The Miami Dolphins have needs heading into the 2019 NFL Draft. Yes, that may be the understatement of the year. The Dolphins probably have more needs heading into the 2019 NFL Draft than they have roster positions solidified. The Dolphins could select just about any prospect in any round of the Draft and fill a need.
It is almost makes best player available a requirement rather than a luxury at this point.
Though all of that is true, the Dolphins still have draft needs that must be addressed. Some of the needs are more pressing than others, with high and/or multiple draft picks likely to be spent on the position. Here are the team’s top needs:
1. Defensive end
The Dolphins have to find a pass rusher this year, which could mean a first-round pick on the position is in order. The Dolphins current defensive end group includes Tank Carradine, Charles Harris, Jeremiah Valoaga, and Jonathan Woodard, who have a combined 10.5 career sacks. Add in the recently signed linebacker Jarone Elliott, who led the short-lived Alliance of American Football in sacks, and that numbers increases to 14.5 career NFL sacks.
To put than in perspective, in his ten seasons with the Dolphins, Cameron Wake, who signed with the Tennessee Titans this offseason, averaged 9.8 sacks per season - nearly totaling the Dolphins combined career numbers for the position group right now. In 2016, when he played all 16 games, he tallied 10.5 sacks and he has reached or exceed that 10.5 sacks mark for a season five times in his career. In four of the years (2018, 2015, 2013, and 2009) in which he did not reach 10.5, he also did not play in all 16 games.
The Dolphins are going to miss Wake’s production, even if he is closer to the 14 games played, six sack player that they had last year. Replacing him right now in the starting lineup is likely Harris, the team’s 2017 first-round draft choice who will hopefully take a big step forward in his third season. Miami needs to add to the pass rush this year, and they probably need to do it early and often.
Potential targets: Josh Allen, Nick Bosa, Brian Burns, Jaylon Ferguson, Clelin Ferrell, Jachai Polite, Montez Sweat, D’Andre Walker, Chase Winovich, Oshane Ximines
2. Offensive tackle (or guard)
Replacing Ja’Wuan James, who signed with the Denver Broncos, should be the top priority on the offensive line. If the team moves Jesse Davis from right guard to right tackle, maybe the team looks to address guards over tackle, but leaving Davis at guard and adding a top tackle makes the most sense.
Miami’s starting offensive line right now is likely Laremy Tunsil at left tackle, Isaac Asiata at left guard, Daniel Kilgore at center, Jesse Davis at right guard, and Zach Sterup at right tackle. They have Michael Dunn (G), Connor Hilland (C), Jaryd Jones-Smith (T), and Chris Reed (G) as the depth options. Adding a right tackle as an opening day starter would solve a lot of issues for Miami.
Asiata remains a question mark, so do not be surprised if Miami is adding a tackle early and addresses offensive line again later in the Draft.
Potential targets (tackle): Andre Dillard, Chuma Edoga, Cody Ford, Tytus Howard, Greg Little, Kaleb McGary, Isaiah Prince, Dalton Risner, Max Scharping, Jawaan Taylor
Potential targets (interior): Garrett Bradbury, Nate Davis, Michael Detter, Elgton Jenkins, Michael Jordan, Chris Lindstrom, Erick McCoy, Connor McGovern, Drew Samia, Jonah Williams
3. Running back
This was almost wide receiver, because the Dolphins likely need to find their true number one receiver, despite re-signing DeVante Parker this year, but it is a position they could wait until next year to draft. Running back, meanwhile, is a need for the team this year. It may not be an early pick, but at some point, Miami probably has to bring in someone. The roster currently has Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage, and Kenneth Farrow.
That is the entire depth of Miami’s running back group. It is just not enough. Adding depth here is a requirement.
Potential targets: Ryquell Armstead, Damien Harris, Darrell Henderson, Josh Jacobs, Bryce Love, David Montgomery, Miles Sanders, Devin Singletary, Dexter Williams, Trayveon Williams
There are plenty of people who will argue that cornerback is too low here. The only reason is it not up in the third spot is there are options that can solve the issue internally. Xavien Howard is clearly the top of the group - and hopefully the Dolphins re-sign him soon so he is the answer here for a long time - and Bobby McCain should lock down the nickel cornerback spot. It is the position opposite Howard where questions come into play.
If the coaches think they need to get an early cornerback, there should not be complaints. But there is also potential on the roster that, with a defensive head coach like Brian Flores, could still find a way to be productive. Whatever happened with Cordrea Tankersley last year may be able to be fixed so he plays more like the cornerback seen at the end of 2017 than the one who disappeared for much of 2018. Cornell Armstrong and Torry McTyer could also factor into the mix if they can continue to develop. Eric Rose joins the team as a free agent addition. Jalen Davis, Dee Delaney, Jomal Wiltz, and Chris Lammons could all surprise.
And Minkah Fitzpatrick is the wildcard. While he likely ends up as the team’s primary free safety, Miami has two other starting safeties in Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald that could allow the coaching staff to make Fitzpatrick a cornerback.
Potential targets: Deandre Baker, Sean Bunting, Justin Layne, David Long, Julian Love, Trayvon Mullen, Byron Murphy, Greedy Williams, Joejuan Williams, Rock Ya-Sin
People may be screaming right now because quarterback is so far down the list. Yes, the Dolphins have to find their quarterback of the future, and yes, quarterback is the most critical position on the team, but that does not mean Miami NEEDS to grab that top-tier quarterback this year. They seem content with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting, so do not be surprised if they do not add a quarterback until day two or day three of the Draft.
Miami seems to be setting up for 2020 to be their major come-back year, so finding the quarterback of the future is probably a bigger need in 2020 than it is this year. The Dolphins could add a quarterback early, but they could just wait to get a developmental player they can put behind Fitzpatrick and have as a 2020 rookie’s backup.
Potential targets: Ryan Finley, Will Grier, Dwayne Haskins, Tyree Jackson, Daniel Jones, Drew Lock, Gardner Minshew, Kyler Murray, Jarrett Stidham, Manny Wilkins
Honorable mention: Defensive tackle. Miami could address defensive tackle, but it misses out on the list above because the group right now consists of Davon Godchaux, Joey Mbu, Durval Queiroz Neto, Kendirck Norton, Jamiyus Pittman, Akeem Spence, and Vincent Taylor. While they need to improve against the run, and if Miami is planning to run more 3-4 schemes, they could use a true nose tackle, the group will likely consist primarily of Taylor, Godchaux, Spence, and Pittman with someone else making the roster as a depth option. It is a need, but not as desperate one as some would say.