The Miami Dolphins’ 2019 season is complete, with the team performing better than just about anyone expected. It was not a pretty season by any definition - except maybe in the road win over the New England Patriots definition - but it was a necessary season for the Dolphins. The franchise tore off the bandaids they had been using to try to hide the broken foundation, allowing veterans to leave via trades or free agency in an effort to reset the salary cap and acquire draft picks.
The 2020 offseason should be a huge step forward for Miami. But, the 2019 season proved there are pieces of the roster who can become core pieces around which the 2020 roster can be built. Unfortunately, it also showed places where the team still has questions that need to be answered.
Who saw their stock rise over the 2019 season? Who saw it fall?
Stock up: DeVante Parker, wide receiver - The fifth-year wide receiver broke out this year, leading the team with 1,202 yards on a team-high 72 receptions and scoring a team-high nine touchdowns. He finally was healthy for an entire season, and he looked like a true number one wide receiver. Parker’s stock has never been as high as it is right now, even when the Dolphins used a first-round draft pick on him in 2015.
Stock down: Kalen Ballage, running back - It was simply an ugly season for Ballage. While the season-ending leg injury was not anything he could have avoided, Ballage’s 2019 was disappointing before it happened. Miami traded Kenyan Drake, in part because Kalen Ballage was expected to be able to breakout as a runner. The Dolphins released Mark Walton after another legal issue, knowing Ballage was ready to carry the load. Except, Ballage never turned into the player they needed. He finished the year with a team-high 74 carries, but only picked up 135 yards, giving him a miniscule 1.8 yards per carry. Ballage was expected to be the next starting running back for Miami, and he never lived up to those expectations.
Stock up: Mike Gesicki, tight end - Tight end is a tough transition from college to the NFL, and it took Gesicki a year-and-a-half or so to make that transition successfully. When it came together, however, Gesicki became a seam-threat, red-zone target type of player - exactly what Miami needs him to be. It will have to carry over into next season, as it is still too small a sample size to say for sure Gesicki is guaranteed to be a huge part of Miami’s future, but before this year, some fans were ready to declare him a bust, and now, he is a weapon for Miami’s offense.
Stock down: Josh Rosen, quarterback - Maybe Rosen is developing in practice and we just do not see it yet because practices are closed to the public for the most part, but it does not feel like the coaching staff trusts Rosen. Maybe he can carry on as the backup next year, either to a veteran or a rookie, but it feels like Rosen is far from being a starting option for the Dolphins. The Dolphins could look to move Rosen this offseason, potentially trying to flip him for a draft pick, or they could hold on to see if he can continue to develop - under yet another offensive coordinator - and hope they have a serviceable young player. Whatever the case, Rosen’s stock is not nearly as high as it was when the Arizona Cardinals selected him with the 10th overall pick in 2018 or when Miami traded for him last offseason.
Stock up: Brian Flores, head coach - One season does not make a great coach. Tony Sparano and Adam Gase both found Miami in the playoffs in their initial season, only to see everything fall apart shortly thereafter. The 2019 season was not a great season for the Dolphins, coming away with just a 5-11 season, but it was not supposed to be a great year. It was a reset year, but Flores turned it into something pretty decent. He kept the team together, he kept them fighting, and he kept the players developing. It was not perfect, and Flores made mistakes in his first season as a head coach, but he definitely at least looks like the right man to coach the Dolphins through the rebuild.
Stock down: Charles Harris, defensive end - Harris was expected to break out as the Dolphins moved him into a hybrid defensive end/linebacker role. Instead, he disappeared and did not do much throughout the year. He finished the year with 23 tackles and a half sack. There does not seem to be a major role for Miami’s 2017 first-round draft pick.
Stock up: Nik Needham, cornerback - An undrafted free agent, Needham worked his way up into a starting role for the Dolphins, in part because of injuries but in part because he played well. He had moments where he would be beaten or make a rookie mistake, but he had plays and games where he looked like a really strong cornerback. He probably falls back into a rotation/depth option next year, but there is no doubt that Needham has a role with the Dolphins heading into 2020.
Stock Up: Taco Charlton, defensive end - Injuries slowed Charlton some this year, and the Dolphins sidelined him near the end of the season for “game plan” reasons, but Charlton looks like a solid addition to Miami’s roster. Claimed off waivers when the Dallas Cowboys released him, Charlton led Miami with five sacks this season. That is not enough to consider him a force in pass rush for the team, but given Miami’s lack of a pass rush this year, Charlton was a needed piece. He has to learn to set the edge better against the run, but Charlton looks like he should be back with Miami and able to be a rotational pass rusher at a minimum.
Stock up: Raekwon McMillan, linebacker - Fans loved to hate on McMillan at the start of the year, but he quietly became a really solid run defender. While Jerome Baker wore the speakers in his helmet for play calling this year, McMillan was often the guy making sure players were aligned properly. He looked like the player Miami thought he was going to be as a rookie, before an ACL tear ended his first season on the opening kickoff of the preseason. He landed on IR at the end of the season, but he was playing well prior to that, and should pair with Baker as the primary linebackers throughout the next several years.
Stock up: Vince Biegel, linebacker - The Dolphins acquired Biegel as the throw-in player as part of the trade of Kiko Alonso to the New Orleans Saints. He then showed that, with playing time, he can be a factor in the defense. He finished the year with 57 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and an interception.
Stock up: Preston Williams, wide receiver - The Dolphins found another undrafted free agent gem with Williams, who looked like a perfect compliment to Parker and could establish himself as a number one receiver as well. He finished the year on injured reserve with an ACL tear, which could slow the start to his 2020 campaign, but Williams looks like he will be a factor in Miami’s passing attacks for years to come.