Each Dolphins pick analyzed: Speed is key theme

--- NFLDraftScout.com ---

The Miami Dolphins took a noticeable slant toward athleticism and speed, with an emphasis on defense, in the first three rounds among Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki and Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker.

"We want to get faster on defense, so adding him and Minkah these first two days (is a good thing)," general manager Chris Grier said. "It was a big priority on that side to get faster."

The Dolphins will likely use Fitzpatrick as a free safety alongside Pro Bowl strong safety Reshad Jones. That could mean Miami plans to use safety T.J. McDonald, who started alongside Jones last season, as a hybrid linebacker/safety. That remains to be seen.

But the Dolphins definitely addressed last season's deficiency of covering tight ends and running backs. Both Fitzpatrick and Baker (72 tackles, 3.5 sacks) are agile, sure tacklers and playmakers.

Grier called Fitzpatrick, who played various positions in college, including slot cornerback, a "Swiss Army Knife" because of his versatility.

"He gives your defense a chance to be flexible and do a lot of different things," he said.

Baker offers athleticism to go along with middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan, the 2016 second-round pick who missed his rookie season due to a knee injury, and weak-side linebacker Kiko Alonso.

"He's sideline to sideline," Grier said of Baker, "the prototypical new-age type of linebacker."

Gesicki, a high school volleyball and basketball player, follows the thread of athleticism displayed by the defensive draftees. Gesicki is viewed as a red-zone threat who also adeptly runs the seam route as well as using his jumping ability to high-point the ball.

"My athleticism is who I am on the field," Gesicki said.

Miami didn't address two key positions - backup quarterback and defensive tackle.

But they still think they did pretty well in this year's draft, especially considering they used two picks to acquire defensive end Robert Quinn (basically giving the Los Angeles Rams a fourth-round pick) during the offseason and linebacker Stephone Anthony (in exchange for a fifth-round pick) last season.

"We feel like we're going in the right direction," executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said, "but there's still a lot of work to be done."

A closer look at the Dolphins picks:

Round 1/11 - Minkah Fitzpatrick, FS, 6-0, 204, Alabama

Few expected Fitzpatrick to be available and that was reflected in mock drafts. He's fast, smart and hard-hitting, which enables him to play multiple positions. Miami will likely play him at free safety alongside Pro Bowl SS Reshad Jones, which means S T.J. McDonald might move to a hybrid LB/S position.

Round 2/42 - Mike Gesicki, TE, 6-6, 247, Penn State

Miami improved its athleticism at this position with Gesicki, who played volleyball and basketball in high school. Ideally he becomes the starter, beating out players such as MarQueis Gray, A.J. Derby, Gavin Escobar and Thomas Duarte. Gesicki figures to be a red-zone threat because of his good hands and jumping ability.

Round 3/73 - Jerome Baker, OLB, 6-1, 229, Ohio State

Fits the mold of athletic, speedy players that Miami wanted to pursue this year. Projects on the weak side although that's a job held by veteran returnee Kiko Alonso. Regardless, Baker should be a starter alongside Alonso and MLB Raekwon McMillan, the 2016 second-round pick and fellow Ohio State alum.

Round 4/123 - Durham Smythe, TE, 6-5, 253, Notre Dame

He's regarded as a blocking tight end although he contends he's simply a tight end who takes pride in his blocking and he has good hands, too. Smythe figures to play alongside second-round pick Mike Gesicki in two-tight end formations, just as they did at the Senior Bowl. Smythe had 15 receptions for 244 yards and one touchdown as a senior.

Round 4/131 - Kalen Ballage, RB, 6-2, 228, Arizona State

Ballage is a big back who can stay on the field for three downs because he can run the ball, catch the ball and pass block. Gained fame as a junior for scoring eight TDs (seven rushing, one receiving) in a victory over Texas Tech. Rushed for 669 yards and six TDs as a senior.

Round 6/209 - Cornell Armstrong, CB, 5-11, 180, Southern Mississippi

Armstrong will have a tough time making the roster among returning CBs Xavien Howard, Cordrea Tankersley, Tony Lippett and Bobby McCain, among others, but he is also a core special teams player. Armstrong said he models his game after ex-Dolphins Pro Bowl CB Brent Grimes, now with Tampa Bay. Armstrong had two interceptions last year in 10 games and five in his career.

Round 7/227 - Quentin Poling, LB, 6-0, 235, Ohio

Poling is an excellent athlete, following a pattern of other draftees. Poling had 18 sacks, seven interceptions and 43.5 tackles for losses in his career. He will likely have to earn a roster spot on special teams because he will be behind starters Kiko Alonso, Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker as well as reserves Mike Hull, Chase Allen and Stephone Anthony.

Round 7/229 - Jason Sanders, K, 5-11, 190, New Mexico

Sanders is the only kicker on the roster but the Dolphins said they will bring training camp competition. Sanders was 10 of 15 on field-goal attempts last season but 28-of-28 on extra points. Sanders said he thinks anything less than 50 yards should be 100 percent.


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