Day 3 Primer: Top Candidates to Help Miami Round Out the 2016 Draft Class
Three rounds down, four more to go. Day 2 of the 2016 NFL Draft ended with the Miami Dolphins as the proud owners of four picks. They have managed to maneuver the board to ensure they secure the prospects they want, have added plenty of talent and managed to address multiple needs. However, there is still plenty of work to be done. Lots of talent is still available on Day 3, and Miami should be looking for steals in the later rounds of the draft. In this article, we examine the best options as the Dolphins look to put the finishing touches on an already solid draft class.
Andrew Billings, DL Baylor
Could I really start with anyone else? The mammoth player was supposed to be a possibility for teams at the end of Round 1. He is still young and is somewhat over reliant on his power rather than his technique, which probably contributed to his fall. However, he might be the best bet to become a classic nose tackle out of anyone in this draft. Surrounding Ndamukong Suh with more talent can never be seen as a bad thing.
Christian Westerman, OL Arizona State
I had Cody Whitehair as a possibility for the Dolphins on Day 2 due to my expectation that they wouldn’t be done addressing the offensive line, and I will have a few more guards included on this list as well. For a team that was as devastated by injuries and lack of depth as Miami was last season, drafting two offensive linemen should be considered a major priority. Westerman has the athleticism and technical ability to be a long time starter in the NFL, despite the fact that he will have to add to his frame at the beginning of his career.
Kenneth Dixon, RB Louisiana Tech & Paul Perkins, RB UCLA
Just because the Dolphins spent an early pick on Kenyan Drake doesn’t mean they are done addressing the running back position. Even with Drake onboard, the team lacks any sure-fire option at the position on the roster (given Ajayi’s medical concerns). For that reason, they could easily choose to add one more prospect as a potential backup plan, or simply for the sake of adding to the competition. Kenneth Dixon and Paul Perkins are both extremely intriguing players who still find themselves available. Dixon is the better all-around back. He has the necessary size and speed combination to be a three-down contributor and does a lot of different things well despite not being spectacular in any one area. Perkins on the other hand will be drafted due to his elusiveness. This man can stop on a dime, and seems to escape from defenders in the tightest of holes. He is only 5’10” which has kept him on the board up until this point, but most would not have been surprised if he were off the board by now. Regardless of which ball carriers the Dolphins look into, don’t be surprised if Miami doubles down on this position of need.
Nick Kwiatkoski, ILB West Virginia
One of the most reliable defenders that will go on Day 3, Nick Kwiatkoski may never be a star in this league but will almost assuredly find a role on some team. I mentioned the former Mountaineer as a potential selection for the Dolphins at the beginning of the draft process and I will stick with that sentiment here. Miami must be confident that they will find early contributors at linebacker at some point in the draft, because the current positional group (especially inside) just doesn’t cut it. Kwiatkoski has athletic limitations that hold him back, but he is a leader, has an outstanding work ethic, and is known to make plays all over the field in the run and pass game. Even if he were to simply be a rotational piece, Kwiatkoski could contribute in the Dolphins’ defense during the 2016 season.
Romeo Okwara, DE Notre Dame
Defensive end is the other position that the Dolphins’ front office has failed to address up to this point, and they could do much worse than ending up with Romeo Okwara. Okwara is not yet the sum of his parts, but has such great upside as a pass rusher that he would be well worth a pick on Day 3. Some team is going to gamble on his potential, and it might just be the Dolphins. He would benefit greatly by learning from Cameron Wake and Mario Williams.
Vadal Alexander, OG LSU
Here is the other guard I alluded to earlier. At the beginning of the draft process I saw Alexander as a potential depth pick on the offensive line for the Dolphins. He won’t be a starter initially, but undoubtedly has the frame to develop into one with the proper coaching. I have no way of knowing if the team will choose to take multiple offensive linemen in this draft, but considering their past troubles I believe it would be a wise decision.
D.J. Reader, DT Clemson
Reader hasn’t been able to live up to his potential up to this point, and to be honest I don’t know if he ever will. With that being said, what I do know is that you won’t find many plug-and-play prospects at this point in the draft, and Reader has a variety of tools to work with that could make him one. It may be too late to expect that he ever puts them all together, but at the very least he will become a solid back-up option to learn behind Suh and find a place in the rotation with Suh, Phillips, and Mitchell.
Joshua Perry, ILB Ohio State
Joshua Perry is one of the best prospects remaining on the board, and he fits Miami’s most significant remaining need. He may have benefited from playing on a stacked Buckeyes’ defense, but could perform well while similarly taking advantage of the attention give to Suh, Wake, Williams, etc. Perry is a physical linebacker with a strong work ethic and leaderships skills, and could probably be relied upon to contribute in some capacity very early in his career.
Jalen Mills, CB LSU
While the Dolphins already selected a cornerback in this draft, the team could still use more help in the secondary; LSU defensive back Jalen Mills is an obvious value this late in the draft. He has experience both as a safety and a corner, and would benefit from working with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. If he is put into the right system, he should have no problem becoming a solid rotational cornerback in the NFL.
Ronald Blair, DE Appalachian State
Finally, we have Ronald Blair. While Okwara is undoubtedly a project and may not be much of a contributor early on in his career, Blair has the skillset to make an immediate impact. He is an experienced, smart player, and displayed quality performances against both the run and pass. He played in a weak conference, which warrants his fall into this part of the draft, but has enough polish and desire to learn to make him worth the risk. I am not saying that he would be an immediate starter in Miami, but he could settle into the Dolphins’ defensive scheme as a member of the defensive line rotation.
Admittedly, attempting to predict picks in the NFL draft, let alone those in Rounds 4-7, is essentially taking a shot in the dark. There are way too many directions that teams can choose to go in, especially when the list of needs is as long as the Dolphins’. With that being said, knowing how each franchise has drafted so far can help us in determining where they might decide to go from here.
At the end of three rounds, the Miami Dolphins have acquired Laremy Tunstil (LT), Xavien Howard (CB), Kenyan Drake (RB) and Leonte Carroo (WR). Excluding the selection of the Rutgers’ star, each pick addresses a major need on the roster. Linebacker and defensive line prospects have yet to be selected by the Dolphins, and I would be shocked to see that remain the case through the rest of this year’s event.
Unless a great value comes along that they can’t bear to pass up, I see the Dolphins staying the course starting in Round 4. They know the areas of their roster that they must improve, and should be focused on achieving that with their upcoming picks. At this point, they will only find starting caliber prospects on rare occasions. Nonetheless, it is still important to identify players that fit what the franchise’s needs, and those who have potential to develop further down the line. For the Miami Dolphins, any player on this list could offer either immediate contribution in some regard, or the possibility of developing into a starter in the future.
Either way, there will certainly be opportunities for the Dolphins to fill needs on their roster during the final day of the 2016 NFL Draft.