This week we had a chance to catch up with Ian Wharton, a Dolphins analyst and draft expert from Draft Mecca and Bleacher Report. The Dolphins are a little over one week away before they enter the rat race that is the NFL draft and will have the 19th pick overall in the first round barring any interesting trade up or down.
1. There seems to be some disagreement in terms of the 19th pick of the draft for the Dolphins amongst the experts and the fan base on whether the Dolphins shore up the O-line (Zach Martin) versus upgrade their linebacking (C.J. Mosely) corps. What direction do you think the Dolphins could go, offensive line or line backer?
Most of what has come out of the Dolphins camp has indicated that they’re most likely to go offensive line in the first round. Zach Martin seems to be the apple of their eye, but it is highly unlikely he falls to 19, which could mean the Dolphins look to move up for Martin or Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews, if he falls out of the top 5. I also wouldn’t rule out a trade down because after Martin there is a significant gap in offensive line talent, and they could move down in the first to select Tennessee’s Ju’Wan James or Nevada’s Joel Bitonio.
2. As reports filter out, the Dolphins seem high on another deep threat in Marqise Lee out of USC. Is this an area that the Dolphins should explore given the lack of depth at the wide receiver position? Where do the Dolphins see a player like Lee fitting into their new offensive scheme with Bill Lazor?
Wide receiver is certainly a need for this offense. With three receivers coming off of knee injuries, they need to supplement the offense with young talent in case one isn’t healthy. Marqise Lee is a good fit with the offense, as he provides great quickness that allows him to get open early on routes, and is extremely dangerous after the catch. He should be in the mix with their second round pick.
3. Looking at special teams, can the Dolphins explore the position of kick/punt returner in the draft? Who catches your eye as a versatile threat in the draft?
Marcus Thigpen was a nice contributor as a return man, but his decision making and lack of consistency could be improved. Some of the guys the Dolphins have shown interest that fit the bill as contributors as a returner and positional player include Lee, Kent State’s Dri Archer, Wyoming wide receiver Robert Herron and Middle Tennessee State cornerback Sammy Seamster.
4. In comparison with Jeff Ireland, is GM Dennis Hickey a bit more aggressive when it comes to making his draft picks become success stories? Does Hickey bring the Dolphins improvement in the latter rounds of the draft?
I think the biggest issue for Ireland was he didn’t correctly value players. He often reached for guys that should’ve been picked a round or two later, so he bypassed much bigger talents to fill needs. If we use Hickey’s time in Tampa Bay as a barometer, he excelled early in the draft but struggled to find contributors after the second round. It is important to note that he wasn’t the general manager, and maybe he didn’t have final call on those picks. Ireland was decent at finding late round contributors, so hopefully Hickey can continue that trend.
5. Based on your experiences in analyzing drafts and the schedule to workout players has been lengthened, is a later draft better for rookies in their acclimation to a new team? What are the pros and cons of holding the draft later as opposed to in April as in years past?
The only real benefactor of this later draft is the NFL, who gets an extra few weeks of free promotion and hype. The incoming rookies spend an extra two weeks without an NFL team, which means less specific coaching and learning of the playbook. It isn’t a significant difference, but teams have had their boards set for the last month, so it’s not like teams are gathering new info either.
6. Should the Dolphins pass on a few highly touted stars, who are some of the guys they might call after the draft to bring aboard as free agents?
If for some reason the Dolphins wait to grab their right tackle until the middle rounds, they should look to add a veteran right tackle such as Eric Winston. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a veteran tight end come in to compete for a spot either, especially with low risk, high reward options such as Dustin Keller and Jermichael Finely.
We thank Ian Wharton this offseason for his draft insight and knowledge. As we get closer to the NFL draft, Dolphins fans will surely be on the edge of their seats as the 19th pick rolls around.
Ian can be followed on Twitter @NFLFilmStudy