To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with subbing players in and out of the line-up to keep them fresh. However, when moving the ball down the field on offense, and matching up with the opposition’s offense becomes problematic due to a dearth of position flexibility, it might be time to add young versatile players through the NFL draft.
Miami has a couple versatile pieces on offense in players such as Kenyan Drake and Jakeem Grant, but they’ll need more players who can wear many hats if they hope to consistently generate mismatches. On defense, Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald are viewed as interchangeable pieces capable of playing strong and free safety, but it’s critical that they find a young linebacker who excels in coverage in the draft.
Gone are the days of simply running the football well and utilizing play-action to make big plays.
Great offenses generate and exploit mismatches, while great defenses are capable of eliminating mismatches in their base personnel. The 2018 NFL draft is chock-full of players capable of helping the Dolphins achieve this feat:
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Would the Dolphins actually take a look at Jackson? Probably not. Coach Adam Gase prefers pocket passers, who have a modicum of escapability, but never has he worked with a quarterback who possesses Jackson’s athleticism. Jackson could change the fortunes of the Dolphins offense, as his legs make the game 11-on-11 and eliminates coverages opposing teams can use to defend him. He’s a true dual threat and the entire offense would benefit from Lamar Jackson the runner and the passer. As a passer, Jackson is the direct beneficiary of his legs as throwing window are larger when the running back is capable of taking off and running. Running backs also tend to have larger rushing lanes when the quarterback is mobile.
Kalen Ballage, HB, Arizona State
During the Senior Bowl, Kalen Ballage explicitly expressed his desire to play a similar role to David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell for his next team. At this point in his career, Ballage is a good runner from scrimmage, but he’s an above average route runner. Standing 6-foot-2, 227 pounds he could contribute as an H-back and line up at tight end, slot receiver, as well as in the backfield with Kenyan Drake while he matures as a runner. Consistently putting Ballage and Drake on the field at the same time would give the Dolphins two running backs, who also thrive as pass-catchers.
Alternatives: Jaylen Samuels, North Carolina State; Dimitri Flowers, Oklahoma
Frank Ragnow, OC/OG, Arkansas
Mike Pouncey played all 16 games in 2017 and will aim to do the same this season with a hip that by is own admission — isn’t “normal.” The Dolphins would be smart to take a look at a combo guard like Frank Ragnow who can step in at center, and both guard spots. During the course of a NFL season, injuries along the offensive line can pile up quickly. It is critical that the Dolphins find versatile offensive linemen who are capable of playing at a high level at multiple spots so that the offense doesn’t have to work around a paucity of talent up front.
Alternatives: Billy Price, Ohio State; Bradley Bozeman, Alabama
Nyheim Hines, RB/WR, North Carolina State
Hines went over 1,000 yards in 2017, but in his sophomore year, Hines played the majority of his snaps at wide receiver. Hines posted 525 yards on 43 receptions in 2016 before returning to the running back position as a junior. While Miami is excited about Jakeem Grant, Hines, a sprinter on the Wolfpack track and field squad brings comparable speed to the position. Grant has lined up in the backfield and taken handoffs in Miami but Hines is better equipped for that role and could more than handle 3-5 carries a game as a running back. Drake, Ballage and Hines on the field at the same time would give the Dolphins three very capable ball carriers, who can also run routes like receivers.
Kyzir White, WLB/S West Virginia
One of the more fun and unique players in the 2018 NFL draft is Kyzir White. White played the “spur” position in the Mountaineers 3-3-5, which is a hybrid position usually reserved for the team’s most athletic defender. White was asked to cover running backs, tight ends and even slot receivers during his at West Virginia and held up exceptionally well in coverage. White is also no slouch when defending the run. It is clear he knows how to use his quickness to get around offensive linemen. He’s also proven he can take blockers head on. The Dolphins could use his versatility, as his presence at WLB would allow them to match-up well with most offenses while in their base personnel.
Alternatives: Marcus Allen, Penn State; DeShon Elliott, Texas; Ronnie Harrison, Alabama; Derwin James, Florida State; and Jerome Baker, Ohio State; Fred Warner, BYU
Harold Landry, SLB/DE, Boston College
Harold Landry is viewed mostly as a defensive end but he could very well get on the field early in his career as a SLB while polishing his pass-rush on obvious passing downs. He would be the ideal player to send on fire zone blitzes while the defensive end on his side or opposite side of the field drops back. He could also engage in twists with the likes of Cameron Wake. His ability to rush the passer and flow to ball carriers would give opponents fits trying to figure which defender is going to rush the passer. Once he improves upon his ability to set the edge in the run game, Miami could consider moving him to defensive end when Wake retires. Until then he would be a nice fit as a member of the Dolphins linebacker corps.
Alternatives: Lorenzo Carter, Georgia; Arden Key, LSU; Uchenna Nwosu, USC
Chad Thomas, DE/DT, Miami
At 6-foot-6, 275 pounds, Thomas has enough quickness to rush the passer from the defensive end spot, but he’s also demonstrated that he has the toughness to line up in a 3-technique and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Thomas sets the edge exceptionally well in the run game and would be an ideal candidate to compliment 2017 first-round pick Charles Harris. Thomas’ ability to collapse the pocket from the edge and the interior will enhance his value as the draft approaches. His versatility would give defensive coordinator Matt Burke endless options on obvious passing downs.
Alternatives: Sam Hubbard, Ohio State; Andrew Brown, Virginia; Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest