2014 NFL Draft: Miami Dolphins 4-Round Mock, Pre-Free Agency Results
Naturally, let's talk about the NFL draft.
Specifically, it's time for my first mock draft of the 2014 offseason. I participated in a Twitter draft under the hashtag #RapidMock as a virtual Dennis Hickey for the Dolphins. There were no fake trades involved; it was a straightforward draft that lasted four rounds.
It is worth noting this was a draft with 32 different "general managers," each representing an NFL team. That is to say, take it with a healthy serving of salt—it is more exploratory and speculative than predictive.
And with that, we dive into Miami mock drafts...
Pick: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
It was assumed that the Dolphins would address at least some of their offensive line needs when they first pick at No. 19 overall.
Defensive tackle Louis Nix III out of Notre Dame seemed like the best available first-round fit, especially with rumors raging about Miami's impending acquisition of offensive tackle Branden Albert and signs they will not be re-signing defensive tackles Paul Soliai and Randy Starks.
Were it not for a nagging injury that ultimately ended his 2013 season, Nix might be a lock for the top 10 in this year's draft. Worries about recovery time have dogged his draft stock as well, though he was able to participate at the NFL Scouting Combine.
He could still go quite high in the draft, but he fell all the way to the No. 19 pick here.
Nix is suited well as a two-gap defender in a 3-4 defense, but he was also effective in one-gap formations for Notre Dame. He excels as a runs-stuffing nose tackle, and he flashed potential as an inside pass-rusher.
If selected, Nix would be a viable replacement for Soliai, assuming the 30-year-old, run-stuffing defensive tackle signs elsewhere. Soliai came into the league as a nose tackle in Miami's 3-4 defense, and he transitioned well to the 4-3 the Dolphins have run for the past couple of seasons.
Known as "Irish Chocolate," Nix has a colorful personality that has won him plenty of fans on social media. The Dolphins could use a little lightheartedness after the public relations nightmare they've been embroiled in since last season.
Pick: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
This pick was made before the Dolphins signed safety Louis Delmas to replace Chris Clemons, who is expected to leave via free agency. The one-year contract seems to indicate they might look to the draft for a long-term replacement, though, so the pick is not out of the realm of possibility.
Given the known information, Jimmie Ward out of Northern Illinois was the best option available with Miami's second-round pick in this mock draft (No. 50 overall).
It wasn't merely a positional need that drew me to Ward with this selection. The rangy strong safety could well find himself in the first round on draft day because of his versatility and ball-hawking abilities, as evidenced by the seven interceptions he had in his senior season.
Though he played strong safety in college, Ward was great in coverage. He lined up all over the field and was even tasked with playing press coverage on slot receivers.
He is on the small side for his position at 5'11" and 193 pounds, but he has good athleticism and instincts to make up for any deficiency in size. Ward was named the top defensive back at this year's Senior Bowl.
Pick: Brandon Thomas, OT/OG, Clemson
The Dolphins' offensive line has too many needs to address entirely in free agency. Even Miami snags a starting free agent left tackle and guard, there still is plenty of repair work to be done along the unit.
Clemson's Brandon Thomas presents excellent value in the Round 3 with the 81st pick.
Much is made about Thompson shutting star South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney last season—as Bleacher Report's Matt Miller mentioned in the above video—but that was just one piece of the puzzle.
Brandon Thomas is a rich person's Dallas Thomas (no relation), the Dolphin offensive tackle who started out as a guard in college, which may not be saying much given the latter's invisibility last year. Dallas Thomas could scarcely get on the active roster despite the problems Miami had along the line last season, quite telling for a lineman the Dolphins drafted in the third round.
Brandon Thomas is better than Dallas Thomas was coming out of college, thanks to the former's greater versatility, as he can play both guard and tackle positions.
Depending on how free agency really shakes out, the Dolphins might need a right tackle or a couple of interior linemen. Thomas could shore up some of that need, especially at a third-round value.
Pick: Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU
Finding value was the name of the game in this draft, and running back Jeremy Hill was another thrifty addition at this selection (No. 112 overall).
For the Dolphins, the Daniel Thomas experiment has failed, and Lamar Miller hasn't lived up to the hype in his two years with the team. Miami needs some help at the running back position.
A bruiser like Hill could help quite a bit.
The 6'0", 233-pound running back is a load, making him an ideal replacement option for Thomas. In his scouting report, Bleacher Report's Ryan Lownes compares Hill to the New England Patriots' LeGarrette Blount.
Blount isn't considered a dynamic runner, but he has been productive throughout his career when placed in good situations. While Hill might not be explosive, he still managed to average a healthy 6.2 yards per carry in college.
Of course, Hill might be far higher on draft boards were it not for some serious off-field issues, including a some arrests in the past few years.
The draft is littered with running backs with murky futures, which is why the Dolphins should probably wait to take one, if they plan to take one at all. Hill was the best available at this point, so he seemed a likely choice.