5 Bold Predictions for Miami Dolphins' 2014 NFL Draft Class
Last season, the rookie draft class was largely a failure with only Dion Jordan making any legitimate contributions.
However, general manager Dennis Hickey seems to have done much better than Jeff Ireland did last year, and I see good things from this draft class right away.
However, how good they will be is the true question.
To be clear, this is all about making bold predictions for this draft class.
Saying that a couple of players will make the 53-man roster isn't exactly going out on a limb.
However, arguing that Jarvis Landry will be the team's leading receiver is a different story, which is exactly what I will do.
Without further ado, let's take a look at five bold predictions about how the Dolphins rookies will fare in 2014.
Both Ja'Wuan James and Billy Turner Will Start Opening Game
It's a rather safe bet to say that first-round pick Ja'Wuan James will step in right away and start at right tackle.
He doesn't have much competition for the starting job, and he is certainly good enough to step right in and make an immediate impact.
Billy Turner, on the other hand, isn't exactly a given to start Week 1.
The third-round pick will have to earn his spot as one of the starting guards and will have plenty of competition from Nate Garner, Dallas Thomas and Sam Brenner.
Prior to the draft, I made the case as to why the Dolphins should draft Turner, arguing that he would be a great fit for the team in their zone-blocking scheme.
With that said, I fully believe the 6'5", 315-pound Turner will win the starting job in training camp, and providing he can stay healthy, he will hold down the right side of the Dolphins offensive line along with James for the entire season.
Jarvis Landry Will Lead the Team in Receptions
Last season, Brian Hartline led the Dolphins with 76 receptions with Mike Wallace just behind him, totaling 73.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Wallace caught just 53 percent of the passes thrown his way and dropped 11 passes.
Hartline was a bit better, catching 59 percent of passes thrown in his direction with just five drops.
In comparison, Landry caught 73 percent of his passes at LSU, dropping just one while catching 77, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
Put simply, Landry has absolutely incredible hands and will very quickly become a favorite target of quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
As Daniel Eliesen of PhinsPhocus.com puts it:
Hard not to love Jarvis Landry's hands, seen enough Dolphins WRs drop passes, this kid can flat out catch the football— Daniel Eliesen (@PhinsDaniel) May 10, 2014
He has a great chance of getting the upper hand early in training camp as well, with Brandon Gibson returning from a torn patella tendon.
If Landry can land the role as the full-time slot receiver, there's no reason to think he won't eventually become Tannehill's go-to man, resulting in a large number of receptions.
Jordan Tripp Will Unseat Dannell Ellerbe as the Starting Middle Linebacker
It's no secret that the play of the linebackers was the Achilles' heel of the Dolphins defense last season.
While the team didn't look for an upgrade in free agency, it did draft Jordan Tripp in the fifth round, hoping he can develop into an important contributor early on.
I already took an in-depth look at Tripp and how he fits in with the team.
There are a number of different possibilities for where he might play this year, ranging from the starting outside linebacker, to a rotational player off the bench or even just a special teams player.
But with that said, I firmly believe that Tripp will eventually take over as the starting middle linebacker at some point this season.
Dannell Ellerbe is a much better natural fit to play weak-side linebacker in the Dolphins' 4-3 defense, and while Koa Misi is a solid player, switching him to the inside likely wouldn't solve anything.
Instead, the Dolphins can groom Tripp throughout training camp and hope he can develop and learn the position quick enough to step in and start right away.
Tripp has the high football IQ, good vision and recognition and the great read-and-react ability needed to excel as the starting middle linebacker.
He is great in coverage and also does well against the run.
It may not happen right away, but at some point in the season, Tripp is going to crack the starting lineup and give the Dolphins a much needed improvement at the linebacker position.
Arthur Lynch Will Score More Than 5 Touchdowns
In drafting Arthur Lynch in the fifth round, the Dolphins showed that they aren't content with the players they currently have slotted after Charles Clay on the depth chart at tight end.
Lynch wasn't drafted to be a major receiving weapon, but there's no question that his great blocking ability is going to earn him plenty of playing time.
Before even stepping on the field, he is already the best all-around blocker they have at the position and should be a major boost to the running attack thanks to his in-line blocking ability.
Because of this, you can expect Lynch to get plenty of work, especially in the red zone, where he can then use his massive 6'5", 258-pound frame to take advantage of smaller defenders and post up for easy touchdowns.
He certainly won't be hard to find as Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray realized last season, when he connected with him in the end zone five different times.
Providing he can limit the drops, it's quite possible he becomes a safety blanket for Tannehill, especially in goal-to-go situations in which Lynch can thrive.
Dolphins Rookies Will Finish Top 5 in the NFL in Snaps Played
Last season, the Dolphins rookies totaled the lowest amount of playing time out of any class in the entire league.
In fact, the Dolphins draft class totaled just 866 snaps among nine players in 2013 and was the only team in the league that didn't get at least 1,000 snaps from its rookies.
In comparison, the New York Jets draft class totaled the most playing time with 3,810 snaps, and there was also over a dozen rookies that played more snaps by themselves than all of the Dolphins rookies did combined.
Of course, health is always the ultimate factor in deciding this as it was also the major factor limiting most of the Dolphins rookies last season.
However, I would still expect that the 2014 draft class will fare much better this season.
Just on the offensive line alone, James and Turner should each be right around 1,000 snaps by season's end.
Depending on how quickly Landry and Tripp catch on, they each could creep up to the 800 snap mark as well.
As mentioned in the last slide, you can expect Lynch to get plenty of work as a blocker and in the red zone, and there's also the possibility that Walt Aikens can get some snaps in the secondary as well.
With the depth the Dolphins have a receiver, it's tough to picture Matt Hazel making the 53-man roster, let alone getting on the field on game day.
Terrence Fede was drafted as a developmental player and depth, and it's highly unlikely that he sees any action in 2014.
Providing Joe Philbin doesn't get in his own way and instead lets the rookies prove themselves out on the field, this draft class should have plenty of success in 2014.
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