On Wednesday, ESPN published an article from Scouts, Inc.’s Kevin Weidl, taking a look at the three prospects each team in the AFC East should be targeting, one per day of the NFL Draft. He stresses that these three picks are not a mock draft, but rather are players who make sense for each team, filling a need as well as fitting a team’s system.
For the Miami Dolphins, Weidl addresses three of their biggest needs with his three suggested targets. In the first round, he has Miami looking at Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis. He explains the decision to target Davis, writing, “After ranking 30th against the run in 2016, the Dolphins obviously need help along the front seven. Miami signed Lawrence Timmons to a two-year deal, which should allow Kiko Alonso to bump from the middle linebacker position to the outside, where he can utilize more of his athleticism. However, Timmons, 30, hasn't made the same impact as he did early in his career and adding Davis to eventually take over the reins wouldn't be a bad decision. Davis is an instinctive, explosive and physical defender who would make an immediate impact, particularly because of his ability to potentially line up at three linebacker spots if needed.”
The reasoning behind Miami looking at Davis as their possible first-round pick makes sense. The Dolphins need a third starting linebacker, which Davis could give them, likely playing as a weakside linebacker as a rookie. He has the versatility - much like Alonso - to move around in the position group, so the Dolphins would not be stuck playing “weakside” and “strongside” but could play right- and left-linebackers, something they have indicated they would prefer this year. Davis also does give the team an heir apparent for the middle linebacker position when Timmons retires or his contract expires. It could be a great match for Miami.
Weidl’s day two target for the Dolphins is Indiana guard Dan Freeney. He explains, “While Laremy Tunsil is slated to bump outside at left tackle, and the Dolphins retained Jermon Bushrod on a one-year deal, there is a need to infuse young talent on the interior. Feeney is a technician who plays with quality balance and his above-average feel for angles would be ideal within the Dolphins' heavy zone-blocking scheme. In addition, he has shown the ability to bump out to tackle in an emergency situation, the same spot where he lined up as a senior for the Hoosiers. Adding Feeney in the second round would make the Dolphins solid across the board up front, with Ted Larsen adding depth as a versatile reserve.”
Many of the mock drafts around the web right now have the Dolphins selecting Forrest Lamp in the first round, giving the team the top rated guard in the Draft. That would, however, cause them to miss out on some of the top defensive prospects in this year’s Draft. Waiting until day two to pick up Freeney, who is considered the second-best guard in this year’s class and will likely be a second-round pick, could give Miami the flexibility to grab a key defensive addition, then come back and shore up the offensive line on day two. Freeney is described by NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein as someone with the “intelligence and ability to operate in space and protect the quarterback” which “could make him an early starter with a ceiling of above-average NFL guard or center.” Several of the scouting reports around the web mention Freeney’s zone-blocking scheme fit, which would be perfect for Miami.
Finally, Weidl looks to the defensive line for the Dolphins on day three, targeting USC defensive tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu. He writes, “Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips has shown promise, but after losing Earl Mitchell in free agency and failing to sign one of the bigger name, free-agent DTs, Miami needs to add depth in the middle of the defense. At 6-foot-1 and 330 pounds, Tu'ikolovatu is a massive and powerful interior bully who would provide a big boost for the Dolphins' interior run defense.”
Tu'ikolovatu is likely a fifth- or sixth-round pick, so he could be sitting there perfectly placed for Miami to add some defensive tackle depth late in the Draft. He is older than most rookies, turning 26 before the start of the season, after taking two years off from college to conduct a two-year church mission in the Philippines. He needs to continue to work on developing his pass-rush ability, but Tu'ikolovatu is going to make his money as a run stopper and someone who eats up double teams, freeing up linebackers to get after the ball carrier. Where does Miami need the most help on defense? They do not seem to have a problem in pass rush, with Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh, and Andre Branch manning the defensive line. They do need to fix the run defense though. Tu'ikolovatu could help do that.
What do you think of Miami targeting these three prospects? Is this the right direction for Miami to head in this year’s Draft?