Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
[I'll preface this by saying if you wish to skip the team analysis and only care about the pick itself, you can scroll down until "THE PICK" section.]
The Miami Dolphins are coming off what can only be considered a truly successful ten-win season, making the playoffs for the first time since 2008, the last year when someone other than the New England Patriots won the AFC East. Miami improved by four wins over their previous campaign in 2015 when they finished 6-10 overall. Although they struggled in the Wild Card against the Pittsburgh Steelers, they made the playoffs by winning nine of their final twelve games, and it gave the team something positive to build upon coming into the 2017 offseason.
The offseason thus far has been a somewhat busy one for the Dolphins. They have continued to make free agency acquisitions that fill out the back-end of their roster. Perhaps the biggest move was trading OT Branden Albert in a swap with the Jacksonville Jaguars for TE Julius Thomas, along with off-year 7th-round picks. Although the Dolphins offensive line remains a concern, Thomas has proven himself a worthwhile contributor, catching twelve touchdowns in each of his last two seasons with the Denver Broncos. His familiarity with the Dolphins' HC Adam Gase, who was the Broncos' OC during those years, should help him fit into the offense without delay. Unfortunately, it remains to be seen if Thomas can remain healthy, having dealt with numerous injury issues since being signed by the Jaguars in 2015. As a contingency plan, the Dolphins also brought back TE Anthony Fasano, who was previously with the team from 2008 through 2012.
The team also signed journeyman Ted Larsen, a versatile lineman that can play multiple positions and started eight games at RG for the Chicago Bears in 2016. More recently, the Dolphins added safety T.J. McDonald, who must serve an eight-game suspension due to a violation of the league's substance abuse policy. They also waived the coveted Dion Jordan.
So what's next for the Dolphins? They had their eye toward free agent LB Zach Brown, but lost out to the Washington Footballers. There is a chance that will shift their focus toward other available free agents such as Johnathan Hankins, among others. Miami will also look to the draft to attempt to patch their remaining holes, where presently they have a total of 8 picks, but only three in the first four rounds, losing 3rd and 4th round picks last draft in order to move up and grab WR Leonte Carroo. Barring any trades, Miami will pick in the 22nd position in 2017.
At that spot, the team is likely considering a number of players that fill their most urgent needs, perhaps most notably at the positions of OL, DL, and LB. Each of these positions will have a different look for the Dolphins in 2017.
There's little doubt that the Dolphins need help in their defensive front-seven come 2017. Their run defense last season was near the bottom of the league, ranking 30th in total yards allowed per game, largely due to their porous run defense, which was also ranked 30th in yards allowed. The team was a more respectable 13th in pass yards allowed, but 22nd in sacks, which again signals a need to upgrade. Still, the DL was ranked 12th according to PFF (Pro Football Focus) and its metrics at the end of the year, which perhaps signals things aren't quite as dire as one would presume. Cameron Wake will return. Though his age (35) will be a detraction, he still managed 11.5 sacks in 2016. Andre Branch and Williams Hayes figure to battle for the opposite end spot. Suh continues to be a plus on the inside, and with Jordan Phillips returning next to him, the starters may be solidified, but depth and production remain question marks.
The linebacker corps should also get some help with recently acquired LB Lawrence Timmins possibly filling the middle role while former Eagles' great Kiko Alonso gets moved to the outside due to his athleticism. It does remain to be seen how Timmins will fit in the 4-3, having spent his entire career in Pittsburgh's 3-4 steel curtain. Koa Misi also returns from injury, though his injury was a particularly delicate one (neck) and he hasn't played a full year since his rookie campaign in 2010. The rotation at LB will likely need further improved if the Dolphins want to do better in run defense.
Along the offensive line, the team at present has decided to rely on a committee of guards to compete for the seemingly two open guard positions. They will certainly be happy to welcome back C Mike Pouncey from injury, and 2nd-year tackle Laremy Tunsil is expected to move from the right to the left side to fill the vacancy left by Albert. Previous first-round pick Ja'Wuan James will remain at the starting RT position. The committee left to fill the two guard positions consists of the aforementioned Larsen, Kraig Urbik, Anthony Steen, and the re-signed Jermon Bushrod.
