The Miami Dolphins came into the 2013 NFL Draft with relatively few needs on paper but a large number of questions. After being the most active team in free agency this year, attacking both sides of the ball, the Dolphins front office led by Jeff Ireland had to evaluate where they had enough talent and where they needed more in the draft. The Dolphins were a team that was projected by many to be a threat to trade up in the draft because they had an extra second round pick they received from the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for their corner Vontae Davis and an extra third round pick they received for Brandon Marshall from the Chicago Bears. In addition, some of the areas the Dolphins could address such as left tackle, corner, and defensive end could require a trade up to get the most premium talent this draft had to offer. The Dolphins confirmed what many believed about the interest in an offensive tackle when they were linked to discussions with the Kansas City Chiefs for a potential swap for Branden Albert. This potential deal was discussed up to draft day itself and there was a sizable group that believed it was imminent and the cost would be one of those second round picks. When the draft finally arrived, the Dolphins shocked everyone with what they did twice but their approach did net them a good amount of talent but leave the team with some lingering questions that could hurt them in the short term.
When the draft began, the Branden Albert situation was still sitting out there potentially there to address the issue at left tackle if they did not figure out an alternate deal. The first two picks were the top two tackles which only served to put stress on teams looking hoping Lane Johnson might fall. When Oakland was on the clock with the third pick in the draft, they used almost the entire clock until… they made a trade. Suddenly, the Dolphins were on the clock at three. And everyone watching the draft assumed the Dolphins moved up to get Lane Johnson to protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s blind side. Great move; everyone was all set to applaud the Dolphins for going up and getting their man. Goodell goes up to the podium and lets everyone know officially what they already knew; Lane Johnson was going to be a Miami Dolphin. “With the third pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins have selected… Dion Jordan, defensive end, Oregon.” The Dolphins traded up nine spots in the draft and passed on Lane Johnson. They went with the raw, athletic freak of a defensive end instead of the raw, athletic freak of an offensive tackle. Everyone covering the draft was stunned. This was the first big shock of the draft.
There was plenty of speculation that Jordan could potentially go as high as #2 to the Jacksonville Jaguars; even a small amount of speculation that the Chiefs were considering taking him with the top overall pick. The surprise here was that the Dolphins, who so many believed were hoping and pining for one of the top three offensive tackles would opt for him. The Dolphins gave up a second round pick to move up the nine spots. In most drafts, a relative discount to move up that high in the draft. The economics of this draft were a little skewed as it was believed the majority of teams in the top 10 were trying to trade down and that finding a trade partner who wanted to move up would be the difficult part. It was. So perhaps in a couple years, this move will look like a steal for the Dolphins and there are some who will argue it is already, but it seemed like a fair deal for both sides.
Two thoughts immediately came to mind for most when it came to the Miami Dolphins. First, they must have loved Jordan and now they suddenly have this big, athletic, versatile player on their defense and all of the different ways they could use him. The second is that the Dolphins still have a second round pick and perhaps they had a deal in place with the Chiefs for the other second round pick to get Albert when they made the move up for Jordan. First, the intrigue with the pick they made; Jordan. The Dolphins have one of the better pass rushers in the league in Cameron Wake, who has been somewhat lost in the shuffle because of the struggles of the Dolphins the past few years. While still productive, he is 31 years old and it is smart to plan for the future while also getting production across from him now. The other angle to this is the Dolphins have Jared Odrick, a former first round pick selected primarily as a defensive end when they were running a 3-4. They are now running a 4-3 and Odrick, after a year of being caught in no man’s land with his role and his weight, has come to the decision with the team to lose weight and get smaller and more athletic for defensive end position. Last year, he played at around 300lbs. It still remains to be seen how Odrick will play as a smaller, sleeker version. Adding Jordan to the mix, they get a guy who has shown flashes of what he can be in the NFL but is still a significant project. Complicating the fact he is so raw is that he might miss mini camps because of a shoulder surgery he had after the combine and was still recovering from; so a player who needs all of the learning and coaching he can get is a little further behind. This could ultimately be a blip on the radar over his career, but somewhat of a concern in the short term. The other part of this is that Jordan was a versatile player who is best suited to play as a defensive end but saw a significant number of snaps as an outside linebacker performing a number of different tasks including rushing the passer to covering tight ends and even slot receivers; a remarkable ability for a player who was 6’6” 235lbs at the time. Jordan could be used as an end or linebacker in different formations for the Dolphins as a rookie and different roles to create mismatches and help the Dolphins defense create havoc.
