If everything goes as the Miami Dolphins hope, they will be “on the clock” Thursday evening and have their choice of multiple good possibilities for their No. 22 overall selection.
Missouri defensive end/outside linebacker Charles Harris would be there. Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis would be there. One of the half dozen safeties the team is interested in, some with a first-round grade, would be there. And the phone would be ringing with multiple trade-down offers.
This would be general manager Chris Grier’s dream.
And then the alarm clock sounded. And Grier woke up. And all those grand possibilities dried up, along with the Dolphins’ ability to trade up to grab one of the players they covet in the first round.
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That’s when it could become hard for the Dolphins to come away from this first round with the sure-fire significant upgrade for the defense which, regardless of what some have opined to the contrary, is exactly what the Dolphins want — as told to me by too many Dolphins people to dismiss.
What if bad things happen on this great and hopeful night?
Well, let’s take care of that scenario later. For now, let’s consider all the good things the Dolphins might hope for from their first-round selection.
The team is hopeful, perhaps even confident, that either Harris or Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett — both of whom I reported days ago the Dolphins covet as their first-round selections — will be available at No. 22.
I doubt Barnett will be there. He might not be the prototype edge defender 4-3 teams want, but because edge rushers are so valuable I simply don’t see the second-best player projected there behind Myles Garrett lasting into the bottom third of the first round.
The more lucky strike for the Dolphins would be Harris. That’s the guy. He would be the target.
I know he is high on the Dolphins’ draft board. I know he plays a position of need because Cameron Wake is 35 years old and this defense needs to attack quarterbacks more consistently, as evidenced by it being tied at No. 19 in sacks last season.
Harris is not a great run defender. That’s the knock against him. But if he was outstanding at rushing the quarterback and at setting the edge, we wouldn’t be discussing him at all here because flawless edge defenders don’t last to No. 22 overall.
Suppose, however, Harris is also gone. That’s possible.
So the Dolphins start looking at Davis from the Gators. He’s a sideline-to-sideline missile with a reputation for finishing tackles. He projects as a Day 1 starter for the Dolphins because right now he would keep Koa Misi on the bench as a backup rather than as the injury-prone starting strongside linebacker who is coming off neck surgery.
(I love Davis for this reason alone.)
Look, the Dolphins were No. 30 against the run in 2016. No NFL team that is among the worst run defending teams gets very far in the playoffs if it makes the postseason at all.
So the Dolphins must address the run defense. They must increase pressure on the QB.
Either Harris or Davis accomplish one of these.
You know who else might do this? Either a corner or a safety.
My hope is the Dolphins can wait to pick a cornerback in the second round. That’s when the run on the long list of very good cornerbacks this draft offers is likely to begin. And that’s when I see the Dolphins trying to pick Clemson’s Cordrea Tankersley.
Cordrea (pronounced cohr-DRAY) Tankersley is important to this draft because he’s something of a sleeper the Dolphins have identified in the second round that could be a first-round option if, and only if, everything goes horrible in the first round.
If the Dolphins get either Davis or Harris in the first round and then Tankersley on Friday in the second round, they will be celebrating. They will consider that a win-win.
But if they find themselves with no good options other than Tankersley in the first round on Thursday evening, it means they didn’t get the linebacker or defensive end they wanted early, didn’t have a chance to pick a higher-rated offensive player and could not trade back to add picks later.
So Tankersley, whose name you probably hadn’t heard associated with Miami until now, would be a huge win on Friday in the middle of an expected run on second-tier cornerbacks. But picking him Thursday, at No. 22 overall, would be something of a reach.
The Dolphins insist they’re open to picking players on offense. They insist they’ll pick the highest-available player regardless of position.
Yeah, and so what if a quarterback is their highest-available player at No. 22? What if it’s tight end David Njoku from the University of Miami? What if guard Forrest Lamp is there?
That’s not the direction the team wants to go, and I’ve been told outright the team’s leaders are not “locked in” on Lamp, as has been reported and speculated elsewhere.
The only offensive player I would pick at No. 22 and rejoice about it is Florida State running back Dalvin Cook. If the Miami native is there, with all respect to Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake, I have my representative sprint to the podium and announce the special playmaker as the pick.
But Cook likely will not be available at No. 22. That’s only Fake GM Mando’s dream.
The likely reality?
Think Charles Harris, think Jarrad Davis, think safety or cornerback such as Cordrea Tankersley.