None of these options are particularly inspiring. Larsen, having started for the Bears, may be the immediate favorite to slot in at one of the two spots. Although Bushrod started at RG all 16 games for the Dolphins last season, he was graded by PFF as the worst run-blocking guard in the league. He also allowed five sacks and 34 total QB pressures in pass protection. Chances are high that Bushrod will be playing his last season, having signed only a 1-year deal and eyeing retirement. Overall, the offensive line was graded by PFF as the 30th-ranked unit in the NFL. In a draft with limited immediate-impact players at the Guard position, it may be necessary for the Dolphins to fill that hole early before getting to other needs.
And with that, we move on to the pick itself ...
I have ranked the Dolphins' most immediate needs as follows: OG, LB, DL, TE, S
As I've stated above, the Dolphins can fill immediate needs with the 22nd pick. Whether that pick is spent on offense or defense will depend largely on how the first picks of the draft shake out. While in this particular mock the obvious favorites have already been chosen, one name remains from the top of my Dolphins' big board—Forrest Lamp, OG from Western Kentucky.
Why the pick?
Let me precede this with my basic draft tenements: picking BPA (with team fit being a major consideration) and building from the lines out. You also must take into consideration the limitations of the draft itself. The 2017 draft is thin on offensive line talent, specifically talent that teams can expect to plug-and-play. In contrast, this draft is fairly deep on defensive line and edge talent. Between those two variables and the fact that the best edge and linebacking talents have already been chosen, it would make the most sense for the Dolphins to solidify their line further into the future; perhaps even making theirs one of the best lines in the league.
Granted, drafting an offensive lineman is never the sexy pick. It likely won't send fans running to the ticket counters. Nonetheless, developing a strong line is one of the most important aspects of team building. A strong line can help mask inefficiencies at the QB position, and it can help you control TOP—time of possession—with a consistent rushing attack (Miami was 27th in TOP in 2016).
With Jermon Bushrod's generally atrocious performance in 2016, and his pending retirement, the Dolphins will need guard help in the very near future, if not right away. The committee they have assembled at the present time is not at all inspiring, and with a line ranked 30th in the league in 2016 according to PFF's metrics, it reinforces the idea that this is perhaps the most crucial need to push the Dolphins up the ladder.
Who is Forrest?
The best introduction I can probably give to Forrest is his game tape against Alabama, which you can view in most its entirety here:
There are many occasions in which Lamp completely manhandles 3rd overall pick (in this mock) Jonathan Allen.
He has been a rock of consistency and durability, starting all but two games in his four-year career at Western Kentucky, almost entirely at left tackle. He does project inside at the next level, largely because of his size, but it is possible he could shuffle in at tackle every now and again. One of the most favorable NFL comparisons is Zack Martin, All Pro guard for the Dallas Cowboys. They share very similar physical and athletic characteristics, and Martin also moved from LT at Notre Dame to the inside.
Game Tape Analysis
I will attempt to encapsulate what makes Lamp such an intriguing prospect through the game tape. First off, this comes from the 2015 season against LSU. This is a fairly basic showcase of his ability, but we can see Lamp bounce outside initially with LSU's Arden Key, then stays with him to the inside on a spin move, and notice the good use of his hands:
On this next play from the same game, we can see Lamp immediately get to the second level and block off the linebacker, taking him out of the play entirely:
Next, we jump to the Alabama game from this past season. On this first play, we can clearly see Lamp's ability to shuffle and move outside, shadowing his faster target the entire way. That's Alabama linebacker/edge prospect Tim Williams, a projected Day 2 selection, by the way.
This next play, also against Williams, shows Lamp's quick feet and ability to recover. Williams actually has Lamp beat to the inside initially on a decent swim move, but Lamp is able to recover and pushes Williams away from his QB and out of the play:
Now we get to see Lamp's ability to read and react. Here he has to play the outside man at first, LB Anfernee Jenkins, and whether intentionally or not, ‘Bama ends up running a bit of a stunt. Lamp pushes the first man inside and then sees Allen pulling to the outside. Lamp is aware enough to get over and take Allen out of the play:
Unfortunately, it isn't all good with Lamp. During this same Alabama game, there were times he got flustered and his lack of length may have bit him. In this first lowlight, we see Lamp get stuck hedging between whether to block outside or inside. Both he and the guard to his right are too slow to recover on the inside rusher and he gets a free shot at the QB:
This next play is a bit of the opposite. Both Lamp and the guard end up dropping inside, and Lamp misses his assignment on the outside, Da'Shawn Hand, who gets up in the QB's face without resistance, forcing the QB to throw early and dangerously:
Moving inside will mean Lamp should have less of these types of responsibilities. Aside from this possible tendency toward confusion at times, Lamp may also be more susceptible to rushes on his inside shoulder. A more straightforward guard alignment could solve that issue.
