The Miami Dolphins aggressively — perhaps even desperately — addressed their biggest need during the first round of the draft by snagging right tackle Ja’Wuan James. Maybe James really was the top player on the Dolphins’ board, but in all likelihood, the club’s pressing void at the position propelled James above prospects with higher grades.
Although drafting exclusively for need is normally a flawed way to construct a roster, it’s difficult to blame the Dolphins for playing it safe at right tackle considering how much is riding on the health and development of quarterback Ryan Tannehill in 2014. A dependable right tackle like James gives Tannehill the foundation he needs to take the next step as a passer.
Now that Miami has filled the one void it had to, though, it becomes crucial that GM Dennis Hickey and company find value in the subsequent rounds. It’s an immensely deep class at numerous positions and there are several remaining talents who would have arguably been drafted already any other year.
There are exceptions to the rule that GMs should draft with an eye on nabbing the best talent and best value possible with each pick. Thursday night’s selection of Ja’Wuan James certainly qualified. But the best way to build a championship contender always has been and always will be choosing the best available player.
Well, there’s a strong chance that the top remaining talent will be a true difference-maker when the Dolphins are on the clock in the second and third rounds on Friday night — Miami holds picks No. 50 and 81 overall on Day 2.
If the Dolphins want to continue their rebuild up front, there could be an enticing interior offensive lineman available. Xavier Su’a-Filo, Joel Bitonio and Marcus Martin, who were all potential first-round picks, headline those left for the taking.
Now that Tannehill should have adequate protection, though, maybe Hickey feels he can turn his attention to equipping his quarterback with more playmakers. Given the depth at the receiver position in this draft, a potential No. 1 target could be had in the second or third round. Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, Cody Latimer, Jordan Matthews, Donte Moncrief and Davante Adams all remain. If the Dolphins covet size at the position, it’s there. If they covet speed, it’s there too.
Although adding a receiver will be tempting, a big, athletic tight end to pair with the upstart Charles Clay could be of better use in 2014. The only tight end who was selected during the first round was Eric Ebron, so three of the perceived top four at the position are left. Jace Amaro, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Troy Niklas are the names to keep an eye on Friday night.
Given Knowhson Moreno‘s one-year deal and the uncertainty still surrounding Lamar Miller, a running back could even be in play. Carlos Hyde, Jeremy Hill and Bishop Sankey are all qualified second-round talents.
The Dolphins need the most help offensively, but Kevin Coyle‘s defense could be an upgrade or two at linebacker away from emerging as a top 10 unit. It’s not a very deep class at linebacker, but Chris Borland and Preston Brown might tempt the Dolphins if either is available in the third round.
Miami’s secondary is in much better shape than its linebacker corps, but starting safety Louis Delmas is only under contract for one year and starting cornerback Cortland Finnegan has struggled in recent seasons. A future contributor at cornerback, like Phillip Gaines, Pierre Desir or Jaylen Watkins, or a future starter at free safety, like Terrence Brooks, could be drafted on Day 2.
To make a long story short, the Dolphins’ options will be plentiful on Friday night. Need should no longer outweigh talent, especially with no remaining need pressing enough to force the club’s hand and the plethora of talent still attainable.
The two players added tonight could have an even greater say in whether or not the Dolphins can finally become something more than average or mediocre in 2014.
Knowing that and with the right tackle they were desperate for already in the fold, Hickey and the Dolphins should let the value come to them for the remainder of this draft. Doing so on Friday night could land the Dolphins a steal or two.
Cody Strahm is an NFL author for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.