After giving up a franchise-record 6,122 yards last season the Dolphins were expected to address deficiencies along their defensive front in the offseason. Miami did eventually fill perceived needs on defense on the final day of the draft, and they clearly stuck to their board and took the best players available to them.
While talent isn’t lacking with the Dolphins’ latest draft haul, it appears as though there may be a dearth of Week 1 starters in the group. Laremy Tunsil and Xavien Howard started against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1 last season and it is quite possible that they’ll have just two rookies starting for them again in Week 1.
Defensive end Charles Harris was the Dolphins’ pick at No. 22 but with Cameron Wake and Andre Branch firmly entrenched as the Dolphins’ starting defensive ends, Harris figures to be a part-time player in his rookie season. However, Dolphins’ second-round pick Raekwon McMillan could very well be an opening-day starter at the middle linebacker position.
McMillan made an instant impact for Ohio State, and as a result of his intelligence and athleticism, he is poised to do the same in the NFL. The Dolphins acquired 11-year veteran Lawrence Timmons via trade and re-signed Kiko Alonso prior to the draft Miami will have to sort through which of the three will be the man in the middle this season.
Timmons and Alonso are both inside linebackers, but it is possible that one, if not both of them could be bumped outside to make room for the rookie, who the Dolphins appear to be smitten with.
“Raekwon [McMillan] is that quarterback on the defense. It’s been that way his whole life. The expectation is that he’ll prove that he can handle that here at this level,” said general manager Chris Grier.
Whether or not McMillan becomes an immediate starter remains to be seen, but it is clear that he is viewed by the front office as an inside linebacker.
The only other Dolphins’ 2017 selection capable of winning a starting job by Week 1 is left guard Isaac Asiata from the University of Utah. The Dolphins should be commended for waiting until pick No. 164 in the fifth round to select Asiata who has the talent to fill an immediate need for the Dolphins at left guard.
Asiata is a physical offensive lineman but he also has the mental toughness that the Dolphins’ staff covets in the trenches.
“He’s very smart with a passion and a love for football,” Grier said. “His life story, he’s had some adversity in his life that he’s overcome, so you’re kind of drawn to those guys. He’s really made himself into a man and how he handles his life. On the field, he’s a nasty prick, and that’s what you like about him. He’s a tough, physical, nasty mauler. We just wanted to add more of that to us.”
Asiata does indeed take pride in finishing blocks. Another noteworthy quality of his is that he does not drop to the ground to hit moving targets while pulling on power runs. Asiata is the type of offensive lineman who would much rather stay on his feet and flatten the opposition.
The Rookie will be expected to compete with veteran Ted Larsen who the Dolphins acquired in March during free agency, and there is a strong chance he could win the job.