It is officially mock draft season now that the Miami Dolphins are out of the NFL Playoffs. Of course, there is still a lot that will happen between now and the NFL Draft in April, but it is still time to start considering various draft prospects and the needs for the Dolphins. That is exactly what SB Nation’s Dan Kadar did with this week’s 2017 NFL Mock Draft update.
As Kadar explains it, “This week’s mock draft is an exploration to identify the key needs for every team in the first round, and how they might fill them.” With Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dolphins are locked into the 22nd pick in the first round, so we will jump to that selection to see how Kadar reads Miami’s needs and what they could do with that pick.
22. Miami Dolphins - Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
Key needs: OLB, WR, CB
It’s clear that the Dolphins need athletic outside linebacker who can play the run and the pass. They could add multiple players at the position. At wide receiver, the Dolphins could target a player if Jarvis Landry can’t be re-signed. A high-end cornerback would be a good addition on a roster that lacks a star at the position.
I do not necessarily agree with Kadar’s read of the Dolphins’ needs. I think he is right that Miami could be looking at a wide receiver need if the team cannot come to terms with Landry, who enters the last year of his contract next season. (Not to mention the possibility that Miami does not bring back Kenny Stills, who is a free agent this offseason.) I do not think he is going anywhere, but it could be a good move for Miami, if no deal is reached before the Draft, to grab a player later in the selection process to develop for the season.
Rather than wide receiver, I would argue a tight end might be the bigger need. Dion Sims did well this year, but a true seam-threat tight end to pair with Sims in two tight end formations could be a killer move for the offense.
Linebacker and cornerback are obvious needs for the team. The secondary will get a boost with the return of Reshad Jones next year, but the cornerbacks could use at least some depth options to backup Byron Maxwell and Xavien Howard.
Defensive tackle and defensive end could also be on the list, as Miami looks to get some younger talent to bring up behind players like Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh.
Finally, depth on the offensive line is probably a need as well, though that will not likely be a first round consideration.
As for Cunningham himself, he would fit what Miami needs as an outside linebacker. The question might be, will be be available with the 22nd pick?