The Dolphins offseason has been skeptical to some and optimistic to others. Dumping guys such as Ndamukong Suh and Jarvis Landry have fans assuming that the franchise is ready to begin a full-scale rebuild. However, adding veterans such as free agent acquisitions Danny Amendola, Robert Quinn, and Frank Gore have some fans thinking head coach Adam Gase is doing it his way, with guys he brings in. Gase is changing the culture in Miami, and this previous draft points to that even more so.
The Dolphins had holes on both sides of the ball and filled most of them nicely. Here is the complete results of Miami’s 2018 rookie class.
Round 1: Minkah Fitzpatrick DB
Round 2: Mike Gesicki TE
Round 3: Jerome Baker LB
Round 4: Durham Smythe TE
Round 4: Kalen Ballage RB
Round 6: Cornell Armstrong CB
Round 7: Quentin Poling LB
Round 7: Jason Sanders K
Minkah will be one of Gase’s favorites for years to come. He fits the mold for this culture change. He is a born leader, but on top of that, he arguably was the best defensive prospect in this draft. His football IQ is outstanding and he is very versatile. Not only is he an excellent defender in coverage, he can also blitz and cause havoc in the backfield. The Minkah Fitzpatrick and Reshad Jones safety tandem will keep offensive coordinators up at night because those two paired is gonna be a problem.
Reshad Jones is by no means the best coverage safety in the league. Jones though who spends most of his time in the box can cause havoc when he gets going downhill. He recorded 122 tackles last season which was the most of any safety, and the twelfth most in the whole NFL. Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, is an upgraded Jones who is much more versatile. Minkah is a ballhawk and always seems to be around the ball. He can play in the box and has the same ability Jones has in running downhill to bring down a ballcarrier. However, Fitzpatrick can cover any receiver/tight end. He broke up eight passes last season at Alabama and secured one of them for an interception. On top of that, he recorded 60 tackles. He is the Dolphins new swiss army knife that Phin fans should be excited for.
Prior to drafting Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins already had a nice young core of defensive backs in guys like Xavien Howard, Cordrea Tankersley, Bobby McCain, and Tony Lippett. Adding a smart player like Fitzpatrick to that mix, while having veterans of the group such as Reshad Jones and TJ McDonald will really benefit the rest of the defensive backs. Minkah was the missing piece that really filled this group out. It may take a year or so, but with a couple years of experience, this group could be elite in the NFL.
The Dolphins have had tight end issues for years. That problem is no more after these two selections were made. In my eyes, Mike Gesicki was the best tight-end prospect in this draft. The man is a freak on the field. His catch radius is unreal and he is a real red zone threat. His combine numbers were unreal and he dominated at Penn State averaging 11.5 yards per reception over a four-year span. His downfall is his blocking skills. If he works on blocking he will be a dominant force in the NFL. Durham Smythe, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. His speed and catch radius will not blow you away. However, he is a pure blocking tight-end. He is the perfect guy to pair with Gesicki. These two selections really filled a hole the Dolphins haven’t seen filled in a while. A Gesicki-Smythe pairing is the perfect fit for Adam Gase’s offense. The two rookies have a skillset that complements one another, something that the Dolphins have not had since the days of Charles Clay and Dion Sims. This tandem was not elite, but a consistent group. The new Gesicki-Smythe tandem has top-ten potential.
The Dolphin’s continued filling needs when selecting Jerome Baker from Ohio State. The Dolphins need for speed on the defense was needed after being sluggish in 2017. Baker has impressive speed for an OLB running a 4.53 forty. He is above average in coverage, and that is something the Dolphin’s linebacker core lacked all throughout 2017. I assume Baker will be a starter this upcoming season as long he lives up to his abilities. As for Poling, he was drafted in the seventh round. He had pretty good pro day numbers running a 4.58 forty, 24 bench press reps, and a 10’7 vertical jump. His role will be giving guys competition and using his good frame on the specials team.
After shipping off Jay Ajayi to the Eagles midway through the 2017 season, it was clear and signing Frank Gore in free agency, it was clear that the Dolphins needed a running back next to Kenyon Drake. Enter Kalen Ballage who is a big back with impressive skill. I’m surprised he slipped to the fourth round. He was projected to go as high as the second round in the draft. His upside is high, but he never got a full chance to show off in college because he split carries with Demario Richard. Ballage is a sleeper in my eyes, he could be a big name in a few years if he develops. He is a smooth runner with impressive second gear speed. He also can contribute in coming out of the backfield and hauling some passes in. Remember the name Kalen Ballage.
Armstrong also was a late-round pick. The Dolphin’s needed some more depth in the defensive back area and got it. Armstrong will have to prove his worth in the NFL. At this point, considering the Dolphins defensive backs room is loaded, it’s difficult to see where Armstrong fits. As of right now, I expect a special team role for the speedy Armstrong who ran a 4.45 forty.
Jason Sanders is the only kicker on the Dolphins as of now. Sanders owns the New Mexico record for most 50-yard field goals. In his final season at the University of New Mexico, He was 28-28 on extra points, while going 10-15 on field goals. Perhaps the biggest reason that Sanders was drafted by the Dolphins is that he has a powerful leg that special teams coach Darren Rizzi fell in love with. After losing Kicker Cody Parkey in free agency to the Chicago Bears, picking Sanders made sense not only as a need but also because he fits what this team is looking to do. However, as of right now, it’s unwise to name Sanders the starter. There’s a chance that the Dolphins front office could bring in some training camp competition for Sanders to compete with.
My draft grade: B+
Review: The Dolphins filled needs that were glaring holes on the roster. However, Ryan Tannehill is coming off ACL surgery. While they were a pick away from Josh Rosen, there’s no guarantee that Rosen would have started in week one anyway. Could not trading up a slot for Rosen haunt them? Yes, it could, but Tannehill is Gase’s guy. Gase now has some leaders on his team now. This is his team and he’s going to build it the way he wants. It might not work, but there are reasons for optimism if you’re a Dolphins fan. If Ryan Tannehill can return to his pre-injury form, this is a team that has a chance to be a sleeper team in the AFC.