The NFL Draft is mere days away, and the Miami Dolphins are in desperate need of some offense. Of the many holes the Dolphins have to fill this offseason, one the biggest problems is at running back. The Fins have a dynamic, proven back in Lamar Miller, but it's anyones guess who's Millers' backup. Last season that man was Knowshon Moreno, and that was going well, until he tore up his knee. If the team in teal fancy themselves legit contenders, they are going to need to find another solid back to spell Miller this year.
They might not have to look all that far to find him.
The Dolphins should target Duke Johnson in this years draft, and bypass the reported top backs they could take in the first round. Here is why.
The Dolphins are in desperate need of an offensive playmaker
The Dolphins struck it rich when they selected Lamar Miller in the fourth-round in 2012. But he's also not enough. In 2015, you rarely see a team go an entire season riding one main back. The Dolphins also have a glaring hole at playmaker at this moment, with few skill players capable of taking a three-yard pass 74 yards to the house. Duke Johnson would plug right into the Dolphins offense, and kill both those birds with one stone. Johnson was one of the most electric players in college football playing for completely mediocre teams, which suggests we may have never seen the best of Duke Johnson.
Duke Johnson is a guy that would make defensive coordinators lose sleep, and pairing him with Lamar Miller could result in one of the best ground attacks in the NFL.
From a marketing standpoint alone, having an all-UM backfield would be a huge sell Any Dolphins fans will tell you the team's longtime refusal to draft Hurricanes was straight-up infuriating. Think of all that talent that has passed through Coral Gables, almost none of it ending up in a Dolphins uniform. Now imagine how hyped the Dolphins fan base would be if the backfield was a Miami Hurricanes duo. Of course, you never would just draft a Hurricane to sell tickets, but it's a damn good tiebreaker if the Dolphins are debating on which running back to take.
The vast majority of Miami Dolphins fans are Miami Hurricanes fans, and by extension, Duke Johnson and Lamar Miller fans; it would be a lot of fun to put that altogether and see just how exciting it could be for the fans.
Lamar Miller is a free agent after this season
Miller is on the last year of a contract that has been ridiculously friendly for the Dolphins' pocketbook. Miller is just this year topping the $1 million mark in salary for the first time, and even at his current elevated salary, he is an amazing bargain. With that said, he's very aware the Dolphins have been getting a sweet deal on his services since he came into the NFL, and if he has the kind of year everyone is hoping he has, 2016 won't come cheap.
Miller signed a 4-year, $2,586,000 contract out of the draft, but knowing what position he plays, and how long those careers normally last; he might demand six times that money on his next one. Having a Duke Johnson with a year experience on the team would be a terrific fallback option if Miller's demands are too high.
Duke Johnson is very familiar with Miami and SunLife Stadium
Just like Miller in 2012, Duke Johnson is very familiar with the field he would be playing on, and the city he would be living in — because he's been doing both those things most of his life. Duke grew up literally next door to SunLife Stadium in Miami Gardens, and broke the Hurricanes all-time rushing record on that exact grass. Duke also would get to stay close to home, and his family is well known for taking a visible part in his football life. Keeping your surroundings the same when going from college football to the NFL is a huge advantage not many players get to enjoy. Just ask Lamar Miller.
Speaking of Miller, between him and Olivier Vernon, Duke would have some ex-Canes in his corner from the start. Ex-Canes might be on other teams, but they are becoming increasingly scarce in the NFL, and in Duke's case, way too old to relate to the UM of today.
Duke Johnson would be less expensive and more healthy than Todd Gurley
The Dolphins have been linked to Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who is coming off a serious knee injury and is not expected to be ready to play Week 1 this season. The only reason Gurley would even be available at the Dolphins 14th pick is because he was injured, so it's tempting to grab a back of his quality — but the Dolphins should pass. Too many question marks lie on the Dolphins' team to go spending a first round pick on a running back with a history of knee injuries, especially when you have Lamar Miller already.
Duke Johnson has his own history of injuries, but is much farther removed from them at this point than Gurley, and has proven he regained his explosiveness post surgery. Johnson would also come later in the draft than Gurley, possibly at the Phins #47 pick, so his salary would be much more reasonable for the risk at some a high impact position.
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.