The next couple of NFL drafts will be critical to the Miami Dolphins building a consistent, winning franchise. Chris Grier’s conservative approach to free agency made it clear that Miami will be relying on the draft to build this roster, as they should.
The draft can be used to address immediate needs on your roster, but the more important function of the draft is to build the foundation of your team for years to come. For that reason, it is always smart to employ a best player available (BPA) approach to drafting, while still being cognoscente of a team’s current roster and needs.
The PFN Mock Draft Simulator was used for this exercise. The draft is unpredictable and there is a good chance some of these players will go before Miami’s selection-namely Javonte Williams and Quinn Meinerz.
No. 6. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
|6’5 5/8″||245 lbs||10 5/8″||33 4/8″||83 3/8″||4.44||33 1/2″||129″|
After trading down to number six, the Dolphins are in a fantastic position in the draft. In all likelihood, quarterbacks will go in the first three picks of the draft — Jaguars, Jets, and 49ers). This will leave Kyle Pitts, Ja’Marr Chase, Penei Sewell, and DeVonta Smith all on the board with only two picks remaining before Miami is up. Any four of those picks would be excellent, but I chose Pitts for a couple of reasons.
You will not find another tight end like Pitts in this draft. In fact, there isn’t another day one contributor at the position in this draft. The same cannot be said for tackle or wide receiver. This draft is especially deep at both positions, and Miami can find high-caliber tackle and wide receiver prospects on day two and even day three.
I know some people are wondering why Miami needs another tight end when they already have Mike Gesicki, but that’s the genius of the pick. Pitts and Gesicki are both hybrid-style tight ends. Neither is an elite blocker, but both are capable. If Miami came out in a 12 set (one RB, 2 TEs, 2 WRs), what kind of defense can match up against Fuller, Parker, Pitts, and Gesicki?
Each draft has a limited number of these high-end prospects, and Pitts is one of them. It’s extremely rare to find a tight end with the length, size, speed, and ball skills of Kyle Pitts. A comparison for Pitts is Darren Waller, and last season Miami got a first-hand look at how dominant a player like that can be. Pitts improves any team on day one and there won’t be another prospect like him anytime soon. Make the pick.
No. 18. Azeez Ojulari, Edge, Georgia
|6’2″||249 lbs||34 3/8″||4.6||127″|
Ojulari is the most developed pass rusher in this class. He doesn’t have the prototypical size most NFL teams are looking for, but he has the explosiveness, arm length, and technique to win at the NFL level. After trading away Kyle Van Noy and Shaq Lawson, Miami has a clear need at pass rusher.
Ojulari has more athleticism than both of those players and a more refined pass rush repertoire, especially that cross-chop on display below. He dropped into coverage some while at Georgia, but his true value will come with his ability to get after the opposing signal-caller. Jaelan Phillips or Kwity Paye would be other good edge players to take at eighteen.
No. 36. Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
|6’5″||312 lbs||34 3/8″||4.96||118″||35″||20 reps|
This could seem like an odd pick since Miami added offensive tackles in round one and round two last year, but Leatherwood is a special player. Let’s start by saying that Leatherwood has positional flexibility on the offensive line. He started at tackle for the Crimson Tide the last two seasons, but started at guard before that.
The Dolphins are relying on their three second-year offensive linemen –Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt, Solomon Kindley — to all take steps forward in 2021. While it’s possible that they’ll all improve enough to give Miami a formidable offensive line, it’s always smart to plan for any contingency. The Dolphins will also have an out with Ereck Flowers’ bloated contract next offseason, and drafting Leatherwood will make it much easier to move on.
On top of that, Leatherwood is a solid player and a freaky athlete for a man his size. I have no doubt that he would’ve been a first-round pick in last year’s draft and is an extremely solid prospect at both tackle and guard.
No. 50. Javonte Williams, RB, UNC
|5’10”||212 lbs||4.55||36″||123″||4.09||6.97||22 reps|
Williams has long been one of my favorite prospects in this class. I know a lot of Dolphins fans are extremely high on Najee Harris — with good reason — but, I won’t touch a running back in the first round and I doubt he gets to the second.
It makes so much more sense to target the higher-paid positions in the first round. Being able to secure a player for five years — one extra year of team control comes with first-round picks — just isn’t as beneficial when used on a running back.
Williams isn’t a home run hitter, but he’ll provide hard running between the tackles. He also excels as a blocker and pass catcher when asked to do so. There isn’t much to knock on his game outside of his lack of usage in college, as the most carries he’s had in a season is 166. At pick fifty, he’s an excellent value.
No. 81. Quinn Meinerz, IOL, Wisconsin–Whitewater
Nobody has driven their draft stock up more than Meinerz this offseason. He went from being virtually unknown in draft circles to being a lock to go on day two. He did this off the back of an impressive week at the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Following that week, he had an equally exceptional pro day. A lot of the noise surrounding Meinerz has to do with his unique workouts and larger-than-life personality, but don’t let that fool you — he’s a legit athlete and can play. Miami chose to not resign Ted Karras and instead took a gamble on Matt Skura. Adding Meinerz gives them more depth and potential for the future.
Meinerz went from having his senior season at D-III Wisconsin-Whitewater canceled due to COVID to being the talk of the NFL draft. I will always bet on those kinds of ascending players. Oh, and Brian Flores was his coach at the Senior Bowl.
No. 156. Cade Johnson, WR, South Dakota State
|6’0″||184 lbs||4.49||35″||114″||11 reps|
Johnson doesn’t have ideal size, and he didn’t test out great at his pro-day, but he can flat out play. Cade led the Jackrabbits in receiving yards (1,222) and touchdowns (eight) in the 2019 season, and was consistently the best player on the field. There’s always more projection with smaller school players, but Johnson’s performance at the Senior Bowl helps to alleviate many of those concerns. As a fifth-round flyer, I love the pick.
No. 231. K.J. Britt, LB, Auburn
|6’1″||235 lbs||31″||4.75||33″||118″||24 reps|
When you get into the later rounds, it’s difficult to find prospects without glaring holes in their game. Well, Britt’s glaring hole is coverage. However, he has a ton of value on early downs and running situations.
Think of Britt as an Elandon Roberts type of player. He will attack guards and running backs at the LOS, but you won’t like the results if you try to match him up with shifty or athletic pass catchers. Flores doesn’t like being ran on and is partial to thumpers at the off-ball linebacker position. Britt fits that bill, as long as teams can plan around his limitations as a player.
No. 258. Tedarrell Slaton, DT, Florida
Again, you won’t find many complete prospects in the sixth or seventh round of the NFL draft. Slaton offers almost nothing as a pass rusher, but he’s a massive human being and projects as a nose tackle in the NFL.
Even with the emergence of Raekwon Davis, Miami lacks a true zero tech to fill that Vince Wilfork role. Much like Britt, Slaton won’t be used outside of early downs and obvious running situations, but can offer a ton of value on those downs. Late in the draft is where you snag run-stuffers and specialists, Slaton is both.
It’s always difficult to balance taking the best players available with team and roster needs. Overall, I would be happy with this result. It would be great to also add a free safety at some point in the draft, but without another trade back, the Dolphins don’t have a ton of picks this year. Look for Miami to add some dynamic playmakers in this draft and continue building on their young and promising roster.