Miami had added all of those except safety - but they did it in a way to make sure they were not “reaching” for a player and that they were still picking some of the best players available. It was an effective method, with Harris filling the defensive end need in the first round, Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan filling that need in the second round, Tankersley filling the cornerback need in the third round, Utah’s Isaac Asiata filling the guard need in the fifth round, and a double down at defensive tackle with LSU’s Davon Godchaux in the fifth and Oklahoma State’s Vincent Taylor in the sixth round.
4. Miami is planning for the future as much as they are worried about 2017.
The Dolphins are going to be looking toward some of these new rookies to step into starting roles immediately, but they are probably set up well in case the rookies cannot beat out some of the other players on the roster already. Harris will likely start the season behind Cameron Wake and Andre Branch at defensive end. McMillan should be able to find a starting role, probably as a strong-side linebacker, but he could find himself behind a healthy Koa Misi, with McMillan developing to be a middle linebacker whenever Lawrence Timmons is no longer with the team. Tankersley is probably behind Byron Maxwell and Xavien Howard on the depth chart, but should see plenty of playing time throughout the season. Asiata will likely compete for the starting left guard position, and he probably can win that through Ted Larsen, Kraig Urbik, and Anthony Steen will all be in play as well. Godchaux and Taylor are rotational defensive ends behind Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips, while seventh-round pick, Virginia Tech wide receiver Isaiah Ford, will be a depth option behind Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills. The Dolphins drafted players who have talent, but also could use time to develop that talent at the NFL level. Miami wants to see the rookie find their role on the depth chart, but none of them appear to be destined to make-or-break the Dolphins this year.
5. Matt Burke is in position to put his stamp on the Dolphins.
The Miami Dolphins promoted Matt Burke from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator this offseason, replacing Vance Joseph who was hired as the Denver Broncos’ head coach after one season as Miami’s defensive coordinator. Dolphins Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum joked after the conclusion of the seventh round that Burke had become a permanent member of the front office, and, with the five defensive selections in seven picks, it can be seen why the joke made sense. The Dolphins, for the first time in their franchise history, used their first three picks to fill spots on the defense, and they were the last team to make an offensive pick this season, adding Asiata in the fifth round. Burke moves into his first year as a defensive coordinator with a ton of new talent coming to the roster. How he develops and uses it could go a long way to determining his success in his new role.