Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick: ‘’Win the turnover battle’’
The Dolphins have made a bundle of questionable moves on high draft picks in recent years, choosing Charles Harris over Takkarist McKinley and T.J. Watt, Dion Jordan over Ezekiel Ansah, DeVante Parker over Melvin Gordon, among other moves they might like to do over.
So how do the Dolphins’ draft decisions this year stack up so far more than halfway through the season? Not perfect, but not bad at all. Examining:
▪ Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick , selected 11th overall: Adam Gase had no interest in moving up from 11 to 9 or 10 to select UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, and with Rosen struggling so far for Arizona (five touchdowns, six interceptions, 69.9 rating) and Fitzpatrick thriving, that decision looks sensible.
The Dolphins likely would have selected Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds if they hadn’t picked Fitzpatrick. And while Edmunds, chosen 16th, has been solid for Buffalo (62 tackles, seven passes defended), Fitzpatrick is the better player.
Pro Football Focus rates Fitzpatrick 38th among all cornerbacks, but he leads NFL cornerbacks in passer rating against (50.3), among those who have been in coverage for at least 10 snaps.
Edmunds ranks 70th among all linebackers. Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea, who went 12th to Tampa Bay and also received Dolphins consideration, has two tackles in five games. The only player who has been as good as Fitzpatrick — among those selected soon after — is Chargers and former FSU safety Derwin James, who has 55 tackles and 3.5 sacks and is rated the No. 5 safety by PFF.
Owner Stephen Ross reportedly had interest in the Dolphins trading down to select Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, but his work as Baltimore’s backup has been too limited to make any judgments (7 for 12 , 87 yards and a touchdown throwing; 28 carries for 139 yards and two fumbles rushing).
▪ Tight end Mike Gesicki, selected 42nd overall: Jury still out. He has the most modest stats among three tight ends selected between picks 30 and 90 (16 catches, for 146 yards, no touchdowns), but that’s partly a result of poor quarterback play and it’s way too soon to make any conclusion on him.
He’s conscientious and has good hands and unique athleticism for the position, but his blocking remains a shortcoming despite efforts to improve; Pro Football Focus rates him 53rd in blocking among all tight ends, ahead of only Jarred Cook and Jordan Thomas.
Among other second and third round tight ends, Philadelphia’s Dallas Goedert, selected 49th, has 18 catches for 188 yards and three touchdowns as Zach Ertz’s backup and is rated 13th overall among tight ends by PFF. Baltimore’s Mark Andrews, selected 86th, has 21 catches for 244 yards and two touchdowns and is rated 15th by PFF. Gesicki is PFF’s 42nd-ranked tight end.
UCF’s Jordan Akins, selected by Houston late in the third round (98th), has 9 catches for 89 yards. Indiana’s Ian Thomas, picked early in the fourth round by Carolina, has 11 catches for 87 yards.
It’s clear Miami needed to pick a tight end high in the draft, so the choice essentially was Gesicki or Goedert, and Miami saw more upside in Gesicki.
Among players selected immediately after Gesicki, 49ers receiver Dante Pettis (three catches, 96 yards), Packers cornerback Josh Jackson (three starts, five passes defended), Chiefs defensive end Breeland Sparks (four starts, 1.5 sacks) and especially Arizona receiver Christian Kirk (31 catches, 410 yards, four touchdowns) have had some good moments. But Miami didn’t need a receiver.
▪ Linebacker Jerome Baker, selected 73rd: Looking like a very good pick.
PFF ranks Baker 21st among all linebackers and he has been far more productive than the players selected in the several spots after him and the other third-round linebackers chosen after him.
Baker has 51 tackles, two sacks and an interception return for a touchdown in seven starts. Among other linebackers picked after him, Cincinnati’s Malik Jefferson has four tackles, Green Bay’s Oren Burks 19 in six starts and Kansas City’s Dorian O’Daniel 11 tackles.
The players selected immediately after Baker: Washington offensive tackle Geron Christian (one game), Chiefs defensive tackle Derrick Ndadi (20 tackles in five starts), Pittsburgh No. 3 quarterback Mason Rudolph (no pass attempts).
▪ Tight end Durham Smythe, selected 123rd. The Dolphins doubled-down at tight end, but eventually decided that October waiver addition Nick O’Leary was better equipped to help this season and have played Smythe only 64 snaps on offense. A competent blocker, he has no receptions.
Though the jury is very much out on this selection, none of the seven players selected immediately after him has had much of an impact beyond Eagles safety Avonte Maddox (four starts, one interception, one forced fumble). Falcons running back Ito Smith has averaged 3.6 yards on 49 carries.
Of the five tight ends selected in the draft after Smythe, only Houston’s Jordan Thomas (9 catches, 129 yards, plus two touchdowns against the Dolphins) has done much more than Smythe, and he’s not a very good blocker – which was something Miami wanted when it picked Smythe after Gesicki.
The other tight ends picked after Smythe: Dallas’ Dalton Schultz (one catch, 12 yards), Denver’s Troy Fumagali (no appearances), Minnesota’s Tyler Conklin (two catches, 13 yards), New England’s Ryan Izzo (no appearances).
▪ Running back Kalen Ballage, selected 131st.
Has just four carries for eight yards but he’s solid on special teams and showed promise as a runner and receiver in preseason. The Dolphins like his ability to play Wildcat quarterback.
None of the half dozen players selected after him have done much, though Stephen F. Austin defensive end John Franklin Myers has a forced fumble and sack for the Rams.
Incidentally, seventh-round pick Jason Sanders (11 for 12 on field goals) has been the best rookie kicker. Daniel Carlson, picked in the fifth round by Minnesota, was cut, signed with Oakland and is 2 for 6 on field goals.
The Dolphins also selected cornerback Cornell Armstrong 209th; he got his first defensive snaps last week and has played very well on special teams. He will get a long look next offseason.
Linebacker Quentin Poling, chosen 227th, is on the practice squad.
SATURDAY NEWS NOTE
With guard Ted Larsen doubtful with a neck injury, the Dolphins promoted guard Isaac Asiata to the 53-man roster, according to agent David Canter. But Jake Brendel is expected to start Sunday in Green Bay barring a last-minute Dolphins change of heart, according to a source. Brendel played well filling it at center for Mike Pouncey in the second half of a comeback win against Atlanta last season. Wesley Johnson also is available....
Linebacker Kiko Alonso is questionable for Sunday with an ankle injury that surfaced this week. The Dolphins have gone back to five linebackers after cutting Martrell Speight, with Stephone Anthony and Mike Hull as the reserves....
Offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James also are questionable. Miami is hopeful they will play but not certain. They planned to evaluate both of them today.