After Nick Saban’s first season in Miami, the Dolphins were riding a six-game winning streak, a “franchise quarterback” had been acquired, and the 2006 team was a popular pick to get to the grandest stage in football – the Super Bowl.
That promise fizzled and faded as quickly as it materialized. That season has its place in Dolphins history for reasons most fans don’t care to revisit, but as a 19-year old bright-eyed fan, it was the first time I dove head first into the spectacle that is the NFL Draft. Scribbling every single pick into a composition notebook, I was hooked.
Twelve years later, I’m as obsessed as ever. This mock was the hardest one I’ve ever put together. Trying to configure the two major team-needs with the four slightly less concerning roster-holes, in relationship with the depth of this draft is not unlike picking the Mega Millions numbers.
Alas, my final 2018 Miami Dolphins mock draft:
- (11) LB Roquan Smith, Georgia –
Report: Smith does three things better than any linebacker in this class – run, tackle and cover. His sideline-to-sideline range, nation-leading tackle percentage, and sheer instincts to disrupt the underneath passing game makes him a 100% snap taker the moment the card is turned in. Much has been made about his inability to defeat blocks in traffic, but the direction of the game places and emphasis on his strengths and marginalizes his weaknesses.
Fit: Linebackers in this defense have to be able to play in space. WILL and SAM distinctions aren’t as prioritized as they are in other fronts. Smith excels as a blitzer, as a reroute /hook-zone defender and can stay on the field for all packages.
Pick Psychology: Passing on a player like Minkah Fitzpatrick or Derwin James would be a tough pill to swallow, but the safety value in the second round trumps that of the next tier of linebackers.
Here’s some Roquan Smith GIFs from the Auburn game. Speed doesn’t slump. pic.twitter.com/ZqgdHF1wLc
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) January 2, 2018
- (42) FS Jessie Bates, Wake Forrest –
Report: As rangy and instinctive as they come, Bates taps into his baseball skill set to play a speedy center field safety. Where some players key on the quarterback’s eyes, Bates is able to recognize route-concepts, as they develop, which allows him to play faster than everyone around him. He’s not a sound tackler, but he’s willing – once he’s bulks up, he’ll be okay in that regard.
Fit: Supping up the sub-packages was a must for a Miami defense that was dead-last in the NFL on third-down-and-long. Playing single-high safety or a dime role early on, Bates could challenge T.J. McDonald for his starting job early on, or force him into a dollar linebacker role. Bates is the perfect complement for Reshad Jones.
Pick Psychology: If Bates makes it to this pick, it’s a no-brainer. The tight end class figures to have some attractive names at the ready with this pick, but the defensive issues would be nearly entirely erased with Smith and Bates in the fold.
Got into some FS prospects not named Derwin or Minkah last night – Jessie Bates is my favorite. Played CF in baseball, super athlete, extremely instinctive, recognizes route concepts quick as a QB, tremendous ball skills. Video thread courtesy of NFL Draft Breakdown pic.twitter.com/csHENEe3Dw
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) March 8, 2018
- (73) TE Ian Thomas, Indiana –
Report: Thickly built with a quick-twitch, Thomas has the best chance to be a complete tight end in this class. He’s a physical route-runner that can create separation with athleticism or brute force. He’s a tough tackle after the catch and has the bend and drive capable of sealing off the edge in the running game. Injuries and a short resume are the knocks on Thomas.
Fit: Finding a day-one starter with the 73rdpick is as good as it gets, and that would be the expectation with Thomas here. The former Hoosier has more versatility than any tight end on the roster and is the ideal mismatch piece for that coveted Y-iso position.
Pick Psychology: After the first two picks, this has to be a tight end or a quarterback. Likely the last crack at the “next tier” of passers, we’ll go with the immediate contributor over a backup signal caller.
- (123) RB Jaylen Samuels, North Carolina State –
Report: The Swiss Army Knife of this class, Samuels is listed as a running back, but he does much more. A direct snap wildcat trigger-man, a pass catching threat from the slot, in-line or the backfield, there isn’t much Samuels can’t do. Tremendous balance and vision, Samuels could be a plug-and-play replacement for Damien Williams.
