With the primary focus of the Dolphins’ draft being on one of the high-profile quarterbacks, the running back position is something that hasn’t received perhaps quite the attention that it deserves - or at least among a good portion of the fan base on social media. Given the roster, there’s little doubt the Dolphins’ front office will be looking to bolster the position in the draft or free agency.
I’ve gone on record early that I don’t believe a running back should be drafted in the first round, unless it’s by a team that’s on the cusp of competing for a Super Bowl, which the Dolphins are certainly not right now. Running back is not a position that’s as hard to find impact players as others. With left tackles, pass rushers, rangy LBs that can hold up against the run and cover the TE, and shutdown corners, you don’t find these guys on the scrap heap. They’re rare and are guys you have to spend a high draft pick or shell out a pretty penny in free agency to land.
Conversely, at running back, there are plenty of examples of guys that were out of work or shuffled from team to team who got a shot and made an impact. Look no further than former Dolphins Damien Williams and Raheem Mostert in the Super Bowl.
Now, there are guys who are dynamic and make a major impact beyond running the ball, like Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, and Saquon Barkley. What those guys do in the passing game adds another dimension to their respective offenses. Obviously, there are also backs who are far superior runners than replacement-level players. Take Dalvin Cook, whose absence was obvious when guys like Ameer Abdullah and Mike Boone were forced to try to pick up the load, and mostly failed. Those are the kind of difference makers who warrant a longer look than others - and certainly a higher pick.
Are there any of those types of difference makers in this draft, and if so, what round/pick would you be willing to invest in such a player? As with anything, it’s about the value available at the pick, both with who’s on the board at RB and other positions. It’s a Rubik’s Cube.
That said, there are backs in this draft that, if they’re there at certain rounds, I’m hoping they warrant serious consideration. We know the 5th pick is 100% not going to be a back. Almost certainly the same for the 18th. But at the 26th, what if a guy like Jonathan Taylor is still sitting there….or D’Andre Swift? They are the ones getting the most publicity, and the ones most likely to get their name called in the last half of the first round. Taylor’s 4.39 at the combine solidified his potential first-round status, while Swift’s 4.48 time was the icing on the cake for maybe the most complete back in the draft.
For me, even if those two are available at 26, I’m probably not biting, as long as there’s an impact pass rusher, corner, or offensive tackle on the board (addressing whichever position wasn’t at 18).
Where it gets interesting is in the second and third rounds, where there’s been some recent success with landing legitimate studs. Nick Chubb was taken in the second round of the 2018 draft, and Kamara, Kareem Hunt, and James Conner were all taken in the third round in 2017.
With the 39th pick, the Dolphins sit in a potentially strong position to cash in on a running back slide. The teams ahead of them are the Bengals (Joe Mixon), Colts (Marlon Mack), Lions (Kerryon Johnson), Giants (Barkley), Chargers (re-signed Austin Ekeler), and Panthers (McCaffrey). Maybe the Chargers take a look at RB to match with Ekeler with Melvin Gordon hitting the market, and possibly the Colts (although Mack is a worthy starter, so perhaps not), but I just don’t see any of the other teams taking one here, given what they have. Certainly, this depends on whether or not the Fins use a pick like the 39th, or even the 26th, to move up to the top 3 to get their QB, but if not, and if Swift or Taylor start to slide, things could start to get very interesting at the start of the second day. Either one of those guys would have excellent value at that spot, given both are first-round talents. If neither of them is available, J.K. Dobbins has all the tools to be a three-down, feature back and should absolutely be in the conversation. They would have to pull the trigger there, because I don’t see him sliding down to Miami’s next pick at 56.
At 56, a guy like LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire could be a great fit. His combine performance aside (which was not good), I love what the guy did last year, especially as a pass catcher (55 catches for 453 yards?!). Look no further than the Alabama game. He ran for 103 yards and 3 touchdowns and pulled in 9 catches for 77 yards and another touchdown. All the guy does is make plays, has great hands, and a good combination of power and speed.
In the third round, guys like Cam Akers or Zach Moss could be in play. Normally I prefer a running back with second-level speed and a little less pop over the opposite. Akers – who clocked a 4.47 40 at the combine and still runs with plenty of power – fits that bill. He also came on as a receiver last year, with his 30 catches nearly doubling his production from two years prior. However, Moss might be one of the most complete backs in this draft and is an intriguing player. It’s well-known that Moss is a punishing runner, but according to Pro Football Focus, Moss forced 87 missed tackles last year and had the third-highest broken tackle percentage of any running back in the past six years. That’s….yeah, wow. He’s also a polished receiver (28 catches for 355 yards in 2019). Physicality, hands, and elusiveness. That’s a really nice combination. And, as Josh Houtz noted in his Friday article, Miami has already requested a private workout with Moss, per USA Today’s Doug Farrar.
I think it would be a disappointment if Miami hasn’t addressed the running back position by this point, but where the Dolphins have flexibility is in the 5th round. They have three picks following trades with Arizona, Pittsburgh, and L.A., and are in prime position to snap up a sliding running back while addressing other areas. If a player like AJ Dillon falls into their laps in the fifth round, that could be a great value pick up while having addressed already a number of other glaring roster needs by then. Dillon had a day in Indy, leading combine RBs in vertical jump (40 inches) and broad jump (131 inches) with a 4.53 40 time.
As far as a late-draft flier, a guy I’d be giddy to see picked up would be former Hurricane DeeJay Dallas. Dallas was basically a third-down back who filled out into more of a 220-pound feature-style frame in his three years at UM. He’s also one of the best pass blockers in this draft, a skill that bore from necessity behind an abysmal Canes offensive line, and he also returned kickoffs and punts. Add in a physical running style, impact plays, and a strong love for the Miami area, and he’s a great fit.
With a rebuilding offensive line and a young franchise quarterback, having a running back that is sound in pass protection and can serve as an adept safety valve in the passing game would be very important for a team like Miami. There’s a reason Swift is considered by many to be the top back in this draft, and his high marks in these areas would make him the ideal back. Realistically, getting a guy like Edwards-Helaire or Moss on day two would be a fantastic fit as well, but really, any of these guys are going to be an upgrade over what Miami has now, so I can’t pick too many nits here.
What do you all think? Who do you hope Miami takes a hard look at in the draft, and when? Let’s hear it.