AFC East Draft Grades – Miami Dolphins (Part 1 of 4)

By Ryan Whitfield

Twitter: @RyanWhitfieldNE

Miami Dolphins – Grade – C+

The Miami Dolphins 2018 draft was as intriguing as it was frustrating. At times, it appeared that Dolphin’s GM Chris Grier had the finger on the pulse of their needs, while at others it appeared they were wandering blindfolded in the dark with none of their other 4 senses working. Okay, that may be strong, but when you draft two Tight End’s in the top 4 rounds in a weak TE class you get what you get. Despite the bad picks, it is safe to say the Dolphins came out with a few impact players that may help Miami finally find their way this millennium.

Now for the specifics:

Round 1 Pick # 11 – Minkah Fitzpatrick – DB Alabama

Alabama Stats
Tack Tack Tack Tack Tack Def Def Def Fumb
Year G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int TD PD FF
*2015 14 30 15 45 3.0 2.0 2 2 10 0
*2016 15 42 24 66 5.5 1.5 6 2 7 1
*2017 13 38 22 60 8.0 1.5 1 0 7 1
Career 110 61 171 16.5 5.0 9 4 24 2

While the Dolphin’s biggest need may have been at linebacker, it is hard to quibble with taking what should be a perennial All Pro Defensive Back in Fitzpatrick. And the fact of the matter is that Minkah is a hybrid type player. While at Alabama Minkah spent time playing Outside Corner, Slot Corner, Safety and linebacker. However he is not a true outside Corner in the NFL. Where Miami can really use him is in a Safety/LB role in 2018. In 3 years at Alabama Minkah amassed 9 Interceptions, and used his big play ability to return 4 of those for Touchdowns. During those years he tallied 2.0 sacks (’15), 1.5 sacks (’16), and 1.5 sacks (’17). In 2017 the Dolphins Defense led the NFL in allowing opposing Tight Ends to hall in 94 receptions for the 2nd most yards (1,034 yards), which led to being tied for 2nd most in Touchdowns at 10. Fitzpatrick’s size at 6’1- 202 LBS, his top-end cover skills, and his speed (4.46 40 yd dash at combine), will make him an immediate stop gap for that TE coverage issue. He will be able to cover in the slot and his 171 TOT in college point to his effectiveness in the run game as well. Minkah is an elite athlete with top end talent, it’s now on DC Matt Burke to utilize this asset and take full advantage of Minkah’s wide array of abilities.

Pick Grade – A

Round 2 Pick # 42 – Mike Gesicki – TE Penn State

Penn State Stats
Rece Rece Rece
Year Class G Rec Yds TD
*2014 FR 10 11 114 0
*2015 SO 8 13 125 1
*2016 JR 14 48 679 5
*2017 SR 13 57 563 9
Career 129 1481 15

41-388-3. That is Julius Thomas’s stat line in 2017, a predictable continued decline for a Tight End who has only had one season with 500+ yards receiving. In 2017 Gesicki brought in 57 for 563 and 9 Touchdowns, an impressive follow up to his Junior year. Now let’s be clear that Gesicki is not Rob Gronkowski 2.0. He is not a blocking tight end and in fact Kevin Seifert went as far to call him a “really big and athletic Slot Receiver.” With that said, with the departure of Landry, the Dolphins needed another big time pass catcher. The trio of Parker, Stills and Amendola isn’t striking fear into anyone. Gesicki should expect a big role to step into as the Dolphin’s need to replace Landry’s 112-987-9 this year.

Grade – A- 

Round 3 Pick # 73 – Jerome Baker – LB Ohio State

Ohio State Stats
Tack Tack Tack Tack Tack Def Def Def Def Def Fumb Fumb Fumb
Year Class G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR TD FF
*2015 FR 3 3 1 4 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0
*2016 SO 13 45 38 83 9.5 3.5 2 90 45.0 1 0 1 0
*2017 JR 13 42 30 72 8.0 3.5 0 0 0 3 2 1 1
Career 90 69 159 17.5 7.0 2 90 45.0 1 4 3 1 1

In the 3rd round the Dolphins finally address their need at the Linebacker position, however I don’t love the pick. In three years at OSU, Baker had 159 TOT with 155 of those in his final two years, while adding 7 sacks. Look, the overall consensus on Baker is that he’s undersized, lacks nastiness in his game, but he’s fast. Between Fitzpatrick and Baker it’s clear that the Dolphin’s are interested in adding speed and athleticism to the back end of their defense. Baker will also add another option in that jointed effort to improve their terrible pass defense numbers against Tight End’s as mentioned above.The big second guess here, is that Baker would’ve most likely been available in the next round, and early 3rd feels like a bit of a reach.

