For Dolphins fans, this offseason is mostly about speculating about what Mike Tannenbaum, Chris Grier and Adam Gase and their respective staffs will do to improve the defense. As we all know, it all starts up front along the D-line. Miami is relatively set at DT with All-Pro Ndamukong Suh teaming with the up-and-coming Jordan Phillips as starters. It’s at the DE spot where Miami will have issues. Jason Jones was released prior to the wild-card loss at Pittsburgh and it’s been widely speculated that Mario Williams’ time in Miami will be coming to an end after a bust of a season in 2016. If Miami can’t, or chooses not to, retain Andre Branch, that leaves only Cameron Wake and Terrence Fede as the only defensive ends from last season still under contract in 2017. While there are certainly some intriguing free agent options – Jason Pierre-Paul, Melvin Ingram, Jack Crawford – out there, Miami’s going to have to make more than one addition at the DE spot. In my eyes, assuming Branch isn’t retained, they’ll need a sure-thing starter opposite Cameron Wake. They’ll also need someone who is a heavy contributor in the rotation to rotate with Cameron Wake. I’d also argue they could probably use a third addition and have that someone be a direct replacement for Jason Jones; in short, someone who can play outside on run downs and rush from the inside on passing downs. Whatever the flavor is, Miami needs bodies at DE. Here’s a look at my first round picks and who could be available at pick 22.
The Chosen One:
Myles Garrett – Texas A&M: 6’5” 270lbs
2016 Stats: 11 Games – 33 tackles (15TFL), 8.5 sacks, 2 FF, 1 PBU, 1 Blocked Kick
Summary: Garrett is an absolute phenom who possess the size, length, strength and athleticism that all NFL teams covet. He’d be a perfect fit for Miami’s 4-3 wide-9 defense, but unless Mike Tannenbaum loads up and pulls off a blockbuster trade, Garrett will be long off the board and the Browns would be, well…the Browns, if they don’t take him with the first overall pick. He’s the best DE prospect to come out since Julius Peppers. Equally adept at rushing the passer and playing the run, he’s a force to be reckoned with. You can see Garrett rushing from a wide-9 look, faking an inside move and blowing past the Auburn LT, only to be hog-tied on the play and draw what should have been a holding call.
Miami would need a miracle to land Myles Garrett, but he’s one of my favorite players in this class so I wanted to gush about him a bit. From here on out, I think all the prospects outside of Solomon Thomas have a shot at being available when Miami gets on the clock at pick 22.
Next in Line:
Solomon Thomas – Stanford: 6’3” 273lbs
2016 Stats: 13 games – 61 tackles, 8 sacks, 1 FF
Summary: Thomas is a fast-riser in the scouting world, Thomas is projected to be a top 10 or top 15 pick. A DE in Stanford’s 3-4 defense, Thomas possesses size, strength and good short-area quickness. To me, he seems like he’s more of a fit in a 3-4 defense or as a base DE in a 4-3 team who is going to run more under or over fronts. I don’t think Miami would get a crack at Thomas in the Draft, and I’m not sold on the fit for Miami either.
Derek Barnett – Tennessee: 6’3” 265lbs
2016 Stats: 13 games – 56 tackles (19 TFL), 13 sacks, 2 FF, 5 PBU
Summary: When he’s on Barnett has the look of a guy who should be a top 20 pick. The problem with Barnett is that he tends to disappear for stretches. He’d be a fit in Miami’s defense, and I think with a good Combine he may be out of Miami’s reach. Barnett has the ability to dip and close when running the arc getting to the quarterback.
The following prospects are guys that I think will be prime candidates for Miami at pick 22.
In the Miami Mix:
Taco Charlton – Michigan: 6’5” 273lbs
2016 Stats: 11 games – 42 tackles (13.5 TFL), 10 sacks, 2 PBU
Summary: Charlton started out slowly in his Michigan career but really came on strong as a senior. Pop in the tape of Charlton against Ohio State in “The Game” and against Florida State in the Orange Bowl and you see a pretty complete player who could replicate what Jason Jones did for Miami, but better. I think Charlton could be the guy who plays outside on base downs and rushes from the interior in pass-rush situations. Here he shows the ability to rush inside and use his length and power to get to the QB.
Charles Harris – Missouri – 6’3” 255lbs
2016 Stats: 12 games – 61 tackles (12 TFL), 9 sacks, 2 FF, 1 FR, 2 PBU
Summary: Harris seems like the best pick Miami could make if they want to find a direct replacement for Cameron Wake. He owns a terrific burst of the ball. His sophomore campaign was a bit better than his junior season, but I really like his pass-rushing potential. I think he’ll need to bulk up to be able to handle the run, especially playing
DeMarcus Walker – Florida State – 6’3” 273lbs
2016 Stats: 13 games – 68 tackles (21.5 TFL) 16 sacks, 3FF, 1FR, 2 PBU, 1 Blocked Kick
Summary: Walker is a very interesting player to study. He was super productive this past year and dominated against the Wolverines in the Orange Bowl. Florida State had him play inside quite a bit, so he’s got natural experience there. He’s only 6’3” but he’s got a long wingspan which I think will help him. He strikes me as someone who Miami could play in a fashion similar to how they played Olivier Vernon in sub-packages in 2013 and as a perimeter DE in 2015 once Lou Anarumo took over.
There are several other players who will most likely be available at pick 22 who Miami could possibly consider as well. Auburn’s Carl Lawson, Kansas State’s Jordan Willis, and Illinois’ Dawuane Smoot all may have a chance to creep into the first round. Lawson was plagued by injuries at Auburn and his build is a little smaller – 6’2” 255lbs – than what Tannenbaum and Grier would like. But, pop in his tape against Laremy Tunsil in 2015, and he gives Tunsil fits, something Myles Garrett couldn’t do. Jordan Willis has the build and production at 11.5 sacks in 2016. He showed well in the Senior Bowl and if he tests well at the Combine, he could vault firmly into the last 12-15 picks of round one. Dawuane Smoot is a good player and is superb against the run. His pass-rush production is a bit lacking due to the way Illinois used him. I have a hard time seeing him go in round one unless he blows up the Combine, but he may have more value to Miami than some other teams.
2nd through 7th round options coming soon.