The Miami Dolphins head into this week’s NFL Draft with three big question marks that need to be answered: linebacker, tight end, and safety. Miami has two starting linebackers in place, but need a third who has tight end and running back coverage abilities. They need a tight end who can threaten the seam and be a receiving threat for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. And, they need a safety who can cover and become a true free safety, allowing Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald to focus on their strengths, playing in the box.
In his latest 2018 NFL Mock Draft, SB Nation’s Dan Kadar checks off at least one of those needs with his first selection for the Dolphins.
Kadar starts with the Cleveland Browns selecting Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen with the top pick, then the New York Giants adding Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the second choice. The New York Jets use the third pick to add Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield according to Kadar, then the Cleveland Browns picked North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, with the Denver Broncos using the fifth pick on USC quarterback Sam Darnold.
The Indianapolis Colts opened the second set of five picks with Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson. The seventh choice saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pick up Florida State safety Derwin James, followed by the Chicago Bears selecting Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, the San Francisco 49ers adding Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, and the Oakland Raiders picking Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward.
That probably leaves Miami selecting between Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, and Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea. Kadar gives the Dolphins the safety who can work both in coverage and playing centerfield.
Kadar wrote of the pick:
11. Miami Dolphins: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
The Dolphins may have two safeties in Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald, but they’re both box safeties who are lacking in coverage. Fitzpatrick should be able to play single high safety roaming in space.
Fitzpatrick makes a ton of sense for the Dolphins, and is probably one of their top-three (non-quarterback) choices. He gives them the ability to play deep as a true free safety, but they could line him up in coverage over receivers, tight ends, or running backs, and he also has the flexibility to play in the box, either as a run-supporting safety or even as a linebacker. Like all rookies, he probably needs some time to develop to the NFL level, but he probably does everything the Dolphins would want from their first-round pick.
Fitzpatrick would likely be a perfect first pick for Miami, who could then use the second and third rounds to answer some of their other needs with some top-rated options.