The NFL Scouting Combine has come and gone, and with it draft season has been kicked into high gear. Despite the fact that free agency is still a few weeks away, NFL mock drafts are in full swing.
Mock One—a community mock draft based on Twitter evaluators, draftniks and fans—has become an annual tradition, and the first one commenced in lock step with the combine. I represented the Dolphins in the draft.
Considering that Miami is in a particularly volatile position right now. The Dolphins have a ton of cap space, thus the uncertainty of free agency and subsequently the NFL draft are magnified.
As such, I made the following assumptions—educated guesses, in reality—going into Mock One:
- Jeff Ireland will land a big wide receiver in free agency. This is a rather big assumption considering his track record, but there is plenty of chatter about Miami's goals in this arena.
- Randy Starks and Sean Smith will be retained, either via long-term deal or franchise tag.
- Brian Hartline and Anthony Fasano will be re-signed. This, combined with the big splash at wide receiver, will lessen the need to utilize a high pick on receiver. It also means tight end will not be seen as a big need with Fasano, Charles Clay and Michael Egnew—however disappointing he was in 2012—in the fold.
- Jake Long, Chris Clemons and Reggie Bush will leave via free agency.
These are not unreasonable assumptions given the amount of cap space the Dolphins have and the precedents Jeff Ireland has set.
Now, onto the draft. Here were my results.
Pick: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
The big fish Jeff Ireland hypothetically landed in free agency at wide receiver virtually eliminated the position from consideration at this point in the draft. After multiple attempts to trade down, I settled on the freakishly athletic Ezekiel Ansah.
Considering Jeff Ireland's penchant for trench players early in drafts, this seems like a good choice. Ansah may be raw, but his athletic ability and motor are huge draws. That he is this good after just a few years of football under his belt is a great sign.
Despite being raw, Ansah is a versatile player. Draft experts have pegged him as a defensive end everywhere from 5-to-9-technique, and some have even asked if he would thrive as pass-rushing outside linebacker.
At worst he is a more-athletic version of Jared Odrick. At best, Ansah is Jason Pierre-Paul part deux. Pairing him with Cameron Wake was too tantalizing to pass up.
Pick: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi
The opportunity to trade back into the first round is always there in the NFL draft, but it was too good to pass up when Johnthan Banks fell to the end of the round. I executed a trade with the Texans to move up to the 27th pick, swapping third-rounders and giving up my fourth-round pick in the process.
Whether Sean Smith returns or not, the Dolphins need help at CB. Banks fell far enough to make it a worthwhile trade.
Among other things, the big cornerback has something the Dolphins have lacked over the years in the secondary: ball skills. The ball-hawking cornerback would be an excellent addition to the secondary.
His playmaking skills at the position will be a sight for sore eyes in Miami. Bolstering the secondary is a big priority this offseason, and Banks would bring a lot to the table.
Pick: Robert Woods, WR, USC
Robert Woods' fall had gone far enough for Miami to pull the trigger on a trade.
The USC product had a relatively lackluster 2012 season, especially while playing under the ever-growing shadow Marquise Lee imposes. Woods, however, has been an almost-forgotten man in the receiver pool of this year's draft.
One of the more well-rounded players at wide receiver, Woods is a technician at the position, running clean, crisp routes with precision. He has good hands and can make the spectacular catch. He is also good after the run, and he is a fine blocker at the position.
While he might not be tempting as more explosive player—Cordarrelle Patterson or Tavon Austin, for example—his attributes will be coveted in the NFL, and that is why I moved up a few spots to snag him in this draft.
Pairing Woods with a top free agent would be a huge boon for Ryan Tannehill and the offense.
Pick: Dallas Thomas, OT/OG, Tennessee
With Jake Long presumably gone without a potential replacement in free agency, the offensive line will need a boost in the draft. That would leave Jonathan Martin and Nate Garner to man the tackle positions for Miami.
Enter Dallas Thomas, whose name alone should be a draw for Jeff Ireland.
Thomas is a big, athletic lineman who could come in and start right away in Long's spot. He is also versatile, having started and played well at left guard for the Volunteers.
Name jokes aside, this seems like a pick Ireland would make, which is what ultimately made me pick him over some other good choices.
Pick: Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma
With Chris Clemons presumably gone via free agency—or even if Miami manages to retain him—the safety position must be addressed in the draft.
Jimmy Wilson can move back to free safety, but Tony Jefferson could slide right in and start with a strong preseason.
Despite being a bit undersized, Jefferson has good instincts at the position. He diagnoses plays quickly and breaks on passes early. His biggest issue, however, is that he is not a good tackler in space.
Pick: Mark Harrison, WR, Rutgers
One of the bigger prospects at wide receiver at 6'3" and 235 pounds with 35-inch arms, Mark Harrison would provide nice depth at wide receiver for Miami.
The chiseled receiver's size makes him tough to bring down after the catch, and he has underrated speed. His ability to beat press coverage is an important asset heading into the NFL, and he has solid route-running skills.
I was hoping to land Ryan Swope here to reunite him with Ryan Tannehill, but Swope was scooped up two picks before this one. Harrison plays outside while Swope is a slot guy, but adding talent at the receiver position is a must no matter where they line up.
Pick: Brandon McGee, CB, Miami
With cornerback continuing to be a weak position for the Dolphins, Brandon McGee jumped off the draft board here in the seventh round.
The senior cornerback is an experienced, fast player coming out of The U. He has average size at 5'11" and 193 pounds, and he was inconsistent as a starter in Miami. Those are the main reasons why he is not a more highly regarded prospect, but he has the potential to develop into a solid cornerback in the NFL.
At the very least, McGee would be able to contribute on special teams for the Dolphins while lying in wait as he develops for the defense.
Pick: Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA
As stated in the opening slide, assuming Anthony Fasano is indeed back, the tight end position will not likely be viewed as one of need. However, utilizing the team's final draft pick for a guy with the upside Joseph Fauria possesses seemed like a good idea here.
Like Egnew, Fauria is a terrible blocker. At 6'7" with nearly 34-inch arms, however, he is a massive target that can be moved all over the field. In essence, he is a bigger version of Egnew, who might have better football sense.
At any rate, Miami has had red zone issues over the years. A guy like Fauria could help with proper development.