Grading the Dolphins' first pick in the NFL Draft
At first blush this Miami Dolphins 2017 draft doesn’t look all that impressive. And when the team itself talks about adding “competition and depth” the past three days one has to feel like there’s no tingle there.
“If Charles Harris plays one play or 50 against Tampa Bay, that will all sort itself out,” executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said Saturday, shrugging off the idea that the first round pick must be an instant starter to be a success.
“Same thing with [second-round pick] Raekwon [McMillan] and on down the line,” Tannenbaum added. “I do feel it takes about three years to evaluate the draft overall. I think we got good players, good people. They’re smart, they’re tough. I think they’re good culture fits for what [general manager] Chris [Grier], Adam [Gase]. Steve Ross, myself believe in for what you need to put a winner together. From that standpoint we’ve got people we’re really excited about.”
The Dolphins most exciting moment of the entire draft came when they landed Harris on Thursday night. There was much celebrating and self-congratulation in the Miami draft room. Why?
The Dolphins believe even if the idea of Harris not starting is true -- and it might be -- the plan is already for him to particpate in at least 30 plays per game.
And if things are going right, Harris will play the most important 30 plays of the game -- when the other team is passing the football to win the game and the Dolphins need to close the game out.
That’s the plan.
The Dolphins think they have a latter day David Harris, the linebacker Tannenbaum drafted for the New York Jets in 2007 and has collected over 1,000 tackles the past decade en route to being an outstanding, understated but never under-estimated performer in the AFC East.
McMillan is a good but not great athlete. So he’s not going to cover Rob Gronkowski step for step as Dion Jordan memorably did once three or four years ago.
But the Dolphins see dependability in McMillan. So they will gladly trade that singular eye-popping moment against Gronk for what they think they’re going to get -- which is a longterm, steady tackler who is going to immediately compete with Koa Misi for the starting strongside linebacker spot.
And if McMillan doesn’t win that job right away, he’s still going to play on special teams and will be expected to be the starter at the spot in 2018.
So Kiko Alonso, Lawrence Timmons and Raekwon McMillan will be the linebackers the Dolphins are banking on him down the road.
The cornerback grabbed a lot in college. He’s had penalties. He’s not great yet in run support.
But the Dolphins have been watching him since 2016 when they thought he was going to come out in that draft.. And they loved him then because of his length (6-1), speed (4.38) and character:
When Tankersley visited the Dolphins he absolutely wowed everyone. He was attentive. He was engaged. And he treated everyone he interacted with -- from the shuttle driver who picked him up at the airport, to the receptionist, to coaches and general manager Chris Grier, like they were the most important people in the world to him.
The Dolphins loved that.
He also had a great visit with the Dolphins this spring. The Dolphins see him as smart, respectful and, I’m told, when they tore him apart during the visit, he showed them he loves football and will do anything he has to do to be successful.
By the way, Asiata on the field is very unpleasant to opponents. That’s a good thing.
The Dolphins recognize Asiata isn’t a perfect lineman right now. But they picked him in the fifth round and perfect linemen don’t come in that round. The team nonetheless had a grade on him that was a higher than the round in which they got him.
Same with slot receiver Isaiah Ford who the Dolphins picked in the seventh round. The team had a mid-round grade on him and personnel people were pleased he was there near the end of business on Saturday.
Ford ran a 4.58 40 at his Pro Day so he obviously didn’t impress a lot of teams that don’t consider receivers unless they’re the size of houses or run like deer.
Ford is a person who is the size of a persona and runs like a solid athlete.
He runs good routes. He’s going to have to battle to make the 53-man roster. He’s going to have to battle to make the game day roster.
And the Dolphins believe Ford is the type of guy that loves the idea of those battles because he’s won so many battles in his life.
So this draft doesn’t have the mega-star. It doesn’t have the one signature look-at-me pick.
Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster would have been that if the Dolphins had picked him in the first round. But, ultimately, the Dolphins were obviously not comfortable with investing a first-round pick on Foster.
They couldn’t have been thrilled with the medical information they had from their doctors about Foster’s shoulder or concussions. They couldn’t be certain he would handle living an hour from South Beach as well as he did living in Tuscaloosa.
They passed on a potential star that came with significant warts in order to pick a player in Harris no one in the organization is going to lose sleep over when players are away from the building.
The Dolphins believe they have a potential star in Harris, so don’t be fooled. But even if they don’t, they are certain -- certain! -- they have a good player that will contribute immediately and for years to come.
The team chose the steady flame instead of the incendiary bomb.
The Dolphins are good with that. So even if you’re not excited, they’re excited.
“We’re 0-0,” Tannenbaum said, “but we’re excited about where we’re headed.”
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter @ArmandoSalguero