On the positive, one of Lamp's best attributes is his power and he doesn't let himself get bullied by guys smaller (and quicker) than him. Likewise, he has the strength to move power players such as Alabama's Jonathan Allen.
Overall, there's not much to dislike in this prospect. While his below average length will always concern the numbers gurus, Lamp has athleticism and ability in spades that should more than make up for it. I would understand Miami fans' concern over spending another first-round pick on offensive line in such quick succession (this would make three in four years), but to me Lamp is the best available (including team fit) and can start immediately at a position of sincere need.
With this pick, the Dolphins would have one of the best young left sides of the line in the NFL, protecting Tannehill's blindside well into the next decade.
Projecting the Alternatives
In the ever-so disappointing case that Lamp is not available at 22, the Dolphins could also consider these alternatives (excluding the most obvious Top-5 players):
Haason Reddick - Edge/LB, Temple
If he falls, this could be great value, and would give the Dolphins some much needed dynamics on the defensive side of the ball, improving that porous run defense, to boot.
Derek Barnett - Edge, Tennessee
Chances again good that Barnett would need to fall, but he's likely a Top-3 DE in this draft class that could help replace the aging Cameron Wake in the not-too-distant future.
Jarrad Davis - LB, Florida
Davis is either the 2nd or 3rd best pure LB available in the draft, depending on how you compare him to Zach Cunningham, but he'd fill a glaring hole for the ‘Phins at OLB.
Malik McDowell - DL, Michigan State
With the Dolphins unsure of what they have in Jordan Phillips, maybe they look to add depth and security to a defensive line that sorely needs both.
Jabrill Peppers - S, Michigan
Another candidate that would perhaps need to fall a few spots, Peppers is a dynamic athlete that could fill multiple roles in Miami's attacking defense under new DC Matt Burke. Safety isn't the biggest need necessarily, but Peppers can do many things.
And some other names that may not be great value or fit in the first, but could be targets:
Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan (might fit better in 3-4, likely unavailable at #22)
Charles Harris, DE, Missouri (might be better as 3-4 OLB, not great value)
Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA (better as 3-4 OLB?)
Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida (possibly available at 54)
David Njoku, TE, Miami (next best TE behind Howard, much lower need)
2017 BGN Mock Draft Order
1) Browns (JALupowitz): Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2) 49ers (sports00fan00): Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
3) Bears (gubby): Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama
4) Jaguars (TheWhalwing): Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
5) Titans (drc242): Jamal Adams, S, LSU
6) Jets (boomorbust): Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
7) Chargers (NowWhat?): Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
8) Panthers (B-Potts): Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
9) Bengals (Kiko’s Delivery Service): Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
10) Bills (jimmyrustler): O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
11) Saints (NotSoSlick): Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
12) Browns (Straight Edge Sid): Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
13) Cardinals (Paulie97): Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
14) Eagles (ablesser88): Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
15) Colts (mconner96): Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
16) Ravens (The Man, The Myth, the Matthews!): Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
17) Washington (kbruneault): John Ross, WR, Washington
18) Titans (mchiodo): JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR USC
19) Buccaneers (ei78): Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
20) Broncos (NVEagleShark): Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
21) Lions (Shark Fighter): Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
22) Dolphins (J. Wil): Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
23) Giants (BigWardy59):
24) Raiders (big DUB):
25) Texans (GotFunds):
26) Seahawks (Rogmcc23):
27) Chiefs (B1G Cat):
28) Cowboys (RegalEagle):
29) Packers (Wutang_):
30) Steelers (General_Lee12):
31) Falcons (SirJon):
32) Saints (Huffs_cellmate):