One of the first rules of business is to identify a solution to a problem, or find a need that needs to be filled. Luckily, this is a sports blog and not a business, so I can continue to inundate the shit out of our readers with something there is absolutely zero shortage of: NFL mock drafts.
I used The Draft Network’s mock draft simulator as I find their rankings to be the most-aligned with how experts have players graded. While I would love to grab Najee Harris at No. 50 for the Miami Dolphins, which is a regular possibility in other simulators, I do not find that to be realistic. So without further ado, here is my mock draft with just under three weeks to go before the real thing.
6. Kyle Pitts: TE, Florida
There are plenty of mock drafts going around where Dolphins Twitter darling Pitts is off the board at this point. I had the option to take either Pitts or LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase at six after the Falcons opted for local quarterback Justin Fields and the Bengals took offensive tackle Penei Sewell. I opted to take Pitts for a couple of reasons, the first of which being the depth of this receiver class and how I believe I will be able to get a potential star later in the draft.
The second is Pitts is about as bust-proof as it gets with this class. I truly only see three such players in this draft: Trevor Lawrence, Sewell, and Pitts. He has a colossal wingspan, can run as well as most receivers, and can absolutely tear about a defense with his versatility. Mike Gesicki is entering a contract year, and if the Dolphins do not want to pay him Jonnu Smith or Hunter Henry-like money, this gives them the flexibility to move on, obtain a comp pick, and still feel really good at the position.
Additionally, what is a young quarterback’s best friend? A reliable, big bodied tight end who can be a go-to option on third down and in the red zone. Tua Tagovailoa is just 23 years old and his offensive line figures to see three second-year players — Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt, and Solomon Kindley — so the luxury of deep drop backs may have to wait until that line gels further. For now, giving Tua sets that include Gesicki and Pitts is a cheat code to expedite his development.
18. Devonta Smith: WR, Alabama
This is not likely, in my opinion, but it is entirely possible. As I mentioned, this is a deep receiver class. You have Chase, Jaylen Waddle, and Smith in some order at the top, with Rashod Bateman, Elijah Moore, Rondale Moore, Kadarius Toney, and more coming after them. There will undoubtedly be teams that try to fill another need early and wait on receivers, especially if they have concerns about Smith’s size.
As far as threats to take a receiver, in this mock the Lions took Chase at seven, the Panthers took cornerback Patrick Surtain II next, the Giants took offensive tackle Rashawn Slater at 11, the Eagles took Waddle at 12, and the Patriots took linebacker Micah Parsons at 15. I, of course, am a card-carrying member of the Harris fan club, but even I couldn’t resist taking his college teammate here at 18.
Smith is a match made in heaven for what the Dolphins need at receiver. He is a fluid route runner, is elite at getting open when a play breaks down, has a huge catch radius and ability to high-point the football relative to his size, and he has existing chemistry with Tua. Miami was without jitterbug Albert Wilson in 2020, and the remaining receivers struggled oftentimes to gain separation, forcing the rookie quarterback to throw into tight windows or check down. Smith is as good or better than anyone in the draft at getting open, and gives Tua a fleet of pass catchers of Pitts, Gesicki, Smith, DeVante Parker, Will Fuller, Wilson, and Preston Williams among others. That’ll do.
No. 36 Kwity Paye: DE, Michigan
Harris, Landon Dickerson, and Jaelen Phillips were all off the board between 18 and 36. I have been consistent in this opinion for months: I don’t know who and I don’t know why, but I am confident a potential top pass rusher will be available at 36. This draft does not have prospects like Mario Williams, Myles Garrett, or Jadeveon Clowney at the top. What it does have is a crowded field after them expected to go mid-first through the end of the second: Phillips, Paye, Azeez Ojulari, Jayson Oweh, Joe Tryon, Ronnie Perkins, Gregory Rousseau, Carlos Basham, and Joseph Ossai. All nine have reasons to be optimistic, and reasons to be pessimistic, and anybody who says they know how this group will come off the board is wagering a reckless guess.
Paye possesses elite size at the position, and is a fast and powerful athlete. He is still a work in progress, but the assessments on his character are off the charts. He has improved each year in Ann Arbor, and by all accounts is incredibly motivated and a cliche “first-in, last-out” kind of guy. That screams Brian Flores and Chris Grier. He does not have the versatility of some of the others in this class as he is not going to stand up for you, but with the departure of Shaq Lawson, Miami desperately needs someone to line up with Emmanuel Ogbah and get to the quarterback.
No. 50 Nick Bolton: LB, Missouri
The most important thing in the draft is not just finding fit, but finding value; something no one does that better in the NFL than the Baltimore Ravens. That’s what I have Miami doing here. There are still pressing needs at center and running back, but Creed Humphrey went 48 to Las Vegas and Javonte Williams went 43 to San Francisco. So here, I went and got one of my absolute favorite players in this class in Bolton.
The Missouri product is an absolute nightmare in the middle of the defense. He wakes up with a bad attitude and takes umbrage with receivers going over the middle. He patrols the MIKE spot looking for someone to hit, and can blow up a backfield in a hurry with explosiveness only rivaled in this draft by Parsons. With great tight ends in the division like Smith, Henry, and Dawson Knox, and the evolution of the game featuring a lot of passes to the slot and to releasing backs, Bolton is a terrific counter for Flores to use.
No. 81 Michael Carter: RB, North Carolina
There appears to be a consensus top three at running back in this draft of Travis Etienne, Harris, and Carter’s teammate Williams. Recent history has shown us that a lot of value can be found in the middle rounds at the position, and that’s what Miami would hope to get in Carter.
He is seen by many as a third-down back as he is smaller than the aforementioned three top backs in this draft, but all he has done with opportunity is produce. Carter can catch the ball out of the backfield, is incredibly shifty in the open field, and is lightning quick and recognizing where his cut or hole is at the outset. He is not going to be the power back that can withstand average blocking up front, but he has home run ability and gives Tua yet another option.
No. 156 Drew Dalman: OC, Stanford
The Dolphins moved on from Ted Karras after just a one-year deal, and opted to give Matt Skura a go on a similar deal. If Skura can regain his form from a few years ago, he could be an answer in Miami moving forward as Tua’s battery mate. If he can’t, then he can provide a stopgap year for someone like Dalman. The Stanford product is technically sound and everything you want your center to be from an intangibles standpoint. He is a bit slight of frame for the position, but the Stanford offensive line pedigree is strong and Dalman should be able to put on the necessary weight while Skura holds down the fort in 2021.
No. 231 Landon Young: OT, Kentucky
Young is a very good run blocker and if he progresses, could end up being a swing tackle or an extra body on short-yardage downs. He is not yet polished as a pass blocker, due in large part to Kentucky’s focus on being a run-heavy offense. Young was an elite high school prospect and has tremendous size at 6’6. With two picks in the first two rounds used on tackles in 2020, I am not on board with forgoing other needs in the first few rounds to further clutter that room, but a flyer on Young would not hurt.