The Miami Dolphins’ talent drain of an offseason coupled with last season's dispiriting 6-10 record magnify the importance of this NFL Draft, and for a change I see the Fins being able to do something dynamic and smart and fan-pleasing:
Draft quarterback Josh Rosen of UCLA. Find the future that Ryan Tannehill has failed to deliver. Below I explain what I think will cause Rosen to fall to Miami with the 11th pick Thursday night, and other possibilities for the Dolphins in case he does not.
This is the NFL’s 82nd draft, the Dolphins’ 53rd and my 27th annual Official Miami Herald Mock Draft.
They ought to call these endeavors Mock Dafts, as silly and preposterous as they really are. Last year, for example, my first round featured eight bull’s-eyes — exact player to exact team, including Charles Harris to the Dolphins — and if that doesn’t sound so great, consider that ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay only had four each.
Do you realize how absurd that is? Kiper and McShay make a year-round cottage industry of their mock drafts. I make a couple of calls, throw a few darts and voila! Me beating Kiper is like a guy doing cannonballs winning Olympic diving gold. My idea of film study is re-watching Alfred Hitchcock’s "Rear Window."
I don’t do multiple mock drafts like others do, and I don’t factor in possible trades. Hard enough to guess the right players in the expected order. I’m supposed to guess trades, too?
No, I just stick to my polished formula of educated guesswork, wild hunches, reading Kiper’s mock so I don’t repeat his mistakes, and a dog-eared Ouija board.
So with Super Bonus Draft Facts interspersed as always . . . let the guessing begin!
1. Cleveland Browns: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming: Raw but with a skyscraper ceiling, Allen will have time to blossom unpressured while Tyrod Taylor babysits the job. But don’t be surprised if the Earthtones play it safer with Sam Darnold.
2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: Biggies will entertain trade-down offers from QB-needy teams but can’t go wrong with Barkley if they keep the pick. Although an heir to Eli Manning is possible, and Sam Darnold would tempt if Browns don’t grab him.
3. New York Jets: Sam Darnold, QB, Southern Cal: Rosen might be more NFL ready but has injury concerns. No question it will be a QB after Planes traded from the No. 6 spot to assure they get their future at the position.
4. Cleveland Browns: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S/CB: Might be slightly high for Fitzpatrick, but his versatility meets Cleveland’s pressing needs in secondary. Will be very tough, though, for Browns to bypass the great edge rusher Bradley Chubb here.
5. Denver Broncos: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: Chubb, guard Quenton Nelson or a cornerback also would fit here, but John Elway sees the future and a little bit of himself in the swagger of Mayfield.
▪ SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: They’ll be partying like its 1973 in what promises to be an evening full of tears and regret as the Dolphins’ annual draft-day fans’ event at Hard Rock Stadium marks the club’s 45th draft since last winning a Super Bowl. OK, no, but there will be a draft party from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., featuring live, independent updates from on-site “reporters” in Dolphins shirts who are guaranteed to adore Miami’s pick because the team pays them.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State: Colts hit big with their trade down from No .3, landing the best pass rusher in the draft and lucky the Browns didn’t snatch him with their second pick.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State: Bucs’ former No. 1 pick Vernon Hargreaves has not lived up to billing and Brent Grimes is turning 35, so the draft’s best pure cover corner makes sense here.
8. Chicago Bears: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame: Can you say perfect fit? Chitown watched aging stalwart Josh Sitton depart for Miami, and manages to plug the hole with the draft’s premier guard.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Tremaine Edmunds, DE/OLB, Virginia Tech: Adding corner Richard Sherman filled a more urgent need, so Niners target a quarterback-harasser for a defense that ranked 26th in sacks last year. Guard also would tempt if Nelson fell.
10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia: Talk about a Jon Gruden type of guy! Smith is already running through a wall somewhere just at the idea of playing for Chucky. Gruden is thinking defense all the way and crossing digits that Smith falls to him.
11. MIAMI DOLPHINS: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: Fins get (hopefully) their quarterback of the future when Rosen — one of the draft’s Big Four QBs — unexpectedly falls to them. He’s seen as NFL ready but the suspicion is he will groom behind Ryan Tannehill in 2018. Is he a perfect prospect? No. There are reasons he tumbled to Miami. Durability (shoulder, concussions) have been a concern. So have turnovers, with 26 INTs and seven lost fumbles in 30 college starts. But his upside is too great to bypass the surprise gift of his availability. If Rosen is gone by here (a real possibility), Miami would consider the FSU safety Derwin James or perhaps Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson, but likelier might select the big run-stopper Vita Vea, who would plug in so perfectly for the departed Ndamukong Suh. Vea is the safer Dolphins pick here, yes, but I can’t ignore that my mock has Rosen landing in their laps. Also think there is a possibility that Miami would reach and select Louisville QB Lamar Jackson 11th. Jackson isn’t as fully formed and ready as Rosen, but is more of a dual threat, a bigger gamble with perhaps a higher ceiling.
▪ SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: The NFL Draft, no longer held in New York every year, will be held in Arlington, Texas, and hosted by the Cowboys and embittered owner Jerry Jones, who has sunk into an even angrier funk than usual and threatened to sue commissioner Roger Goodell for allowing the hated rival Eagles to win the Super Bowl.
