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Grades for Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars |

Jags, Fins, Bucs draft defensive help with first pick

ABOVE VIDEO: The NFL Draft is a unique opportunity for all 32 teams to get better in the near future while simultaneously building for the future. Here is every first round pick from this years draft. 

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA– The NFL Draft is a unique opportunity for all 32 teams to get better in the near future while simultaneously building for the future.  

No other league offers the parity the NFL has which also helps to explain its popularity despite tumultuous times over the last three seasons on and off the field.

Despite the domestic violence, kneeling and cover-ups concerning the concussion issue, the league can promise its fans that starting with free agency and the draft, every team can claim they have a chance to make the playoffs.

The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles (NFC East) and Jacksonville Jaguars (AFC South) both clinched division titles in 2017 after finishing in last place in 2016. At least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons.

32 teams selected 256 players with hopes of duplicating the Eagles success.  The three teams that call Florida home, the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars all seemed to do well during this year’s draft.

The Dolphins and Bucs needed the most entering this past weekend as the two teams won just six and five games respectively in 2017.

Jacksonville, on the other hand, won one more game than Miami and Tampa did combine and led the New England Patriots by 10 points early in the fourth quarter before losing in the AFC Championship game.

MIAMI DOLPHINS (6-10 in 2017)

ABOVE VIDEO: In the first-round Miami selected Minkah Fitzpatrick, an All-America safety from Alabama. The pick gives Miami a solid addition in the back side of the defense. 

The Dolphins missed the playoffs for the eighth time in nine seasons, and finishing ranked 25th in total offense and 29th in total rushing. Instead of showing improvement in head coach backsliding Adam Gase’s second season, Miami backslid.

Locker room leadership questions arose regarding defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and receiver Jarvis Landry, and both are gone. The Dolphins biggest needs entering the drafter were TE, RB, OL and QB on offense and LB, DT and a DB on defense.

HOW THEY DID:

1 (11) Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama,
2 (42) Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State,
3 (73) Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State,
4 (123) Durham Smythe, TE, Notre Dame,
4 (131) Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State,
6 (209) Cornell Armstrong, CB, Southern Miss,
7 (227) Quentin Poling, LB, Ohio,
7 (229) Jason Sanders, K, New Mexico,

ABOVE VIDEO: Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier meet with the media to discuss the 2018 NFL Draft.

In the first-round Miami selected Minkah Fitzpatrick, an All-America safety from Alabama. The pick gives Miami a solid addition in the back side of the defense. Two AFC East rivals used the opening round to add a quarterback: The Jets took Southern Cal’s Sam Darnold with the third pick, and the Bills took Wyoming’s Josh Allen with the seventh pick.

In less than 24 hours, tight end went from a need to one of the deepest positions. The Dolphins took Mike Gesicki of Penn State in the second round, the highest pick they’ve used on a tight end since 1974. Then they added Notre Dame tight end Durham Smythe in the fourth round.

The Fins did not draft a QB or DT to replace Suh.

MIAMI DOLPHINS GRADES:

• SB Nation: A-

• ESPN: C+

• NFL: B+

• PFF: Good

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5-11 in 2017)

ABOVE VIDEO: The Bucs traded back five spots in the first round on Thursday to take Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea 12th overall. The trade allowed Tampa to pick up two second-round picks. Vea is a player that reminds me of former Ravens DL Haloti Ngata. 

There’s no way to sugarcoat the disappointing 2017 season turned in by Tampa Bay. After finishing 9-7 in 2016, many pundits, myself included, thought the decade-long playoff drought was over.

However, a shoulder injury that affected QB Jameis Winston much of season was just part of the problem as the rushing attack finished 27th. Defensively, the Bucs were ranked dead last in the league defending the pass and dead last overall. They only finished with 23 sacks as a team.

With Winston entering his fourth season, the seat is hot for head coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht to not only escape NFC South cellar but make playoffs for the first time since 2007.

Licht didn’t wait for the draft as he addressed the putrid pass rush by trading for former Giants sackmaster Jason Pierre-Paul and he bolstered the run defense by signing ex-Eagles Vinny Curry and Beau Allen in free agency.

