Welcome to the 2016 NFL draft.
By the end of this weekend we'll have a good idea whether the Miami Dolphins have a chance to be a solid team in the coming season or not. That's right, it is that important.
Because the Dolphins have numerous and obvious needs. And although they may push back against this truth with talk of "We've got players on the roster you know nothing about that can offer solutions" I simply don't buy any of that public relations.
(Just like I didn't buy the "Our guards are good enough" narrative we heard from the team last year before the guards failed).
(Or the "coaching staff really does have the pulse of the locker room so relax because we know more football than you" narrative of the past four years).
(Or the "new quarterback who will start this year is good enough" narrative we heard for a dozen years before that).
This year so far, I'm hearing too many people be really excited about the team's current crop of cornerbacks. And that is why I explain in my Miami Herald column today why the Dolphins must draft a starting cornerback by the time this draft is over. I believe that excitement is either contrived or misplaced.
Look, the Dolphins have only one starting cornerback right now. You need three. If two don't show up somehow the season is doomed already.
I'm not kidding, folks.
I'm not exaggerating.
I've never been so sure of anything in all my days of covering this team. The Dolphins must land a starting cornerback in this draft and if they don't, the patchwork of talent they have as Plan B will only serve as fodder for failure throughout the regular season. Mark my words.
And while I'm on this subject...The Dolphins are not just a cornerback needy team. They are a cornerback(S) needy team. That makes me wonder why the team cut Brice McCain. The roster move came and went without much commentary from me because there were other things afoot -- such as the departure of general manager Dennis Hickey, the hiring of new GM Chris Grier, the coaching search that eventually landed Adam Gase, and then all the big news that followed that.
Brice McCain got cut and no one seemed to notice.
I'm noticing now.
Why did this happen?
Look, McCain wasn't great last year. We know that. But how much of that was his fault? It is a legitimate question because he signed a 2-year, $5.5 million deal to be Miami's slot cornerback. And the Miami corners were so bad last year, it wasn't long before the coaching staff was offering McCain a chance to start outside. And being a competitor, that's what McCain did.
And being out of position, McCain was overmatched and struggled.
And that got him cut?
It was as if he was being blamed for stepping in to a hopeless situation and failing. He did a good deed and it did not go unpunished.
Brice McCain on this team now would be Miami's best slot cornerback. And, yes, yes, I know Bobby McCain can develop and last year showed promise. Great. So you simply award him the starting job? That's how it goes?
Or do you ask him to compete against a wiley veteran who has attitude and a past history of success?
Now, if McCain had been a big cap savings, then I get it his release. He wasn't.
So what was it? I think I know, but the whispers I've heard (having nothing to do with the player) have to be further developed and confirmed to be printed. I'm old school like that.
Moving on ...
The Dolphins need a cornerback or two. Did I mention that?
Now, there are a couple of scenarios that might prevent the team from picking a cornerback such as Eli Apple (guy I like) or William Jackson III in the first round. That scenario involves the availability of UCLA linebacker Myles Jack.
If Jack is there at No. 13, do the Dolphins cast aside the bigger need -- cornerback -- and pick the better player who is a linebacker? The team has said it will not draft for need. It will draft the so-called best available player. That, by the way, is why the Dolphins drafted defensive Jordan Phillips last season despite having paid (overpaid, from my vantage point) Ndamukong Suh in free agency. Suh is also a defensive tackle.
So the Dolphins didn't have an existential need at defensive tackle but went there anyway because Phillips was the highest rated player on their board.
Following that history, if Jack is there, I assume he gets picked ahead of a player who fills the more pressing CB need because he'd ostensibly be the higher rated player.
But what if Jack isn't quite there? What if he's at No. 11ish in the first round? Do the Dolphins give up a later-round pick to move up a few slots and pick Jack? Depends on the price. Depends on their intel on Jack's knee and comfort level with that intel. But will they consider it? You bet.
And what cornerbacks figure later on if the Dolphins cannot land one in the first round?
I like Kendall Fuller of Virginia Tech. Jalen Mills of LSU might be a solid choice in the third or fourth round. Mississippi State's Tavese Calhoun is on the Miami radar late in the draft -- although he's not starter material at this point. The Dolphins did a lot of digging on Miami's Artie Burns. I get it, he's 6-foot and has speed and athletic explosion. But he's a project to me to pick anytime before the fourth round. And he'll be gone before the fourth round, if you believe all the experts.
The Dolphins will be looking at defensive end this draft, too.
The Dolphins will be looking at running back.
Maybe they'll finally be shamed into picking a good guard.
This team has a lot of needs. Cornerback, in my humble know-nothing opinion, is the biggest one of them all.