During the first few weeks of the 2019 season, the Miami Dolphins seemed to be tasked with a long rebuild ahead of them. With Chris Grier as the general manager, he hired former Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores as the new head coach. Grier was hired as the general manager in 2016 after being the team’s director of college scouting. Behind Grier and Flores, the Dolphins underwent a massive makeover and culture shift.
The two orchestrated a massive trade that sent left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills to the Houston Texans. In exchange for the two starters, Miami got back two first-round picks, a second-round pick, Julie’n Davenport, and Johnson Bademosi. Along with that trade, Miami also traded for Vince Biegel, who had a solid 2019 season and had a starting role in 2020 before suffering a season-ending injury in training camp.
After a horrendous start to the 2019 campaign, the team rallied behind Flores to finish the season at 5-11. Miami entered the 2020 offseason with the most available cap space, and they were active in free agency. To pair with Xavien Howard, the Dolphins brought in Byron Jones. Flores continued to reshape the defense by adding Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Shaq Lawson to the front seven. Two additions were made to the offensive line by bringing in Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras.
The draft was the major prize of the offseason as Miami had three picks in the first round. With their first selection at fifth overall, the Dolphins took Tua Tagovailoa out of Alabama. Tagovailoa had been the reason that Miami was tanking according to the media for the majority of the year. Draft analysts questioned the Dolphins’ next two picks as they selected Austin Jackson and Noah Igbinoghene. Both were seen as reaches but have since proved those words wrong.
Days two and three of the draft proved to be the interior days for Miami. Of the eight picks they had remaining, six were spent on the offensive or defensive line. Robert Hunt, Solomon Kindley, and Blake Ferguson were all drafted to help out the offensive line. Meanwhile, Raekwon Davis, Jason Strowbridge, and Curtis Weaver were all brought in to provide a spark to a changing front-seven.
Continuing with the culture-shift, Grier sent Raekwon McMillan to the Raiders for a day-three pick. Later that same week, the Raiders sent Miami Lynn Bowden. Bowden has yet to find a role for the Dolphins but will likely see more playing time as he gets acclimated with the system.
New Faces See Plenty of Action
During Miami’s bye week, Flores announced that Tagovailoa would start the remainder of the season. This was met with bitterness as Ryan Fitzpatrick had led the team to a 3-3 start. Since then, the Dolphins have gone 3-0 and are now sitting at 6-3 with the playoffs firmly in sight. In three games and a drive against the New York Jets, Tagovailoa has been excellent. He has completed over 60 percent of his passes for 519 yards and five touchdowns. He has provided the offense a spark, even without Myles Gaskin and Matt Breida.
The offensive line, which was still seen as one of the worst in the league at the beginning of the year, has only allowed 14 sacks in nine games. Four of the five starters on the offensive line were acquired in the free agency period or draft. Both Jackson and Kindley are starting, and Hunt has gotten valuable snaps and could start at right tackle next year. Karras and Flowers have been great on the interior.
Defensively, Miami has five new starters in the front seven. The biggest of the additions has been Ogbah, who leads the team with seven sacks. Van Noy and Roberts are fourth and fifth in tackles, and Brandon Jones, who was another draft selection, has shown development already and could be a starter at one of the safety spots next year. Davis had a big game on Sunday against the Chargers, leading the team in tackles.
Playoffs or Bust?
Miami currently sits with a 6-3 record heading into Week 11. They are currently slated in the playoffs as the sixth seed if the season were to end today. They are chasing the Buffalo Bills, who are 7-3 in the AFC East. The Dolphins have a chance to be 9-3 midway through December with three winnable games in a row against Denver, the Jets, and Cincinnati. They follow those games up with a match against Kansas City before rounding the year out with games against New England, Las Vegas, and Buffalo. That Buffalo game in Week 17 could very well be for the AFC East title. Imagine saying the Dolphins would’ve been battling for a division title before the season started. Miami will likely finish the season 11-5 or 10-6 and earn a Wild Card spot.
Houston’s Draft Pick
Not only will Miami likely make the playoffs, but they will also have a top-10 and potentially top-five draft choice in April’s draft to go along with their selection in the 20s. The first-round choice the Dolphins got from the Texans as part of the Tunsil trade will be a high selection as Houston is currently 2-7. The Texans round out the season with two games against Indianapolis, as well as games against New England, Detroit, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Tennessee. Houston’s record will likely be 5-11 or worse, giving Miami a selection inside the top-10. It is almost a guarantee that the Texans pick will be between pick three and pick 10. So, what could Miami do with that selection?
This is the case where the Houston draft choice is in the top-five. With there being four quarterbacks in the top-10 conversation, this pick could be worth a fortune. Both New York teams, Jacksonville, Carolina, Washington, Chicago, and Minnesota, could all draft a quarterback in the first round. Depending on where this pick is and what team trades up, Miami could get that team’s first-round selection, a second-round choice, and a day-two selection in 2022 as well. They could also trade back up after trading down with as much draft capital as they have.
Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Parsons is the perfect fit in Miami’s defense. Flores love players that have a hybrid edge-rusher and linebacker build that could play in a variety of roles. Van Noy, Roberts, and Andrew Van Ginkel are all great examples of this that are already in Miami. Parsons is the best defensive player in the class and would immediately make an improving defense even better.
Take One of the Big-Three Receivers
The consensus is that the top three receivers in the 2021 class are Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, and Devonta Smith. If Miami elects to get Tagovailoa a weapon, it has to be one of these three. Chase is similar to what the Dolphins already have with Preston Williams and Devante Parker, so the most likely choice could be Waddle. To make this even more of a perfect fit, Waddle, and Smith both went to Alabama and have played with Tagovailoa in the past.
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
This is in the case that Miami has a top-three pick from the Houston selection. Sewell is the second-best prospect in the class behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. Miami could very well be set at both tackle spots if they were to snag Sewell to pair with Jackson.
In this case, Miami’s pick would land in the low-to-mid ’20s. As of right now, the needs for the Dolphins are running back, wide receiver, right tackle, edge rusher, linebacker, and safety. Before trading down with Green Bay last year, Miami was said to have taken D’Andre Swift, so Travis Etienne could very well be the selection with this pick if the Dolphins don’t sign a running back in free agency. For receivers, Rashod Bateman and Rondale Moore could be selected in this range. Christian Darrisaw and Jalen Mayfield are the tackle prospects in the range currently during mock drafts if Miami goes this route instead of letting Hunt have a crack at the starting role.
For the edge rusher and linebacker spots, Gregory Rousseau, Kwity Paye, Joseph Ossai, Jayson Oweh, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and Dylan Moses could all be in contention here. The safety class doesn’t have a first-round prospect. Not only does Miami have two first-round picks, but they also have two second-round picks.
What Does the Future Hold?
The fact that Miami is already likely to be in the playoffs this year is astonishing. Grier and Flores have reshaped the culture and team and made Miami a scrappy, fun team to watch. With a draft choice likely in the top-10, Miami will continue their success. With Tagovailoa on his rookie deal and some playmakers and an aggressive defense forming, the Dolphins could be in the Super Bowl conversation as early as next year if they continue their progress. Miami’s average player age is 25 on the dot. With the average age so low, the Dolphins could stay as contenders for a long period of time. This team could be here to stay and very well could be the next dynasty if things fall into place.