Mel Kiper Jr.’s message to Miami Dolphins on two key issues. And free agent news

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Barry Jackson
·5 min read
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A six-pack of Miami Dolphins notes on a Monday:

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. made a couple of interesting points this week about what the Dolphins should do if they trade down from No. 3 and if they’re looking for defensive help at No. 18.

Asked on a Monday conference call who the Dolphins should target if they drop down from No. 3 to acquire additional draft inventory, Kiper said: “If they traded down for the receivers, maybe [Alabama’s] Jaylen Waddle goes 11. If you drop down inside of 11, you risk the Giants moving up to get Waddle ahead of you.

“If you drop down, you would be targeting Waddle, who is not just a receiving entity as a slot guy but also a great punt returner. I think Waddle brings tremendous value if he gets down to that 9 to 11 area. I don’t think he gets past the Giants [at 11].”

Asked to compare DeVonta Smith (whom Kiper has going to Miami at No. 3) with his former Alabama teammate Waddle, Kiper said: “Both are very competitive players. I like Smith a little bit better, but Waddle is right there.”

Kiper gives Smith the edge because Waddle missed most of the second half of the season with an Oct. 24 ankle injury, before returning for the national championship game.

“Injuries, lack of finishing out the season while DeVonta was great all the way through,” Kiper said in explaining why he ranked Smith ahead of Waddle. “I give a slight edge to Smith, but both are going to be really good players.”

The Dolphins could trade down from No. 3 if another team picking in the top 12 covets whichever quarterback isn’t selected second overall by the Jets or a team that acquires that pick from the Jets: either BYU’s Zach Wilson or Ohio State’s Justin Fields.

“Some teams have Wilson [going second overall], some have Fields two,” Kiper said. “I think Wilson ultimately goes before Fields.”

With regard to the 18th pick, Kiper has the Dolphins selecting Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah at 18. But what was notable during Monday’s conference call is that Kiper indicated there isn’t a big difference between Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons — once considered a potential top-five pick — and Owusu-Koramoah.

Parsons opted out of playing in 2020, and Kiper mocks him 12th overall.

“Parsons can play inside or outside; his play range is phenomenal,” Kiper said. “Is he a sack guy? No. [He can track] down fast, mobile quarterbacks.

“Is he better than Jeremiah? As an open-field tackler, Jeremiah is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. As a coverage linebacker, Jeremiah is among the best I’ve seen in a long time. Is Parsons better than Koramoah? Karomoah played. Parsons didn’t. Maybe you give the edge to Owusu-Koramoah.”

Speaking on Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye — another option at No. 18 — Kiper said: “I think he goes late in the first round. He had an uneven year but will test great. He plays hard, gets after the quarterback. Love the intensity he plays with. Can play with his hands on the ground or on his feet.”

Kiper has him going 23rd to the Jets.

The Dolphins have indicated they would like to retain unrestricted free agent defensive tackle Davon Godchaux, but finances could prevent that from happening.

“Davon would love to come back and the Dolphins would like for him to come back,” his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said on his weekly Sunday night segment on WSVN-Fox 7’s “Sports Xtra.”

“The question is can we make it work econcomically because the Dolphins have invested in three other defensive tackles recently [Christian Wilkins, Raekwon Davis and Zach Sieler].

“Davon is one of the most talented defensive tackles, I believe, and the Dolphins would have to be able to compensate him in that capacity. I’m not sure that they will, given the talent they have on the team. We’ll see if the Dolphins are able to step up and be competitive with other teams that may not have as much talent at the defensive tackle position.”

Godchaux missed the final 11 games last season because of a biceps injury.

With the expected addition of a 17th regular-season game for each team, the Dolphins and the other AFC teams likely will have nine home games and eight road games in 2021, according to NBC’s Peter King.

If the 17th game is finalized for the 2021 season as expected, the Dolphins — who finished second in the AFC East — would play host to the Giants, who finished second in the NFC East.

Miami’s other 2021 home games: New England, the Jets, Buffalo, Houston, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Carolina and Baltimore.

In an interview with Yahoo, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa made clear he hopes Miami drafts running back Najee Harris.

“He’s going to be a fun guy to watch this upcoming season,” Tagovailoa said. “Hopefully we’re on the same team.”

The Dolphins might fill their running back need through free agency, with Green Bay’s pricey Aaron Jones a player of interest to them.

But if they wait until the draft to add a running back, the quandary with Harris is whether selecting him 18th overall would be too high. If Miami waits until its 36th overall pick to address running back, Harris might be off the board by then. A trade-down from 18 is always an option.

Pro Football Talk ranked the top 100 free agents and put two Dolphins on the list: quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick at 48 and center Ted Karras at 88.

The Dolphins have declined to say whether they want Fitzpatrick back, and both sides are expected to explore other options, while not totally ruling out a return.

The Dolphins have told Karras they want him back, but the sides would need to agree on financial terms.

Teams can begin speaking to other teams’ free agents on March 15. Signings are permitted beginning March 17.