The 2021 NFL Draft has ended, and like most fans, I’ve looked back at what the Miami Dolphins did, and during the draft, I like what they did, but after taking a couple of days, I love what the Dolphins accomplished in the draft. It wasn’t a perfect draft because there were some areas I thought they would address, like the center position or take a running back early. The Dolphins seemed to get good value with their picks. The draft is easy to grade now, but you can’t really grade a draft until a good 3 years after these players see the field.
The Dolphins started the draft by selecting Jaylen Waddle with the 6th pick in the draft. Waddle is the type of game-changing receiver this team needed. They don’t have any receivers that can make game-changing plays, like take a quick slant for a big play or take the top of the defense off. Waddle does all of those things. People compare him to Tyreek Hill, and I don’t want to make comparisons like that, but at Alabama, Waddle was a threat to score any time he touched the football period. He’s a playmaker, and that’s what the Dolphins needed. The Dolphins could have taken Waddle’s teammate Devonta Smith, but they obviously felt Waddle has more upside.
Some feel the Dolphins got too cute when they traded back from their original pick number 3 because, as it turns out, the Dolphins missed out on the top playmakers in the draft Kyle Pitts and Ja’Marr Chase. That might be true, but the Dolphins got a future two future 1st round picks and used one to move back up to secure a playmaker in Waddle. Time will tell if that was the right move, but Waddle will keep our fans on the edge of our seats as a receiver or kick returner. This move might mean the end of Jakeem Grant potentially.
The Dolphins’ second first-round choice was edge rusher, Jaelan Phillips. This draft didn’t have a strong edge rusher like Chase Young. It had a lot of guys with potential but had question marks. Phillips was considered a lot as the best edge rusher prospect in the draft with his size and athleticism. The Dolphins’ biggest need arguably was edge rusher. The Dolphins outside of Emmanuel Ogbah don’t have a consistent edge rusher to pressure the quarterback without blitzing. In the AFC East, you have to be able to put pressure on the quarterback with Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills if you will have any chance to overtake them. Phillips biggest question was his durability due to a concussion history that made him give up football briefly, but he came back and had a strong season and pro workout. The Dolphins got an up-close look at him playing at the University of Miami, so they did a lot of research on him. Phillips was considered a top 10 pick if it wasn’t for the concussions. Some say it was a wasted pick because Phillips might have been available in the 2nd round, but I highly doubt that cause teams in the ’20s were looking for pass rushers. In the NFL nowadays, edge rusher is a premium position with it being a passing league. The Dolphins could have easily taken running back Najee Harris, who fans wanted to take, but at pick, 18 with the way running backs are devalued, and edge rusher is a premium, I believe it was the right move. Plus, Harris has some wear and tear as the work horse back with Alabama. If Phillips becomes the pass rusher expected, watch out.
The Dolphins in the second round let the Denver Broncos overtake them to get running back Javonte Williams, who the Dolphins strongly considered. The thing is, if the Dolphins were that high on Williams, then why didn’t they try to trade up before the Broncos did? The Dolphins’ backup plan was safety Jevon Holland. I know safety wasn’t a needed position, but coach Brian Flores has been looking to upgrade the position. He tried to get Devin McCourty to come here from New England a year ago. The team has been getting by with Bobby McCain and Eric Rowe, both converted corners and doing a decent job, but Flores wants to get better. Rowe has been the best defender the team has had at covering tight ends in a while, and McCain is a good communicator in the back end. However, they both have their liabilities, especially in run support. Holland is an all-around player or, as coach Flores says, jack of all trades. He was the first safety to come off the board, and he was considered the top prospect at the beginning of the draft process. He can play the deep safety position, cover in the slot, is an excellent tackler in run support, and help special teams. This pick is more for down the road, I believe, unless Holland plays lights out in training camp, but that’s a lot to expect from a rookie. The Dolphins can have McCain and Rowe start while Holland works his way into the lineup; all 3 players can complement each other, as well as second-year safety Brandon Jones.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) May 3, 2021
The Dolphins then got aggressive and traded up to the 42nd pick to select offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg. He was considered a late first-round pick by many, and there was a run-on offensive lineman, so the Dolphins traded their extra 3rd round pick next year to the New York Giants to get him. He played left tackle at Notre Dame, so maybe he moves to right tackle, or if that doesn’t work out, move him inside to guard. That’s a coaching staff decision, but regardless there is no questioning his ability. After trading Erek Flowers, the Dolphins needed to add another young body inside to get stronger up front. It will be interesting how the offensive line plays out in training camp.
Then in the third round, the Dolphins surprised many people by picking a tight end in Hunter Long from Boston College. However, when you look at the grand scheme of things, it’s not a huge surprise because both Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe are both free agents after the season. I’m sure the Dolphins will try to resign Gesicki, but I’m not sure about Smythe. The thing I like about Long is that he is an all-around tight end who can block at the line of scrimmage and can catch passes downfield. Tight ends like that coming out of college are hard to find. He started primarily as a blocker at Boston College, but after a coaching change to a more wide-open attack, Long was able to showcase his talents as a receiver. I always told my friend Joe if there is one position I would like the Dolphins to find is a tight end that can block and be a legitimate threat in the passing game. The problem with that is in the college game, it’s more spread offenses, and coaches aren’t asking their tight ends to block a whole lot, and consequently, they come to the NFL and have to learn how to block. I love Gesicki as a receiver, but his blocking is awful. I think my 7-year-old daughter can block better than him. If Long can be an all-around tight end, this will be a great pick beyond this year.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) May 4, 2021
The Dolphins then didn’t have any picks until the 7th round and took developmental players in offensive tackle Larnel Coleman and running back Gerrid Doaks. Coleman can play both tackle positions but needs to be coached up to be a practice squad player and potentially become a swing tackle down the road if he develops. Coleman is the big back that can give you a short-yardage run but doesn’t have the big-play ability, so he will come in and compete for a roster spot.
No team’s draft is ever perfect, and there are things that teams do that leave us as fans scratching our heads, to say the least. I was puzzled by the fact the Dolphins traded out of the 5th round with the Pittsburgh Steelers for a 4th round pick in next year’s draft. I didn’t understand why not swap a pick in another round and a pick in next year’s draft? Maybe the Dolphins felt comfortable with their draft board that they decided to start stockpiling picks next year? The Dolphins also didn’t draft a running back early or go after a center; both positions of need coming into the draft. The Dolphins obviously didn’t feel the need to trade up for one of the top running backs in Harris, Williams, or Travis Etienne. The board probably fell where the Dolphins felt they liked Holland and Eichenberg more at their positions than tack a running back. Center is a position I felt the team should draft, but the players didn’t match up with their board. The Dolphins also must really like Matt Skura and Michael Deiter competing and feel they can hold down the position this year.
I really love what the Dolphins accomplished in this draft. They added more speed and athleticism on offense and defense and added more depth to the offensive line and secondary. Their top 4 picks were all considered to be potential first-round picks, and the Dolphins obviously had high grades on all of those players to the point where they didn’t feel the need to reach for a position of need. One of the reasons I’m very excited about the direction this team is going is because they are building through the draft. The other thing is the Dolphins seem to have the best scouting department for this team in a long time, probably not since when Jimmy Johnson was here in the late 1990s. There is a lot to be excited about with the young players the team is bringing in, and coach Flores and his staff are developing the players. Last year we saw a good jump from the 2nd year players, and we also saw some of the rookies get thrown into the fire and played well. I’m excited to see the kind of jump those players make in year two and see how this rookie class plays itself out. It’s an exciting time to be a Dolphins fan, and you have to love what the team added in this draft.