April 15, 2024

Best fits for Dolphins in first round of 2024 NFL Draft

The Miami Dolphins hold the 21st overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, which is set to begin on April 25.

Late-season injuries and a number of notable offseason subtractions have left Miami with several holes around the roster that need to be filled in the draft. However, considering that the Dolphins only own six 2024 selections, they could opt to trade the 21st pick to acquire additional draft capital.

Even so, since they own a first-round pick for the time being, here are three prospects who would be the best fit for the Dolphins at No. 21 overall. 

Offensive lineman Troy Fautanu, Washington 

The interior of Miami’s offensive line took a hit during free agency, with the departure of guard Robert Hunt, who signed a massive five-year, $100M deal with Carolina. Although Miami could replace Hunt by re-signing its former starting center Connor Williams now that it acquired Aaron Brewer this offseason, drafting a guard in the first round could be in the team’s best interest.

Fautanu, last season’s Morris Trophy recipient, played all but one snap at left tackle for the Huskies in 2023, but it can be argued that he’s the most versatile offensive lineman in the draft. Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN believes that with his 6-foot-4, 317-pound frame, Fautanu will be a Pro Bowl-caliber guard in the NFL.

Across his four seasons at Washington, Fautanu only surrendered three sacks and 36 total pressures. Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa was able to stay healthy last season, though in light of his extensive injury history, spending a first-round pick on more protection for him would be a wise investment. 

Cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama 

Despite signing former Commanders CB Kendall Fuller in free agency to replace four-time Pro Bowler Xavien Howard, Miami would benefit from adding depth at the position.

2023 second-rounder Cam Smith only played 20 defensive snaps as a rookie, and it’s unclear whether the young cornerback will ever be a reliable contributor. Additionally, given Fuller’s past success in the slot, bringing in another boundary cornerback like McKinstry to play opposite Jalen Ramsey could be an effective way to address the situation.

Opposing quarterbacks rarely tested the first-team All-American in coverage last season. As a result, McKinstry only allowed 16 of the 36 targets that came his way to be completed, in addition to collecting 32 tackles, two for loss and seven pass breakups.

While some wondered if McKinstry could fall to the second round after he didn’t participate in the NFL Scouting Combine due to a Jones fracture in his foot, he solidified himself as a first-rounder at Alabama’s Pro Day. At the event, McKinstry clocked a 4.47-second 40-yard dash.

Defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois 

Like the offensive line, Miami’s D-line lost several significant members in free agency. Former Dolphins DT Christian Wilkins’ breakout 2023 season earned him a four-year, $110M contract with the Las Vegas Raiders, and Raekwon Davis inked a two-year, $14M deal to join the Indianapolis Colts.

There’s a pressing need to find someone who can step in and make an immediate impact, and the productive Newton may be able to help. During the 2023 regular season, the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year led all interior defenders in pressures (44), and his 7.5 sacks ranked third nationally among defensive tackles.

In total, Newton finished his collegiate career with 188 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss and 18 sacks. Considering the amount of pressure Newton can generate from the interior, he’d be an ideal replacement for Wilkins.