There seems to be a lot of mixed sentiment in Dolphin-land, as to what the team did to its roster this off-season. Some big names from the past are gone, like SUH, LANDRY, POUNCEY, et al. Some DolFans seem pleased, while others proclaim that they have seem this kind of addition by subtraction before and it never seems to make much of a difference in the team’s overall fortunes. What seems clear to me is that the boss, MIKE TANNENBAUM, appears to be in lock-step with his HC ADAM GASE, and assuming that these two will be running the team for a while that is a good thing. It was also clear to me that the team was not going to be able to fill all of its personnel needs in one Draft of 8 players. So let’s take a look at what they were able to accomplish.
I say great job with grabbing Alabama star Minkah Fitzpatrick with Pick 11. I never thought anyone outside of the Top 10 would even sniff this kid. He can fill multiple roles for them, which is one of the new trends in the NFL these days. Many refer to it as ‘positionless’ athletes, meaning they can fill multiple roles depending upon down and distance on the field. I think FS is the best label for him, but I truly expect him to start from day one, and remain in place for a decade. He is a good, if not great athlete, with a high FBI and a lot of want-to in his nature. He will start from Day One and upgrade their overall secondary at once.
Kudos to the Dolphins brain trust for seeing what a great athlete MIKE GESICKI/TE/Penn State is and taking advantage of people who made fun of his blocking. Like many generalizations concern about his blocking reached mocking levels in some circles. He will improve in that area with good coaching, but the Dolphins get a superior athlete who will be uncoverable to most LB and a lot of S as well. Despite the nay-sayers out there I think it is worth noting that of the 16 TE at the Combine, Ourlads scouting services ranked him first in overall athleticism based on workout numbers. His 4.56/40 time clearly indicates he will be a downfield threat, not to mention his 10 1/4″ hands and 34 1/8″ arms, which will make him doubly dangerous on the sideline throws and Red Zone jump balls.
The team took a short-term flyer in Round 3, with the selection of Ohio State LB JEROME BAKER, who is of course exceptionally athletic, but has a lot to learn about playing the LB position. Has the coverage instincts required for today’s NFL. They will identify what he can already do and tap into it in his Rookie year. BAKER is strong in coverage already and has good tackling basics, but must learn to get off blocks better in run support. He should also star immediately on Special Teams. Just about everyone on South Florida will like this player a lot by 2019, if not this coming season.
At first blush more than a few folks questioned the selection of another TE, DURHAM SMYTHE, Notre Dame, in Round 4. But having already mentioned the main knock on GESICKI being his lack of dominant blocking skills SMYTHE is the more traditional inline, blocking TE. He rose up a round or two after scouts saw him at the Senior Bowl venue in Mobile, where he showed some serious pass catching ability that was not tapped into enough in college. He showed strong hands and good route running in Mobile. He should provide a replacement for ANTHONY FASANO, who blocked like an OT, but was let go because that was his only trick anymore in his mid-thirties. If the coaching staff plays its cards right, the team now has their top two TE in tow for the foreseeable future.
Later in Round 4, the team grabbed RB/KALEN BALLAGE, who showed off his skills at the Senior Bowl and his athleticism at the Combine. This 228 lb. back is an ace as a receiver out of the backfield. He needs a shot of toughness for the pro game, but he can run and catch. Once again I will mention a Combine ranking from Ourlads that had BALLAGE ranked as the 6th best athlete among the 29 RB at the Combine. He also excelled as a Kick-Returner, which might allow the team to avoid risking DRAKE in that job. With WILLIAMS having left the team in VFA, this is a solid selection to add RB depth to the duo of DRAKE/GORE.
For my money, the team took a bit of a flyer in Round 6 at Pick 209. CORNELL ARMSTRONG was basically on the “guy” list of CB prospects, and expected to be an URFA by most. So clearly one of the Dolphins scouts fell in luv and banged the table for him. His scouting report says that he may get his hands on a lot of throws in coverage. I think they could have used this Pick more judiciously for some beef along either of their line units.
QUENTIN POLING/LB/Ohio was their Pick at 227, and he brings a resume’ that shows he was a dynamic, tackling machine in the MAC. But I do worry about his size at 6’0/235 and lack of speed. But he has versatility to drop into pass coverage, and will likely be a monster on Special Teams coverage units. The Dolphins have had very good luck with undersized/average athleticism LB guys like VIGIL, NEVILLE and HULL in recent years, so maybe lightning will strike again. I heard his name being mentioned on several occasions in the week just before the Draft.
With their final Pick at 229 the team selected a Kicker in JASON SANDERS of New Mexico. He has a reputation as an accurate kicker, but may run out of leg drive after 45-yards. The team has struggled in the Kicking game in recent years so something had to be done. SANDERS walks into a golden opportunity to win himself and NFL job.
It was not a great draft IMO, but they addressed some major needs, without reaching. The team also had a solid group of vets join the team through trade and VFA. Plus don’t forget their LB unit should be bolstered if one of last year’s top draftees, RAEKWON McMILLAN/LB, comes back strong from a knee injury. So overall, the team looks like it might still come up with a net gain on their roster despite those big name subtractions. And if they gain in the locker room, then they have made another step back to the Play-Offs.