For all the things Jordan can do, he has little production and only netted five sacks. His speed and explosion is incredible and he flies around the field, but he needs substantial development rushing the passer. The fact Jordan could contribute as a guy who could cover a receiver or tight end is nice, but this pick is ultimately going to be judged on his ability to get to the quarterback as it would be extremely difficult for Jordan to justify the pick if he sees a significant amount of time in coverage. As a rusher, while he has incredible physical ability, he was extremely predictable rushing the passer, almost exclusively attacking to the outside, trying to use his speed to get to the edge and get around the corner to get to the quarterback. There are numerous examples on tape of offensive tackles and even tight ends would not even consider the possibility that Jordan was going to rush inside and would sell out to the outside. The fact Jordan was able to have some success beating opponents who knew exactly what he was going to do is a testament to this athleticism and potential in the league but clearly shows how far he still has to go as a player. For instance, the game against USC has Jordan struggling to make an impact as he is routinely washed out by their tight end allowing Matt Barkley the time to pick the Oregon defense apart. Jordan has shown potential with a spin move and occasionally has faked outside and then come in, but these are both areas he needs to continue improving. He has a natural disadvantage taking on blockers straight up because he is so tall and has a difficult time getting leverage especially attacking from a linebacker position, so he needs to improve at shedding blocks against the run and the pass at the next level as well. Jordan has almost limitless upside but he will likely need to be brought along slowly and have a limited scope in his role as a rookie, likely being a specialist that gets put in good situations for him to attack the quarterback and then expanding on that with time much like Aldon Smith and Jason Pierre-Paul did when they were drafted. Patience, coaching, and hard work could and needs to unleash the type of player those two became to warrant this pick but those two have become two of the most feared pass rushers in the league and that is goal with Jordan. A risk to be sure, but the Dolphins have committed to it.
The other end of this was the possibility that the Dolphins would now make the move for Branden Albert; a possibility that went over night and continued to be speculated on into the second day of the draft all the way until the Dolphins were on the clock, with the pick they had received in the Colts deal. So the clock comes down and of course the Dolphins are going to make the deal for Albert and all sense will be restored to the world. The pick is in. The pick is in? That is a funny looking trade. Wait, they did not make a trade. They are picking. The pick is announced, the Dolphins have taken Jamar Taylor, cornerback from Boise State. Not only is Taylor not Branden Albert, but he is not a tackle either. Everyone was so sure the Dolphins would make another move only to have that move rebuffed and the Dolphins go in a different direction and a different position entirely.
Jamar Taylor is a talented corner who got a little too much hype going into the draft as some were projecting him to be a late first round pick by the end of the process for what seemed to be no apparent reason. This is pretty much exactly where Taylor should have gone, so it was a good value and a quality player to add to the Dolphins secondary. Taylor excels in man coverage and seems to thrive on the one-on-one competition that comes with it. Taylor is extremely physical and shows the ability to play up on the line in press as well as bail into man coverage and stay with his man. He demonstrated the speed to be a guy who could run with receivers down the field and had a lot of physical strength to compete with anybody. Taylor appeared uncomfortable playing in zone coverage while at Boise State and if the Dolphins want to use him in that role, he needs more experience. He really thrives in man. Not only does Taylor thrive in man coverage playing near the line, he plays corner position with a linebacker’s mentality when it comes to supporting the run and tackling the opponent. Taylor is a good, reliable tackler who uses the opportunity to send a message to opponents and will flash power at times while not making bad mistakes that risk missing the tackle. This also extends to Taylor coming off the edge on blitz packages. If the quarterback is not conscious of what is going on, Taylor will hit him with tremendous power, potentially knocking out the football in the process. He has good acceleration off the edge, disguises the move well, and brings it when given the opportunity. The one issue Taylor has to really improve as a corner is his ball skills. Taylor occasionally made interceptions but he had a lot more opportunities to make plays and dropped the ball. If he can improve this area, he becomes that much more dangerous as a corner and could be an impact player for the Dolphins. He also needs to figure out a way better to negotiate blocks when he is playing the run as he tries to go outside of them too often and ends up taking himself out of plays at times.
Taylor comes in and has to compete for a starting spot with two free agents the Dolphins signed in the wake of losing both Vontae Davis and Sean Smith; Brent Grimes coming off of an injury from the Falcons and Richard Marshall from the Cardinals. Of the two, Grimes has the most talent but it is unclear when he will be 100% ready to compete and it might hurt him in the process of competing for a starting job initially. Marshall is a journeyman corner and while he is not a bad option, he is not a great option. If all goes as planned, the Dolphins would probably like to see a healthy Grimes and Taylor earn those spots coming out of camp with Marshall competing for the nickel spot in their defense with a draft pick they made next.
