Armando Salguero

Despite public stance, Miami Dolphins know they must draft defense

Miami Dolphins general manager Chris Grier warned against drafting for need on Wednesday.
Miami Dolphins general manager Chris Grier warned against drafting for need on Wednesday. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

The Miami Dolphins say they’re going to abide by the rankings they’ve set on their draft board when they’re on the clock next Thursday through Saturday for the NFL draft.

They point to last year’s surprise selection of Laremy Tunsil and explain how great it is to be flexible and open to drafting anyone at any position as long as the draft board says that guy is the best available player.

And, in stressing the point that the draft board is the thing, this team believes its a draft day trap to select players simply for need.

“You get in trouble when you start drafting for need and reaching around your board,” general manager Chris Grier said. “You try and stay as disciplined as you can to your board. There are always times late in the draft where maybe you say, ˜Hey, this and that.’ But for the most part, with us, we’ll always stick to the board.”

All that is fair. All of it is logical and no one who’s ever had any success picking players will ever argue with any of this. But ...

The problem is the Dolphins have an obvious and significant need on defense. This team, 30th against the run last season, 18th in points allowed, and hanging on by a thread at some defensive positions with, for example, a 35-year-old starting defensive end, needs to address the defense early and often in next week’s draft.

So this 2017 Dolphins draft, full of receivers and tight ends and some mid-tier quarterbacks, must be about defense.

Defense.

Defense.

Defense.

With all due respect to head coach and offensive playcalling genius and quarterback whisperer Adam Gase, your defense is in a world of hurt so your offense needs to take a back seat this draft.

Defensive end.

Linebacker.

Cornerback.

Safety.

The Dolphins need players there. Not as in linebacker or defensive end. But as in linebacker and defensive end. And cornerback. And safety.

At least one of each, please.

Find a way to draft University of Tennessee Derek Barnett in the first round. That would be great because he’s productive and his size is just about prototypical and he plays hard all the time and comes with no off-field concerns.

Or maybe Kansas State’s Jordan Willis, who feels like more than a good fallback to Barnett as an edge rusher.

Adding Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis or Washington cornerback Kevin King in the second round would be awesome. Or maybe Vanderbilt inside linebacker Zach Cunningham. And maybe Colorado corner Ahkello Witherspoon on the third day.

Or maybe a safety.

Yes, I’ll say it and make Dolphins owner and Michigan alumnus Stephen Ross giddy: How about Jabrill Peppers as the long-term addition to a safety spot already flush with Reshad Jones playmaking? Peppers as Miami’s second round pick, 54th overall, would incite a celebration in the Miami draft room.

And then everyone else could join Ross in the merriment.

Look, the Dolphins love Barnett. And they love Western Kentucky guard Forrest Lamp. But if it comes down to it next Thursday night, and both players are on the board, the Dolphins had better pick Barnett without hesitation. No question. No second-guessing.

Defensive end is simply a much greater need than guard on this team. And need matters.

But to listen to the Dolphins talk during their draft press conference Wednesday, it sounded for a moment like they’re not all on board with the idea of drilling down on their defensive needs.

“...It’s a very important part of the offseason, but we’ve tried to address some of those areas of concern on defense before the draft, and we’ll see what happens,” Tannenbaum said. “But to go in and say, this is just going to be a draft defense, we’ve just been around it too long to say that, because you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Tannenbaum is really smart. And so are Grier and Gase.

So their public flexibility about picking a guard or a receiver or a tight end over a defensive end or safety doesn’t worry me too much because I believe they have the best interests of the team as their driving motivation. And they know those best interests will be served one way, regardless of what they said publicly in a pre-draft presser.

And that is if they select defensive talent and a lot of it in this draft.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter @ArmandoSalguero

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