So far we have dipped our collective toes and fins in the waters of April’s NFL Draft needs for the Miami Dolphins. While not all agree, and that is absolutely fine and welcomed, I state these feelings based on a number of factors.
Sure we can all agree that what happens in NFL war rooms are known in main specifics to only those within those walls. Writers, insiders, bloggers and janitors can hear things, assume things, make predictions and hopefully back those up with some sort of reasoning.
Reasoning is my main motivator in this series.
Can I guarantee, with certainty, the Dolphins will not draft a wide-receiver in the first round? Of course I cant. I can do so with 95% confidence, but whispers and reasoning aside, the point is the next few months will be full of conjecture.
For me, and this is a regurgitated statement, but this 2020 NFL Draft is unlike any in franchise history. Mix that with a vastly improved T-E-A-M from 2019, there are a few undeniable aspects to this bunch of cast-offs, unwanted’s, has-been’s and never-was’es.
They became a T-E-A-M.
Brian Flores and crew led this rag-tag bunch and they proved the NFL dead wrong, and they were not the league’s worst team. They are drafting fifth in April’s draft, so clearly they were not the most inept team in the NFL, and here is something to ponder over from the last few seasons.
The 2018 Miami Dolphins were a massively different team, and their seven wins easily could have only been four wins, if a few plays didn’t bounce a few different ways. The 2019 team easily could have won seven games, if not for a missed 2-point conversion against Washington and a phantom call against the Jets in New York/New Jersey in round two against them. They could have swept them.
Think about that. A 2018 team led by Adam Gase with Ryan Tannehill, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Laremy Tunsil, Kenyan Drake and Kiko Alonzo to name a few, missed the playoffs by a few games. If they had not converted the Miami Miracle against the New England Patriots as well as if former Fin tight end Charles Clay reeled in a last-second Hail Mary Pass for Buffalo weeks before, Miami would have had five wins in 2018.
They gutted that team. And started “from scratch.” They ended up with a five win team, that could have been seven in 2019, and that is not heading for a demolition off-season. They are heading for the fun part of a renovation and rebuild.
The foundation has been laid out, and the pillars and cornerstones are still being determined, but there are some very strong building blocks already cemented into this process.
In terms of a foundation, the inner most parts of the infrastructure must be solid to prevent greater damage for the whole unit. Thankfully, the Dolphins posses a solid core of young interior defensive lineman.
Christian Wilkins had a fine rookie season and certainly a second-half of the year to build on heading into year two. His athleticism and versatility make him a potential centerpiece of this defense for many years, and his line-mate in Davon Godchaux has come into his own after completing year three.
In terms of depth within this sub-division of the defensive line, which we will cover another day, these interior defenders are key to making the jobs easier of the pass-rushers and linebackers plugging the holes as well as bursting through those spaces to make plays.
Another young gem found by Miami in the league scrap-heap was Zach Sieler. The former Raven was scooped up by Miami late in 2019 and he made an impact in his only home game against Cincinnati this year, with seven tackles including a sack and a pair of batted down passes.
The interior defenders on this line may not be a top group in the NFL, but they certainly can build off of a successful overall 2019 season, and at the very least, they proved that a young rookie should not be challenging them for a starting role in 2020.
Drafting a nose tackle or a lineman that is cut in the Wilkins mold early in the Las Vegas Draft process is not a direction the Dolphins need to go. There are too many other areas of need on defense alone that they must focus on. Namely, the defensive edge, since a pass-rush was virtually non-existent last season for Miami.
Taco Charlton led the team in sacks for Miami in 2019 with five. Believe this or not, but Charlton was the only defensive end to record a full sack for the Dolphins last season.
You read that correctly. Charles Harris and undrafted rookie, Jonathan Ledbetter each recorded a half of a sack, but no other Miami Dolphin defensive end got to a quarterback last season.
Yea, they need a pass rusher.
So while the interior is looking OK, the exterior is looking like an Amityville Horror house upon the drive-up. Major renovation is needed and it’s scary to view it at the moment. Again, this is a conversation for another day, and one that could be amended once the NFL free agency period kicks off.
Again, unlike other off-season’s, this is a very “Yannick” situation.
Regardless of Miami’s acquisitions in free agency, they happen to be a situation where the standard interior lineman is not very deep in this year’s class. There are some excellent prospects up top, who will anchor a NFL teams defensive line well such as Auburn’s Derrick Brown and South Carolina freak Javon Kinlaw. Kinlaw, in fairness, can potentially move around the line, but at 6’6’’, 310 lbs, he can surely be the nose of a 3-4 base defense.
Should the Dolphins want to use one of their multiple-year’s worth of picks on defensive interior line depth, the 5th round and on is a nice target area for this position.
So we checked off the receivers, the linebackers and a sub-group of the defensive line, but we will cover the ends later.
Next up, things get a bit tougher in this series, as no matter what you want to say about certain optimistic aspects of this roster, they still have 53 spots to fill. Currently, many can argue that half of that number can be labeled as viable NFL talent.
There is still plenty of work to be done overall, but in terms of the middle of the defensive line, the Dolphins have a solid foundation to build around, and a pair of edge rusher’s, one in Free Agency and one in the draft, could make this a very formidable defensive front.