Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Having lived in South Florida for 11 years now, I've learned a lot about the Dolphins and their fans. Miami fans have a reputation for being a frontrunning bunch that ignores a team unless they're winning. And they deserve that reputation - for all teams except the Dolphins, the cause of the most angst (and the most calls to local sports radio) no matter what time of year it is (except if the Heat are in the playoffs).
The Dolphins have kept that support despite being the definition of mediocre over the last decade and a half. The Dolphins have made the playoffs once since 2002, a 11-5 2008 season led by Chad Pennington. Since then, the team has gone 49-63 and haven't been better than 8-8 in any season. It's been 30 years since their last Super Bowl appearance, unless you count that home Super Bowl against the Eagles marred by a fight between the Eagles' mascot and a self-described "pet detective".
You wouldn't expect a team like that to be set at many positions, and the Dolphins clearly aren't. They have their quarterback of the future (whether fans like it or not) in Ryan Tannehill (though some in the local media have looked at replacing him http://miamiherald.typepad.com/dolphins_in_depth/2016/01/the-right-path-to-finding-an-elite-qb-is-taking-multiple-paths.html), throwing to a group of young wideouts led by 4th year man Kenny Stills (who has the most NFL experience of their WR corps) and 2015 first round pick DeVante Parker. The offensive line, if healthy, is a solid group, but injuries, particularly to center Mike Pouncey and tackle Brandon Albert have plagued the team. Miami's D-line has big names, but hasn't had the level of production you'd expect from those names. Kiko Alonso comes in as their starting middle linebacker. Safety might be the most solid position on the team, led by 2015 Pro Bowler Reshad Jones and free agent signing Isa Abdul-Quddus.
You'll notice that there are two positions left out of the above analysis: Running Back and Cornerback. After losing Lamar Miller to free agency and striking out on multiple attempted free agent signings, Miami's running back corps is comprised of Jay Ajayi, who missed much of 2015 with injury (recording 48 yards on 6 attempts against the Eagles as part of his limited action) and Daniel Thomas and Isaiah Pead - two running backs who have done little to show that they are NFL-caliber running backs. Miami's cornerback situation is arguably worse. The only starting-caliber cornerback on the roster is former Eagle Byron Maxwell, joined by Bobby McCain, who is seen as more of a slot corner than a top-two corner, and Jamar Taylor, who has continued to regress after a promising rookie season in 2013.
This isn't an ideal situation for the Dolphins. Their corner situation is so bad that it may demand a pick, taking away Miami's ability to draft the best player available. They've been in this position before, and it's cost them: In 2004, a desperate need on the offensive line caused them to draft Vernon Carey over Vince Wilfork. A need at wide receiver in 2007 brought in Ted Ginn Jr. (and his family) ahead of Patrick Willis (though the fans were demanding Brady Quinn). A need at running back in 2011 caused the team to trade up in the second round for Daniel Thomas, whose continued presence on the roster shows just how desperate Miami's running back situation is.
The Dolphins came into this draft hoping to see Vernon Hargreaves or Ezekiel Elliott fall. With both of them gone, the Dolphins are looking to trade down. Without that option, Eli Apple is the best player on the board that fits their scheme and their need.
Miami's in a division where you need big, strong corners. The Jets have Brandon Marshall to contend with, the Bills have Sammy Watkins, and the Patriots... are the Patriots. Byron Maxwell was attractive to the Dolphins because of his size, and Apple is also attractive for the same reasons.
When he was hired as Miami's defensive coordinator, Vance Joseph stated that he wants to play an aggressive style, and his corners are expected to be a part of that. And Apple certainly is aggressive. He has the speed and the instincts to stay with the fastest of wideouts down the field, and he won't give up on the ball until the play is over.
Apple is also solid in the run game, and can diagnose the play, shed a block and find the ball. He overcommits at times, but is a solid tackler for a cornerback.
In the NFL, of course, Apple's aggressiveness is both a blessing and a curse. There's a fine line between aggressive play and pass interference, and even the most seasoned of veterans sometimes don't know where that line is. Apple had his share of holding and pass interference flags due to his aggressive play while at Ohio State. Any team that drafts Apple might have to deal with the occasional yellow flag early in his career. Apple also got lost in coverage on occasion when he was required to turn and look for the ball, though the redshirt sophomore showed improvement in 2015 over 2014.
But I just keep coming back to Apple's measurables and instincts. Those are absolutely ideal for a top-flight NFL cornerback. His issues are there, but they're also the kinds of things that a good coach is going to be able to teach him. Vance Joseph's defensive backs coaching experience in Cincinnati shows he's the ideal coach to teach Apple. With his skills and improving ball skills in 2015, Apple could have been a top 10 pick if he had stayed for his Junior year. As for 2016, Apple's mocked anywhere between the Dolphins at 13 and the late first round, and this might be a reach. But it's a risk the Dolphins might have to take if they want to succeed in the AFC East.
2016 BGN Mock Draft Order
1) Titans (ablesser88) - Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss - [Explanation]
2) Browns ( Genius) - Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State - [Explanation]
3) Chargers (StoneColeKiller58) - Jared Goff, QB, Cal - [Explanation]
4) Cowboys (kamjam) - Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State - [Explanation]
5) Jaguars (drc242) - Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State - [Explanation]
6) Ravens (rohan915) - DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon - [Explanation]
7) 49ers (LAOJoe) - Myles Jack, LB, UCLA - [Explanation]
8) Eagles (slickpablovick) - Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame - [Explanation]
9) Buccaneers (OneBucFan47) - Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky - [Explanation]
10) Giants (Paulie97) - Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida - [Explanation]
11) Bears (Kiko's Delivery Service) - Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State - [Explanation]
12) Saints (kylebruneault) - Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson - [Explanation]
13) Dolphins (wildcatlh) - Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State - [Explanation]
14) Raiders (Luxury_Used_Vehicles_By_Braman) -
15) Rams (NowWhat?) -
16) Lions (bri g) -
17) Falcons (thealien2696) -
18) Colts (ei78) -
19) Bills (naderg43) -
20) Jets (Quacking_Eagle) -
21) Washington (TheCoxishere) -
22) Texans (jeppsforst) -
23) Vikings (WScott151) -
24) Bengals (burkhart_b) -
25) Steelers (theaction) -
26) Seahawks (tfrank9811) -
27) Packers (3Trace) -
28) Chiefs (jawmo) -
N/A) Patriots - Cheaters
29) Cardinals (big DUB) -
30) Panthers (zatch2k) -
31) Broncos (JALupowitz) -