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2018 NFL Draft Grades: Miami Dolphins look good

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2018 NFL Draft Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The NFL Draft has come and gone, with all 256 players selected. The Miami Dolphins added eight players during the three day selection process, addressing many of their needs, while picking up some of the top rated players available. Overall, it seems like it was a good draft for the Dolphins, but what are the pundits saying? We take a look this morning at the overall draft grades being given to the team.

Miami did not make a trade during the Draft, instead sitting still with their eight picks and seeing how the board fell to them. That is not to say they did not feel out any trade possibilities, both to move up and back throughout the three days, but in the end, they selected in the eight positions they had heading into the start of the Draft on Thursday night.

Miami 2018 Draft Picks

R1.11 (11): Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
R2.10 (42): Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
R3.9 (73): Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State
R4.23 (123) (from CLE via CAR): Durham Smythe, TE, Notre Dame
R4.31 (131) (from NE via PHI): Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State
R6.35 (209) (from LAR via KC): Cornell Armstrong, DB, Southern Miss
R7.9 (227) (from SF): Quentin Poling, LB, Ohio
R7.11 (229): Jason Sanders, K, New Mexico

SB Nation - Dan Kadar

After some expected them to go get a quarterback, the Dolphins held at the No. 11 pick in the first round and Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick dropped into their laps. Fitzpatrick is one of the five best players in the draft, so to get him at 11 was a steal. He can do a little bit of everything for the Dolphins.

The Dolphins had to get a tight end in this draft, and found two in Mike Gesicki in the second round and Durham Smythe in the fourth round. Gesicki is the pass catcher and Smythe is the blocker. That’s a position fixed for the Dolphins. Ohio State’s Jerome Baker is a good depth player, at least, for his coverage skills and athleticism. It wasn’t a shock that the Dolphins took Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage. He’s a good all-around back whom many compared to Kenyon Drake leading up to the draft.

Grade: A- - Chad Reuter

The Dolphins didn’t go get a top-notch quarterback, instead waiting to see if Ryan Tannehill returns healthy and productive. We’ll see if they pick a QB later as a backup plan. I can’t blame them for taking Fitzpatrick, though, as he will push Miami’s defense -- not just secondary -- to another level. With Julius Thomas no longer on the team, the Dolphins needed to find a tight end. Gesicki is a phenomenal athlete, like Thomas, but scouts were concerned about his long strides preventing him from winning against veteran defenders. He’ll be tough to defend against on jump balls, though. Miami needed a linebacker, and Baker can move. They met their top defensive need with that pick. Miami got another tight end in the fourth round, landing a solid blocker/receiver in Smythe. Ballage was a steal in the fourth round, as well, for a team that needed a good, young player at the position behind Frank Gore. They decided not to address the QB position, which may or may not be a good strategy given Ryan Tannehill’s injury history. Offensive and defensive tackle should be high on the priority list when signing undrafted free agents.

Grade: B+

USA Today - Nate Davis

First-round DB Minkah Fitzpatrick should be a slam dunk, not to mention a potentially effective Gronk antidote. Shame TEs Mike Gesicki (2nd round), who can be a downfield weapon, and Durham Smythe (4th), a blocker, couldn’t be melded into one player, but they do eliminate a need. Third-round LB Jerome Baker and fourth-round RB Kalen Ballage have significant boom-or-bust quotients. The void left by DT Ndamukong Suh’s release remains.

Grade: B

Sporting News - Vinnie Iyer

Fitzpatrick fell right into their laps, and he will fill multiple needs in the secondary. Gesicki (receiving) and Smythe (blocking) turn tight end from a weakness into a strength. The issue with this class is it does not include a defensive tackle to replace Ndamukong Suh, and there’s no hint at a QB who could push Ryan Tannehill.

Grade: B-

ESPN - Mel Kiper

This has been an interesting offseason of change for the Dolphins, who have parted ways with several important players, including Ndamukong Suh, Mike Pouncey, Jarvis Landry, Jay Cutler and Julius Thomas. Yes, they’ve added Robert Quinn, Josh Sitton, Danny Amendola, Frank Gore and Albert Wilson, but there are still some sizable holes on the roster. I hear “culture” blamed, but at some point you have to be accountable for what’s on the field. I put the entire offensive line on my list of questions because no spot outside left tackle Laremy Tunsil should be set, and they needed depth at several other positions.

Snagging Minkah Fitzpatrick at No. 11 is a great value. I thought he was a top-five player in this class, but teams got a little scared because he doesn’t have a true position. He’s a little bit of a tweener who doesn’t have true safety measurables. The Dolphins just need to get him on the field. This is one of Nick Saban’s favorite players ever. Mike Gesicki (pick 42) is going to slot straight into Thomas’ spot, but he’s not going to block anybody. He’s a slot receiver with a big -- and super athletic -- frame, and he has good body control.

