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2015 Dolphins Draft Picks
The Miami Dolphins kick off their 2021 season this Sunday against the New England Patriots. It has been a long offseason with intense anticipation to see if the visions of Chris Grier and Brian Flores unfold into a playoff-caliber performance from all of the young talent they assembled. Expectations and predictions for the team have been all over the map to say the least. Barring injuries, this group has some serious potential and could open a lot of eyes around the NFL community.
Tough Opening Schedule
The schedule is not easy by any means but lightens up a bit after mid-October. The first five opponents are playoff-worthy so Miami could find itself in an early hole if they lack focus. They close the season with an away game against Tennessee (definitely a Super Bowl contender) and hosting a tough Patriots squad. The one silver lining I see is that the Dolphins will have a weather advantage in several matchups. They do not play in any cold-weather stadiums (unless Nashville finds a cold front) during December/January and host tough opponents (Bills and Colts) in some potentially brutal Miami heat.
As much as everyone wants to talk about the saga of Tua Tagovailoa, the truth is that this team will live or die in the trenches. Miami's RPO offense requires opponents to fear the run so that the passing game can open up. I have my doubts and will elaborate in a bit. Miami's defense is stacked in the secondary and it would be disappointing if they were not an interception machine this season. But, you can't have interceptions without a solid pass rush and a stout running defense. Again, I have more questions than answers regarding the front seven setting the tone. Let's dig a bit deeper.
Offensive Line Needs to Continue to Grow
I have confidence in both right guard Robert Hunt and center Michael Dieter. Hunt has Pro Bowl talent, and quite frankly might be better at tackle. Dieter clawed his way up from draft bust status and looked good in the preseason. Jesse Davis is a serviceable right tackle who brings leadership value, but we've seen him underwhelm when the chips are down. Solomon Kindley was benched but capitalized when rookie Liam Eichenberg was bitten by the injury bug. As a collective, this group really offers more hope than substance. Then there is Austin Jackson. I'll be blunt, he had perhaps the most disappointing training camp and preseason of any player when factoring in expectations. Now he is on the COVID list and if I'm being truly honest, he could lose his starting role. Eichenberg played well at left tackle for Notre Dame and is more of the power guy Miami needs for the run game. They also acquired former 2nd Rounder Greg Little who supposedly has done well in practice. Flores wasn't afraid to bench Tua last year, and Kindley proved that even afterthoughts can earn a role when the opportunity presents itself. Don't shoot the messenger.
If you watched any of the preseason I don't think you came away saying that the starting offensive line opened up the ground game or kept Tua's jersey clean.
Defensive Front Seven
I have more faith in the defense's front seven but they are susceptible to giving up big chunks against opposing running backs. They looked better in rushing the passer this summer so hopefully, Miami will not have to lead the league in blitz packages again. I like the depth on the defensive line and would be comfortable with any of them as starters. Raekwon Davis has a chance to make a name for himself this year. Miami avoided splash signings so we best hope that Emmanuel Ogbah repeats last season's performance. Another guy who could break out is Andrew Van Ginkel. The depth at linebacker is concerning and we should pray Elandon Roberts doesn't get injured again. I don't see a replacement I'm comfortable with behind him. And of course, there is 1st Round pick Jaelan Phillips. If he lives up to the hype it would be a game-changer. He spent a lot of the summer getting healthy so I'm tempering expectations for the early portion of the season.
Tua, The Perfect RPO QB
So what happens if the offensive line is decent? Tua showed us much better QB play this summer. He truly is the perfect point guard for an RPO offense and has the weaponry to give him top 15 QB stats. Everything you wanted to see - accuracy, pocket presence, leadership - was on display throughout the summer. Was he perfect? No, but I'll take top 15 play from a second-year QB any day of the week. The weaponry is a perfect blend of size and speed if they can stay healthy, and yes, healthy is the key word. Devante Parker, Mike Gesicki, and Preston Williams should play huge roles in the red zone while both Will Fuller and top pick Jaylen Waddle can either take the top off the defense or open up the middle of the field by pulling defenders to the perimeter. I'm more confident in the receiving abilities and big gains from both Myles Gaskin and Savon Ahmed than I am from them getting tough yards. I'm a bit worried that Miami will find themselves in too many 3rd and long situations. I would have preferred rookie Gerrid Doaks as the power back but maybe Flores does not trust the kid just yet. Regardless of the concerns, this can be an exciting offense capable of 24+ points per game if the blocking holds up.
Secondary to Give Offenses Fits
Miami's secondary should give every opposing coach sleepless nights. I'm not kidding when I say they should be a turnover-producing machine. Xavien Howard is back and rookie Jevon Holland was perhaps the talk of training camp. Those guys are going to make plays. While Byron Jones will get hype as the perimeter corner, 3rd-year guy Nik Needham might steal the spotlight if continues coming up big in key situations. There is a reason Miami kept 12 defensive backs on the 53 man roster and their contributions hinge on the front seven putting opposing QBs into difficult situations. Just like the offense, it comes down to the trenches.
Special Teams Should Do Well
I won't say much about special teams other than I have no worries. Jason Sanders is among the best kickers in the game and returners Jakeem Grant and Jaylen Waddle offer insane speed. Short and sweet - they'll do well.
If Miami stays reasonably healthy they should be right in the thick of a wild card fight. 10 or 11 wins seem within reach when you consider they get the Jets x 2, Falcons, Texans, Jaguars, Brees-less Saints, and a young Panthers team. Challenging Buffalo for the division seems lofty but on paper, I don't see how the Patriots or Jets are better than the Dolphins. Should be an exciting season with far more big plays than we witnessed over the last two years.
I've accumulated about 13 "expert" grades for you to go over. The lowest grade was a B and the highest was an A. So, take these grades for what they are worth and it's to give us hope that maybe we are finally in good hands and may have something to finally be proud of since the 70s and 80s teams. Keep in mind that it is a proven opinion that you really do not know how successful a draft is until the third season, but I would still get excited for the future.Most analysts felt we "hit it out of the park".
As Phinfever blog writer, Rich Rodriguez, said this week ...
It's funny, these experts are usually giving us a C and the fans are super-excited. This year it seems the other other way around.
"The Dolphins addressed needs and provided playmakers for Tua. They got four 1st round quality guys in this draft" - Generic Draft Analyst
"The Dolphins didn't do exactly what I thought they should have done. Grier will be fired by the end of the year!!!" - Generic Dolphins Fan
As always, you can find all this information along with our draft picks and free agent acquisition on our Phinfever Draft Central page.
Draft Grade: A-
The Dolphins came into this draft with an extra first- and-second-round pick (added a valuable 2023 first-rounder) and had clear needs to fill. They had to get some receiving help for Tua Tagovailoa. They needed a young, talented pass-rusher to put into their edge-rushing rotation. And if they are going to move Robert Hunt to guard full-time, they had to draft a potential starter at offensive tackle.
That's why I like what general manager Chris Grier did. Tagovailoa struggled as a rookie last season, but there should be no way he averages 6.3 yards per attempt again in 2021. The addition of No. 5 overall pick Jaylen Waddle (and free-agent signing Will Fuller V) means he now has multiple playmakers to run after the catch and to target on deep balls. Waddle was the fifth-ranked player on my board. Jaelan Phillips (18) is a silky-smooth edge rusher with the physical traits to average 10 sacks per season. As I wrote Thursday night, he likely would have been a top-10 pick if he didn't have an injury history.
I really liked their Day 2 haul as well. Jevon Holland (36) will compete to start at free safety. Liam Eichenberg (42) has a good chance to be their Day 1 right tackle in place of Hunt; he was a three-year starter at left tackle for Notre Dame. Tight end Hunter Long (81) is an awesome player who will compete as a blocker and catch a few passes up the seam. He's one of my favorites in this class, and he's a nice complement for Mike Gesicki, who had 703 receiving yards last season.
Grier didn't have any picks in Rounds 4, 5 or 6, but seventh-round pick Larnel Coleman (231) has a chance to stick on the team as a swing tackle. I thought he might go in Round 5.
Looking at this roster, I don't think it's far away from being a Super Bowl contender, and the Dolphins hit their major needs. The other major bonus is that they ended up moving down three spots from No. 3 after some maneuvering and picked up that 2023 first-round pick. This is a stellar class overall, and the AFC East is going to be a fun race in 2021
Sporting News (TSN)
Draft picks: Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle, Miami EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Notre Dame OT Liam Eichenberg, Boston College TE Hunter Long, UMass OT Larnel Coelman, Cincinnati RB Gerrid Doaks
This was another great draft for Brian Flores and GM Chris Grier. Waddle keeps improving the big-play potential Around Tua Tagovailoa and Eichenberg should be his new starting right tackle. Long will help as a run blocker and additional receiver. Phillips will thrill Flores rushing the passer from several places in his front seven. Despite limited overall quantity, the quality was hard to beat with most key needs met.
I'm not sure there was a tougher team to pick a favorite for than the Dolphins. As I mentioned above, Miami's first five picks over the course of three rounds were all guys who I had ranked in my top 60. It was a masterful Thursday and Friday for general manager Chris Grier. But ultimately, I went with the Dolphins' first pick. I love DeVonta Smith, but if you are good with Waddle's medical reports, then Waddle has every bit of an argument as the better receiver in terms of NFL potential.
Waddle is the most elusive player in the class, with the lateral movement, explosion and vision to chew up turf after the catch and the deep-ball tracking and elite speed to make vertical plays downfield. Those are two areas where Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa excels. Tagovailoa likes to distribute the ball out of run-pass options and quick-game throws, but he also has the touch to hit deep. And I expect this duo to dominate in those areas. Need proof? Turn on the 2018-19 tape from Alabama, when Tagovailoa and Waddle connected for 48 catches, 798 yards and seven scores -- including 15 completions for at least 20 yards.
Miami edge rusher Jaelan Phillips and Boston College tight end Hunter Long also were under consideration. Phillips has a lot of power, long arms and versatility, while Long makes a ton of contested catches. I think Long could end up being a steal in Round 3; he is a complete player who has great hands and is tough after the catch.
CBS Sports (Pete Prisco)
Best pick: First-round receiver Jaylen Waddle will give them a Tyreek Hill-type of threat in the passing game. He was their guy as the top receiver on their board, and they got him.
Worst pick: I like second-round safety Jevon Holland, but I would have gone with Trevon Moehrig in that spot. Again, that's nitpicking.
The skinny: I love their draft. Chris Grier did a great job, starting with Waddle and adding a lot of quality players after that. The key will be how well edge Jaelen Phillips, their second first-round pick, shows up in the pass rush. Getting a right tackle in Liam Eichenberg was big, too.
Unreal draft for the Dolphins. Waddle, Phillips, Holland, and now Liam Eichenberg. Four surefire big time contributors, each of them can help right now. The Dolphins are incredible with their team building. Grier and Flores continue to crush it. Holland is a heat seeking missile safety.*
Miami picked four scouts’ darlings in the first three rounds: wideout Jaylen Waddle (six), edge-rusher Jaelan Phillips (18), tackle Liam Eichenberg (42) and tight end Hunter Long (81). If Tua can play, this team’s going to be dangerous.
Pro Football Focus
Day 1: Like the Bengals, the Dolphins reunite their starting quarterback with a former wide receiver teammate. Jaylen Waddle arrives in Miami with experience catching passes from Tua Tagovailoa. He is an explosive play waiting to happen, whether it’s on a bubble screen or a post route. He is the elite burner receiver of the entire draft class and rounds out the Dolphins’ receiving corps.
