Grading the NFL draft two days after it’s over, is foolish. I get that. But we have a long ways to go until these rookies take the field, and I’m not waiting until late August to do a write up on this year’s draft class. As I did in year’s past, I will eventually do a film breakdown of each player, but until then, here is my report card on the 2018 Miami Dolphins draft class.
#11 - Minkah Fitzpatrick, Safety, Alabama
Thanks to a heavy run on quarterbacks, and the Arizona Cardinals leap-frogging the Dolphins for Josh Rosen, Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick fell directly into Chris Grier’s lap. Minkah was one of the ten best players in this year’s class, but most importantly he fills a hole at a significant area of need. Miami does have two very good safeties in Reshad Jones and T.J McDonald, but neither can do the things Fitzpatrick can do in coverage. His natural fit is at free safety, where he can read and react accordingly. However, he’s far more than that. Fitzpatrick can play on the outside, he can play in the nickel, and he can even drop down and play in the box. He CAN do it all! The addition of Fitzpatrick in Matt Burke’s defense, allows Jones and McDonald to rover around, and maybe even play more in the box as an additional linebacker. This is the best first-round pick the Dolphins have had since Jake Long, in my opinion. And when all is said and done, I think he has the potential to be one of the better players in the franchise’s long-storied history.
Grade - A+
#42 - Mike Gesicki, Tight End, Penn State
Heading into this year’s draft, the tight end position was arguably the team’s greatest need. Gone are the days of Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas, it is now the Mike Gesicki era in Miami. Gesicki had one of the best combines EVER at the tight end position. He’s a big, strong, fast, play-maker, that can make all the catches. Over his last two seasons at Penn State, Gesicki dropped just five of 110 catchable passes (PFF) and will become one of Tannehill’s favorite targets sooner, rather than later. His big body will create mismatches on the outside, and he will undoubtedly become a heavy-target in the red zone. Where he lacks in blocking, Gesicki makes up for it elsewhere, and could quickly become one of the better tight ends in the NFL.
Grade - A
#73- Jerome Baker, Linebacker, Ohio State
Last season, the Dolphins severely lacked speed on the defensive side of the football, primarily at the linebacker position. With the addition of Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker, that is no longer the case. Baker is similar in size to Roquan Smith and will be an ideal fit at weakside linebacker. His speed allows him to run stride for stride with tight ends, something Miami has struggled with for the better part of a decade. Baker is a sure-tackler and has the ability to make plays off the edge. He will be reunited with Raekwon McMillan, his teammate at Ohio State. Ironically enough, Baker played his best football alongside Raekwon and the Dolphins hope to field similar results reuniting the duo. A much needed addition in the middle of the Dolphins defense and it won’t be long until Baker breaks the starting lineup.
Grade - B+
#123 Durham Smythe, Tight End, Notre Dame
We all know that Mike Gesicki isn’t a natural blocker. Where he lacks in blocking, Durham Smythe makes up for it. Smythe is a grinder and although he never really saw many targets at Notre Dame, he flashed when given the opportunities. Smythe is a similar player to Anthony Fasano, and will help immediately as a blocking tight end. His ability to catch the football will help in two-tight end sets, but ultimately, he’s going to be doing the grunt work. Smythe will play a crucial role for the Dolphins and coupled with Mike Gesicki, gives the team much needed flexibility at a significant area of need
Grade - B
#131 Kalen Ballage, Running Back, Arizona State
Kenyan Drake broke out in 2017 and will look to continue his success in 2018 as the Dolphins starting running back. However, with the departure of Damien Williams in free agency, Miami desperately needed to fill the void left behind. Miami native Frank Gore was brought in to help, but his career is nearing an end. Enter Kalen Ballage, an explosive running back out of Arizona State that once scored 8, yes that’s right, 8 touchdowns in a college football game. Ballage is similar in size and structure as Drake, and will be a factor in both the run and passing game. He doesn’t shy away from contact and has the ability to hit the big play with every opportunity. Ballage will make an impact immediately as a return man, and will be the #2 running back before season’s end.
Grade - B
#209 Cornell Armstrong, Defensive Back, Southern Mississippi
Armstrong is a physical, scrappy, cornerback that can play both inside and outside in a traditional 4-3 defense. After being drafted by the Dolphins, Armstrong said he mirrored his game off of Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Brent Grimes, and looks forward to the opportunity to prove his worth. If Armstrong plans on making the team’s final 53-man roster, he will have to make a lasting impression on special teams. Time will tell if he has what it takes to be a solid NFL cornerback, but he’s ready for the opportunity.
Grade - C
#227 Quentin Poling, Linebacker, Ohio
Much like Armstrong, Poling will have to make an impression on special teams, if he wants to stick on the Dolphins 53-man roster. Poling was the Bobcats leading tackler in three of his four seasons, and was a real factor in pass coverage. He’s fast, but needs to continue to play at a high level if he wants to stick with the Dolphins.
Grade - C+
#229 Jason Sanders, Kicker, New Mexico
Not sure how to feel about drafting a kicker that has made 25/35 field goals throughout his career, but what’s done is done. Sanders will battle in camp with UDFA Greg Joseph out of Florida Atlantic. It will be hard for either player to live up to Cody Parkey’s 2017 campaign, but someone must fill the void.
Grade - C-
At the end of the day, these rankings are dumb. To grade a player based on college tape and how they could project in the NFL, is foolish. But nevertheless, that’s the nature of the beast. On paper, the Dolphins had one hell of a draft and if their first five picks pan out, this will be one of the better drafts in recent memory. The Dolphins landed immediate starters at free safety and tight end and will likely see Baker and Ballage continue sooner than later. Great teams draft well, and it appears Chris Grier and Adam Gase are beginning to hit their stride. It is anyone’s guess as to whether or not these players will ever live up to the hype. But on paper, this was one of the Dolphins better drafts in recent memory.
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This article was written by Josh Houtz. Follow him on Twitter!