The Projects: Overview of the Miami Dolphins’ Day 3 Draft Picks
It was quite awhile before Day 3 got underway for the Miami Dolphins. Lacking either a fourth or fifth round pick, the team had to wait until the sixth round to address their remaining depth deficiencies. After a few more trades, Miami had four remaining draft selections with which they could accrue low-risk talent. These picks yielded wide receiver Jakeem Grant, defensive back Jordan Lucas, quarterback Brandon Doughty, and tight end Thomas Duarte.
Jakeem Grant, WR Texas Tech:
With the 186th overall pick, the Miami Dolphins drafted Jakeem Grant. Despite his diminutive stature at 5’6″, the wide receiver out of Texas Tech had no problem producing in a college career that included a 90 catch, 1,268 yard, 10 touchdown season in 2015. With blazing straight line speed (4.38 40-yard dash, reported to be even faster at his pro day) and advanced short area quickness, Grant was able to make game-changing plays whenever the ball was in his hands. In addition to being a valuable weapon at receiver, Grant served Texas Tech very well as a kick returner, where he scored 4 touchdowns over the course of his four year collegiate career.
This pick may have surprised some Dolphins fans initially, as receiver depth seems to be well taken care of with Kenny Stills, Matt Hazel, and now Leonte Carroo backing up starters Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker. While I don’t see Grant making an impact as a receiver, there is still a lot of special teams value in his signing. It seems as though the Dolphins’ general plan is to ease Jarvis Landry out of returning duties, and replace him with Jakeem Grant. Now that Landry has established himself as a Pro Bowl caliber wide receiver, there is no reason to continue to risk his health by designating him as the team’s punt returner, even if he’s great at it.
In addition to having the potential to become the team’s next punt/kick returner, Grant also adds value as an insurance policy at the slot receiver position. To me, this signing was an indication that the team wants to protect their star player in Jarvis Landry, while adding some long-term value at special teams as well. Adam Gase could also find creative ways to get Grant the ball out of the backfield.
Jordan Lucas, DB Penn State:
With the 204th overall pick in the draft, the Miami Dolphins selected Jordan Lucas, a safety out of Penn State. Lucas brings more to the table than your run-of-the-mill 6th round pick. Throughout his three years in the Nittany Lions’ defensive backfield, he established himself as a tough, reliable stalwart. He rarely made any highlight-reel plays, and never really established himself as a playmaker. However, he was always consistent, and he never made any bone-headed errors.
His status as a three-year starter and team captain distinguishes his role as a leader both on and off the field. The cornerback-turned-safety often received praise from both teammates and coaches alike for his character and work ethic, which bodes well for the Miami Dolphins’ locker room.
But of all of his strengths, perhaps his most valuable asset is his versatility. Before playing strong safety this year, Lucas spent two years playing as one of Penn State’s starting cornerbacks. He has experience in just about every spot a defensive back can line up, and it’s this versatility that makes him worth the 6th round pick. He will likely have an immediate impact as the team’s nickel or dime option in those corresponding sub packages, and his floor is as a special teams contributor. While his lack of playmaking ability and average athleticism limits his upside as a starter, his football IQ and work ethic make him a versatile depth player going forward. A player like Jordan Lucas is a safe, solid 6th round pick.
Brandon Doughty, QB Western Kentucky:
With the 223rd overall pick, the Miami Dolphins selected quarterback Brandon Doughty. He has posted absolutely ridiculous stats over the last two years, with 4,830 yards and 49 touchdowns in his junior year. Also, in his senior season he led FBS in passing yards (5,055), touchdowns (48), and completion percentage (71.9). But, like most small school or system quarterbacks, he has some damaging limitations.
Doughty lacks ideal arm strength and athleticism for the NFL. He also struggles mightily under pressure, and he does not play at his best when the lights are at their brightest. While he will probably never be a starter in this league, he does project well as a backup quarterback. But that does not mean that the Dolphins were right in taking him.
Of their four selections on Day 3 of the draft, this pick was the Dolphins’ only real head-scratcher. Rather than trying to fill voids at linebacker and on the defensive line on the depth chart, the team selected a third string quarterback. This is especially strange considering backup quarterback Matt Moore’s recent two-year contract extension. But, you can’t fault the team for finding their backup of the future, as Matt Moore will be 33 by the time his contract expires.
Thomas Duarte, TE UCLA:
With the 231st overall pick, Miami drafted tight end Thomas Duarte out of UCLA. The 6’2″ 231 lb 7th round pick managed a very impressive stat line last season with 872 yards and 10 touchdowns on 53 receptions. He was also an effective threat down the seam in 2014 when he averaged 19.3 yards per catch on 28 receptions. After a stellar two seasons as a receiving tight end, many analysts started drawing comparisons to NFL talents like Jordan Reed.
Like many exceptional receiving tight ends, Thomas Duarte struggles when asked to run-block or pass-protect. This fact, coupled with his relatively small size, led many teams to label him with the dreaded “tweener” moniker. Many probably would have preferred he make the switch to wide receiver, as Panthers’ wideout Devin Funchess did last year. But, it seems that Duarte wishes to remain a tight end, which is perfect for what the Dolphins need.
Thomas Duarte may be the most talented pure receiving tight end that the Dolphins have outside of Jordan Cameron, and he should make a push for the third spot on the depth chart below Cameron and Dion Sims. In the short term, I can easily see him in some two tight end sets down, especially if he puts on weight and polishes his blocking technique during the offseason. Down the road, I can even see him carve out a starting role as the team’s tight end on passing downs.