Jaelan Phillips boasts the best production of any edge rusher in this class, and if medical concerns weren’t a factor, he could have come off the board much earlier. He recorded 42 quarterback pressures on 542 snaps last season for Miami but has already had to walk away from the game once due to concussion issues. As a result, he has less than 1,000 career college snaps to his name. There are concerns, but Miami is playing with house money with all of their draft capital and can afford to take that kind of gamble.
Day 2: Miami makes Jevon Holland the first safety off the board, shocking many who had TCU’s Trevon Moehrig projected as a sure-fire first-rounder. Holland, who can also play cornerback, was an excellent coverage player for Oregon over two high-level seasons of play. Miami needs help at safety after stacking their cornerback depth chart over the past year, and this goes a long way toward achieving that.
One of the top tackles in the country, Liam Eichenberg might not be quite as spectacular a prospect as some of the other players at his position, but he improved significantly in PFF grade every season of his college career, culminating in an 89.9 overall mark in 2020. Eichenberg didn’t surrender a sack in either of the past two seasons, and he gives the Dolphins some real competition at a position they’ve already invested significantly in without seeing clear and certain results yet.
Even with Mike Gesicki on the roster, Long fills the need for a true inline tight end. He was a volume target at Boston College — head and shoulders the best receiving option for the Eagles over the last couple of seasons. He does a lot of different things at a very good level and can help in a few different roles, he just might not have the requisite athleticism to be a difference-maker.
Yahoo Sports (Eric Edholm)
The Dolphins’ 2020 draft had a safe feel to it. They went for fit and reached on a few picks. There were very few trades once the draft process was in motion. In 2021, however, Miami got aggressive up high. The Waddle and Phillips picks are swings for the fences. Phillips, in particular, carries big risk, but we get the upside if his character and medical evaluations were thoroughly vetted. Day 2 was more passive, and the picks were more conservative. Overall, Miami filled holes but might have left a few shells in the chamber in not grabbing one of the top four or five running backs.
USA Today (Nate Davis)
Did they get too cute with their circuitous route from No. 3 to No. 6? TBD. But this much is sure: Despite a sensible near-term commitment to help second-year QB Tua Tagovailoa, neither Pitts nor Chase is walking through that door. It will be a moot point if WR Jaylen Waddle, a teammate of Tagovailoa's at Alabama, becomes the second coming of Tyreek Hill, to whom he's been compared. And, collectively, first-round DE Jaelan Phillips, second-round S Jevon Holland and OT Liam Eichenberg and third-round TE Hunter Long could form a strong class. But the Fins' future considerations could have a hard time compensating for the immediate opportunity cost.
The Draft Network
Jaylen Waddle, Jaelan Phillips, Jevon Holland, and Liam Eichenberg were all top-five players at their position, with Phillips as EDGE1, Waddle as WR2, Holland as SAF2, and Eichenberg as OT5. This was a great draft for the ‘Phins.
Sports Illustrated (Conor Orr)
There were few of us out there who missed badly on projecting Miami’s first round based on their most glaring needs. Trading back into the top 10 almost locked them into a top wide receiver. Keeping the 18th pick almost guaranteed them an edge rusher. They did not disappoint. This will be a formative draft for Chris Grier and Brian Flores, who have already transformed the Dolphins into a relevant division power player but now have to shift the gear into a team dripping with playmaking talent good enough to consistently compete with Buffalo and New England. Their picks reflected as much; a mix of top-end skill and speed, with high risk-reward potential (Jaylen Waddle and Jaelan Phillips) and a handful of safer bets that should be able to contribute right away. Liam Eichenberg and Hunter Long will not be as frequently discussed but could serve as foundational blocks that, if they play up to their potential, will go a long way toward rounding out the operation. While much of the success of this team hangs in the balance of Tua Tagovailoa’s left arm, there is little else Miami could have done.