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Miami Dolphins Rookie Expectations for 2017 and Beyond

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What can we expect from Miami’s 2017 draft class?

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Ohio State Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone, and the incoming class of 2017 rookies for each team has been set.

The Dolphins came into the draft with a very simple plan: solidify the defense and add depth where necessary. What was different between Miami’s draft plan and many other teams’ is that the Dolphins drafted to set themselves up for the future rather than just right now. They were afforded that luxury because the front office did a masterful job keeping its own players in town during free agency. With that in mind, what can we expect to see from Miami’s young rookie talent this upcoming season and into the future?

Round 1 (22): DE Charles Harris

With their first pick in the draft, the Dolphins selected Cameron Wake’s eventual successor as Miami’s menace off the edge. Charles Harris is joining a team with aging, albeit still productive pass rushers. The Dolphins’ two starters, Wake and Andre Branch, are 35 and 27 years of age, respectively. Third on the depth chart is 31 year old run-stop specialist William Hayes. Harris will likely start training camp as the fourth man in the rotation, and possibly work his way up to third string by week 1 of the regular season. Harris is one of the most talented pass rushers in this year’s draft class, yet he still has work to do on his run defense skills. Because of this, he will likely start out as a pass rush specialist who comes into the game on obvious passing downs. Despite not coming in as a starter right off the bat, there is no doubt that Harris will still make key contributions all season, likely playing 30-40 snaps a game. As the season progresses, Harris will learn from veterans like Wake and Hayes, allowing him to develop and be ready to emerge as a star player for years to come.

Round 2 (54): LB Raekwon McMillan

McMillan is one of my favorite picks by the Dolphins this year. While some had him graded as a third round prospect, according to GM Chris Grier, he was the best player on Miami’s draft board by the time his name was called. The linebacker position was arguably the Dolphins’ top need coming into this draft, and McMillan fills that void perfectly. I project him to come in as a day 1 starter, lining up as the Dolphins’ starting strong side linebacker. McMillan had over 100 tackles in each of his last two seasons at Ohio State, and was a defensive captain both years. He has a rugged and gritty playing style, taking on ball carriers with full force and never shying away from contact. Despite lacking top tier athleticism, he is a sure tackler, possesses impressive instincts, and has unique intelligence. It is that intelligence that won over the Dolphins’ front office and swayed them to select him with the 54th overall pick. By adding McMillan to the linebacker unit to play alongside run stuffer Lawrence Timmons and budding star Kiko Alonso, our 30th ranked run defense from last season should be drastically improved. McMillan should also have an instant impact on the attitude of the team as a whole. Let’s also not forget that once Timmons is done in Miami, McMillan will be the top candidate to take over at middle linebacker and become the leader of the defense.

Round 3 (97): CB Cordrea Tankersley

Tankersley has the prototypical size for a cornerback in Miami’s defense. He measures 6’1” and weighs just a shade under 200 lbs. Over the past two years as a starter on Clemson’s championship defense, Tankersley has accumulated 9 interceptions and 20 passes defended. He’s also played significant time on special teams, and that is where I see him spending the majority of his time on the field for Miami this upcoming season. Despite his clear talent on film and his experience as a leader in Clemson’s secondary, Miami already has a crowded cornerback room. Tankersley is also known to have issues defending the run, something that Adam Gase values in his cornerbacks. That’s not to say that Tankersley will not contribute at all on defense. With Byron Maxwell and Xavien Howard as the presumptive starters on the outside for Miami, Tankersley will have the opportunity to compete with Tony Lippett and Bobby McCain for the number three role, or even for time in the slot. Given the opportunity to develop and adjust to the NFL game, Tankersley’s size and ability should eventually push him up the depth chart and allow him to become Howard’s partner on the outside, especially once Maxwell’s salary makes him expendable.

Round 5 (164): OG Isaac Asiata

Miami found the most value in the 2017 draft when they selected offensive guard Isaac Asiata, a prospect with a third round grade, in the fifth round of the draft. Last season, the majority of Miami’s offensive success was a result of a dominant power run game lead by emerging running back Jay Ajayi. However, the play of the offensive line significantly helped pave the way for Ajayi’s production. With Branden Albert’s departure to Jacksonville and Laremy Tunsil sliding to his natural position at left tackle, a vacancy appeared at left guard. Although Miami has some stop-gap options to fill that spot such as Ted Larsen and Kraig Urbik, a long term solution at the position was needed. That’s where Asiata comes in. Asiata is by no means a polished linemen, or else he would not have been available at pick 164. There is, however, no doubt he has the potential to become a solid starter. He led all offensive linemen at the combine in the bench press with 35 reps and is a hulking force who can push around defensive linemen of all sizes. He should come into training camp and instantly challenge Larsen for the starting left guard position, and at the very least, provide depth should injuries strike as the season progresses. With veteran help and good coaching, he could develop into Miami’s left guard of the future.

Round 5 (178): DT Davon Godchaux

With this pick, Miami again did a great job filling a need and adding depth to the defense. Despite having superstar Ndamukong Suh and rising youngster Jordan Phillips at defensive tackle, the Dolphins had little rotational depth at the position coming into the draft. Phillips has also been known to have his performance fall off as games progress, meaning adding a young defensive tackle to give him rest at times was a must. Godchaux is a behemoth of a man. The 22 year old sits at 6’3” and weighs 310 lbs. He recorded 12.5 sacks over two years (a high number for a DT), and his presence alone should assist in run defense. While I don’t project him to be a starter any time soon, with Suh as a mentor, he should develop into a quality rotational player.

Round 6 (194): DT Vincent Taylor

Taylor has exceptional upper body strength and off the snap quickness, which has led to solid sack and tackle-for-loss numbers over the past few seasons. He will come into training camp fighting with Godchaux for the third defensive tackle spot behind Suh and Phillips. Dolphins fans should expect that whoever takes over that spot in the rotation will be the far greater contributor in 2017.

Round 7 (237): WR Isaiah Ford

Ford is the definition of a flyer pick. Wide receiver was Miami’s lowest need coming into the draft, yet they took one with the potential to hold onto a back-end roster spot with the hopes that he can develop into a contributor sometime in the future. Despite the fact that he lacks the ideal top speed of an outside receiver, Ford is able to quickly accelerate off the line of scrimmage to gain separation early in his routes. He also knows how to use his height to his advantage. Ford has an uphill climb to see any relevant snaps this year with Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, and Leonte Carroo all on the depth chart, but he will challenge Jakeem Grant for a roster spot as the season rolls closer.