Grade – B-

Round 4 Pick # 123 – Durham Smythe – TE Notre Dame

Notre Dame Stats
Rece Rece Rece Rece
Year Class G Rec Yds Avg TD
2014 SO 1 1 7 7.0 0
*2015 JR 3 3 18 6.0 1
2016 SR 8 9 112 12.4 4
*2017 SR 10 15 244 16.3 1
Career 28 381 13.6 6

Durham Smythe had his best season in 2017 with 15 receptions, 244 yards and 1 TD. Smythe is primarily a blocking tight end. A blocking tight end. In the fourth Round.

Grade – F

Round 4 Pick # 131- Kalen Ballage – RB Arizona State

Arizona State Stats
Rush Rush Rush Rush Rece Rece Rece Rece
Year Class G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD
*2014 FR 11 42 126 3.0 3 6 64 10.7 1
*2015 SO 10 125 653 5.2 4 12 60 5.0 0
2016 JR 12 126 536 4.3 14 44 469 10.7 1
*2017 SR 13 157 669 4.3 6 20 91 4.6 0
Career 450 1984 4.4 27 82 684 8.3 2

This pick will add to a preseason competition between 35 year old Frank Gore and 3rd year back Kenyan Drake. There is an obvious need to replace Ajayi, and Ballage’s combination of speed, size and talent being available in the 4th Round is a good pick. During the final 3 years of his College career Ballage rushed 400+ times for 1800+ yards and 24 Touchdowns. During that time he grabbed 76 receptions for 600+ yards and 1 TD. When you break it all down, Ballage averaged 70.8 yards from scrimmage per game which equals 1132.8 yards over a 16 game schedule. And that was in a split role with Demario Richard. There’s a lot of upside here, and preseason competition is good for the team.

Grade – B-

Round 6 pick # 209 – Cornell Armstrong – CB Southern Mississippi

Cornell Armstrong is the second attempt from Miami to address their needs on the back end. While totaling just 5 INT’s the final 3 seasons in college, Armstrong did break up 25 passes. He’s most likely suited as a nickel corner, and his speed (4.45 40 yard dash) will help him on fast outside guys on occasion. He did rack up 116 tackles in the last 3 seasons, which is a positive sign of toughness for a guy who stands at 5-11 and 180 LBS. That toughness and speed should serve him well on Special Teams, which may be his ticket to the final 53.

Grade – C

Round 7 Pick # 227 – Quentin Poling – LB Ohio

Quentin is another fast guy, 4.58- 40 yard dash. But he is also undersized, just 6 FT tall. At Ohio though, he was a tackling machine. In 4 years he registered 373 TOT and 18 sacks. His production was pretty even, with his TOT delta being 40 tackles. And in his worst season from a TOT standpoint (69 tackles), he played 2 less games than any other year. It’s going to take a lot for Poling to make the team, but maybe a practice squad player come September.

Grade – C-

Round 7 Pick # 229 – Jason Sanders – PK New Mexico

New Mexico Stats
Kick Kick Kick Kick Kick Kick Kick
Year Class G XPM XPA XP% FGM FGA FG% Pts
*2015 SO 5 22 22 100.0 3 7 42.9 31
*2016 JR 13 61 62 98.4 12 13 92.3 97
2017 SR 12 28 28 100.0 10 15 66.7 58
Career 111 112 99.1 25 35 71.4 186

He’s a kicker, and the Dolphin’s needed a kicker after the departure of Cody Parker. That should make Sanders a starter, even if it is Special Teams. Fits a need.

Grade – C 

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