With the first of two picks they had in the third round, the Dolphins finally took an offensive lineman; Dallas Thomas, offensive tackle, Tennessee. Thomas is an intriguing player because of the way the Volunteers used him. They had him switch from left to right tackle routinely depending on how they wanted to line up the strength of their offense; an incredibly uncommon practice. Most teams want to have a consistent offensive line with the same five guys playing the same five spots, so this situation was unique. The good news is that Thomas has experience at both left and right tackle, but he also had some work and was looked at for a potential guard in the NFL. So in the end, Thomas potentially offers a team a guy who can start at guard or potentially right tackle but offer depth in as many as four different positions.
In the short term, since the Branden Albert deal never happened, Thomas comes into the Dolphins as a potential right tackle that would allow Jonathan Martin to move to left tackle, but was better suited to be a developmental player that could be depth with the potential to start down the road that could save them roster space. After the draft, the Dolphins seemed to agree with that assessment as they signed Tyson Clabo as a short term fix to the right tackle spot that would force Thomas to impress in camp and beat him out for the starting job if he could do it. As a result of the Clabo signing, Thomas can compete at guard spot and maybe they give him a look at left tackle just to see what he can do there. This pick is slightly perplexing from the standpoint that many were expecting the Dolphins to take a lineman that could definitely compete for time as the left tackle. Perhaps this is indication of their faith in Martin to do the job in spite of struggles he had as a rookie. Either that or it was a mistake in the short term. This pick seemed like a slight reach given what was available.
The Dolphins made a trade with the Packers trading a fourth, fifth and seventh round pick to move back into the third round and selected Will Davis, cornerback from Utah State. Previously, they had traded the third round pick they acquired from the Bears for Brandon Marshall to get two fourth round picks from the Saints. This was an interesting move for a few reasons: As a pure corner being slated to start on the outside, Davis does not warrant this pick, but as a guy coming in to play nickel, he makes a great deal of sense. As tough and mean as Taylor is, Davis is the exact opposite. Davis is an atrocious tackler and is not physical at all to this point. He would be a dominant flag football player. Davis has shown he can be a fantastic cover corner when he is lined up on a man and allowed to just work on that guy and shut him down. He has the athletic ability to play on the outside or in the slot and as a slot corner has above average length for the position with long arms. He shows good technique and potential to get better; he has shown good ball skills and will make plays on the football and he will get people really excited in shorts. Then the pads come on and Davis has to tackle something. Part of this is due to how rail thin Davis is. Of the corners that played in the Senior Bowl, Davis was tied for the lightest with Jordan Poyer of Oregon State but Davis was taller so he comes off the thinnest. He needs to increase his strength dramatically, but he does not look remotely interested in tackling. He brings no attitude to it, poor technique and it looks awful when he does.
It stands to reason that the Dolphins brought him in specifically with the goal of him earning the nickel spot. When teams are passing, he looks great and can be a huge asset to the team. And if he can add strength over the next few offseasons and get better technique and have some of that attitude from Taylor rub off, he could become a nice outside corner as well, but if he is never anything more than a great nickel corner, the pick was worth it for the Dolphins and they have a nice collection of corners after having nothing coming into the offseason.
After trading down with the Saints for two fourth round picks, the Dolphins swapped fourth round picks with the Browns in deal that also netted them a fifth round pick, up from a seventh in exchange for sending Davone Bess to Cleveland. Due largely to costs they incurred this offseason largely from signing Mike Wallace to a lucrative contract and resinging Brian Hartline, the Dolphins front office deemed Bess expendable and made the move., allowing them to move up several spots in the fourth round.
Using the pick they got from Cleveland, the Dolphins decided to raid Gainesville for the first of three Florida Gators starting with Jelani Jenkins, an outside linebacker. Jenkins was a terrific weak side linebacker for the Gators while he was there but dealt with injuries that really ate up chunks of his career. He has shown terrific speed and range with the ability to contribute in coverage in man coverage against running backs and tight ends. When he was on the field for the Gators this year, he was an impact player. So while he has had injuries and this is a small concern going forward, he has been a contributor and could be a nice value for the Dolphins here.
