In today's NFL, with players under contract for just four years, with an option for a fifth season for first rounders, it's more important than ever for teams to hit on their draft picks. Unlike Major League Baseball, in football, you can't just go out and essentially buy a title in the free agency market, although that hasn't stopped some teams from trying.
After turning in some godawful drafts throughout much of the past decade, the Miami Dolphins, at this juncture, appear to have selected a bumper crop of future stars in both 2015 and '16. Last year's draft, in particular, looks very impressive today. I believe that five or ten years from now, we'll look back on it as one of the all time great drafts in the organization's storied history, and a real turning point for this franchise. I've been a strident critic of the team's 'all offense, all the time' approach to the college draft over the past few seasons, but you know how you shut up critics like me? You do it by drafting good players that help the team win. The Dolphins have to feel pretty good about the players they selected in 2016.
The crown jewel of last year's rookie class, Laremy Tunsil, has been a stud from the first day he stepped on the field. After not allowing a sack his final season at Ole Miss, he went out and did exactly the same thing his first year in the league, at a different position, no less. This guy is going to be real, real good. If he stays healthy, Tunsil will eventually be a candidate for the Hall of Fame; you can count on it. If Miami scored a player in the middle of round one who probably should have been the very first guy picked, in round two, they came away with a player who also should have gone higher, in cornerback Xavien Howard. By the end of the season, Howard was the best corner on Miami's roster, which is a good thing, because the team didn't have much else at the position, other than an over the hill, overpaid Byron Maxwell. Maybe Maxwell bounces back this season, but if the Dolphins' front office was confident that he would do so, they wouldn't have taken another corner in the third round this year.
The two players I really want to talk about, though, were the team's third and sixth round selections, Alabama running back Kenyan Drake and Texas Tech wideout Jakeem Grant. Owing in equal parts to fellow Crimson Tide RB Derrick Henry, some untimely injuries and Nick Saban's reputation for wearing players down before they reach the NFL, Drake lasted until the third round. However, he has blazing speed, is slippery in the open field and is also a good receiver, making him a perfect fit for Adam Gase and Clyde Christensen's offense. He's one reason that the Dolphins were able to sweep both the Bills and Jets last season. His kickoff return for a touchdown against New York gave the team a come from behind victory and his 45-yard reverse field run against Buffalo was a big time play. Not the most patient running back you'll ever see, Drake charged into the line, knocked down both his starting right guard, Jermon Bushrod, and one of the Bills' DT's, turned back the other way and raced down the right sideline for the score.
But the Dolphins saved one of their best selections for the sixth round, 186 picks after the draft started two days earlier. Jakeem Grant is yet another future star in the making. When was the last time any NFL team had two rookies return a punt or kickoff for a touchdown in the same season? Like Drake, Grant had a special team touchdown last season, returning a punt for a score in a losing effort against Tennessee. Although scouts and fans alike have worried about the diminutive wideout's long term durability, Darren Sproles is about the same size as Grant, and 'Sprolehead' has been one of the league's best offensive and special teams weapons since 2005. The team has moved Grant out to the boundary this season, where he'll be better able to out quick the taller defensive backs he'll line up against there. Blessed with one of the best smiles you'll ever see, Grant always looks happy. He's like a kid playing on the playground out there, just having fun. Those are the kind of players other teams don't want to go up against because even if it's the playoffs, they never seem tense or uptight; you win with guys like that.
Finally, although I don't want to belabor the point, it has come to the attention of the editors that grammar and spelling have been an issue here recently. James tries his best to proofread everything as much as he can, but he can't catch everything, so it's up to us to get these things right. I believe Kevin's memo on this subject was only sent to the regular columnists, so I want to pass this on to everyone else. This is just one example, but I've seen it, literally dozens of times: what if I told you that there's a guy who helped save Dolphin fans from the stinging indignity of seeing the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl when Dan Marino was in the prime of his career? What if I also told you that literally, almost no one on this entire site, can seem to spell his name properly?
It was January 27th, 1991, in what will probably go down as the greatest Super Bowl ever played. The New York Giants defeated the Buffalo Bills when Bills placekicker Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining. The Bills boasted one of the most feared offenses this game has ever seen, and the Giants' starting quarterback, Phil Simms, was out with an injury, giving way to second string QB Jeff Hostetler. On paper, Buffalo should have blown the Giants out. New York, though, eked out a one point victory. You know how they did it? One of the main reasons is that the Giants had a defensive coordinator by the name of Bill Belichick. Belichick has been the head coach of the New England Patriots for eighteen seasons, but we cannot, for whatever reason, seem to spell his name right. I've seen probably five or six different versions of his name, all of them wrong, on this site. 'Bellicheck', Billicheck, ,'Bilicheck', 'Belechick' and on and on. We hate this guy's guts, mostly because he's probably going to be regarded as the best coach in league history when he's done, we've played against his teams nearly forty times since 2000, and after almost twenty years, we still can't spell his name? Guys, we're better than this. We have to be. With the recent success of the Dolphins and Jay Cutler's arrival, the team is going to become more prominent around the country. Accordingly, more people are going to be coming to The Phinsider, and this site is ultimately going to be judged by the actions of all of us. Our sponsors pay for us to remain in existence, and whether you're an actual columnist, a fan poster or someone who mostly just comments on the various discussions, every word, every character, every keystroke that gets entered, is out there forever, for all the world to see. Think about that. Let's go, Dolphins, win in L.A.