Barry Jackson

Here's a tough choice Dolphins could face Thursday. And what we're hearing as draft nears

Miami running back Mark Walton (1) tries to get past Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (49) and defensive lineman Vinny Mihota, left, during the first half of an NCAA college football game in October 2016. Edmunds is a possibility for the Dolphins' pick at 11.
Miami running back Mark Walton (1) tries to get past Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (49) and defensive lineman Vinny Mihota, left, during the first half of an NCAA college football game in October 2016. Edmunds is a possibility for the Dolphins' pick at 11. AP

Here is some Miami Dolphins draft chatter:

The Dolphins would love if a top linebacker — Georgia’s Roquan Smith or Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds — is among options available to them at No. 11.

But what happens if Smith and Edmunds and two corners they like — Ohio State’s Denzel Ward and Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick — and the top four quarterbacks are all gone by 11?

Then the choice becomes more difficult. The two best options:

1. Stay where you are and select Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea or FSU safety Derwin James (if available) or even Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, though ESPN's Todd McShay said he sees Baltimore at 16 as the earliest spot for Jackson.

The Dolphins like Washington’s Vea, and have given strong consideration to him, but as several draft analysts asked me, do you want to use a top 11 pick on a player who might play less than half the downs?

“I love Vita Vea, but I'm just not sure what he gives you as a rusher in your sub package, which you're in 60 to 70 percent of the time,” Mike Mayock said.

With James, the question is whether there’s position overlap with Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald, who are best as inside-the-box safeties. But there are some evaluators, such as NFL Net's Charley Casserly, who swear James isn’t an inside-the-box safety and has terrific coverage skills.

2. Trade down for Jackson or linebackers Leighton Vander Esch (Boise State) or Rashaan Evans (Alabama) or someone else. This would make sense to me if Smith or Edmunds are off the board, because the Dolphins have so many needs entering this draft, and an extra second or third-rounder acquired in a trade down would help.

Let’s say Miami trades to 14 (Green Bay's pick) and takes Jackson, Vander Esch or Evans. Arizona picks 15th and Jackson cannot be ruled out.

If the Dolphins can get a second-rounder out of that deal, the Dolphins would have two second-round picks, a third-rounder and two fourth-round picks to fill needs at starting tight end, No. 3 safety, No. 3 defensive tackle, No. 3 running back and either starting linebacker or young quarterback prospect (whichever isn’t filled in a trade down in this hypothetical scenario).

If the Dolphins don’t land one of the top five quarterbacks, that would leave Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph (a potential late first-rounder), Washington State’s Luke Falk and Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta, Western Kentucky’s Mike White, Marshall’s Chase Litton or Virginia’s Kurt Benkert as possible options on day two (for a couple of those) or day three (for a couple of others).

These are all scenarios the Dolphins have assuredly discussed. But the scenario with both Smith and Edmunds off the board seems the toughest call to me.

NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah makes a strong case for the merits of Vea, ranking him as the 11th best prospect in this draft:

“I was in Baltimore when we drafted Haloti Ngata, was covering the West Coast during that time," Jeremiah said. "And he reminds me so much of Haloti. You play him up and down the line of scrimmage, they move him all over the place. He's got a nasty hump move as a pass rusher; you can see that physical power. You watch him just stack and toss offensive linemen. The Stanford game especially was just nasty. He can really roll his hips and he's got tremendous power as a run defender. And I think he does have upside as a pass rusher. You just look at his athleticism, we talked about making a tackle on punt coverage. He's blocked a punt. I remember watching Haloti block a punt against Arizona. He reminds me of Haloti Ngata. I have him as the 11th player.”

Mayock has some interesting thoughts on Jackson, who’s a possibility for Miami:

“The guy I’m most excited about is Lamar Jackson. He's the most exciting athlete in the draft. I think somebody in the first round is going to make a philosophical and schematic commitment to this kid and change what they do offensively. And it might not be this year where he makes a significant move, but I think long term, I can't wait to see what Lamar Jackson becomes. I haven't even done my mock draft yet, but I'll tell you the one that I've thought the most about is Lamar Jackson. The reason it's so hard to place him is because his upside is so high I wonder if somebody is going to try to get him in the first 10 or 12, 13, 14 picks just because he could be so special.”

Miami needs to find a starting tight end in this draft, and McShay places the tight ends in three tiers:

South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert and South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst in the first tier. The Dolphins would be happy with either.

McShay has Penn State’s Mike Gesicki and Indiana’s Ian Thomas in the second tier. Miami has studied both closely.

McShay’s third tier of tight ends that he expects to be picked “earlier on day three”: Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews (Adam Gase watched him catch passes from Baker Mayfield at a private workout), UCF’s Jordan Akins, UM’s Chris Herndon (visited the Dolphins March 23) and Wisconsin’s Troy Fumagalli.

Miami clearly needs to emerge with one from that group.

Incidentally, ESPN’s Mel Kiper believes Hurst will be off the board by the end of the first round. “Excellent hands, takes a lot of pride in his blocking. Can be an inline blocker, [which is] unique to the position. Dallas Goedert and Hurst are clearly your two best tight ends in this draft”

Kiper really likes Washington State quarterback Falk, who intrigues the Dolphins: “He’s the most underrated [QB]. Completed almost 70 percent of his passes, great touchdown to interception ratio. Played through an injury last year. Not a top athlete, doesn’t have great arm strength but kind of like Tom Brady coming out, can manipulate in the pocket [and is cerebral]. I like Luke Falk in the second, third round. Wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots took him.”

According to a source, Dolphins officials had a priate dinner Tuesday night with FIU quarterback Alex McGough, who has had private visits with five teams and worked out for five others.

If the Dolphins don’t get one of the top four linebackers (Smith, Edmunds, Evans, Vander Esch), the team believes there are plenty of other good linebackers in the draft.

Kiper likes USC’s Uchenna Nwosu and Virginia’s Fred Warner (who visited the Dolphins). “Arrow going up,” he said. “If [Warner] went late second, early third, it wouldn’t surprise me.”

Miami also has shown interest in South Carolina State’s Darius Leonard, among others.

The Dolphins consider linebacker their top priority.

Though the Dolphins are seemingly in no position to take a guard in the first two days of the draft because of many needs elsewhere, they have shown interest in Auburn’s Braden Smith, summoning him to Davie for meetings with executives.

Of Auburn’s class, Smith “is the most underrated,” Kiper said. “You get him in the third round — you have a plug and play starter as a rookie.”

Though Dolphins owner Steve Ross never meddles on personnel procurement, he has a soft spot for some players from alma mater Michigan.

And two Wolverines prospects play Dolphins position of need.

Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst “I have a second round grade, late one or early two. There are not many 4-3 defensive tackles in this draft,” Kiper said. “If you draft Maurice Hurst, you [could have] an immediate starter.” Kiper also likes linebacker Mike McCray as a fifth or sixth round pick.

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