NFL DRAFT DEEP DIVE: MIAMI DOLPHINS
The NFL Draft is over, and we cannot head into the three-month abyss that is the offseason without looking at what all 259 selections mean for each franchise. Whilst too early to judge just how successful a draft class each team’s was, we can look at how rookies fit within schemes, where they stand on depth charts, and who we can expect to make an impact in 2021. We continue our team by team series with the Miami Dolphins:
|2||42||Liam Eichenberg||OT||Notre Dame|
|3||81||Hunter Long||TE||Boston College|
Miami also acquired a 2022 4th round pick in exchange for pick #156 in this year’s draft.
Miami had moved out of pick #3 earlier in the lead up to the draft, initially dropping down to #12 before trading back up to #6 less than an hour later. From that moment many people assumed it was because they had a specific target in mind. That proved to be correct. In Jaylen Waddle, Miami selected a swiss army knife of talent, and a sharp one at that. A young man who played with Tua at Alabama, who held his own in a room with Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and Devonta Smith and who was on pace to outscore eventual Heisman winner Smith in yards and TDs until his ankle injury mid-season.
Someone who has blistering pace, who is a legitimate threat in the deep game and from the slot and maybe most importantly for Miami, someone who can consistently generate significant yards after catch, an area Miami have struggled with in recent seasons. No question Miami got their guy, and met expectations in getting a pass catcher at #6.
But day one wasn’t over and the fan base was split. Miami also sat on pick #18 and while everyone knew WR was on the cards at #6, no-one knew what was coming at #18. Many people expected a trade out of the pick; I even suggested that in a pre-draft article myself. A large majority of the fan base were calling for a bigger Alabama reunion with Running Back Najee Harris still available. But head coach Brian Flores and GM Chris Grier had alternative ideas.
Jaelen Phillips was available, and this seemed unexpected to them. When you listen to them talk there is excitement around the Miami offices where Phillips is concerned. His freakish athleticism, his love for the city, his long arms and aggressive get-off off the line, Phillips has the potential to have a significant year 1 impact at a position that Miami have struggled to dominate from for a long time. It’s a long time since Olivier Vernon’s strong rookie contract from the edge, it’s a couple of seasons since Cam Wake moved on. Miami may have just found their heir to the throne.
There have been well documented injury concerns, having previously retired in his time at UCLA after an accident left him with persistent concussion issues. But with Josh Allen in the division and looking a serious player, and with rookie QBs in both New England and New York, Miami put talent first and got a guy they believe will cause these divisional QBs problems for a long time to come.
Miami went into day two with so many options. Tevin Jenkins was a player they had been heavily linked with in the press and he was still there. But most people’s eyes, mine included, were fixed on one location; Javonte Williams. With a need at running back, and with Najee Harris picked by the Steelers, Williams still available made sense. Miami picked 4th on day two, and it seemed if he fell past the Jets, then he would be the guy.
He did fall past the Jets, but then Denver made their move, jumped up and took Williams the pick before Miami. But maybe he was never actually on the radar of GM Chris Grier.
Miami’s ticket for pick #36 was turned in so fast, it felt as if it had been written and sat waiting for hours. With some fans still processing the Denver pick, Miami had sent theirs in already, and the war room was excited. The pick was Jevon Holland, the safety from Oregon – and the more you look at the pick the more it makes sense. He fits the prototype mould that Miami love to draft; long, extremely athletic, has positional versatility and is very much a team guy. He may not have been the top safety on everyone’s boards, but he fits everything that Coach Flores loves.
And they weren’t done there. With holes in the O-Line, Miami had a second 2nd rounder, their fourth pick in the top 50. Center was the obvious need, but with Robert Hunt having the ability to switch inside to guard, and Ereck Flowers traded away days before the draft, it seemed offensive tackle would be the move and that proved correct. The aforementioned Jenkins had just gone to the Bears, and Grier anticipated a run on OT’s coming, so he traded up from #50 to #42 and selected OT Liam Eichenberg from Notre Dame.
Eichenberg played LT in college, but with Austin Jackson already there, it is expected Eichenberg will switch to RT and look after leftie Tagovailoa’s blind side. Coming from the Notre Dame school of incredible lineman, and having not allowed a single sack in the last two years, Eichenberg seems a smart, sensible and productive pick. It wasn’t a pick to excite the fan base or to revolutionise Miami football – just like this pick was all business, Eichenberg is all business and that business is protecting Tua Tagovailoa.
Moving into the third round, all the top RBs had gone and center seemed to be the likely pick. Quinn Meinerz was available and on the board when Miami went on the clock. He has worked with Coach Flores at the Senior Bowl, had several meetings with the office and with the ticket turned in within the blink of an eye yet again, it seemed the obvious selection.