12. Buffalo Bills: Derwin James, S, Florida State: Buffs really need O-line help, but there’s big falloff after the long-gone Nelson. Bison also covet a QB, but if none of the Big Four are left and they don’t trade up, James will be a great get this low.
13. Washington Redskins: Vita Vea, DT, Washington: Here’s the load Miami will snatch up if Rosen isn’t there. A cornerback (Jaire Alexander, Mike Hughes) also would tempt here, although a run-stopper in the middle front is the clear priority.
14. Green Bay Packers: Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio: Draft starts getting trickier here; we’re on to the second tier. A writer buddy in Milwaukee tells me the Pack loves Davenport, but also tells me Aaron Rodgers is wishing hard for a receiver or blocker.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: Here’s the guy I would love to see the Dolphins dare to draft 11th overall if none of the Big Four QBs are left. Has time to develop behind Sam Bradford. Departure of Tyrann Mathieu also makes cornerback a need.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State: Tight end a big need for Crows. Was figuring on a wide receiver here (Calvin Ridley?) until Baltimore signed Willie Snead from Saints. Tackle Mike McGlinchey also a possibility here.
▪ SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: The NFL is trying to goose interest in Day 3 of the draft by allowing teams to have fun announcing late picks. For example, Chewbacca and R2-D2 will announce 49ers late picks, and a parrot named Zsa Zsa will reveal the Bucs’ fourth-round choice. It looks as if this will be the most ridiculous thing associated with the NFL Draft since the Miami Dolphins traded way up to select Dion Jordan in 2013.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama: Bolts have a great pass-rush tandem in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram but need a great run-stopper in between. Done! Payne is second-ranked DT after Vea.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame: Russell Wilson needs help, and Hawks will be lucky if the draft’s top-rated tackle lasts this long. Also could go for a corner here to replace departed Richard Sherman.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama: Many think Boys will go defense, but the draft’s top-ranked wideout will be too good to pass up for a team that just untethered itself from Dez Bryant.
20. Detroit Lions: Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College: Although Lions could really use a running back and might reach for, say, Sony Michel, the RB dropoff after the top-five Barkley is enormous.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: James Daniels, C, Iowa: 'Gals have many needs but none bigger than this specific one, and Daniels is draft’s top-rated center and should be an instant starter in front of Andy Dalton.
▪ SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: Bitter rival Miami sports radio stations 790 The Ticket and 560-WQAM are flooding the air with draft talk this week, unaware that, in a national poll of what would most make listeners drive screaming off a cliff to stop the sound, the No. 1 answer was, “Hearing a local radio host probe Brian Billick on the upside of Mason Rudolph.”
22. Buffalo Bills: Will Hernandez, OG, Texas-El Paso: Had Buffs going defense with their first pick (12th overall), so let’s swing over to offense here with a guy who will fit neatly in for the suddenly retired Richie Incognito.
23. New England Patriots: Connor Williams, OG/OT, Texas: With tackle Nate Solder gone, Pats’ O-line needs repair, and Bill Belichick loves versatile guys who can play multiple roles. And guys who help keep Tom Brady (turning 41 in August) upright.
24. Carolina Panthers: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland: A cornerback might tempt Cats here, but, with Devin Funchess and old Torrey Smith the wideout starters, Cam Newton needs another receiver.
25. Tennessee Titans: Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama: Although Titans also will be shopping for an edge rusher, a tight end, guard or even strong safety, Nick Saban’s tackle machine will be too good to pass by.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida: Falcs have a DT hole left by departed Dontari Poe, and Bryan will plug it nicely. Although Matt Ryan could really use another wideout to pair with Julio Jones.
▪ SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: Federal DEA agents stormed ESPN’s Bristol headquarters early this morning and arrested legendary mock draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. for the use of performance-enhancing hair gel. The feds evidently received an anonymous tip. “Wasn’t me!” said a widely grinning Todd McShay.
27. New Orleans Saints: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina: Drew Brees still misses Jimmy Graham at the position, Coby Fleener isn’t the answer, and Hurst and South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert are the draft’s two first-round-caliber tight ends.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Leighton Vander Esch, ILB, Boise State: Steelers’ D collapsed when middle linebacker Ryan Shazier went down with his (likely) career-ending injury, and Vander Esch is the best facsimile still on the board.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: D.J. Chark, WR, Louisiana State: Jags’ defense is quite wonderful, so any kind of help for Blake Bortles is the priority here. Chark has a great size/speed combo (6-3, 4.34 40) and LSU has history of churning out top wideouts.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia: Vikes need an insurance policy to protect their pricey investment, Kirk Cousins, and the polished Wynn is seen as an NFL-ready instant starter.
31. New England Patriots: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville: Had Pats going O-line with first pick (23rd), so this targets a guy to replace departed Malcolm Butler. Belichick would love to draft Brady’s eventual replacement here, and is praying Jackson (see No. 15) falls.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Ronald Jones, RB, Southern Cal: Sure, the Birds already have Jay Ajayi. But that’s the luxury of a Super Bowl champ: You get to pile up talent, not scrounge to fill holes. And Jones is draft’s best RB after the top-five Barkley.