The Dolphins did not have a need here necessarily but this was a good opportunity. In free agency, they signed Phillip Wheeler to be their weak side linebacker, so while Jenkins is not going to start unless he is just a monster in camp or there is an injury, he can still compete to make a significant impact. First, he is a good special teams player and will fight to earn a spot there first, but he also could find himself on the field in nickel situations. The Dolphins brought in Dannell Ellerbe to be their middle linebacker in what was an upset in free agency pulling him away from the Ravens. He certainly can be a three down linebacker but Jenkins could compete for reps there and be the other nickel linebacker along with Wheeler in passing situations. The more immediate concern is that he will need to beat out Austin Spitler and Jonathan Freeny for reps in camp, likely taking a roster spot from one of them. Injuries could derail Jenkins’ career and the depth chart is competitive in Miami for linebackers but this has a chance to be a great value and a good pickup moving forward.
Two picks later, the Dolphins picked up Dion Sims, tight end from Michigan State. The Dolphins had a couple of tight ends to work with in the tight end/H-Back Charles Clay who they brought in last year, plus signing Dustin Keller in the offseason as a pure receiving threat, Sims gives them a balanced tight end option to add to the group. Sims has a big frame at 6’5” 262lbs and can block, but he is also a solid receiving option. He is not a guy who is going to stretch the field much but he is someone who will catch passes and extend drives as well as being a big target in the red zone. In the short term, he is probably going to be relied on as more of a blocking option and allow Keller to be more of a receiving threat for Tannehill, but if Sims can show up well in camp and prove he can be a receiving threat, the Dolphins might have to use more two tight end sets that allow them to get both players on the field at once. Sims actually played closer to 285lbs but lost the weight for the sake of workouts, so it will be interesting to see where the Dolphins want him to play at in terms of his weight. He needs to work on being a more fluid player as well as doing a better job in how he blocks opponents. Considering the value here, it seems like a good pick that could pay immediate dividends for them with the potential to get better if he can develop his game moving forward.
In the fifth round, with the other pick the Dolphins got in the Browns deal, they went back to Gainesville and grabbed running back Mike Gillislee. There was a lot of speculation in how the Dolphins would approach the running back position in this year’s draft or even if they would. They moved on from Reggie Bush and while Daniel Thomas has talent, he has been largely a disappointment thus far into his career. The remaining guy is a popular one among draftniks who fell in the draft last year much further than most projected in Lamar Miller, who went to college down the road in Coral Gambles at the University of Miami. There is a contingent of people who are expecting Miller to break out this year as their feature back with his incredible acceleration and long speed. Nevertheless, the Dolphins made a smart move in adding another running back to the equation; this one from the SEC Florida school.
Gillislee looks the part of a good running back. He has more size than people realize, has impressive speed and was extremely productive for Florida. He is also a guy who can catch the ball out of the backfield. Gillislee is a player who can make players miss in the open field and is not afraid to lower his shoulder into opponents. The problem is Gillislee does not continue driving his legs upon contact, so while he does a good job reading blocks and can be a threat in the open field, he does a poor job of breaking tackles or making the most of his runs. He gets hit, his legs stop moving, and he immediately goes down. As a result, Gillislee gets exactly as many yards as his blockers open up for him unless he makes tacklers miss. If he can improve on this and get into the habit of driving his legs through contact, his potential suddenly goes way up and he can be a steal. If not, he is a decent third down back and rotational option but is not someone who is going to be much more.
Still in the fifth round, the Dolphins stayed in Gainesville and added another starter to their team; Caleb Sturgis, kicker. He is an accurate kicker, who is accustomed to kicking in Florida and was rated the best kicker in the draft, so as far as getting bang for their buck with this pick, it should be a good move. He will compete with Dan Carpenter for the job, but the Dolphins did not use a fifth rounder on the kicker for him not to make the team. Carpenter is ‘competition’ for him but unless Sturgis is a complete disaster in camp, Carpenter will be released.
In the seventh round, the Dolphins used their final pick, a compensatory pick on Don Jones, safety, Arkansas State. Jones is a former track athlete who was extremely impressive in testing. Impressive enough that a number of teams opted to bring in Jones for private workouts leading up to the draft, giving him a decent amount of buzz. Although listed as a strong safety, Jones has the athleticism to play corner, making him an intriguing player to watch in camp and the preseason. What might be more important during his rookie campaign than what position he ultimately ends up playing is what he can offer on special teams. With that kind of athleticism, if he can contribute as a strong safety, it stands to reason he should be fun to watch on kickoff and punt coverage.
