Coming into the 2017 NFL Draft, it was unclear whether the Miami Dolphins would draft defense heavy or not. The Dolphins had clear gaps on that side of the ball, specifically at linebacker, defensive end and cornerback. Given the recent draft where the team picked five defensive players, more than one Miami Dolphins rookie will have a chance to provide an immediate impact.
Potential Instant Impact Miami Dolphins Rookies
The Dolphins surprised many fans and experts when they passed on Reuben Foster at number 22 overall. The fact he even fell that far was astonishing. Now there are reports he could miss the entire 2017 season, not to mention he had a diluted urine sample before the draft. While Miami did not select any high profile prospects, they had a safe draft addressing every need on both sides of the ball. Now it is time to see whether the success of the 2016 draft can be duplicated.
Charles Harris – Defensive End
The Dolphins are blessed with Pro Bowler Cameron Wake on the left side on the defense. They also re-signed Andre Branch to compliment him. Many supporters seemed perplexed as to why the Dolphins would select a pass rusher with their first selection. Wake is 35 years old and is coming off a comeback season. Branch had a breakout year in 2016, but is not seen as a future star like Wake proved to be. At 27, he may be entering his prime, but adding depth to an aging rotation is important.
Miami not only added depth at this position, they drafted a young Wake in Charles Harris. Being considered a starter at defensive end is not necessarily a positive. The first two downs of a drive will usually give time to the run stopping players, while situational pass rushers will come in on third down. Harris is definitely a better run stopper than Wake, but with inexperience, he may not start on the field every game. Don’t panic Dolphins fans, his impact will come. He may be more talented than Branch, but not at first. Harris will become a starter.
Raekwon McMillan – Middle Linebacker
Linebacker was by far the most worrisome position for the Dolphins last season. The only linebacker that was worth noting last season is Kiko Alonso. However, Alonso played out of position the entire season at middle linebacker. Given Miami’s desperate need for linebacker help, they signed Lawrence Timmons in free agency. This left a gap at middle linebacker, assuming Alonso returns to his natural position. The decision to pass on Foster in the first round rendered itself even more confusing until the second round.
With their second selection of the draft, the Dolphins drafted Raekwon McMillan out of Ohio State. McMillan led his team in tackles at middle linebacker on a star studded Buckeyes defense. According to many sources, McMillan was one of the highest players on the Dolphins board. Given the natural talent he has, coupled with the fact he has little competition means he has an empty starting seat just waiting for him. At just 20 years old, he could be a potential Pro Bowl caliber player and leader at the heart of Miami’s defense.
Cordrea Tankersley – Cornerback
Cornerback was the most confusing position for the Dolphins in 2016. At times, players like Byron Maxwell, Tony Lippett and Xavien Howard looked like legitimate starters. However, when they are not dialed in or completely healthy, this core is atrocious. Howard looked like an aggressive, quick and large cornerback before his injury. Maxwell almost got back to his Seattle form for awhile. Lippett was consistent, but still lacked experience since converting from a wide receiver full time.
Cordrea Tankersley has a National Championship title to his name. Yet, he was overlooked enough to fall to the third round. He is another player Miami had much higher on their board than the third round. At 6’1″ and 190 pounds he has extremely similar measurements to Howard. Given Miami’s lackluster depth at cornerback, it is hard to tell whether Tankersley can start. If new defensive coordinator Matt Burke decides to have three corners on the field to start the game, you could see Tankersley alongside Maxwell, Howard or Lippett. Given their extensive injury records, he could be poised for more time than he expects.
Isaac Asiata – Guard
Selecting Issac Asiata out of Utah in the fifth round has proven to be a fan favorite selection already. With his Somoan background and intimidating eye paint, he looks like everything a team would want in their offensive guard. Scary. The Dolphins 2016 first round selection was Laremy Tunsil, who played left guard all season. Since Branden Albert‘s departure to Jacksonville, Tunsil has been moved to his natural position of left tackle. This leaves a gap at the guard position.
Asiata is known as a run blocker, which fits Miami’s run-first scheme for Jay Ajayi. There are a few options on Miami’s roster to fill this void, such as Kraig Urbik or Anthony Steen. However, these players had only average seasons filling in for injured players. If Asiata can perform well in camp, he could be on the cusp of a starting role.
Godchaux, Taylor and Ford
The Dolphins made a surprising move drafting back-to-back defensive tackles in the fifth and sixth rounds. Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor are not going to be immediate starters in Miami. But, they could have an immediate impact. Playing behind arguably the best defensive tackle in the NFL in Ndamukong Suh and the returning Jordan Phillips will be difficult. If anything, these two rookies will provide much needed depth in the run game.
In the seventh round, with their final selection, the Dolphins took Isaiah Ford. Ford is a wide receiver out of Virginia Tech. This is such a strange move, given Miami’s excellent depth at wide receiver. With the likes of Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Leonte Carroo and even Jakeem Grant it will be tough for Ford to crack the 53-man roster. However, if Grant continues to struggle in the return game he could find himself on the practice squad or waivers. It is well known that Gase likes Carroo, so seeing him grab another receiver means Grant is in the hot seat. Ford’s impact, if any, will be minimal, but has the talent.
Every player from Gase’s first draft in Miami is either on the 53-man roster or practice squad. Five of these players had legitimate impacts with either starting or supporting roles in 2016. If this record can be even somewhat duplicated, the 2017 draft will be highly successful. Five of the seven selections are in high contention to not only contribute, but start on a team that made the playoffs out of a division with the Super Bowl Champions. Building from the draft is something many competing teams have been able to do. This might just be the next step towards something special in Miami.