Miami Dolphins: How Do Wallace, Ellerbe and Wheeler Signings Affect Draft?
The Miami Dolphins made the biggest splash on Day 1 of NFL free agency, signing Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler to multi-year deals, while retaining Chris Clemons and releasing starting linebackers Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby.
There are still a number of free agents left on the market, and Miami has the cap space to continue adding talent, but for now, it's time to look at how these three major signings affect their draft plans.
With five picks in the first three rounds and possibly an extra fourth-round compensatory pick, Miami has a lot of room to continue building through the draft next month.
Wide receiver was a major need, and while they need to look at adding depth at the position, they no longer have to target a guy like Cordarrelle Patterson with their 12th overall pick.
But at least one of their picks in the second or third round needs to be a receiver. Stedman Bailey, Ryan Swope and Robert Woods could all be had in the third round and would be great values for them.
It would be nice to reunite Swope with Ryan Tannehill and Mike Sherman, but I'm not positive that he's worth a second-round pick. He doesn't play as fast as he was timed at during the Combine, and he's had some concussion issues that make me wary of taking him in the second.
They should also look into a late-round pick to challenge Rishard Matthews at the bottom of the depth chart. Conner Vernon and Aaron Mellette are two guys who would push Matthews and possibly become that fifth receiver with some upside.
But the Wallace signing does not give Miami a possession threat, which would optimally come from the tight end position. Now that Anthony Fasano is out, they need to add at least one, and probably two well-rounded tight ends.
Jared Cook and Martellus Bennett are off the market. Dustin Keller is still available, but he's had so many injury problems that he can't be relied on as the No. 1 guy.
Tyler Eifert would be an ideal pickup via the draft. The only problem is that many would be hesitant taking a tight end 12th overall, but there's little chance Eifert falls to Miami in the second round.
Trading down would be an option, but they could also just go ahead and take him at No. 12 if they feel strongly about him. With Ellerbee and Wheeler now on the roster, it seems unlikely that Miami would target a linebacker.
So that leaves cornerback and pass-rusher as the two most plausible options for Miami to pursue with their first-round selection. A guy like Xavier Rhodes would be intriguing, as well as Bjoern Werner, if he were to drop that far.
Damontre Moore has seen his draft stock tumble, but could also be an option. Patterson isn't totally out of the question, but it seems far more likely that Rhodes or Johnthan Banks would be the move now.
Even if Miami signs a cornerback, there are no surefire top players at the position on the market, so investing heavily in the draft would be smart. Rhodes and Banks are great because of their size, which could allow them to potentially cover a guy like Aaron Hernandez.
But in the second and third rounds, there are a bunch of quality talents who could fit into Miami's secondary. Jordan Poyer, Logan Ryan, Darius Slay and Blidi Wreh-Wilson should all be targeted.
Clemons' deal is only for one year, so Jonathan Cyprien of FIU would be a great pick in the second round. He could learn under Clemons for a season and be ready to step up and take the reins if Clemons departs.
Offensive tackle is another big question mark for Miami. Jake Long is almost definitely not coming back, and they haven't been tied to anyone in free agency.
Lane Johnson would be a potential option in the first round, but it seems more likely to me that Miami would take a cornerback there and wait to see who is around later, because the tackle class is pretty deep.
Kyle Long, Menelik Watson, Oday Aboushi, Justin Pugh, Terron Armstead and Ricky Wagner all have talent and could all be molded into solid NFL starters. It would be risky starting them opposite Jonathan Martin on day one, but it is possible that that will be Miami's best option.
There are a lot of ways Miami can go now with the draft, and some of it hinges on what they do during the rest of free agency. Signing a tackle would really take the pressure off and allow them to focus mostly on defense during the draft.
But a lot of things can happen between now and the end of April, so we'll have to keep an eye on Jeff Ireland and see what unfolds.
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