Miami Hurricanes’ David Njoku now projected as Dolphins’ top pick

Miami Hurricanes tight end David Njoku (86) picks up yardage against North Carolina. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Miami Hurricanes tight end David Njoku (86) picks up yardage against North Carolina. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

It’s good to be David Njoku these days.

Not long ago, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper said the Dolphins should draft Njoku, the University of Miami tight end.

Problem was, Kiper was thinking Njoku should be the Dolphins’ second-round pick, which he’s now amending.

Kiper believes Njoku should be the Dolphins’ first-round pick — and his colleague, Todd McShay, agrees.

The Dolphins own the 22nd overall pick and they do need tight end help, but the question is whether they feel that’s a more pressing need than beefing up their defensive front.

Njoku would represent a major shift in philosophy on the part of the Dolphins. Never have they selected a tight end in the first round. The closest they came was making the late Jim Mandich their top pick in 1970. But Mandich, was a second-rounder, 29th overall. Miami did not have a first-round pick that year because of the trade for Hall of Fame receiver Paul Warfield from Cleveland.

There’s an awful lot to like about Njoku, starting with a frame that simply looks every bit like an NFL tight end. He’s a muscular 6-4 and 240. That’s just a tad shy of another former Hurricane, Seattle’s Jimmy Graham (6-7, 265) and New England’s Rob Gronkowski (6-6, 265).

Njoku, who has been invited to the NFL Combine, has been steadily drawing more attention after an outstanding 2016 season in which he had 43 receptions, 698 yards, eight touchdowns and was a vital big-play cog in the Hurricanes’ offense.

The same cannot be said for the Dolphins’ tight ends. Jordan Cameron missed most of the season with concussions. He might never play again and even if he does attempt a comeback, it might not be in Miami. The Dolphins like Dion Sims and MarQueis Gray, but they are nowhere near the potential downfield threat Njoku could be.

McShay wrote of Njoku, “A good college player who has the potential to develop into a better pro.” He went on to write, “He averaged 16.2 yards per reception and caught a TD once in every 5.4 receptions. He could be the first tight end off the board. At the very least, he’s a clear-cut first-rounder from a talent perspective.”

In his first mock draft, The Post’s Jason Lieser predicted the Dolphins would take Florida linebacker Jarrod Davis. He had Njoku going 12th to Cleveland.

While a first-rate receiving tight end would offer Ryan Tannehill another weapon and a handy outlet receiver, consider that statistically, the defense needs help more than the offense. Miami’s offense ranked 24th overall, compared to the defense’s No. 29 ranking. And in scoring, the Dolphins were 17th in points for and 18th in points against. Perhaps most importantly, the Dolphins ranked 30th against the run, a stated priority by coaches.

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