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Jahmyr Gibbs or bust for the Dolphins in the draft? Not quite

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MIAMI -- When Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel was hired in February 2022, the consensus was that he’d bring a similar success in the run game that the San Francisco 49ers were known for during his five years in the Bay Area.

Yet, the Dolphins ranked 25th in both rushing yards and rush attempts per game last season, but it wasn’t necessarily because of their personnel; at least, that’s what their actions this offseason say. The team re-signed its entire running backs room, including leading rusher Raheem Mostert, second-leading rusher Jeff Wilson, Salvon Ahmed and Myles Gaskin.

McDaniel took responsibility for the lack of production on the ground during the league’s annual meeting last month in Arizona, while offering an explanation

“We had the opportunity to bring two of our strongest character contributors – and really players – we depend on in Raheem and Jeff,” McDaniel said. “They’re both, I think, above 4.7 yards per carry, and when I look at the tape, I think there’d be a little bit of a different feeling if ... we didn’t run the ball, not because they didn’t run the ball well. We didn’t run the ball well in games that we were overly injured or some games I just didn’t call enough runs.

“So when you look at it historically, if you can get a runner 4.5 plus, they’re doing something pretty good. I see them as a big part of our team, and just the fabric and who we are as human beings; they really contribute to that locker room. I’m very excited to get those guys, and I honestly believe they’re playing the best ball of their careers.”

All compliments to Mostert and Wilson aside, there is room for the Dolphins to add another runner through this month’s draft – but they have little capital to do so.

Miami owns the Nos. 51, 84, 197 and 238 picks in the second, third, sixth and seventh rounds, respectively. While the undisputed best running back in this year’s class is Texas’ Bijan Robinson, he is obviously out of the Dolphins’ range. Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs could be an option but isn’t likely to make it to pick 51.

“I think throughout the whole draft we're gonna be talking about running backs,” ESPN senior draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “There are really good players that maybe should have gone a couple rounds earlier. That's not gonna happen with Gibbs.”

Kiper listed Tulane’s Tyjae Spears, UAB’s DeWayne McBride and Pittsburgh’s Israel Abanikanda as potential options the Dolphins could add at 84, and he pointed to Kansas City’s Isiah Pacheco and San Francisco’s Elijah Mitchell as the latest examples of late-round running backs who found early success in the NFL.

ESPN draft analyst Jordan Reid said Gibbs would be a “home run” fit in the Dolphins’ outside zone scheme, but agreed with Kiper that he isn’t likely to fall to them – and considering the talent available, it’s not worth trading up for him, either.

“Because it's such a deep running back class, I'm of the belief that you don't need to take a running back early, just because there's so many guys that you can find that fit that outside zone scheme,” Reid said. “They have another pick at number 84 overall. There's a lot of guys who I think they can get some value at that pick.

“So even if the guy that they want isn't on the board at 51, I think if they wait to 84, that's probably the best-case scenario for them – to take one of these running backs in this draft class. So I don't think they have to force the pick as far as taking a running back at 51.”

Reid mentioned Texas A&M’s Devon Achane and Auburn’s Tank Bigsby as names to watch who fit Miami’s scheme.

Running back is not the Dolphins’ most prevalent need; tight end and linebacker are both larger areas of concern. But if general manager Chris Grier decides to draft a running back prior to the seventh round for the first time since 2016, there are several options.