Instead Grier, or more specifically Coach Flores, had other ideas. Tight End, Hunter Long was the pick. I have broken down this pick in a separate article if you want to read in more detail but this was a Flores pick – Grier said as much on his draft call to Long. Flores and Long are both alumni of Boston College, they share values, high football intelligence, nose down hard work mentalities and it seems a fantastic match of staff and player. With question marks surrounding the futures of Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe, while this pick was a shock, again it seems like an extremely smart one that makes this Miami roster a better one.
And this is where the fun slowed down considerably. Miami didn’t pick in the 4th or 6th round, only had one pick in the 5th and two in the 7th. Dolphins fans were loving almost every pick, but also desperate for a running back to come and support Myles Gaskin.
After five picks in the first two days, it seemed to take an age for Miami to come on the clock in the fifth round, and as soon as they were, they were off it again immediately. That fifth round pick was flipped to the Steelers for a 4th round pick in 2022. The Steelers selected Isaiahh Loudermilk and Miami went back to waiting.
Eventually the 7th round came around. Miami had two picks in quick succession, selecting OT Larnel Coleman and finally selecting a running back to the relief of masses of Dolphins fans in Gerrid Doaks. Coleman is an impressive Tackle who has the potential to play guard as well, he will come straight into the room and compete with Miami’s current back ups for roster spot on what is a young, developing O-Line group.
Doaks would almost certainly have gone higher if not for his injury history. A running back who can catch, break tackles, break defensive lines and who became a main feature of his college team, Doaks has the ability to put himself right in the mix of a running back room which currently seems to be lacking an ‘alpha-dog’ type presence.
One To Watch: Jevon Holland
The obvious names to talk about would be Waddle and Phillips with them in as first round picks, but Jevon Holland is as good as a first round pick to the Miami Dolphins. Holland has the ability to be productive in any of the safety positions currently ran in Miami’s defensive packages.
Dolphins veteran Bobby McCain was recently cut post draft and that just goes to strengthen Holland’s chances of making a significant year one impact. In a secondary that boasts 10-interception Xavien Howard, Byron Jones and Super Bowl winners Eric Rowe and Jason McCourty, Holland has a wealth of leadership and experience to learn from and play within, and with his high football intelligence and strong personal qualities he really is in the best position to learn, grow and impact an NFL football team.
I look at this pick and think about Minkah Fitzpatrick. The former Miami first round pick left the franchise after becoming disgruntled at having to play in multiple positions and schemes. Holland THRIVES in that environment, he has eyes for the ball and is aggressive in his pass break up and interception plays. This is the player that Miami wanted Fitzpatrick to be and with the situation Holland is coming into, you can believe that he will become a major player for Miami for a long time to come.
|Jibri Blount||TE||North Carolina Central|
|Robert Jones||IOL||Middle Tennessee State|
|Jaytlin Askew||CB||Georgia Tech|
Miami as with every team, always do their homework on UDFAs, yet this year they signed just five, and most of these you expect to be project players, who will come in to camp and likely find their way onto the practice squad to develop further.
Carl Tucker has a shot at the roster with his ability to play full back and Miami have moved on from recent FB Chandler Cox. Tucker’s ability to play there, on special teams and his Alabama connections means he could be a name to watch through camp. As could Robert Jones, another player Coach Flores and his staff saw first hand at the Senior Bowl. There may not be much between him and seventh round pick Larnel Coleman, as both men come into that O-Line group which has a very fluid situation around it right now, with plenty space to impress and beat out the next man.
A final name to pick on for his level of intrigue is Tight End Jibri Blount. While he may not be the highest profile TE convert in the NFL from the last month, he will be one for Miami fans keep an eye on. Son of NFL Hall of Famer Mel Blount, Jibri played all his college games as a basketball player and never took a single snap of college football. Miami will bring him into camp to see how he transitions and will likely find him a practice squad space to see how this develops.
Miami didn’t get the center to complete their offensive line. They didn’t get the running back that their fans craved. Yet they had an absolutely incredible draft. In the space of three days they found themselves with a dynamic playmaking weapon in Waddle. They found the solution to their edge rushing problem in Phillips. They took Jevon Holland and secured their long term future at safety and potentially Tua’s long term blindside protector in Eichenberg. You can argue a case for all four players to impact year 1; Miami found four contributors in four picks and four player who could have a significant say in how Miami moves its play style and culture forward in the next 4 years.
Throw in the potential for steals in Long, Doaks and their UDFA class, their extra pick next year and the fact they still have an extra 2023 first rounder from the trade that moved them out of pick #3, and Chris Grier seems to have had himself a weekend that could make Miami a serious playoff contender.