The Miami Dolphins, like 29 other teams, have their eyes focused on the start of the new league year, which will begin with free agency and the 2024 NFL draft.
At this point, the Dolphins have a number of key players slated to hit the market in March, and some of their biggest potential losses could be along the offensive and defensive lines.
Chrisitan Wilkins, Raekwon Davis and Da’Shawn Hand (three of Miami’s top four defensive tackles) are all set to hit free agency as Isaiah Wynn, Connor Williams and Robert Hunt (their three starting interior offensive linemen).
With that knowledge, it’s not surprising that ESPN’s Matt Miller predicts that the Dolphins will build through their trenches in his recent two-round mock draft. Miller has Miami selecting Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton with pick No. 21 and Kansas State guard Cooper Beebe with pick No. 55.
Here’s what Miller had to say about those selections:
“Star defensive tackle Christian Wilkins hits free agency this spring, and his replacement could be found at pick No. 21 if Miami doesn’t re-sign him. Newton is a first-step magician who can either slip between blockers or straight-up run over them. The 6-foot-2 295-pounder had 7.5 sacks during the regular season while playing multiple alignments on the Illinois front. Put him at 3-technique in Miami, with a healthy cast of defensive ends such as Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips around him, and Newton has the goods to make a Grady Jarrett-like impact.
Robert Hunt, Connor Williams and Robert Jones all hit free agency this offseason, making it a near-lock that the Dolphins will add a guard or center early in the draft. Beebe played left guard at an expert level for Kansas State, but there has been chatter about his potential at center. His movement ability in the run game just so happens to be a perfect fit for Mike McDaniel’s offense, too.”
It makes a lot of sense to draft young talent for those positions rather than pay top dollar for those on the free agent market, but there’s always a risk that comes with that. We’ve seen Hunt and Wilkins do their jobs before, and we’ve seen them do it well. Expecting a pair of rookies to come in and play like borderline Pro Bowlers right away is a lofty expectation to put on young, developing players.
Still, it would be nice to have some solid pieces locked in at those key pieces for years to come on affordable rookie contracts.