The Additions of ex-Ravens center Ryan Jensen, whose arrival frees Ali Marpet to move to left guard, is big, too.

Still, no draft has been more crucial to the franchise than this one as there were still plenty of holes to fill, especially in the secondary.

HOW THEY DID:

1 (12) Vita Vea, DI, Washington
2 (38) Ronald Jones II, RB, USC
2 (53) M.J. Stewart, CB, UNC
2 (63) Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
3 (94) Alex Cappa, OT, Humboldt State
4 (117) Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh
5 (144) Justin Watson, WR, Penn
6 (202) Jack Cichy, LB, Wisconsin, (in 2016)

ABOVE VIDEO: Former Washington DT Vita Vea is introduced to the media alongside HC Dirk Koetter and GM Jason Licht. The Bucs first-round pick thanks to the staff in Tampa Bay, talks about his childhood and what he can bring to the organization.

The Bucs traded back five spots in the first round on Thursday to take Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea 12th overall. The trade allowed Tampa to pick up two second-round picks.

Vea is a player that reminds me of former Ravens DL Haloti Ngata. Vea will be plugged into a revamped defensive line anchored by six-time Pro Bowl tackle Gerald McCoy and bolstered by last month’s trade for Pierre-Paul and the signing of Beau Allen, Vinny Curry and Mitch Unrein in free agency.

On day two the Bucs had three second-round selections and one in the third round.

That second-round haul netted Tampa a new running back in USC’s Ronald Jones II, and two new defensive backs, M.J. Stewart out of UNC and Carlton Davis from Auburn. Jones, who will replace the released Doug Martin is fast and according to Pro-Football Focus, earned the highest grade of any back in this class in ANY season of their college careers this past season

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS GRADES:

• SB Nation: B-

• ESPN: B

• NFL: A-

• PFF: Good

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (12-4 in 2017, Lost in AFC Championship)

ABOVE VIDEO: Taven Bryan selected by Jacksonville Jaguars.

The second-ranked defense and the No.1 rushing attack in the NFL propelled the Jaguars to the AFC Championship game last season under coach Doug Marrone and top executive Tom Coughlin.

The Jags first postseason berth since 2007 should have resulted in the franchises first Super Bowl berth as they led by 10 points early in the fourth quarter before losing at New England in the conference title game.

Despite the success, Coughlin, and general manager Dave Caldwell made several changes. They let WR Allen Robinson, CB Aaron Colvin, LG Patrick Omameh, backup QB Chad Henne walk in free agency. They cut TE Marcedes Lewis, WR Allen Hurns, and RB Chris Ivory.

They did sign three new offensive starters: WR Donte Moncrief, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and highly coveted LG Andrew Norwell.

The team has no glaring holes for the first time in a decade but the young defense and rushing attack did slow considerably in the playoffs. The Jags entered the draft picking outside the top 10 form the first time since 2007.

HOW THEY DID:

1 (29) Taven Bryan, DI, Florida
2 (61) D.J. Chark, WR, LSU
3 (93) Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
4 (129) Will Richardson, OT, NC State
6 (203) Tanner Lee, QB, Nebraska
7 (230) Leon Jacobs, Edge, Wisconsin
7 (247) Logan Cooke, P, Mississippi State

In the first round, the Jaguars added more pieces to their defensive front with Florida Gators DT Taven Bryan. He improved every year at Florida, culminating in a breakout 2017 season in which Pro Football Focus gave him an 89.1 overall.

Wide Receiver D.J. Chark adds an immediate deep threat to the Jaguars’ offense as he ran a 4.34 40 at the NFL Combine and that speed shows up on the field.

Rounding out day two Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison joins a talented secondary. Harrison has an excellent feel for the game, whether playing zone or timing up blitzes and his run-stop percentage of 6.7 when lined up in the box ranked 10th in the draft class.

To finish off the draft the Jags added more depth with offensive tackle Will Richardson, QB Tanner Lee and a good edge rusher in Leon Jacobs.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS GRADES:

• SB Nation: B

• ESPN: B

• NFL: A-

• PFF: Average

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