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NFL Mock Draft 2019: Mel Kiper’s ‘Grade-A’ projection has Miami addressing defense, quarterback

NFL: NFL Draft Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today, SB Nation announced my selection in the 2019 SB Nation NFL Writers Mock Draft, with the Miami Dolphins using the 13th overall pick on Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor. You can check out my reasoning behind that pick in that article as well as in my “media availability” just after the pick was announced. Continuing with today’s heavy mock draft theme, we take a look now at the latest from ESPN’s Mel Kiper.

Kiper posted his “Grade A” 2019 NFL Mock Draft yesterday. This is the mock draft in which he does not utilize the rumors and stories he is hearing from around the league, but rather makes each team’s pick based on what he would do if he were the team’s general manager. Basically, he is making the picks for each team that would make draft analyst Kiper give the team an “A” on their draft grade after the selection process is completed.

Kiper mocked the first three rounds of the Draft in this version.

For the Miami Dolphins, he started in the best place for the team to start this year - the line of scrimmage. While I selected Taylor to solidify Miami’s offensive line, Kiper instead addressed what could be the biggest hole on the club’s roster, defensive end. Miami’s current roster of defensive end Tank Carradine, Charles Harris, Jeremiah Valoaga, and Jonathan Woodard have a combined 10.5 career sacks. Former Dolphins pass rusher Cameron Wake, who signed with the Tennessee Titans in free agency this year, has averaged 9.8 sacks per season over his ten years with the Dolphins. Even if you add linebacker Jayrone Elliott, who led the Alliance of American Football, in sacks this year, Miami’s sacks number expands to a combined 14.5 career sacks in the league.

Adding a pass rusher makes a lot of sense, and Kiper has Miami selecting Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary in the first round.

The second round pick is a little questionable, however. Kiper has Miami adding Florida safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson with the 48th overall pick. The Dolphins currently have three starters at after, with Reshad Jones, T.J. McDonald, and Minkah Fitzpatrick all looking to play one of the (presumed) two starting spots. Gardner-Johnson is a player who could be asked to play cornerback, but he is a natural free safety, patrolling centerfield and going up to get the ball - exactly the role Fitzpatrick should be playing this year. I disagree with Kiper’s pick here, especially if he is trying to give an A to the Dolphins for making this pick.

Some players who were selected relatively close to Miami’s pick who I think would have made more sense are Ohio State defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones (50 to the Minnesota Vikings), Notre Dame defensive tackle Jerry Tillery (56 to the New England Patriots), or Florida outside linebacker Jachai Polite (63 to the Kansas City Chiefs).

Kiper gives Miami their developmental quarterback in the third round, adding Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham to the team’s roster. There are a lot of question marks surrounding Stidham after Auburn had a down year in 2018, but that is the point. Auburn as a whole had question marks last year, and Stidham lost his confidence. As a third-round pick who will be asked to be the backup behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, Stidham can be coached up and not expected to be the “franchise” guy from day one. He can develop and find his confidence again. And, he would be competition in 2020 for a rookie likely to be selected.

I really like the potential of Stidham, so I like this selection from Kiper.

Here is what he had to say about his “Grade A” draft for the Dolphins:

If the Giants are undergoing a rebuild, what should we call what the Dolphins are doing this offseason? They have stripped their roster of talent -- and salary -- under a new regime, parting ways with starters Ryan Tannehill, Robert Quinn, Cameron Wake, Ja’Wuan James and Danny Amendola, among others. They have holes all over the roster, which makes this a tough pick.

This is about where Gary’s floor is in the draft -- he could go as high as No. 4. And he’d be the Dolphins’ most talented pass-rusher as soon as he hits the field. Their top returning sacker is linebacker Jerome Baker, who had only three last season. Gary has enormous potential; the issue is getting that potential out of him every play.

Gardner-Johnson is a versatile safety who could play down in the box or cover the deep middle of the field. Stidham is a project; he had a down 2018 season in a run-oriented offense. But he has an intriguing tool set that will likely see him picked on Day 2. The team that takes him probably doesn’t want him to see the field as a rookie, but with Ryan Fitzpatrick as the No. 1 in Miami, this might be the spot where he’s most likely to play early.

What do you think of Kiper’s mock? Are the Dolphins on the right path with Gary, Gardner-Johnson, and Stidham?