DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins ran their first misdirection play of 2017 on Thursday when they drafted Charles Harris with the No. 22 overall pick. Not many pegged Harris as a target for Miami, and that was by design.
Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said the team collectively determined it wanted Harris “a month ago,” which Grier said was unusual. The Dolphins avoided working out Harris and didn’t bring him in for one the team’s 30 available visits. That mostly helped prevent the media and opposing teams from tracking the Dolphins' strong interest in the former Missouri pass-rushing defensive end.
The Dolphins’ only personal interaction with Harris was during an interview at the NFL combine.
“We tried to stay away from him purposely,” Grier said with a chuckle after making the pick. “I know everyone looks for how everyone is doing things and who is going where. But this is a player we really, really liked and we’re excited about him.”
What wasn’t a secret was the Dolphins were looking to add a defensive playmaker in the first round. They were 29th in total defense and 30th against the run last season. Miami needed to get younger, more athletic and add disruptive playmakers on that side of the football. Harris, who led Missouri with nine sacks and 28 quarterback knockdowns, checks all of those boxes.
The Dolphins received trade offers from two teams interested in moving up to the No. 22 pick. But after successfully fooling everyone by hiding their interest in Harris, the team felt it was best to complete the plan and take the player it wanted to select as far back as March.
“Honestly, we didn’t really talk about what they were offering,” Grier said. “Because this was a player that everybody in the building, from personnel to coaches, [wanted].”
Miami’s reasoning for selecting Harris is sound, especially long term, but there are immediate questions.
First, Harris will start the season behind a trio of veteran defensive ends in Pro Bowler Cameron Wake, starter Andre Branch and veteran backup William Hayes. Ideally, you’d like to get an immediate starter in the first round. Harris will begin training camp as the team’s No. 4 defensive end, although that will almost certainly change in a year or two.
Second, the Dolphins passed up a projected top-10 talented in former Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster. Foster had character and medical concerns, which included a diluted urine sample at the NFL combine and a prior shoulder injury. However, on the field Foster could have provided an immediate impact at outside linebacker, which remains a major position of need.
Foster was taken No. 31 overall to the San Francisco 49ers, nine picks after Harris. The development of both players will be worth keeping an eye on.