It is no secret the Dolphins are thin at the tight end position!
In taking a look at the Miami Dolphins biggest needs in the 2017 draft, one glaring issue has continued to stand out too me… tight end!
The Dolphins often run an unbalanced 3-by-1, which means all receivers line up on the 3 side with a tight end on the 1 side. For some time now, they have lacked a true pass-catching tight end who can open up the seams and expose zone coverage. According to Fox Sports, in 2016 the Dolphins aligned in the unbalanced 3-by-1 a total of 170 times but targeted their tight-end a mere 10 of those times.
So how do the Fins fix this problem?
If the Dolphins choose to stay away from former Adam Gase players like Martellus Bennett or Julius Thomas in free agency, both of whom will command anywhere from $7-10 million per season, it will be up to GM Chris Grier and Football Czar Mike Tannenbaum to find a star within the stacked 2017 Draft class.
Most early mock drafts, including my own, have initially locked eyes on the 6-foot 6-inches, Alabama standout, O.J Howard.
Howard, who is considered the best overall tight-end of the 2017 class, has drawn comparisons to TE Julius Thomas, who had back-to-back twelve touchdown seasons while Gase was the offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos.
But, does that mean he is the right fit for Miami at 22nd overall pick?
With draft experts like NFL Networks Mike Mayock stating, ” (This) may be the best tight end class I’ve seen since I’ve been doing this,” the Dolphins could save their first pick to fix holes in their weak linebacker or defensive end positions. They could then address their weak tight end depth by selecting a top-10 TE between the 2nd and 5th rounds.
Both Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims are set to become free agents this off-season, and with concussions becoming a giant concern for Cameron’s overall health, it is likely his time in Miami will soon come to an end.
As for 25-year old Dion Sims, if the price is right, he should be retained. After a solid close to the season, Sims was on the field for more than 95 percent of Miami’s offensive snaps. He also recorded four touchdowns over the last six weeks, which tied for the most in the NFL over time.
So now the question is… Who do you pair with Dion Sims?
David Njoku, TE, Miami (6’4″/240)
(Projection Rd: 1-2)
Wait… What? The Dolphins could select a local talent?
David Njoku, the athletic specimen out of University of Miami, is projected as an early second round pick. He recorded 43-receptions, 698-yards, and eight TDs in his final collegiate season. With play-making potential and ever-increasing run-blocking skills, there is a strong possibility that the Miami Hurricane could slowly creep his way closer to the 22nd overall pick after the 2017 combine.
Jake Butt, TE, Michigan (6’5″/250)
(Projection Rd: 3-5)
Unfortunately, Jake Butt suffered a torn ACL in his final collegiate game, greatly dropping his draft stock. Still, Butt is easily the best late round tight end in the draft (projected 3-5 round). The Michigan tight end lacks elite athleticism like O.J. Howard, but his NFL size and ability to catch everything thrown in his direction make him an obvious choice for Miami.
Eric Saubert, TE, Drake (6’5″/251)
Eric Saubert is far from the best tight end in this draft class; however but that does not mean he does not have value. While drops and lackluster blocking hinder the Bulldogs’ top receiver, his size, 4.6 speed, and ability to find the end zone (17 touchdowns final two seasons) make him a deep draft gem to pair with blocking tight ends like Dion Sims.
Luckily for Adam Gase & Co., in a deep draft with over 16 solid candidates, it is likely the Miami Dolphins can find a quality replacement for Jordan Cameron, regardless of which round they make their selection.