Dolphins won’t reach in the draft to improve defense

The Dolphins don’t want to tip their hand but how they draft won’t be based on defense alone.

The NFL draft is set to kickoff April 27 at 8 p.m. and for the second consecutive season, the front office tandem of executive vice president Mike Tannebaum and general manager Chris Grier plan to adhere to their draft board.

The Dolphins gave up a franchise record 6,122 yards on defense last season but the pre-draft acquisitions of defensive end Williams Hayes, linebacker Lawrence Timmons, and safeties Nate Allen and T.J. McDonald have afforded the Dolphins the opportunity to take the best player available when they’re on the clock.

“… We feel like we’ve made some improvements,” Grier said. “Again, the whole design of that was to try to give us some more flexibility heading into next week. I think not only our defense, but overall, our roster will look different 11 days from now.”

The Dolphins successfully re-signed guard Jermon Bushrod to a one-year deal and also brought in well-traveled guard Ted Larsen to provide depth. Despite filling holes along the offensive line in free agency, the Dolphins’ brass claims they aren’t opposed to drafting an offensive lineman early if the right one falls into their lap and he is indeed the best player available.

“If a guy is a good player and he’s there and we’re comfortable with everything in terms of the football intelligence, the toughness, the passion for the game, we’ll take him,” Grier said. “You always hear, ‘You can always find offensive linemen and guards especially, late in the draft.’ But I think if you pass up on [Pro Football Hall of Fame guard] Larry Allen sitting there in the second round or something because you think you’ll get him later, that’s a huge mistake. Again, you just go through your process and evaluate the players where you think they fit.”

While the Dolphins could stand to enhance both sides of the football, last season’s performance suggests that they could use the most help on defense. Prior to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Grier stated that he believes the Dolphins could address defensive end in free agency as well as in the draft.

The Dolphins have since brought in defensive end William Hayes in a trade with the Rams for a sixth-round draft pick, but Grier wouldn’t commit to taking a defensive end in the draft.

“Right now, [defensive end] it’s like every other position,” Grier said. “I don’t want to get locked into anything. And there are still opportunities post-draft. There are always going to be veterans that can come open. A guy pops open every day that you’re surprised that hits the wire. We’ll address all of the positions, not just d-end. It will be linebacker, offensive line, wide receiver. We’ll hit everything all throughout this draft and post-draft.”

Last year, sticking to the board netted the Dolphins the most talented player in the draft in Laremy Tunsil. Tunsil was regarded as the presumptive No. 1 overall pick prior to the draft, but a photo of him smoking marijuana out of a gas mask released moments prior to what was supposed to be the best moment of his life caused his stock to plummet.

Tunsil was far and away the highest rated player on the Dolphins’ draft board and they felt beyond comfortable taking him with the No. 13 pick in the draft. Tunsil’s play at guard last season validated the Dolphins’ decision to select him with their first-round pick and they will lean on him heavily as he transitions from left guard to left tackle this season.

While it’s highly unlikely that the Dolphins will have another Tunsil fall into their lap, the success they had with him last year only underscores the importance of selecting the best player available.

“We had talked about a lot of defensive players at that point in time and there were still a couple of players that we were interested in then, but the opportunity to take Laremy [Tunsil] for us was too great to pass on. …  I just think you really have to stay with your board and be very disciplined, and again, we’ve tried to stay with that philosophy.”

This report was filed by Sports Talk Florida’s Miami columnist Brandon Howard.