The Miami Dolphins have a unique opportunity in this year’s NFL Draft. For the second year in a row, they have multiple picks in each of the first two rounds. Hitting on these picks could transform the franchise, and that is what General Manager Chris Grier will aim to do. Last year, the focus was on getting a high quality quarterback and this Thursday, April 29, the team will turn its attention to building the offense around Tua Tagovailoa.
At the end of the season, the Dolphins owned their own picks, 18 and 50, as well as 3 and 36 via the Houston Texans. There was speculation back then over the Dolphins’ plans for the third overall pick, with many teams interested in trading up to get a quarterback. The Fins, never reluctant to entertain offers, off-loaded the pick to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for three first round picks, including the twelfth in this year’s draft.
But the Dolphins weren’t done. They moved back up to the sixth pick by trading away number 12 and their own first round choice next year.
As things stand, the Dolphins will now be selecting 6, 18, 36, and 50. What does all this mean? SFMN consulted three local Dolphins experts, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, Dave Hyde of the Sun Sentinel, and Greg Cote of the Miami Herald & The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz.
We asked the panel’s opinions on the best selections, team needs and free agency. Here is what they had to say.
- What positions do you think the Dolphins will prioritize with their first four picks?
Greg Cote: “The general priority should be offense and help for QB Tua Tagovailoa, whether that is a WR like Jaylen Waddle (Alabama), Jamarr Chase (LSU) or Devonta Smith (Alabama), or OT Penei Sewell (Oregon). A running back later in the draft would not surprise me. [I can] see them going defense with the second first-round pick.”
Adam Beasley: “Wide receiver, edge rusher, running back and safety.”
Dave Hyde: “They’ll get a receiver or two, a pass-rushing linebacker or defensive end and a running back.”
- Who do you see as the best potential draft selections for the Dolphins and why?
Greg Cote: “I am sensing the Dolphins may be leaning away from DeVonta Smith and toward Waddle. I see a WR going first, although Sewell would, or should, tempt mightily. Think the second pick (18th overall) might target D-line or edge rush. [I can] see Miami staying in the backyard with someone like Canes DE Jaelan Phillips.”
Adam Beasley: “Ja’Marr Chase (LSU), Kyle Pitts (Florida), DeVonta Smith (Alabama) and Jaylen Waddle (Alabama). The Dolphins were among the NFL’s least explosive offenses in 2020. Add one of these guys that big plays will follow.”
Dave Hyde: “Chase is considered a great receiver. But then two Alabama receivers, including Heisman winner DeVonta Smith, are up there too.”
- How do you think the Dolphins’ free agency signings have impacted their draft plans?
Greg Cote: “Not as much as they did last year, because Miami did not spend nearly as much. One of the team’s nice [acquisitions] in free agency is (former Houston Texans) WR Will Fuller, but, on a 1-year deal and with his injury history, that should not prevent Miami from top-drafting a wideout on April 29.”
Adam Beasley: “Very little, if at all. The Dolphins added some speed in Will Fuller and [former Washington Football Team receiver] Robert Foster, but they still don’t have a true No. 1 target for Tua Tagovailoa.”
Round 1, Pick 6: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
When the Dolphins held the third pick, they might’ve had their choice of receivers. Now sitting at the sixth pick, their choice will be heavily dependent on the teams selecting above them. Our panel of experts all named LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase as the best selection for the Fins. However, now the Cincinnati Bengals select in front of the Fins and look poised to reunite former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and Chase. With Chase presumably off the board, the team could look to the University of Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.
Pitts has been hailed as a generational talent. He helped his draft stock at his pro day, recording the longest wingspan of any receiver or tight end in the last 20 years. He also measured at nearly 6’6”, 245 pounds, and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds. This unique combination of size and speed makes him less of a traditional tight end and more of a hybrid between a tight end and a receiver.
Pitts posted very impressive stats for the Florida Gators, averaging 96 receiving yards a game and recording 12 touchdowns in 8 games. Although the Fins have a good tight end in Mike Gesicki, they often utilize multiple tight ends in their offensive scheme, allowing both to thrive. Pitts’ skillset leaves him as the best available, trumping any receiver aside from Chase.
Round 1, Pick 18: RB Najee Harris, Alabama
Last year, the Fins struggled running the ball. The team ranked in the bottom five in yards per carry. This was no surprise considering it hasn’t invested in the running back position in years. Last year’s backs, Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, were a seventh round pick and an undrafted player, respectively. All three experts expressed the need for a running back, and Alabama running back Najee Harris is the top prospect at the position.
Harris was a workhorse in the Alabama backfield, helping lead the team to a National Championship. Throughout the season, he showcased his versatility as a runner and a pass-catcher. At Alabama’s pro day, he ran receiver routes for quarterback and fellow draft prospect, Mac Jones, and impressed the scouts in attendance. Measuring 6’2” and weighing 229 pounds, his big frame helps him as a power runner and his team as an extra blocker. Harris and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa already have chemistry, having played together at Alabama for three seasons. Finding an every-down-back like Harris can help take the Fins offense to the next level.
Round 2, Pick 36: OLB Zaven Collins, Tulsa
The Dolphins traded linebacker Shaq Lawson to the Houston Texans this offseason. This created the need for help in the pass rush, which all of our experts highlighted as a team need. Tulsa outside linebacker Zaven Collins fits this mold. Pro Football Focus’ big board ranks Collins the 35th best prospect available. However, due to how deep the pass-rushing positions are in this draft, he should be available to the Dolphins.
Collins brings a mix of pass-rush and run stopping, allowing him to see the field in a multitude of situations. Despite playing only eight games due to a COVID-shortened season, he posted four sacks. He registered a 91.1 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, leading all college linebackers. He also excelled in zone coverage, recording four interceptions and two defensive touchdowns. The 3-4 scheme head coach Brian Flores utilizes for the Fins defense means any outside linebacker needs to be capable of playing in both rush-heavy and coverage plays.
Round 2, Pick 50: WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC
Any elite offense needs elite weapons. The Dolphins lacked those elite playmakers in their receiving core and also dealt with injuries at the position. Receivers DeVante Parker and Preston Williams were both hurt last season and Williams in particular has struggled to stay on the field, playing 16 games in two seasons. The team added receiver Will Fuller, who figures to be a significant part of the offense. This big signing shouldn’t stop the team from adding another receiver.
If the Dolphins add Kyle Pitts to the offense, they will look to draft a traditional wide receiver. With many of the top talents at the position projected to be off the board by this pick, USC wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown could be a good sleeper. He boasted a 1000-yard season in his sophomore year before injury limited his production last fall. In just six games this past season, he recorded seven touchdowns. St. Brown lines up as a slot receiver, which the Fins clearly need. His ability to line up in the slot, paired with good hands and speed will allow him to make an impact immediately on a Dolphins team that is retooling.
With just days until the draft, things can still change. Dolphins fans will be counting down and speculating. More information is sure to come as the draft edges closer. Stay tuned for more draft coverage.