Jerome Baker (73) is a true cover linebacker with range who will be a core special-teamer and help out on third downs. As McShay pointed out, the defense has been shredded by tight ends, and Fitzpatrick and Baker help. Durham Smythe (123) is a better blocker than receiver. Kalen Ballage (131) is the guy to watch in this class. Surely Adam Gase doesn’t expect to play Gore on every down, and Ballage caught 82 passes in his career.

The one big question coming out of this draft: where was the quarterback? Miami is really going to go into the 2018 season with Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler as its top two QBs. I can’t give a “B” here.

Grade: C+

Bleacher Report - Paul Kasabian

The Miami Dolphins can make the case that they made the best-value picks in Rounds 1 and 2. The first-round argument is easier to make than the second-round one (that winner is likely in the next section), but the Fins picked great players off the bat.

Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was projected to go within the first seven picks of the draft by many throughout the predraft process before mysteriously slipping as late April approached, fell to 11th overall to the Miami Dolphins.

The Fins grabbed an immediate starter who will significantly help a pass defense that ranked 29th in efficiency last season, per Football Outsiders. The Dolphins could also use another playmaker on that side of the ball, especially with Ndamukong Suh now with the Los Angeles Rams.

Miami also picked up another instant contributor in Mike Gesicki, a tight end out of Penn State who was one the best pass-catchers at his position on the Division I level. He should be the starter after Julius Thomas was released in the offseason. Gesicki was a three-sport star in high school and caught 105 passes for 1,244 yards and 14 touchdowns in his last two years as a Nittany Lion.

Those two players could help the Dolphins vault back into the playoffs. The AFC East division title will be a tough task with the New England Patriots standing in the way, but a wild-card bid in what looks like a wide-open conference after the top two or three teams is possible.

Grade: A

Sports Illustrated - Andy Benoit

Is a defensive philosophical shift on the horizon? Coordinator Matt Burke is a Jim Schwartz protégé who believes in a four-man rush and simplified zone coverages that allow defenders to play fast. But you wouldn’t take venerated blitzers like safety/slot man Minkah Fitzpatrick in the first round and outside linebacker Jerome Baker in the third if you didn’t plan on deploying significant pressure packages. Burke has enjoyed coaching dynamic roving safety Reshad Jones, who is one of the league’s best backside blitzers. And Miami did very well with select pressure concepts late last year, including in the Monday night upset over New England. An expanded, more aggressive defensive approach appears imminent.

The Dolphins’ other top three picks in this draft made sense. Adam Gase’s scheme, which is built around unbalanced 3x1 formations, needs a prominent receiving tight end who can split wide by himself on the backside and make catches—and second-rounder Mike Gesicki is built for that. Eight picks after drafting Durham Smythe, a more traditional blocking tight end, the Dolphins used the pick they got in the Jay Ajayi trade on Kalen Ballage. Maybe he’ll be better than Ajayi, but nevertheless, he brings the long-term backfield depth that was needed.

Grade: B

Pro Football Focus - Sam Monson and Steve Palazzolo

Day 1: Minkah Fitzpatrick is a fantastic fit for any defense, but perhaps even more crucial for the Dolphins in the AFC East as they look to eventually overtake the Patriots. Fitzpatrick excelled in Alabama’s “star” role where he covered well from the slot, played the run as well as any corner, and showed well as a blitzer. Covering tight ends and slot receivers is as valuable as ever in today’s NFL, and Fitzpatrick is one of the few players in the draft who has already shown that skillset in college. His three-year production was consistent, as he graded between 81.8 and 88.4, doing his best work in 2016 when he picked off six passes and broke up eight more on only 61 targets.

Day 2: Miami continued their theme of winning in between the numbers with the additions of Mike Gesicki and Jerome Baker. Gesicki crushed the NFL combine and he adds a long, athletic option at tight end. He’s not much of a blocker (50.5 run-block grade in 2017 was career-high), but he had the highest contested-catch rate in the nation among tight ends (75.0 percent) and his long frame allows him to make spectacular catches. Baker adds a much-needed athletic linebacker to the mix though he did his best work in 2016 with an 87.7 overall grade that dropped to 80.9 last season. He’s strong in man-coverage looks, but must improve when playing zone.

Day 3: Durham Smythe showed promise as a run-blocker with an 80.2 grade in 2016, but he regressed back to 54.3 last season. Kalen Ballage could become a pass-game weapon as he has good size and athleticism, and his 86.6 receiving grade from 2016 is the number that gives hope that he can become a better pro than college player. He struggled as a runner in college, grading at only 69.2 last season while averaging just 2.8 yards after contact per rush during his career. Quentin Poling graded between 83.0 and 86.8 in all four years of his career and his run-stop percentage of 10.8 ranked 23rd among linebackers in the draft class in 2017.

Grade: Good

The Phinsider


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