The early projections of the NFL Draft for 2017 have been leaning toward the Miami Dolphins considering Alabama tight end O.J. Howard with their first-round pick. It is not a horrible pick for the Dolphins, who could use someone to pair with Dion Sims in two tight end sets and who can be a seam threat for the offense. It does not, however, address the defensive side of the ball, where most fans of the team believe the Dolphins need to spend the majority of their focus this offseason.
To be fair, Howard, as of last week’s 2017 NFL Mock Draft Database, was receiving 20 percent of the selections, while the other 80 percent of selections were spread among 12 different defensive player. It is also only the end of January, with plenty of events, including the Scouting Combine and Free Agency, to adjust team needs, focus, and mock draft projections.
This week, SB Nation’s Dan Kadar is back with his weekly attempt to predict the first round of the NFL Draft. Kadar was among those who had Miami considering Howard, so will his latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft change that pick and move it to the other side of the ball? Of course.
Kadar now projects Miami to select Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham. Of the selection, Kadar writes:
It’s critical that Miami gets better at linebacker this offseason, and Cunningham is a player who be used inside or outside. As we see more and more defensive formations featuring just two linebackers, that is critical.
The pick of a linebacker for Miami is probably the selection that makes the most sense right now for the team. They need to add depth at cornerback and defensive end, could look to add a defensive tackle, and probably need an offensive lineman and tight end, but linebacker is the easiest need to identify. Miami will likely keep Kiko Alonso in the starting lineup, either continuing as the team’s middle linebacker, or potentially moving outside. After Alonso, there are questions about whether the team will continue to utilize Koa Misi, who spent the year on injured reserve, or Jelani Jenkins, as a starter, with Mike Hull, Donald Butler, Neville Hewitt, Spencer Paysinger, and Trevor Reilly continuing as the reserves or potential competitors for starting roles.
The linebacker pick in the first round may be the pick with which most fans will agree at this point in the offseason. Will it still be that way when the Draft comes around?