It’s not often a team who finishes 10-6 and barely misses the playoffs also picks top 3 in the NFL Draft. Due to the 2019 trade, which sent Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills to Houston for a package of draft picks, the Miami Dolphins have the third overall pick in 2021. They are one of those rare teams trending up and have been given a gift: They get an elite prospect while keeping their selection at 18. As we continue our team by team breakdowns, the Miami Dolphins draft is sure to be among the most fascinating to watch.
Funny enough, the biggest question surrounding the Dolphins right now is centered around their 2020 NFL Draft and the selection of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Did Tagovailoa show enough signs in his limited rookie year to earn the trust of coaches? Are the Dolphins going to make a play for Deshaun Watson? It’s tough to make much out of Tagovailoa’s rookie season as he only played in 10 games and finished with 1,814 yards passing with an 11:5 TD to INT ratio and 109 rushing yards. On a per-game basis this comes out to averaging 181 yards passing (33rd in the NFL), which isn’t ideal, but he did lead his team to a 7-3 record. Considering what it would cost to land Watson, Miami would be better off taking the approach of building around Tua by using their early draft capital.
As if this wasn’t enough reason for optimism, the Dolphins also have the 11th most cap space heading into free agency. This means Miami should theoretically be able to do a stellar job addressing their biggest needs. Offensively, the offensive line and wide receiver group are the two main areas of need. With the current NFL free agent options at wide receiver and the extremely deep draft class the Dolphins are in a great place. The offensive line received a potential unexpected boost via the recent trade for Isaiah Wilson, a former first round pick for the Titans in 2020. Wilson had some off-the-field issues in Tennessee and only played four snaps all year, so the writing was on the wall. Considering the Dolphins just gave up a seventh round pick, this is a win-win situation for them. Defensively, Miami had a tremendous turnaround from 2019 to 2020 as they improved from the 32nd ranked defense in points allowed to 5th. The recent release of Kyle Van Noy has put a bit of an emphasis on linebacker help but offensive needs and surrounding Tagovailoa with talent takes precedent. Free agency will have its role to play but for now, let’s focus on the candidates the Dolphins will likely target in the draft.
1.03 – DeVonta Smith, Wide Receiver Alabama
So many options, wide receiver and then offensive lineman or offensive lineman and then wide receiver? At this point, this is the biggest draft question Miami has to answer. And while it’s a tough situation, it’s also a good problem to have because all the available options are extraordinary. While DeVonta Smith might not be considered the best overall receiver in this draft class by some, he’s not far behind. He does have the benefit of having played with Tagovailoa in Alabama which becomes the deciding factor here. We have seen flashes from Tagovailoa so reuniting him with one of his favorite college targets just makes too much sense. If receiver isn’t the pick here, then offensive tackles Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater would both be excellent choices as they project to be day one starters. The third – and probably most intriguing option for Miami – would be to trade down a few spots with a quarterback-needy team. If Miami can do this and load up on even more draft picks, they would be the run-away winners of the first round as they could still afford to get a Slater or Smith type of player later on in the top 10.
1.18 – Alijah Vera-Tucker, Offensive Lineman USC
Having gone receiver with their first pick, the Dolphins will likely next address the offensive line. Even with Wilson, the Dolphins can’t rest on their laurels and should instead continue to make the line a point of strength. The great thing about Alijah Vera-Tucker is that after Slater he is probably the most versatile offensive lineman in the entire draft as he can play tackle or guard. This type of flexibility would be key for the Dolphins as last year, per PFF’s final 2020 offensive line rankings, Miami had the 28th worst unit. However, the group is still relatively young and has much room for improvement with massive upside. A turnaround could occur rather quickly with the addition of Vera-Tucker.
Miami Can Do No Wrong
The Dolphins are positioned well heading into the 2021 draft, and on paper, it is seemingly impossible to screw it up. With quarterbacks likely to be the first two picks in April, the Dolphins will set the tone for the remainder of the draft. Miami also benefits because the two positional groups they need the most help with, receiver and offensive line, are also arguably the two deepest in the draft. Translation – the future is bright in Miami and this draft could mark the start of their ascension to NFL elites.
Make sure to keep up with other articles, Quick Shots, and podcasts coming from the Fantasy Intervention team as we get closer to the NFL Draft and follow me on Twitter @AllDayPigskin.
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