On Thursday, the National Football League kicks off its annual NFL draft from Las Vegas, Nevada. While eight teams don’t have a first-round selection, the Miami Dolphins are included in a subgroup of three teams that will be dormant in the pick department until the third round. That’s, of course, if no moves are made because, at the moment, the Dolphins own picks No. 102 and No. 125 and then have a gap until the seventh round.
The third round has been pretty kind to Chris Grier in his tenure as Miami’s general manager. Since 2016, Grier has had a solid track record, and of the remaining current third-round picks still in Miami, linebacker Jerome Baker leads the way.
The Ohio State product was drafted by Miami in 2018 as the No. 72 overall pick. He and Xavien Howard are the two longest-tenured members of the Dolphins’ defense. Baker has been a very solid player for Miami, even earning a contract extension last year.
Baker is coming off of a 92-tackle, 5.5-sack season and had career-highs in tackles for loss with nine as well as quarterback hits with 15. Baker played admirably in pass coverage as well, compiling four passes defended including an interception. Opposing quarterbacks only completed 69.6% of their passes when throwing his way.
Baker, like most of the Dolphins’ defense in 2021, started slow, but in the season’s second half, he was a key reason why Miami rattled off seven straight wins. Baker had 4.5 of his sacks in December, as his blitz rate spiked from 4.1 rushes per game in the first six games, to 7.3 per contest in his final nine.
Baker, a team captain from the 2019 season, is a consummate leader both on the field and in the community. He heads into 2022 after being named the AFC’s Defensive Player of the Month last December, as he looks to build off of that momentum from the end of the year.
The former Buckeye led a Miami linebacking crew that includes Jaelan Phillips, Andrew Van Ginkel and Elandon Roberts as the principals, with Duke Riley, Brennan Scarlett and Sam Eguavoen as the role players.
Miami could certainly use an inside linebacker in this year’s draft, and the third round is a perfect spot. Historically, the Dolphins have had success at the position in the third round besides Baker, with players like Olivier Vernon, Morlon Greenwood, Channing Crowder and Derek Rodgers among that grouping.
Since Baker, Grier has used his third-rounder wisely on guys like Michael Deiter in 2019, Brandon Jones in 2020 and Hunter Long last year.
While the jury is, of course, still out on the last three third-round picks, center Deiter and safety Jones have the potential for consistent starting roles for the Dolphins, while Long was used sparingly in his rookie year. Development will help with newly hired tight-end assistant coach Jon Embree.
Dolphins fans should have confidence in Grier with pick No. 102, which will come Friday, late in the third round. However, as he’s done in the past, moving up or down will always be in play.