Miami’s approach to the running back position last offseason seemed logical, but it ultimately failed to produce a steady rushing attack for the Dolphins’ offense in 2020. Chris Grier and Brian Flores opted to sign veteran tailback Jordan Howard and trade a 4th round pick to the 49ers in exchange for Matt Breida. Howard was cut after Week 9 while Breida played in just 12 games, rushed for 254 yards, and failed to score a touchdown. Both additions were massive busts in Miami which forced 7th round pick Myles Gaskin and eventually UDFA Salvon Achmed to carry the load for much of the season. Gaskin had a fine season and could be a nice complementary piece, but the Dolphins must look to add a more dynamic playmaker in their backfield.
The Dolphins’ decisions regarding the position the last offseason may tell us something about the way they view and value running backs. The front office disregarded the position entirely throughout the draft as they passed on every opportunity to snag a young back. Could that mean it’s unlikely for this regime to use a first-round pick on a top RB prospect? Will they be a bit more gun shy when it comes to filling the position via free agency following the Howard miss?
Either way, Miami will need to address the position, and here are their options in the upcoming draft as well as impending free agents:
- Najee Harris
- Harris is a freakish talent at his position and will warrant first-round consideration. The Heisman winner out of ‘Bama stands out in this class as the most vicious runner available. However, to get him in Miami, it would likely cost them pick #18. Running backs in the first round have a mostly bad connotation, and considering Miami’s history at the position; we cannot be sure they’re going to be interested in the price tag here.
- Travis Ettiene
- Some scouts have Clemson’s Ettiene ranked as the number one back in this draft. He’s an explosive playmaker and will likely be one of the top-2 backs taken. He would be a welcome addition to the Dolphins, but this one comes down to the cost of acquisition.
Harris and Ettiene project as the most likely backs to go in the 1st. Of course, Miami will have plenty of options in later rounds, but we will focus on the marquee talent here.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) March 4, 2021
Impending Free Agents:
- Aaron Jones
- Jones is coming off an excellent campaign and will enter free agency as the consensus #1 back on the market. He will likely be departing from Green Bay with hopes of being a top-5 highest-paid RB in the league. He’s massively talented, but Miami is probably better off letting another team sign his checks.
- Kenyan Drake
- An old friend, Kenyan Drake, will hit free agency this off-season. He seems likely to return to Arizona, where Miami traded him. He’ll never have to buy his own drinks in Miami, though, thanks to his part in the Miami Miracle.
- Leonard Fournette
- SuperBowl Lenny will be hitting free agency this offseason. There were rumors that Miami may have had an interest in Fournette before his signing with Tampa Bay. He put together an effective season for the Bucs en route to a championship, but Miami can certainly do better than this.
- Chris Carson
- Carson is a very intriguing free agent. He fit very well in Seattle’s offense over the last 4 seasons and can be a thumper. He played in only 12 games in 2020 while compiling 681 yards and scoring 5 touchdowns on the ground. He would be a welcome addition in Miami, and he’d likely be of a lower cost than some of the other available backs.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) March 4, 2021
- Phillip Lindsay
- Phillip Lindsay may be one of the most overlooked running backs in the league. Regardless of his performance, the Broncos seemingly attempted to phase him out of their offense consistently. He spent time splitting carries with Royce Freeman for a while, and then Denver added Melvin Gordon to the mix. Lindsay ran for over 1,000 yards in 2018 and 2019, but he was relegated to a much smaller role following Gordon’s addition. In 2020, he saw only 118 carries and rushed for 502 yards. I would put Lindsay near the top of my wishlist this offseason as a potential value monster.
- Le’Veon Bell
- Following his release from the Jets, Bell was rumored that narrowed down his next destination to the Chiefs and the Dolphins. Obviously, he ended up joining Kansas City and taking a ride to the Super Bowl. He’s once again on the market, but his time as a highly effective back in this league may be over. The 29-year-old RB seems like someone the Dolphins should work hard to avoid.
Of course, the Dolphins will have many options in the draft beyond the first-round talents listed above. Still, it will be interesting to see how the front office addresses the position this offseason following a couple of swings-and-misses last year. Will they attempt to over-correct? How much do Flores/Grier value the position? Whichever way it unfolds, it must end in the Dolphins adding talented runners to their backfield.