After a busy three days in the 2020 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins have added some key personnel to areas that definitely needed bolstering.
While any draft is a crapshoot that requires a few years to judge, the early returns offer some positive vibes for the Dolphins’ future.
In a number of cases, the Dolphins ended up choosing players who had dropped from their expected draft positions. Whether or not that means they’re getting greater value is something that also may take a while.
The Dolphins did enter the draft with specific needs. Below is an assessment of how well they succeeded.
Chief among the Dolphins’ needs was the selection of a quarterback for the future, which Chris Grier and Brian Flores did by rolling the dice with University of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
The pre-draft debate behind center had focused on Tagovailoa and University of Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, with Herbert seen as a safer pick.
That stemmed from Tagovailoa’s injury history, but the Dolphins are taking a long-term approach to the issue. That means making sure that he’s completely recovered from major hip surgery before throwing him into the NFL fires.
While Tagovailoa stands at just over six feet tall, he’s an athletic player, is accurate with his throws and has big-game experience that the Dolphins hope will be an intangible for the future.
The Dolphins are hoping that offensive tackle Austin Jackson, the 18th overall selection, continues the long legacy of outstanding tackles from the University of Southern California. That’s a list that includes players like Ron Yary, Anthony Munoz, Marvin Powell and Tony Boselli.
One thing about Jackson is that despite his 6-foot-6, 310-pound size, he can move off the ball. He’s still a work in progress, but it shouldn’t take too much development for him to move into a starting role after the disastrous performance of Miami’s line last year.
Second-rounder Robert Hunt has the size (6-foot-5, 322 pounds) to play tackle, he seems more likely to join free-agent acquisition Ereck Flowers at guard.
Hunt played at both positions in college and arrives in Miami with some questions concerning his footwork and whether he can make the jump from his past level of competition. Still, while he may not immediately start, he should make his mark in the next few years.
Fourth-round selection Solomon Kindley was a player the Dolphins traded up for in exchange for two fourth-round picks that had cost little to acquire.
The University of Georgia lineman is likely destined for guard, but needs to improve on his endurance. Playing in Miami, especially during the early season, requires some strong conditioning.
The Dolphins found a player that’s shown an ability to stop the run in defensive tackle Raekwon Davis from the University of Alabama. The hope is that he can develop some sort of pass rush ability to broaden his game.
One level of concern about Davis is that he wasn’t able to build on a strong freshman season with the Crimson Tide, but he still has the physical ability to help the Dolphins.
To help with edge rushing, the Dolphins selected two third-day players in the form of Jason Strowbridge from the University of North Carolina and Curtis Weaver from Boise State University.
Strowbridge could conceivably see time at defensive tackle, considering he stands 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds. He has a tendency to play out of control sometimes but could be a special teams asset, considering his kick-blocking ability.
Weaver was a player who seemingly dropped two or three rounds from original projections, which could give the Dolphins a potential steal if he pans out. At least in the early going, he’ll serve as a designated pass rusher.
The final first-rounder for the Dolphins is another tongue-twister in Noah Igbinoghene of Auburn University, who’s still developing at cornerback.
The good news is that the combination of his dedicated work ethic and genetics (both parents are former Olympians) should mesh well with the addition of free-agent signee Byron Jones.
The expectation was that safety would be where the Dolphins would focus first, but they waited until the third round to take Brandon Jones from the University of Texas. Jones has the speed to keep pace with opposing receivers, but he may be at a disadvantage when facing off against taller receivers.
Jones is a player who may start off on special teams, but the Dolphins’ sixth-round pick will definitely be a fixture on that squad. That’s Louisiana State University long-snapper Blake Ferguson, whose brother Reid handles those same duties for the Buffalo Bills.
One area that was expected to be addressed for the Dolphins was at running back, with the team adding a current NFL player through a trade with the San Francisco 49ers.
The Dolphins acquired Matt Breida, who played with the Niners for three years and was generally productive during his time on the field. He gives whoever Miami has behind center a passing option and comes at a relatively minimal cost.
This department was one that didn’t require a great deal of focus, which explains why the Dolphins waited until their final pick to choose a wideout.
That seventh-rounder, the 246th player taken overall, is Malcolm Perry from the United States Naval Academy. Perry has minimal experience as a slot receiver and played quarterback for the Midshipmen, which essentially meant serving as a running back.
Perry is a long shot to make the team, but this is another low-risk option that can benefit the Dolphins. How much he would help in 2020 is debatable, but it should be fascinating to watch.
The Final Grade
Trying to assess any team’s draft in quick fashion runs the risk of jumping the gun with either overeager enthusiasm or downbeat pessimism.
The Dolphins ended up making 11 draft picks and sending another pick to acquire an experienced player. The players chosen can help the team take steps toward the postseason, but none are finished products.
The biggest question is how long Tua Tagovailoa will need before he takes over the Dolphins offense.
Yet, most of the players offer enough promise that a fair grade in the immediate aftermath of the draft is to give the Dolphins a B. Whether that mark eventually rises to an A has every Dolphins fan keeping their fingers crossed.