The picks are in and it’s finally over. The long awaited 2014 Miami Dolphins draft class has been decided. I posted my AFC East team grades earlier this week, but now we will dive into the Miami Dolphins individual pick grades. Like the divisional grading, the criteria is based mostly off value and need. This was new general manager Dennis Hikey’s first draft as a full time general manager and he took a unique route. He drafted players that were all strong leaders on their respective college teams, and he selected a lot of small school talent. Will Hickey’s first draft boom or bust?
Round 1, Pick 19: Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee – At 6’6”, 311 pounds James isn’t built like your typical NFL right tackle. Most right tackles are more grinding run blockers than pass protectors, but James is different. James is a very good pass blocker that could work on his run blocking skills. If you go back and watch some of his 2013 games you can see that his run blocking is lacking because of his strength, but if you look closely you will notice that James always finishes his blocks. James may have been a little bit of a reach, but he will be plugged in day one at right tackle and have a chance to prove his true value.
Round 2, Pick 63 (From Broncos through 49ers): Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU – To be completely honest I didn’t initially love the Landry pick in the second. Miami had more pressing needs at that point in the draft, but to trade down twice and pick up Landry, you can’t do much better than that. Landry has been compared to Anquan Boldin, but the better comparison is another former SEC brawler Hines Ward. If you want to solidify that comparison click here to see Landry’s block on a poor South Carolina defensive back on the first play of the game. Landry has some of the most consistent hands in the 2014 class and his skill set will demand playtime for him in his rookie season.
Round 3, Pick 67 (From Raiders): Billy Turner, OT, North Dakota St.– Like most FCS players Billy Turner was relatively unknown before the Senior Bowl. Miami was all over him throughout the draft process and didn’t want to let him get away. Playing for the top team in the FCS didn’t mean much as he played against mostly FCS competition, but in NDSU’s opening game verses Kansas State Turner played like a BCS level prospect (there is no more BCS, it is now the College Football Playoffs). At 6’5” and 315 pounds Turner is built like a tackle. The key to this selection is his athleticism. Look for Miami to move him inside next to Brandon Albert at left guard. Miami traded up to select Turner which may not be good value, but when you want to get a guy you really like you have to make moves.
Round 4, Pick 125 (From Chargers): Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty – Aikens brings something unique to the Dolphins secondary, height. All of Miami’s height went out the door when Nolan Carroll left via free agency. Aikens is another small school prospect Miami has been eyeing since the Senior Bowl. Aikens ran a 4.49 40 at his pro day in March, and along with his long build NFL teams took notice. Aikens plays his best in press man coverage. In his rookie year I could see him filling a situational role verses bigger receivers. His value was pretty spot on in the fourth round.
Round 5, Pick 155: Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia – This is probably my biggest head scratcher pick for Miami. Don’t get me wrong I like Lynch’s value and ability in the fifth round, but Miami could have added a player who could have more of a role in his rookie season. Lynch is a great blocking tight end with at most intermediate receiving ability. He had two big drops in Georgia’s 2013 bowl game. Lynch brings in the same skill set as Miami’s tight end pick in the 2013 draft Dion Sims. Sims didn’t even see the field that much in 2013 besides a game winning touchdown catch in week three verses the Falcons. Maybe Lynch can win the backup tight end spot in camp and notch out a role for himself besides special teams.
Round 5, Pick 171 (From Broncos through 49ers): Jordan Tripp, OLB, Montana – This may be Miami’s most intriguing pick of the draft. Tripp really impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl. Tripp isn’t the most complete linebacker from this class, but is impressive in coverage. The Dolphins linebacker corps last season was subpar. Tripp most likely won’t start right out of the gate, but if he improves his tackling ability and Phillip Wheeler continues to play like he did last season Tripp may see some playing time. Tripp will be a key special team contributor.
Round 6, Pick 190: Matt Hazel, WR, Coastal Carolina – Right off the bat Hazel reminds me of current Miami Dolphin Rishard Matthews. Neither possess any sort of elite traits, but they both are reliable possession receivers. Hazel runs good clean routes that will make him a quarterback’s best friend. With all of the receivers on Miami’s roster it will not be easy for Hazel to carve out a big role in Miami’s offense this season. He will have to show that he has value on special teams.
Round 7, Pick 234: Terrence Fede, DE, Marist – Let me start off by saying that there was a lot of talent on the board when this selection occurred. Maybe my view is wrong here because there was “known” talent on the board while Fede was under-the-radar. Fede’s career outlook appears to be that of a swing defensive end/defensive tackle. He has a good first step off the ball, but lacks the speed to create havoc for quarterbacks. I think he could be a nice anchor on the punt team and field goal blocking team.