Armando Salguero

The draft scenarios for the Miami Dolphins: So many choices and so many needs

Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds rushes Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett.
Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds rushes Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett. AP

The NFL draft is only two weeks away and you’re rooting for the Miami Dolphins to pick a quarterback because you know lightning strikes are common in South Florida. And if a bolt electrifies Miami’s fortunes in the person of a franchise quarterback, the next dozen years will be much more fun than the past dozen.

The amazing thing is the Dolphins agree with you. So the team has been diligently doing homework on first- and second-round caliber quarterbacks in the coming draft, even if such a choice would be initially disguised as a backup to Ryan Tannehill.

Others of you want an outside linebacker that can run sideline to sideline because Miami’s 29th-ranked defense (in points allowed) urgently needs upgrade. Others of you want a defensive tackle because Ndamukong Suh is gone. Others of you want a tight end because they catch TD passes in the red zone and the Dolphins haven’t had that in a long time.

Others of you want … wait.

Whatever any armchair general manager might want from this next draft, it’s probably in the cards for the Dolphins. The team is casting a wide net this draft “season.” It’s leaving itself open to many possibilities.

Because, the Dolphins will tell you, their roster grants them a ton of flexibility following the upgrades of free agency.

But there’s another, more accurate reason the Dolphins could draft players at any number of positions early on: Their roster needs serious attention at a bunch of different places.

I mean, this roster really needs upgrades.

Think about this:

Today, now, the Dolphins do not have a starting tight end.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase meets with reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Today, now, the Dolphins do not have a starting strong side linebacker.

That’s not up for debate. And those huge needs don’t come close to touching the nagging nuances this roster leaves begging for attention.

I’m talking nuances such as the need for a third running back who can become the backup or starter in 2019 because Frank Gore will be 35 years old next month and Kenyan Drake can’t do it all by himself.

More nuance? You can argue Jordan Phillips, Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor can fill the huge hole where Suh’s sizable skills and terrible contract used to be.

Except those three can’t cover 100 percent of Miami’s defensive tackle snaps, and Phillips is in the final year of his contract. So, no, the defensive tackle position is not a hole — but only if you’re looking short-term and ignoring facts and the future.

About that future: One of the best arguments against the Dolphins picking a quarterback this draft, particularly early on, is that Miami is set at quarterback. Tannehill is the starter. David Fales and Brock Osweiler will compete for the backup job.

So any quarterback the Dolphins draft isn’t likely to factor in right away unless he’s a quarterback savant. Beyond that, this front office is under pressure from owner Stephen Ross to win now.

So is the brass likely to invest a pick, particularly a high one, on a player who probably won’t help them win right away?

This is a defining question of this draft.

Do the folks who run the Dolphins fill obvious position needs because that helps them stay employed? Or do they pick a player who might be great for the franchise’s future, which they may or may not be a part of?

It’ll be interesting to see which path is chosen.

The long view offers a pick such as Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, who should be available when Miami picks in the first round but probably isn’t ready to play in the NFL right away despite his many gifts.

If the Dolphins don’t go this direction early, they probably won’t have the chance to get Jackson, a Pompano Beach native, because he’s going to be selected later in the first round, if what multiple scouts are telling me is correct.

Immediacy, on the other hand, offers help now. And that’s where linebacker and tight end factor in.

Linebacker is a thing because that’s not just a hole but an abyss that has swallowed outside linebackers Lawrence Timmons, Jelani Jenkins, Koa Misi, Donald Butler, Spencer Paysigner and Zach Vigil the past few seasons.

That gaping problem demands attention with the selection of Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds or Georgia’s Roquan Smith in the first round. (I prefer Edmunds.)

It could be argued the Dolphins need a tight end to catch touchdowns more than they need a quarterback of the future to throw them and that’s true if immediacy is the priority.

That position has been a disappointment in that Julius Thomas failed, Jordan Cameron failed, Dion Sims didn’t develop as a pass-catcher, Charles Clay left, and the Miami brass of Mike Tannenbaum, Adam Gase and Chris Grier have so far failed to address the question with a good answer.

So this draft must bring an answer because free agency has run its course and all Miami has to show on the roster is career backups.

South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert, whom the Dolphins like, would be an instant upgrade. South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst is a possibility if he lasts until the second round, but his age (24) and curious journey in professional baseball raise questions with some scouts.

So it’s obvious, right? The Dolphins need a linebacker April 26, the draft’s first day, and a tight end on the second.

That’s right. Unless the multiple and troubling concerns at other positions makes them draft a quarterback, or a defensive tackle, or a running back, or an offensive lineman.

Yes, the Dolphins have lots of choices. But only because of their many needs, not their great flexibility.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments