Heading into the offseason, the Miami Dolphins had some apparent needs falling primarily on one side of the football: defense.
Their defense finished 2016 ranked 22nd against the run and 14th against the pass, according to Football Outsiders, and while last year’s draft focused on bolstering Adam Gase’s offense, the focus this offseason should continue to be on the defensive side of the ball. Their most glaring needs are at offensive guard, defensive end, linebacker, cornerback, and safety.
Let’s take a look at seven intriguing players the Dolphins should target with their first-round pick at No. 22 overall.
Note: Each player’s spider chart signifies percentile at their respective position
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
The chance that Foster, the 2016 Butkus winner, would fall to the Dolphins is very unlikely.
Yes, he was booted from the combine and yes, his combine re-check didn’t go very well, as he could require the type of surgery that sidelined Shaq Lawson for the entire 2016 season.
However, players like Reuben Foster are rarely passed on. Lots of NFL teams could use an elite middle linebacker who has been compared to the likes of Luke Kuechly and Patrick Willis.
Foster isn’t quite a player of Kuechly’s caliber against the pass, but he’s every bit as good against the run. Foster is the Madden hit stick.
Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
Kyle Crabs was a guest on Phinsider Radio a few weeks back and mentioned Haason Reddick as a legit candidate for several teams in the top 15.
This doesn’t come as a surprise, as he’s one of my favorite prospects for the Dolphins at No. 22. However, the odds of the Temple pass rusher being available that late in Round 1 are slim. His fit in a 4-3 defense is also somewhat of a mystery. Despite playing with his hand in the dirt for most of his career at Temple, Reddick seems to translate more as a linebacker in the NFL, and could fit better in a 3-4 defense.
Regardless of where a team decides to play Reddick, his versatility makes him highly coveted among NFL front offices. He possesses elite quickness off the line and bends well around offensive lineman.
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Barnett is another prospect that should have the Dolphins sprinting toward the podium. There is interest, as the Miami Herald reported yesteday the team “loves” him. He’s one of the draft’s best 4-3 defensive ends, which is why there is some doubt he will be available for Miami late in the first round.
Possessing a rare blend of size and power should help him excel at the next level and his hand usage is a work of art. He’d be an ideal prospect for Cam Wake to take under his wing and is also capable of playing inside.
Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Taco Charlton, in my experience, is one of the least liked prospects on #DolphinsTwitter.
Whether it be his lack of production during his time at Michigan or the fact that tacos have given everyone a case of the Mexican mudslides at one time or another, he’s disliked by many. However, despite all the hate I’ve refused to let that deter me from my Taco love affair.
There’s no question he must continue to get better and that starts with his work ethic. Up until 2016, Charlton was not a starter. He didn’t do much during his first three seasons and finally broke out in 2016 under Jim Harbaugh.
Taco possesses all the physical attributes to be an upper-echelon pass rusher in the NFL. It will all come down to whether or not the team that drafts him, has the coaching staff in place to continue coaching the 21-year old defensive end.
Charlton isn’t the quickest off the ball but he does possess a lethal spin move.
Quick and fluid spin move. Bursts out of spin and closes fast. Watch him set up spin with first 2 steps upfield. pic.twitter.com/X5LjyGfcUg
— Jackson McIntire (@GIFScouting) February 23, 2017
Forrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky
I think we all have a similar feelings about a first-round offensive lineman.
It’s something we’ve witnessed far too much over the last decade and ultimately has led to nothing more than mediocrity. That was until last season, where a draft-day bong video had one of the bests prospect fall into the Dolphins’ grasp at No. 13.
There’s no reason to expect a similar video to drop this year, but Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp is well on his way to NFL stardom. Lamp is my favorite offensive line prospect in this year’s draft and would solidify the left side of the Dolphins offensive line for the next decade.
He’s been likened to Cowboys guard Zach Martin, a comparison that makes my legs week. Imagine how many yards Jay Ajayi would run for behind an offensive line consisting of Tunsil and Lamp on the left side?
Zach Cunningham, OLB, Vanderbilt
Zach Cunningham has been one of my draft crushes since the moment I laid eyes on him.
He plays fast and with determination. Yes, he had tackling issues but is he’s a very good prospect who plays like his hair is on fire with elite side-to-sideline speed.
He’d be a welcome addition to a Dolphins’ defense that finished 30th against the run by traditional statistics. His sideline-to-sideline speed is elite.
Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State
If a guy looks like Cameron Wake and plays like Cameron Wake, chances are he’s the second coming of Cameron Wake.
Jordan Willis is a prospect that’s been picking up steam over the last several weeks. He’s a perfect fit for a 4-3 defense, and reports seem to believe he’s on Miami’s radar. The Wake clone even paid homage to the Dolphins’ pro-bowl defensive end in an interview.
“Someone that I idolize is Cameron Wake from the Miami Dolphins,” Willis said. “Things that I look at with him are his takeoff, his explosion, and his ability to bend the corner really tight, so there are a lot of things that I take away from him.”