This 2019 Miami Dolphins team looks dramatically different than the 2018 iteration of the squad. As many as nine starting players from last season are now in different uniforms, meaning the team’s starting lineup in August will sport plenty of new faces. As the draft approaches, I’m taking a look who’s in line to start if the season were to begin today.
Note: This is entirely my estimation of who would be starting if the Dolphins played today and is not pulled from any official depth chart.
Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Running back: Kenyan Drake
Wide receiver: Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson, DeVante Parker
Tight end: Mike Gesicki
Offensive line: Laremy Tunsil (LT), Isaac Asiata (LG), Daniel Kilgore (C), Jesse Davis (RG), Zach Sterup (RT)
Despite the recent roster purge, Miami’s skill positions still possess plenty of talent. Kenyan Drake is lightning in a bottle at the running back position and is a home run threat every time he touches the ball. He can run between the tackles, bounce a run outside with quickness and breakaway speed, and is a fantastic receiver out of the backfield. He also learned to block better behind Frank Gore last season.
The team’s top three wide receivers have a nice blend of speed and playmaking ability, and DeVante Parker provides needed size on the outside. Unfortunately, Dolphins fans have waited four seasons for Parker to make an impact worthy of his first-round pedigree, and very little has materialized in that regard. It remains to be seen whether former New England Patriots wide receivers coach and new Dolphins offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea (who was known to get the most out of his receivers in New England), can turn things around for the enigmatic pass catcher.
At quarterback, the obvious change from Ryan Tannehill to journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick signals that the Dolphins are in search of a young gun to take over in the near future. Fitzpatrick is intelligent, a commensurate leader, and can win games. He’ll add some spice to what will likely be a trying season in Miami.
On the offensive line, franchise left tackle Laremy Tunsil is back for what should be another very solid season. Miami would be wise to keep him around for a long time as he’s developed into a top-tier player at one of football’s most valuable positions. 31-year old center Daniel Kilgore is also returning after only playing four games last season. He’s likely a stopgap option at the position given that the Dolphins are in search of younger help on the interior. Jesse Davis is the final returning starter, and he’ll get a shot at keeping his job at right guard. His performance last season was middling and there’s a chance the coaching staff tries him at right tackle as well, a position he’s played in the past.
Isaac Asiata and Zach Sterup have done very little on the field for the Dolphins during their tenure with the team, and they’re just as likely to spend all season on the bench as they are to start. General manager Chris Grier will absolutely bring competition in through the draft along the o-line.
At tight end, the Dolphins brought on Dwayne Allen and Clive Walford through free agency, and though I see the team running two tight end sets, Gesicki should get a chance to start given his draft pedigree and talent level. With that said, Allen should see plenty of snaps, especially in the run game.
Defensive line: Charles Harris (DE), Davon Godchaux (DT), Akeem Spence (DT), Jonathan Woodard (DE)
Linebacker: Kiko Alonso, Raekwon McMillan, Jerome Baker
Cornerback: Xavien Howard, Eric Rowe, Bobby McCain (nickel)
Safety: Reshad Jones, Minkah Fitzpatrick
Miami’s starting lineup on defense is hard to pin down at this point. It remains to be seen whether the team will run a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme, and in all likelihood, the result will be a combination of the two.
We also don’t yet know how the defensive backfield will look given that Minkah Fitzpatrick, Reshad Jones, and T.J. McDonald are all starting caliber safeties, yet it will be tough to keep all three on the field at the same time if Bobby McCain retains his starting role as nickel cornerback (which he should), and Fitzpatrick is moved to his natural free safety position permanently. My guess is that Brian Flores will have a great deal of fun moving all of these talented players around.
Flores will have a significantly less fun time finding a number two boundary cornerback to start opposite star Xavien Howard. No one on Miami’s current roster has shown any consistent ability to take on a starting role, so count on Grier to take a shot at the position during the draft. Right now, I have Eric Rowe penciled in for the number two role since he has some starting experience and flashed in New England.
On the defensive line, the Dolphins have very little to show for with regards to a pass rush. Charles Harris has been an utter disappointment on the edge and his compatriots at the position don’t instill any confidence in Dolphins fans. Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor have been solid young pieces on the interior, and veteran Akeem Spence is a reliable, albeit unexciting option.
Linebacker is probably the team’s most steady position going into next season. Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker got better with each passing game last year and Kiko Alonso is one of the most high-motor defenders in the league. He’s also routinely underrated by most football fans. The coaching staff knows how valuable his experience, leadership, and ability are on the defense.
All factors considered, help is needed throughout the roster, so expect Grier to select the best player available in next month’s draft regardless of position. Trading down to add more picks, and therefore more depth, should be anticipated as well.