The Dolphins would be fine if they don’t use a single draft pick on a cornerback or an offensive lineman in this month’s NFL Draft because they have starters and decent depth at those positions.
But Miami is nevertheless using some of its 30 permitted nonlocal predraft visits on those positions.
The latest additions to the list: Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward (according to NFL.com) and Auburn guard Braden Smith (according to a league source).
Ward might be gone by the time the Dolphins pick at No. 11. ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay both predict he will go seventh to Tampa Bay.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“Ward is the best true corner in this class,” Kiper said.
Ward was named first-team All-American and All-Big Ten after a 2017 season in which he finished with 37 tackles, two for loss, two interceptions, and 15 pass breakups.
Ward is only 5-10, and NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein said his “frame is somewhat slight and he feels small in coverage at times.”
But Zierlein adds that “Ward has the experience and talent to handle duties on the outside, but his lack of play strength combined with his elite footwork might be the deciding factor for a move inside. Ward is outstanding as a mirror-and-match cornerback with great route feel who is able to maintain tight coverage around the field with good technique and pattern recognition. He should become an early starter at nickel cornerback with the talent to make an immediate impact for a defense that faces a pass-happy division foe twice per year.”
Coach Adam Gase has said the Dolphins are set at nickel cornerback with Bobby McCain.
So Ward might not make the most sense for Miami. But the Dolphins are intrigued enough to use one of their 30 visits on him.
As reported earlier this week, the Dolphins also are bringing Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson to Davie for a visit. He’s a potential second-round pick.
Smith, meanwhile, is the third confirmed offensive lineman taking a “30 visit” with the Dolphins, joining UCLA’s Kolton Miller and TCU’s Matt Pryor.
Smith was a first-team All-SEC guard the past two years.
Zierlein projects him as a third- or fourth-round pick and says: “Braden Smith has an NFL-ready frame and will impress evaluators with the eyeball test. When the eyeballs are focused on the tape, they will see a player who is more than capable of matching power with power, but can be too regimented in his movement and overall play.
“Smith is a grinder whose play could vary greatly based upon the matchup across from him. He has size and power, but the holes in his game are unlikely to be patched up with coaching. He can become an average to solid starter.”
Some players that this regime selected took predraft visits to the Dolphins; others did not.
But the Dolphins do not announce their “30 visits” and do not use them on smoke screens. If they bring a player to Davie, there’s a genuine interest in learning more about him.
Players on 30 visits cannot work out for the team at their facility but can meet with coaches and executives, do film work and undergo medical testing.
Here’s a look at some familiar names attending the Dolphins’ local pro day on Friday.