Kelly: Dolphins need to maximize early-round selections in NFL draft

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Doing the research required for a 2020 NFL mock draft taught me that there are about five teams who will likely trade down from the early teens, and the Miami Dolphins might need to move up to secure one of the top four offensive tackles, which should be a must to continue the offseason rebuild of the offensive line.

Also, the top-shelf talent in the draft dips a bit in the late teens, and early 20’s. Therefore, I wouldn’t mind trading the No. 26 pick if it produced a coveted player (Trent Williams or Jonathan Allen), and/or more Day 2 picks.

Securing Tua Tagovailoa should be the primary goal, but I’m willing to leave April’s draft without the charismatic — but fragile quarterback — because of the medical risk involved with selecting the former Alabama standout.

No matter what selection is used on Tagovailoa, he’ll be the draft’s biggest risk-reward player, and might be the riskiest draft pick this past decade because nobody will be able to see him work out in person, or have their doctors examine his surgically repaired hip for a second time, after his month of workouts since being medically cleared to resume football activities because of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are concerns about Tagovailoa’s long-term health, mobility, and durability that won’t go away on draft day, or in the first few years of his career.

That’s why the Dolphins shouldn’t do whatever it takes to trade up to select Tagovailoa. There’s too much risk involved.

However, I’m not opposed to swapping picks with the Detroit Lions (No. 3) if the price is merely the No. 5 and 26 selections. But that’s as high as Miami should go in negotiations with Detroit to move up two spots because other teams will likely also be uncomfortable with their inability to re-examine Tagovailoa.

The Los Angeles Chargers, Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars are Miami’s biggest threats for Tagovailoa. And two of those teams might have their sights set on Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence next year. But the Washington Redskins (No. 2) might take Tagovailoa, making this whole debate a moot discussion.

Washington’s new coach Ron Rivera isn’t married to Dwayne Haskins, last year’s first-round pick. He didn’t select Haskins, so why shouldn’t Haskins have to compete to be the Redskins’ quarterback.

What did Haskins do as a rookie to avoid the Josh Rosen treatment?

Remember, this is the same organization that selected Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins in the same draft in 2012. That was a lesson every team should have learned from, so why wouldn’t owner Daniel Snyder encourage competition.

If Tagovailoa isn’t there at pick No. 5 because Miami gets leapfrogged by another team, then it should select Utah State’s Jordan Love. I prefer Love over Oregon’s Justin Herbert because his quick release reminds me of Dolphins legend Dan Marino.

Also, Herbert’s demeanor and personality — and the absence of alpha male traits — reminds me too much of former Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Nothing wrong with that. I’d just rather my quarterback be an alpha male. In the past decade, the only two quarterbacks the Dolphins have had who were alpha males were Chad Pennington and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The Dolphins’ No. 18 selection should be an offensive tackle because there’s going to be a run on that position in the top-50 picks, and the last thing Miami can afford is to leave this draft with filler at that position.

The Dolphins need a stud to compete with Julien Davenport and Jesse Davis. And if Tagovailoa is the Dolphins’ selection at No. 5, Miami needs to build him a brick wall, an offensive line like the Tennessee Titans had last season.

Georgia’s Andrew Thomas could be available at No. 18, but that’s likely wishful thinking.

Some draftniks are projecting as many as seven offensive tackles will be first-round selections, and what’s left for the second-round will be TCU’s Lucas Niang, and Auburn’s Prince Tega Wanogho, two linemen working their way back from injuries NFL team’s can’t medically evaluate.

Why chance it?

Then there’s a tough decision that needs to be made with the No. 26 selection.

Should Miami select the draft’s first safety — LSU’s Grant Delpit or Alabama’s Xavier McKinney — or take an edge-setting defensive lineman that can challenge Avery Moss for the Richard Seymour role in this defense?

A.J. Epenesa has outstanding size, solid strength and is technically sound, so he’s an option. He’s the type of coachable, interchangeable piece coach Brian Flores needs to make his hybrid defense work properly.

There are a few safeties — California’s Ashtyn Davis, Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield Jr., and Lenoir-Rhyne’s Kyle Dugger — the Dolphins can target on the second day of the draft, so safety can wait.

And serious consideration should be made to taking Georgia tailback D’Andre Swift, who many evaulators compare to LeSean McCoy, with the No. 26 pick.

The Dolphins could use a playmaker like Swift. However, there are six tailbacks in this draft who have what it takes to carry an NFL team’s rushing attack, and only seven teams have a glaring need for help at that position.

That means Miami can wait to select a tailback on the second day, and maybe one slips into Day 3.

The Dolphins need to address their needs with the team’s six picks in the top-70 selections, and then use the rest of the draft to select the best available with the remaining picks.


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