Barry Jackson

Two longtime evaluators dish on Fitzpatrick, Dolphins offense and more

Miami Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick on getting better day-by-day

Miami Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick speaks to the media after practice at Dolphins training facility on June 5, 2018.
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Miami Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick speaks to the media after practice at Dolphins training facility on June 5, 2018.

Dolphins chatter as we head into the offseason:

A few takeaways from my conversations with a longtime NFL scout and a longtime NFL executive who met with several of the Dolphins' draft picks (neither works for the Dolphins):

1) The two evaluators say Minkah Fitzpatrick should not only elevate the Dolphins with his play, but in time he also should help lessen the mental mistakes that have plagued the Dolphins’ defensive backfield.

Fitzpatrick led Dolphins defensive backs in interceptions during the offseason program, according to teammate Cornell Armstrong.

Alabama coach “Nick Saban has a complicated scheme and he won’t tolerate guys that make mistakes and Fitzpatrick doesn’t,” the scout said. “I’ve seen Nick throw guys off the field who are too stupid to know their assignments.”

The longtime executive, who met with Fitzpatrick, was bowled over by him: “Very bright kid, sharp kid. He will run their defense [eventually]. He can be a modern day Eric Berry. He’s really one of the Dolphins’ best picks in a while. Very mature. You will love him.”

One scout said he and several other NFL scouts with whom he communicates “thought Fitzpatrick is better than Denzel Ward” – the Ohio State cornerback who went fourth overall to Cleveland.

Fitzpatrick’s work in the offseason program reinforced the staff’s belief that they made the right decision to draft him, even with owner Stephen Ross suggesting Miami trade down.

2) Though both evaluators appreciate Mike Gesicki’s receiving skills, the overall perspective was mixed.

The scout said: “He has great straight-line speed. And because he has a big catch radius, the quarterback doesn’t have to be 100 percent accurate throwing to him.”

But the executive said: “He's going to be receiver - a tight end/receiver. He is so bad blocking that it's a disgrace. No blocking ability whatsoever. No leg strength. They will put him in the slot or flex him out.”

Gesicki impressed in the final week of offseason practices.

And what about Durham Smythe, the fourth-round tight end from Notre Dame?

“Just a journeyman tight end,” the executive said. “He can catch the ball but won't be a threat. He won't beat you down the seam or middle.”

But the Dolphins believe he’s a better receiver than he’s given credit for. A UM person who studied him before the Notre Dame game agreed, saying he’s being sold short as a receiver.

3) On the third-round pick, Jerome Baker, the scout said players such as Baker are going to be overdrafted – taken before they should be - because “defensive coordinators more and more want kids like Jerome Baker, because they need linebackers who can cover. They don’t want two-down [mike linebackers]. They want guys who can run and cover.”

Though the Dolphins are bringing Baker along slowly, he didn’t do anything memorable in offseason practices open to the media.

4) Though David Fales played well this offseason, the executive said the Dolphins are short-sighted in believing a capable backup will emerge from Brock Osweiler, Fales or Bryce Petty.

“They are getting guys from the bottom of the barrel," the executive said. "If Ryan Tannehill can’t play, it's going to be a long season, top five in the draft. Their skill guys are average. DeVante Parker hasn’t done it. Danny Amendola was a system player; let's see if he's as good at that system with Tannehill throwing instead of Tom Brady.”

Among Dolphins’ 2019 free agents, an extension with Cam Wake remains a possibility – Miami has expressed interest - but Miami would like to see more of Jordan Phillips and Ja’Wuan James before committing big dollars longterm.

The Dolphins are open to upgrading at corner if the perfect fit emerges and NFLdraftscout.com’s Rob Rang expects three defensive backs to be available in the July 11 supplemental.

But all three have blemishes and it’s a stretch to say any would be better this season than what the Dolphins already have.

Mississippi State safety Brandon Bryant, Western Michigan cornerback Sam Beal and Virginia Tech cornerback Adonis Alexander are those players.

Here's how the process works: Teams interested in selecting a player email the league with the player they would draft and in what round. If they use a fourth-rounder, then that team would forfeit a fourth rounder in next year’s draft.

Here’s what Rang had to say about the two cornerbacks:

“Beal (6-0, 185) earned second-team All-MAC honors last season, leading the Broncos with 10 passes broken up. He was overshadowed, at times, by former teammate Darius Phillips (a fifth-round pick by Cincinnati this spring) but Beal offers an intriguing upside due to his combination of size, speed and physicality. Though his numbers dropped significantly (from 55 in 2016 to just 22 last season), Beal's willingness to tackle was the primary reason why the former prep receiver was asked to make the transition to the defensive side of the ball early his career in Kalamazoo. Beal was set to enter his senior season as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 30 cornerback.

"If teams are comfortable with the off-field issues that plagued Alexander at Virginia Tech, he could wind up being the player that generates the most interest.

"[Recently], Virginia Tech officially announced that Alexander, a senior, was no longer part of the team because he failed to live up to his academic obligations. He missed three previous games with the Hokies due to suspensions, including one for testing positive for marijuana. While teams will want to investigate Alexander's character, his talent and production speak for themselves.”

Dolphins posts will resume in early July.

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