The Miami Dolphins had seven choices in the 2015 NFL Draft held this past spring. Miami’s biggest catch was former Louisville Cardinals wide receiver DeVante Parker with the 14th pick. After two weeks of training camp and one exhibition game, it will instead be Jordan Phillips, chosen 38 picks after Parker, who will be the Dolphins’ breakout rookie this season.
There was some discussion amongst draft experts that Phillips should be a late first round selection. The ex-Oklahoma Sooners’ lineman has outstanding size at 6-foot-6 and 330 pounds. He has a great combination of power and speed. He has even famously done back flips on the practice field at Oklahoma. What was not to like?
The knock on the sizeable ex-Sooner was his motor wasn’t always humming. Phillips would tend to take plays off and not give it his all in some games against lesser competition. Pro coaches and scouts hate that kind of talk and it sent Phillips’ stock into decline. That’s why he was available twenty picks into the second round.
Every negative thing said about Phillips has been erased in Miami’s training camp. All reports are that he has been working hard and doesn’t seem lazy at all. He has used his size to bludgeon offensive linemen in practice and blew up a helpless Chicago Bears blocker on a play during the first preseason game.
Phillips is still vying for a starting defensive tackle spot next to superstar Ndamukong Suh. Although incumbent Earl Mitchell is the favorite to return to his starting roost, Phillips may have slipped past free agent acquisition C.J. Mosley as Mitchell’s biggest challenger. Whoever starts next to Suh will benefit from having single blocking. That will allow that player the opportunity to put up some nice numbers.
Even if Phillips is relegated to second string status, he will be on the field enough to make some big plays. Parker, meanwhile, should probably take half the season to be as productive as a first round wide receiver should be. Heaven forbid, but there is a chance that Parker may not fully recover from his injury or become comfortable in the Dolphins’ offense at all this year.
Fourth round draft pick Jamil Douglas has an outside chance at starting at one of the two vacant guard positions. Odds are he fills in on occasion, thus eliminating him from having any huge impact in year one and stealing Phillips’ spotlight.
Miami’s quartet of fifth round picks probably won’t tip the scales away from Phillips’ favor, either. Running back Jay Ajayi has the best opportunity of the bunch, but he was absent from the Dolphins’ game in Chicago and has looked outmatched so far in camp. Cornerback Bobby McCain was climbing the depth chart ladder before falling back versus the Bears. Defensive backs Cedric Thompson and Tony Lippett are developmental players.
One last good thing that Phillips has going for him is that he won’t be asked to carry the load on this potentially outstanding defense. Suh will anchor the group up front and defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon are already established NFL stars. That gives Phillips the freedom to stay in control and let his enormous talent do the talking. It will also allow him to be the Dolphins’ best rookie in 2015.
Nik Zirounis is an NFL/Dolphins writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @realnikz and like him on Facebook.