My Thoughts: Evidently the Dolphins did not like Branden Albert enough to pull the trigger and tried to low ball the Chiefs for him with a third round pick, reportedly. In the short term, their situation at left tackle could be extremely problematic but it is important to remember that while Jonathan Martin did come in as a right tackle across from Jake Long, he was actually a better prospect as a left tackle that just needed to add bulk. Having moved on from Long, Martin might be moving back to a more natural position for him and while he struggled mightily as a rookie, he could come in and improve. Still, the Dolphins took a big risk by passing over Lane Johnson to protect Tannehill, who they need to be their franchise quarterback if they are hoping to pass the Patriots in the division.
The move to get Dion Jordan was interesting. The approach makes sense. They have Wake in the short term and a combo of Jordan and Wake could be fantastic for however long that lasts once Jordan is ready to contribute. Add in Odrick and then Dolphins have an intriguing amount of options on how to rush the passer. Kicking Odrick inside on running downs with Jordan and Wake on the outside could be fun for the Dolphins in passing situations along with some of the other players they have in the fold. The Dolphins need to make sure to temper expectations with Jordan and make them understand that he is not likely to come in and be a franchise pass rusher as a rookie. Between being slightly behind because of his shoulder surgery and being raw anyway, he might struggle this year. This pick was made more for next year and beyond when Tannehill and the offense are more ready to contribute.
I am a big fan of Jamar Taylor and really like what he brings to the table. I love his mentality that he brings to the cornerback position and how he competes in man coverage as well as how he will hit people in the mouth. Assuming he can lockdown the strong side corner job, his ability to tackle and play against the run can enable the Dolphin defense to put more players in the middle of the field creating an advantage when playing the run up the middle and having the ability to cause more turnovers in the passing game with so many bodies in the middle.
I am a little surprised they opted to pick Will Davis after bringing in his polar opposite in Taylor, but he does project well as a nickel and dime player in obvious passing situations. In coverage, he is a good player and someone the Dolphins can get a lot of value but if he is forced to play on running downs, he is going to drive both coaches and fans insane watching his take on tackling. Get him in the weight room immediately and mean him up for the long haul but he should contribute immediately and could be extremely effective in a role as a nickel.
I like what Dallas Thomas is as a player but I do not like where the Dolphins picked him. The way they maneuvered around the draft with trades, they eased the burden of value slightly but grabbing a versatile offensive lineman when they appear to have a substantial need at left tackle is a little perplexing. Still, Thomas can be a good utility player in the short term with the potential to start down the road and that could ultimately make the move look good later on but is not going to draw a lot of rave reviews right now.
I like the gamble on Jelani Jenkins and think there is a lot of potential value there as someone who can come in and play well on special teams in addition to potentially being a good player that can come in just to play in coverage gives the Dolphins a lot of talent at linebacker and a lot of options in their defensive scheme. Dion Sims makes sense for what they have on their roster. It is possible this could mean the end of the Charles Clay experiment but also could suggest they want to use Sims and Clay in running set ups and then use Keller as a pass receiving specialist and more often in the slot than inline.
If they can get Gillislee to finish his runs and drive his legs on contact, this could be a huge steal for the Dolphins and the combo of Miller, Gillislee, and Thomas could be a good group even if they do not offer much star power right now. They have a good group of athletes that can all catch the ball and have speed. All three backs have good upside, though Thomas may be in a position where he needs to show his worth sooner than later as this may be his last year to show what he can do there.
Don Jones is interesting if for no other reason than just how many teams that were interested to see what he could do in person and spent visits on him. He may never be anything, may not even make the roster but it is certainly going to be interesting to see what all the fuss was about in training camp.
Jeff Ireland went against conventional wisdom again as he has had a knack to do during his tenure. The results have largely been underwhelming but the past year, combined with free agency suddenly has the Dolphins in position to be… interesting at least. On paper, the Dolphins are easily the second best team in the AFC East but they have to go out and prove it. Free agency has been an extremely fickle mistress and has had an ugly run lately. Football is a difficult game to just add free agents to and make a team function. It did not work for the Eagles and the ‘dream team’ and has never worked for the Redskins. The trends suggest that while this looks good on paper, it will fail miserably. However, the Dolphins may be in position to buck that trend and if they drafted well this year, they could have gone a long way in making themselves not only a legitimate team that could finish second in their division this year, but could be a contender down the road. Still, that left tackle situation is scary.
Tags: 2013 Nfl Draft Arkansas State Red Wolves Football Boise State Broncos Football Branden Albert Caleb Sturgis Dallas Thomas Dion Jordan Dion Sims Don Jones Florida Gators Football Jamar Taylor Jelani Jenkins Miami Dolphins Michigan State Spartans Football Mike Gillislee Oregon Ducks Football Tennessee Volunteers Football Utah State Aggies Football Will Davis