This offseason we’ll take a look at all 32 NFL teams’ most pressing needs heading into the 2018-19 season. Our next team has gutted its roster in an effort to boost its locker room culture . . . or something: The Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins’ 6-10 performance last season was especially disappointing considering that they were fresh off the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2008. Head coach Adam Gase and general manager Chris Grier’s solution to the 2017 campaign has been to get rid of the team’s most prominent starters, including Ndamukong Suh, Julius Thomas, Lawrence Timmons, and Mike Pouncey. Jarvis Landry was traded for fourth- and seventh-round picks and has been replaced by former Chiefs and Patriots slot receivers Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola.
Gase brought back defensive coordinator Matt Burke but replaced offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen with former Bears coordinator Dowell Loggains. The Dolphins have eight draft picks to work with, including four of the first 107 selections. Aside from a few talented individuals on the roster, the 2018 Dolphins currently look like a potential candidate for a top-three pick in the 2019 draft.
Need No. 1: Offensive Line
The Dolphins offensive line wasn’t particularly good at run or pass blocking last season. Overall, it ranked 30th in adjusted line yards per rush and 11th in adjusted sack rate, although the latter mark was assuredly inflated by Jay Cutler‘s quick release: He was one of just seven quarterbacks to throw over 58 percent of their passes in 2.5 seconds or fewer. Only right tackle Ja’Waun James managed to rank among Pro Football Focus’ 25 top overall linemen last season.
Pouncey has been replaced by Daniel Kilgore, and Josh Sitton was signed to provide a boost at guard. Adding PFF’s No. 23 center and No. 5 guard is a step in the right direction. Still, it’d behoove the organization to add additional bodies to a line that hasn’t finished higher than 22nd in adjusted line yards per rush since 2014. Starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil is the only lineman Grier and Gase have drafted since taking over in 2016.
Telling Stat: The Dolphins have ranked among the league’s top four teams in average open field yards per rush over the past two seasons but among the league’s bottom three offenses in percentage of running back rush attempts finished at or behind the line of scrimmage.
Need No. 2: Running Back
The Dolphins haven’t resigned Damien Williams, so the backfield belongs to Kenyan Drake and 35-year-old Frank Gore for the time being. Drake balled out during his five weeks as the offense’s undisputed featured back, averaging 18.9 DraftKings points per game with a +4.6 Plus/Minus and 60 percent Consistency Rating. His average of 18.2 carries and 5.6 targets per game would be good for 291.2 carries and 89.6 targets over a 16-game season. There have been only 11 instances of a running back racking up 250-plus rush attempts and 75-plus targets over the past five seasons.
Not even in college did Drake handle a full season of three-down work, but the early results in 2017 couldn’t have been more promising.
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 21, 2018
The only question is whether the Dolphins will commit to the league’s leader in yards after contact gained per attempt. Gore totaled zero rushes longer than 22 yards with 524 carries over the past two seasons, so the Dolphins could still look at the early-round backs in the draft. Drake certainly seems capable of producing in a bell-cow role, but Gase recently said, “We’re really not ever looking to be a team that’s going to have one guy where he has 20 or 25 carries . . . We kind of want to spread it out. We like using multiple backs.” Given Gore’s age, the Dolphins could look to add a capable back in the draft to take a portion of Drake’s workload.
Telling Stat: 12 backs last season had at least 50 carries behind offensive lines that were bottom-five in adjusted line yards per rush; 11 averaged 4.3 or fewer yards per rush, while Drake led the group with 4.8.
Need No. 3: Quarterback
The Dolphins gave Ryan Tannehill a short contract extension even though he hasn’t taken a live snap since December 2016. If Tannehill can resume his previous competency, he’ll be an upgrade over Jay Cutler, who is fresh off setting career-low marks in adjusted yards per attempt and yards per game. It hasn’t always been pretty for Tannehill, but he’s managed to improve his adjusted yards per attempt during every season of his career. His 13 games under Gase’s tutelage produced the best football of his career.
- Tannehill without Gase (64 games): 29-35, 61.9% cmp, 6.9 Y/A, 3.8 TD%, 3-plus TDs in 12.5% of games
- Tannehill with Gase (13 games): 8-5, 67.1% cmp, 7.7 Y/A, 4.9 TD%, 3-plus TDs in 23.1% of games
Matt Moore remains the backup, and the Dolphins have been linked with some of the draft’s top quarterback prospects with the No. 11 overall pick. Gase has already committed to Tannehill as his 2018 starter, but his leash doesn’t appear to be very long, and it will be even shorter if the front office winds up snagging a signal caller in the early rounds of the draft.
Telling Stat: Among 25 quarterbacks with 50-plus starts since Tannehill entered the league in 2012, only Eli Manning, Sam Bradford, Blake Bortles, Joe Flacco, and Derek Carr have averaged fewer yards per attempt.
- Tight End: With Thomas gone, the Dolphins are left with soon to be 34-year-old Anthony Fasano (if he re-signs) and career journeymen MarQueis Gray and A.J. Derby. Gase helped Thomas shine with the Broncos in 2013-14 before coaxing a combined 87-878-8 line from Martellus Bennett and Zach MIller in 2015 with the Bears. Adding a real vertical threat to run up the seam could help open up the outside for DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills, but they’ll at least need to add a competent body. The Dolphins are currently one of just three teams with fewer than $2.5M devoted to their tight ends.
- Front Seven: The Dolphins have some pass-rushing talent with Cameron Wake and 2017’s No. 22 overall pick Charles Harris, but they’re hurting without a difference-maker like Suh to clog the interior. Overall, PFF didn’t grade any of the team’s defensive tackles or linebackers as top-70 players at their positions last season. The Dolphins haven’t ranked higher than 27th in adjusted sack rate during Gase’s tenure, yet will have the league’s third-highest cap hit devoted to their defensive line in 2018.
Daily fantasy players should know about NFL rookies before they’ve played a down of professional football because they are among the most misvalued assets in all of DFS. People who know NFL rookies have a significant DFS edge. The draft will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, from April 26-28.
Photo via Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports