I should start out by saying that it’s difficult to evaluate this draft without factoring in Kenny Stills, the former Saints wideout landed by Miami for the price of its third-round choice. Of course, that means you have to consider Mike Wallace leaving for the price of a fifth-rounder, but both are certainly worth mentioning for context.
In comparison to last year’s draft, which featured picks from North Dakota State, Liberty, Coast Carolina, and Marist, this year’s haul focused on traditional football schools. The hope here is that translates to better tape against better competition, with more accomplished football men providing better evaluations. On the flip side, this draft felt heavy on the boom-or-bust picks, with more selections with medical or character concerns.
In the fifth round, Miami netted four selections in the span of 12 picks, and that is likely where this draft will stake its reputation. To me, the key to the draft is fifth-rounder Jay Ajayi, one of college football’s very best running backs who slipped due to a troubling knee condition but could end up being the stealiest of steals.
Anyway, here's the rundown:
First Round (14th overall): DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
It’s no secret that Miami needed a big-bodied red zone threat, and with running back Todd Gurley and cornerback Trae Waynes already off the board, this became a surprisingly easy pick for the ‘Fins. At 6-3, 210 pounds, Parker rounds out the Miami receiving corps that now features deep speed (Stills), slot quickness (Jarvis Landry), veteran route-running (Greg Jennings) and the ability to win contested balls in tight spaces (Parker). This choice reminded me a bit of the year Miami drafted Ryan Tannehill, in that there was very little drama and a broad consensus. Now, it will be up to Tannehill to help make the most out of Parker’s dynamic skill set.
Second Round (52nd overall): Jordan Phillips, NT, Oklahoma
After trading back with Chip “Mad Scientist” Kelly and the Iggles, Miami opted for a luxury pick in this underachieving man-child. Knowing that it didn’t have a third-rounder, the Dolphins elected to choose a dude with weight issues and a pre-existing back injury at an already-deep position. Some of the hyperbole surrounding him reminds me of Darryl Gardener, whose Miami tenure was filled with highlights and lowlights. I don’t hate this pick, but it did have me scratching my head some.
Fourth Round (114th overall): Jamil Douglas, OG, Arizona State
It’s hard to shake the feeling of desperation that surrounded this pick. Miami needed a guard prospect, and with most of the consensus guys off the board, it reached for a guy who was a burglar and whose play has been characterized as “going through the motions.” He does appear to possess some position flexibility and tools to work with, but this marked a second straight underwhelming selection for me.
Fifth Round (145th overall): Bobby McCain, CB, Memphis
Using a fifth-rounder gained in the trade with Philly, the ‘Fins went pure playmaker here, tabbing a slot corner with kick-return ability. Though Miami’s needs lie at perimeter corner, you can never have enough nickel guys, and McCain has a reputation as a ballhawk to offset his lack of size. I’m decidedly a fan of this move in this spot.
Fifth Round (149th overall): Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State
Bone-on-bone knee deterioration certainly doesn’t sound like a medical file you want associated with, say, an NFL running back. However, acknowledging that doesn’t preclude this being a tremendous choice with one of four fifth-round options. Ajayi is a versatile, physical back who could prove to be a worthy complement to—and even a potential replacement for—Lamar Miller. Some hefty “ifs” involved here, but a really nice get for the Dolphins … and the kind of pick that can push a draft from good to great.
And don’t forget—this is the pick Miami got from Minnesota in the Mike Wallace trade. Though there was fault on both sides, the reality is the Dolphins weren’t constituted to get the most out of Wallace’s unique skills. So if they could jettison his salary and land a starting-caliber running back even for a couple of years, it could end up being a strong move for Miami after starting from a position without much leverage.
Fifth Round (150th overall): Cedric Thompson, FS, Minnesota
Thompson was a guy who seemed to be linked to Miami throughout the evaluation process, so he wasn’t much of a surprise in this spot. Not the biggest or most instinctual safety, but he’s got stellar measurables (4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 40.5-inch vertical. 4.28 second in the short shuttle). A solid developmental free safety with the type of athleticism that special teams coaches clamor for? That makes him a low-risk, high-reward choice at this spot in the draft, and another strong fifth-round pick for the ‘Fins.
Fifth Round (156th overall): Tony Lippett, WR, Michigan State
Well, if you’re going to draft a dude only to switch him to a new position, this is the spot to do it. Lippett was a productive wideout for Sparty, but the Dolphins reportedly envision him as a corner. It’s impressive to start at both positions against top college competition, and Miami obviously saw something in Lippett to make them think there were tools there worth exploring.
With four fifth-rounders, I couldn’t help wondering whether it made sense to flip one for Zac Stacy of the Rams, but once Ajayi was available, that resolved itself. I also found myself wondering whether it was worth using the final fifth-rounder on LSU’s La’El Collins on the chance that he is innocent—but I do obviously understand why using a fifth-round pick on someone with a possible connection to a murder would be, er, tricky.
Anyway, as I mentioned, Lippett is most certainly a gamble, but one that Miami was in a position to afford.
The post-hoopla draft grades have been largely kind to the ‘Fins, and it will be interesting to see how the talent landed by the new evaluation duo of Mike Tannenbaum and Dennis Hickey is handled by holy-crap-how-is-he-still-here coach Joe Philbin.
I’ve long been concerned about Philbin & Co.’s inability to not only develop players, but have a viable vision for how they see a player growing into the Miami system in terms of role and accountability. While I’d love to see Philbin prove me wrong, the overriding sense I have is that the next coach will be tasked with assessing and developing Miami’s Class of 2015.