The Miami Dolphins 2018 NFL Draft class has officially been decided, as general manager Chris Grier looked to add some talent to take the squad to the next level. Thanks to several trades, the Dolphins managed to select eight players in the draft’s seven rounds. In all, they obtained the following players:
- First round, 11th overall: Minkah Fitzpatrick, safety, Alabama
- Second round, 42nd overall: Mike Gesicki, tight end, Penn State
- Third round, 73rd overall: Jerome Baker, linebacker, Ohio State
- Fourth round, 123rd overall: Durham Smythe, tight end, Notre Dame
- Fourth round, 131st overall: Kalen Ballage, running back, Arizona State
- Sixth round, 209th overall: Cornell Armstrong, defensive back, Southern Mississippi
- Seventh round, 227th overall: Quentin Poling, linebacker, Ohio
- Seventh round, 229th overall: Jason Sanders, kicker, New Mexico
Miami Dolphins 2018 NFL Draft Grade: 8.5/10
Miami Dolphins 2018 NFL Draft Review
The Best Player: Minkah Fitzpatrick
Miami fans should be thanking their lucky stars that Fitzpatrick fell into their lap. The 2018 draft had several potential franchise quarterbacks, and several teams were aggressive in their pursuit of a franchise savior. While some (justifiably) wish that Miami had traded up for a quarterback, it’s impossible to be upset about landing Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick was arguably the best defensive back in the entire draft, and easily a top-10 talent. However, thanks to four quarterbacks being selected in the first ten picks, the Dolphins obtained Fitzpatrick without having to give up any draft capital.
The Alabama product is one of the few players that can truly do everything he’s asked to do. There’s no notable weak spot in his game, and he has the versatility to play all over the field. It’s anyone’s guess how defensive coordinator Matt Burke will use his new toy, but he could look to their AFC East rival New England Patriots for guidance.
The Patriots utilize Patrick Chung has a hybrid safety/linebacker, and Fitzpatrick could play a similar role. Chung’s one of the most vital parts of New England’s defense, and Fitzpatrick’s ceiling is far higher than Chung’s. Quite frankly, his presence makes the whole defense better, not just the secondary.
The Head-Scratcher: No Suh Replacement
While some fans were clamoring for a quarterback, head coach Adam Gase has made it clear he believes in incumbent Ryan Tannehill. While that trust may not be justified, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Miami didn’t invest in a new quarterback.
What’s more of a surprise is that the Dolphins didn’t draft a defensive tackle to replace the departed Ndamukong Suh. The Dolphins cut Suh and his massive cap hit prior to free agency, but have yet to do much to replace him.
The Dolphins didn’t sign a defensive tackle in both free agency and the draft, and the only outside pass rushing help they received was getting defensive end Robert Quinn in a trade. Looking at the roster right now, there’s no clear answer for where this team will get its pass rush.
This bodes as bad news, especially when this team plays Tom Brady twice a year. The recipe for beating the Patriots isn’t a secret. It’s just incredibly difficult to pull off. Teams need to generate consistent interior pressure to get Brady off his spot while dropping seven in coverage to take away the quick passes. Frankly, right now it’s hard to see how Miami plans on generating that pressure.
The Surprise: Durham Smythe
It’s hard to call a fourth-round pick a surprise, but the Smythe pick was an interesting choice nonetheless. This isn’t to say that Smythe won’t become a solid player for the Dolphins; he was one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft.
However, that’s all he is. Smythe offers little to no threat in the passing game, which is why this pick was so surprising. Blocking tight ends are a dime a dozen, and seeing Miami invest a fourth-round pick into a tight end that only blocks was a surprising decision.
The Steal: Kalen Ballage
This was very much a risk/reward pick for the Dolphins, but you can’t deny Ballage’s talent. He has all the measurables and has the build to last in the NFL. NFL.com had him as a third to fourth round pick, so grabbing him late in the fourth was pretty solid value.
He’s not a perfect running back by any means, but a lot of his problems are fixable. His biggest issue is his indecisiveness, which hopefully Gase can teach away. Most of his reported problems (poor feet, upright runner) would naturally be fixed if he had were a stronger decision maker.
Hopefully, NFL level coaching fixes this. Recently, the Dolphins have had success with mid- to late-round running backs such as Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake. Ballage has a similar build to Ajayi, so perhaps history will repeat itself with the rookie running back.
Most Likely to Turn Heads During Training Camp: Mike Gesicki
Picking Fitzpatrick again would be lame, so let’s shift the focus to the Dolphins second-round pick. While Smythe is purely a blocking tight end, Gesicki offers a major threat in the passing game. While at Penn State in 2017, Gesicki recorded 51 receptions for 501 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Dolphins are in desperate need of a tight end, so Gesicki should immediately take the starting role. Additionally, Miami doesn’t have much in terms of pass catching talent after trading away receiver Jarvis Landry. The stage is set for Gesicki to receive a lot of snaps, and he’ll likely take advantage of the opportunity.
Another thing in Gesicki’s favor is the return of Tannehill. As all Dolphin fans know, Tannehill tore his ACL and should be healthy for training camp. At least early on, Tannehill will probably try to avoid deep shots, and will instead opt for easy, short passes. Typically, when quarterbacks play this way, the tight end becomes the quarterback’s safety blanket. Basically, all signs are pointing towards Gesicki playing a large part in this Dolphins offense.
Ready or not, here Jerome Baker comes. The Dolphins third-round pick will likely be a Week One starter, whether that be due to talent or due to Miami not having any other options. Baker projects to be an outside linebacker capable of not only playing the run in the trenches but also dropping into coverage.
He excelled at that role in college, and Miami doesn’t seem to have any other players capable of doing that. He’s better in the passing game than the running game, and his relative lack of strength led to his falling to the third round. However, the Dolphins needed a linebacker that can cover, and Baker fills that need perfectly.
In a perfect world, both Cornell Armstrong and Quentin Poling would be competing for special teams spots. However, Miami’s roster lacks depth at both cornerback and linebacker, so both players could see time on defense. If this happens, it’s almost certainly not a good thing.
With their final pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins selected a kicker. Jason Sanders will compete with incumbent Cody Parkey for the lead role. There’s not too much more to say about that.