Fit: In a week-to-week offense predicated on match-ups, Samuels could be a favorite of Adam Gase. Catching the football in short-yardage, flexing out wide and creating ultimate disguise in offensive personnel, this would be a steal of a role player at this juncture of the draft.
Pick Psychology: Running back isn’t a dire need (especially given C.J. Anderson’s place on the market) but passing-up on a match-up nightmare like Samuels isn’t an option. Building this offense around Ryan Tannehill and giving him endless weapons at his disposal is the best route to success.
A few weeks back, I talked about a play-action, zone-read, misdirection based offense capitalizing on Tannehill’s greatest strengths. Charles Clay was such a valuable piece to this, and North Carolina State’s Jaylen Samuels can play a similar role. GIF dump incoming… pic.twitter.com/7QweHOMV52
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) January 25, 2018
- (131) DT Nathan Shepherd, Fort Hayes State
Report: An explosive interior rusher with scheme diversity, Shepherd was turning heads at the Senior Bowl prior to a hand injury. A mid-round flier allows Miami to develop his raw traits and find ways to get him on the field in certain packages early on.
Fit: Miami needs a rotational piece to the interior defensive line. Hayes is the perfect under-study option to develop while getting some work as a rookie.
Pick Psychology: This positon is one of the tougher areas to diagnose. Miami has a pair of promising sophomores in Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor but neither, nor Jordan Phillips, are accustomed to taking on the reps left behind by Ndamukong Suh.
- (209) QB Alex McGough, Florida International
Report: The FIU product is a cerebral quarterback that relies on preparation over sheer talent. His attention to detail on ball fakes and processing the defense post-snap has caught the eye of the Dolphins’ coaching staff. He lacks the big arm, but affords extra time in the pocket with a keen sense of what’s happening around him. McGough had dinner with the Dolphins for the second time this week.
Fit: The Dolphins don’t need a starting quarterback, but the backup situation is terrifying. McGough could challenge for the number two job immediately and provide a quality football mind to the quarterback room.
Pick Psychology: This pick is simply connecting the dots. McGough has spent a lot of time with the Dolphins in this process and finding a backup quarterback in the sixth-round would be a major boon.
- (227) TE Chris Herndon, Miami
Report: I admit this is awfully low for Herndon. Players slide all the time and medical concerns are a great reason for a slide. Herndon is an athletic marvel, but his production hasn’t matched the ability. He has a long way to go as a blocker, but could provide a nice red-zone match-up piece early on.
Fit: With Ian Thomas in-house, Herndon’s future would be as the number-two detach tight end option. He could serve as a slot-receiver early on and put his refinement as an in-line blocker on the back-burner.
Pick Psychology: Miami has a propensity to gamble on medical risks. Herndon’s forecasted slide is strictly because of the medical and raw nature of his skill set.
- (229) CB Devron Davis, Texas-San Antonio
Report: A fit for the prototypical corner in this defense, Davis offers press-capability and a wiliness to come up and tackle on the edge. He’s comfortable in both man and zone coverages and has a knack for laying the wood.
Fit: Another developmental piece, Davis could make the Dolphins’ roster as a primary back-up to Cordrea Tankersley on the left side of the Dolphins defense. That’s where he primarily lined-up at UTSA and both Xavien Howard and Tony Lippett play the right side.
Pick Psychology: Simply matching a player that fits what the Dolphins do at a position that can never feature too many good players.
The shelf-life of mock drafts are fleeting, but I feel fantastic about this one. Crossing off needs with players that represent value at the spots they are picked is the ideal draft. There are a variety of avenues that could be explored by Miami come draft night.
Just remember, we are getting an elite-level, early-20’s prospect on Thursday night. Whether you like the pick or not, the Dolphins need that pick to contribute and earn a second contract. We’re all on the same team.