NFL Draft

On the Clock: Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins took a significant step forward in their second season under head coach Brian Flores. They doubled their win total from five in 2019 to 10 in 2020, while finishing just shy of a playoff spot. The future looks bright in Miami as they have a plethora of young talent on both sides of the football. Their defense led the NFL in forced turnovers (29) while allowing the ninth-fewest points. The offense struggled some as they had a rotation at quarterback throughout the season between veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and rookie Tua Tagovailoa. Both struggled and both flashed at times, but were never consistent. Helping their young franchise QB should be priority number one in this draft for Miami.

Some quick history. The following are the Dolphins’ last five years’ worth of first-round draft picks:

  • 2020: Tua Tagovailoa (QB), Austin Jackson (OT), Noah Igbinoghene (CB)
  • 2019: Christian Wilkins (DT)
  • 2018: Minkah Fitzpatrick (CB/S)
  • 2017: Charles Harris (OLB)
  • 2016: Laremy Tunsil (OT)

Miami has two more first-round picks in 2021 – No. 3 overall, which they got from Houston in the Tunsil trade, and No. 18. This will be the third time since 2007 that the Dolphins have had a top 10 pick in back-to-back drafts. They did this in 2007-08, 2012-13 and now in 2020-21.

The following are players who could possibly be on the move, either through trade or being cut, due to their 2021 cap hit (age is in parentheses):

  • Emmanuel Ogbah (27)
  • Bobby McCain (27)
  • Kyle Van Noy (29)
  • Eric Rowe (28)
  • Jerome Baker (24)

The Dolphins’ are $22.7 million under the cap for the 2021 season, not including any of the possible trade or cut candidates listed above. They rank 10th in the NFL in terms of cap space.

Here are two possibilities each for the Dolphins’ No. 3 pick and No. 18 pick in the first round of the draft:

Pick No. 3

Possibility #1: LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase

2019 stats: 84 receptions, 1,780 yards, 20 TDs (2020 opt out)

Why: Miami struggled throwing the football last season. They ranked 23rd in passing touchdowns (24) and 20th in passing yards. They went without a 1,000-yard receiver and had just one wide receiver (DeVante Parker) eclipse 500 receiving yards. Adding another weapon would benefit Tagovailoa and his development.

Ja’Marr Chase is seen by many as the best receiver in this draft. He is NFL-ready and despite the year off should still be able to step in on day one and become a team’s number one option at the wide receiver position. In 2019, he dominated every defense he faced. He has above-the-line ball skills, route running, release and body control; all of which will make his transition to the next level easier. Chase has all the tools to succeed in the NFL, the only blemish he has is that he opted out of the 2020 season. His floor is the highest of any receiver in this draft class and he would be a fantastic addition to Miami’s offense. This would help Tagovailoa immensely.

Possibility #2: Ohio State QB Justin Fields

2020 stats: 2,100 yards, 22 TDs, 6 INTs, 81 rushes, 523 yards, 5 TDs

Why: Tagovailoa flashed in his rookie season but did show his fair share of struggles. Now, it’s unfair to close the book on him based on just nine starts — he went 6-3 in those starts — but Miami should still consider a quarterback at third overall. Miami has a roster that is ready to win now and is arguably a QB away. Miami may not get a draft selection this high for years and this could be their final opportunity with their current roster to find their young franchise QB.

Fields is one of the top quarterback prospects in this draft and is arguably the second-ranked QB in this draft behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. Fields has many traits you want in an NFL QB: above-the-line size, arm strength, release/touch that pairs great with his outstanding throwing mechanics and decision making. He’s also a dynamic athlete while running the football and has the athleticism to be a true dual-threat quarterback. His best season was 2019, but his 2020 season was still very good. He should still be a highly regarded quarterback in this draft and is deserving of being considered this high. If Miami isn’t sold on Tagovailoa, Fields has the makings to be a franchise quarterback that could push this team over the edge and make them a true playoff and even Super Bowl contender.

Pick No. 18

Possibility #1: Virginia Tech OT Christian Darrisaw

Stats: 34 career starts

Why: Despite having two rookie offensive tackles start for them in 2020, Miami can still benefit from an upgrade at the position in this draft. Robert Hunt — who started at RT for them in 2020 — projects as more of a guard due to his limited arm length. Solomon Kindley struggled last season and Hunt would be able to move inside if Miami finds a replacement for him in this draft.

Christian Darrisaw has the abilities to play either tackle position at the next level. He understands how to keep his pad level low as a run blocker and when he uses his hands he shows good ability to roll his hips and create leverage on defenders. His quick foot speed and patience when pass blocking, which pair together perfectly. His length allows him to keep defenders away from his chest. He has some tendencies to lunge in pass protection and lacks ideal change of direction ability but Darrisaw’s potential is nonetheless still very high. He has the size and all the key traits to translate and become a franchise tackle at the next level. Added protection always benefits quarterbacks in the NFL and offensive tackles are hard to come by.

Possibility #4: Tulsa LB Zaven Collins

2020 stats: 54 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 4 sacks, 4 INTs

Why: With speculation that veteran Kyle Van Noy may be traded or released, linebacker becomes an instant position of need for the Dolphins. Miami’s defense was a very good unit last season and its linebackers played a big role in their success. Finding a replacement for Van Noy and his production will be key for Miami this offseason.

Zaven Collins is a 6-4, 260-pound linebacker with adequate athleticism for his size. He’s got a good handle on how to play zone coverage and was used all over the field at Tulsa. He came off the edge — which is where we think he would play best, as a 3-4 SAM — while also playing as one of Tulsa’s ILBs, too. He has above-the-line pursuit angles and closing speed, which are his best traits besides his size. He’s still a raw prospect, needs improvement in his block shedding and POA ability, but has the size and length to do so. Collins has the traits to step in and play day one for Miami, but may struggle early in his career because he needs more refinement at the POA. But his high ceiling and combination of size/athleticism makes him a great prospect.

SEE ALSO: On the Clock archive

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