Buckle in, Miami Dolphins Dolphins fans. This is going to get ugly. When your owner fires your coach and starts using phrases like "we are going to build it the right way" and throwing in words like "sustainable", it's code for: bear with us, we're gonna need a few years to fix this mess.
The Dolphins' reclamation project will be the first real push of the Steve Ross era to "rebuild". But hey, when the alternative is a perpetual state of mediocrity, the philosophical shift should be applauded. Ross has done everything in his power to make the Dolphins a successful franchise...except win.
Spoiler alert: they won't win in 2019 either. But they'll be building. That could that look like this April? Here's one scenario, courtesy of The Draft Network's new Mock Draft Machine, which debuts to you all February 25th.
Round 1, Pick 13: Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama
The only thing that has been worse than the Dolphins record the last few years has been their offensive line play. Lack of depth, lack of talent on the inside...it's been ugly sledding for this squad. And after parting with C Mike Pouncey last off-season and the looming free agency of RT Ja'Wuan James, this unit is in a state of flux. Again.
Williams is the perfect play: he can play both side of the line of scrimmage and may hold even more value inside as a Guard: a position that Coach Adam Gase neglected all 3 seasons he was here. So whether James is back on a new deal or not, there's room for Williams in the starting line-up.
Round 2, Pick 48: Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State
If this team is smart, they'll pay CB Xavien Howard the mega-deal he's hoping for this off-season. Good teams don't draft talented players at high value positions and then let them walk. At least not with that second contract. But even if Xavien gets the money bags he feels he's due (I don't think I could argue), the second boundary corner position is up in the air.
Will it be 2018 1st-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick? Will it be 2017 3rd-round pick Cordrea Tankersley, coming off of Injured Reserve?
Players with Oruwariye's size and movement skills don't come around all that often. In some ways, Oruwariye mirrors Howard's profile coming out of Baylor: a physical specimen who has some rough edges to smooth out. His pick gives Miami two long, dynamic athletes playing on the outside.
Round 3, Pick 79: Antoine Wesley, WR, Texas Tech
One player you almost assuredly won't see back in teal and orange next year? 2015 1st-round pick DeVante Parker. Parker's team option for 2019 was exercised, but he's due nearly $10M in base salary. That's non-guaranteed money, so the team can cut their losses and walk away.
With that change looming, the team needs some size at the wide receiver position. Wesley, at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, brings that...and some big play ability as well.
Round 4, Pick 110: Tyree Jackson, QB, Buffalo
It wouldn't be a Miami Dolphins mock draft without a quarterback somewhere in the fray! The reality is Miami misplayed their cards at the quarterback position. Standing firm on Ryan Tannehill through the 2018 NFL Draft (in which 5 QBs went in the 1st-round and Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson were all easily within striking distance) has left them in an undesirable position.
Odds are Drew Lock and Dwayne Haskins will be off the board when Miami picks, as they were in this simulation. And instead of reaching on Daniel Jones or taking the unorthodox (and high risk) pick in Kyler Murray, the Dolphins would be well served to build the rest of the roster up in this scenario. Let the quarterback come last.
Jackson isn't likely to be the savior of this franchise, he's very gifted but very raw. But he's a player to groom and provide competition in the short term as Miami lies in wait for their time to get aggressive and land a franchise quarterback.
Round 5, Pick 141: Byron Cowart, DL, Maryland
Miami's defensive line was in sorry state at the end of 2018: injuries derailed a promising young interior, Cameron Wake started to look like a 30-something year old speed rusher and the collective group of Andre Branch, Charles Harris and Robert Quinn? Let's just say they didn't deliver.
Young talent is a must. And while Cowart isn't necessarily going to be a plug and play starter, he's a former 5-star recruit who made some waves with the Maryland program after transferring in from Auburn.
Round 6, Pick 176: Ryan Connelly, LB, Wisconsin
The Dolphins saw some promising growth from LB Raekwon McMillan in 2018, particularly in the second half of the season. But with Kiko Alonso looking like a cap casualty, this is another position that is going to be in a state of flux.
Connelly is a player I can envision starting in the NFL some day: he's smart and has just enough athleticism for me to think he can cut it.
Round 7, Pick 207: D'Cota Dixon, S, Wisconsin
Every team needs a special teams ace: that's what I can envision for Dixon in his NFL career. Dixon is a little undersized to play as an every-down player but he's a pretty good tackler and very disciplined on the back end. The Dolphins need more talent not just in the 1-15 spots on their 53-man roster, but on the 40-53 end as well.
Dixon can be one of those and a fixture on the third phase of the game.
*REMINDER*: You can play general manager for your favorite team too when Mock Draft Machine releases to the public on February 25th!