For all the hand-wringing over the Dolphins’ decision to trade back into the first round of the NFL Draft, it’s hard to see it as anything but a win for Mike Tannenbaum.
The Dolphins did indeed get two starters from Philadelphia (linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Byron Maxwell).
And they drafted the player at No. 13 whom they would have taken at No. 8 — and at a discount.
Laremy Tunsil was the second-rated player on the Dolphins’ draft board behind Jalen Ramsey.
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The Dolphins never dreamed Tunsil would be available at No. 13. Of course, they probably never imagined a video of Tunsil smoking a bong through a gas mask would be posted on his hacked Twitter account just minutes before the draft, either.
But they were confident in their vetting of the Ole Miss lineman, so there’s no reason to think that they would have passed on him at No. 8. And by getting Tunsil at No. 13, they saved some $3.5 million over the course of his rookie contract, and millions more if they pick up his fifth-year option.
“Going back to January with the eighth pick in the draft and adding guys, Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell, that kind of set the table,” Tannenbaum said late Saturday. “And then adding the draft choices over the last three days, we feel like we’ve improved the team, added competition and added depth. [We are] really excited about where we are.”
That’s the good news.
There are still questions about the defensive roster, particularly at linebacker and slot cornerback.
The Dolphins’ streak of not taking a linebacker in the first round is now 24 years (Marco Coleman in 1992 was the last).
That wasn’t a huge surprise. This was: They didn’t take one in rounds two through seven, either.
In fact, they have only selected a linebacker in the first three rounds just twice since 2002 (Koa Misi in 2010 and Channing Crowder in 2005).
Tannenbaum explained the franchise’s thinking at the position:
“We think Kiko can be a significant upgrade. The more you study those things, a player the second year after an injury, traditionally you see a bigger uptick. We think he has a chance to be a really good player for us. Certainly, there were some linebackers we thought of. The board just fell the way it did.”
And although the Dolphins haven’t ruled out adding a veteran in the months to come — either as a free agent or after training camp cuts — the team is optimistic that Zach Vigil will continue to develop in Year 2.
As for the cornerback position, Maxwell and Xavien Howard will start, but who will play the nickel?
Bobby McCain seems the most likely candidate, but the Dolphins could have had more competition for the job. They cut a relatively cheap Brice McCain and traded Jamar Taylor for next to nothing. The Dolphins surely had their reasons, but it doesn’t change the fact that they let talent at a position of need walk out the door.
“We got together in January when the staff was on board and we know exactly the type of defense the Miami Dolphins are going to play,” Tannenbaum said.
“Obviously, those players we’ve acquired were purposeful and by design. It fits an overall scheme. It’s not just about the corners but it’s how we are going to play. We like the length. We like their athleticism. And we still have a long way to go.
“We feel good for tonight but if and when there are more players we can add, we are not going to sit here and [be] complacent.”
▪ Speaking of players added, the Dolphins plan to sign at least 11 undrafted free agents.
According to various published reports, they are: University of Miami wide receiver Rashawn Scott, Boise State linebacker Tyler Gray, Iowa kicker Marshall Koehn, Florida Tech tight end Gabe Hughes, FAMU linebacker Akil Blount, Kentucky defensive end Farrington Huguenin, Temple wide receiver Brandon Shippen, Louisville linebacker James Burgess (Homestead High), Toledo center Ruben Carter, San Jose State long snapper Ryan DiSalvo and Pittsburgh corner Lafayette Pitts.