The 2020 NFL Draft is nine days away, which means we are reaching the apex of mock draft season. In his latest 2020 NFL Mock Draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper did a two-round projection, which means we have five Miami Dolphins picks to review. And, Kiper shook things up with the first pick for Miami.
In nearly ever mock draft, the Dolphins use the fifth-overall pick to select Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Kiper has the Dolphins instead using the first of their three first-round picks to select Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. He writes of the pick, “Here’s the first curveball of my new Mock Draft. As I wrote last week, there has been some buzz around Herbert to Miami, and it’s real. The 6-foot-6 signal-caller has a lot of supporters across the league, and they love his upside and traits. And Herbert doesn’t have the durability concerns that have a few teams worried about Tua Tagovailoa’s future. On my board, I have Tagovailoa higher, but this is about projecting what I believe teams will do. And two weeks from the start of Round 1, I’m leaning Herbert to Miami.”
That is a pick that will excite some of the Dolphins’ fan base, with many people not wanting the team to select Tagovailoa due to his health concerns, while it will disappoint some of the Dolphins’ fan base, with many people seeing Tagovailoa as Miami’s top draft target for over a year now. It is a weird position for the Dolphins, where they will have elation and frustration no matter who they select with the fifth pick.
Going back to the Kiper mock, with the 18th pick, he has Miami adding South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw. This is not a pick I have seen projected to the Dolphins, but it is one that could make a ton of sense. The Dolphins have a hybrid defense, with a lot of 3-4 scheme built into it. Adding a true nose tackle to the interior of the defensive line would be a huge benefit, but Kinlaw is not pigeon-holed into that role. He can slide out to play as a 3-4 defensive end or a 4-3 defensive tackle, which gives the team the flexibility to pair him with Christian Wilkins and Davon Godchaux. My top choice for this pick is Alabama safety Xavier McKinney or an offensive tackle, but McKinney came off the board with the 17th pick to the Dallas Cowboys, and looking offensive tackle later in the draft while adding Kinlaw here is not something I would argue.
Of the pick, Kiper explains, “The Dolphins addressed their defense in free agency, but it was one of the league’s worst units last season. Miami gave up 30.9 points per game and had just 23 sacks, which both ranked last in the NFL. So let’s continue to help this unit with Kinlaw, who is the best player left on my board. At 6-foot-5, 324 pounds, he could play some nose tackle or slide out to end in a 3-4 defense. With five picks in the first two rounds, the Dolphins can afford to take the best player available and not reach for needs.”
Kiper again has Miami looking defense with the 26th pick as they select Minnesota defensive back Antoine Winfield, Jr. He could fill the role Miami lost in the trade that brought them the 18th pick, but sent Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Winfield can play both cornerback and safety, adding him to a safety group that includes former cornerbacks Bobby McCain and Eric Rowe. The Dolphins could use both Winfield and McCain as the nickel cornerback while the other stays over the top as a centerfielder free safety, while Byron Jones and Xavien Howard work the boundaries.
Kiper writes, “Winfield is one of my favorite prospects in this class, a Swiss Army knife in the secondary who could play deep safety or slot corner. He had seven interceptions last season, and he’s not afraid to tackle, either. The only knock on him is size — he’s just 5-foot-9, which has contributed to injury questions. The last first-round defensive back under 5-foot-10? That would be Antoine Winfield Sr. 21 years ago, and he had a great career. This pick means the Dolphins’ first round is done with a safety, quarterback (Justin Herbert) and defensive tackle (Javon Kinlaw). Those are immediate upgrades.”
Miami comes back on the clock with the 39th pick, their first of the second round. Here Kiper has them adding to the offensive line, though he looks to the interior with Louisiana guard Robert Hunt rather than to the expected tackle upgrades. He explains the pick, saying, “This isn’t a great class for interior offensive linemen, but Hunt is one of my favorites. He just mauls defenders in the run game. He also has some versatility because he started games at left guard, left tackle and right tackle for the Ragin’ Cajuns. The Dolphins had the league’s worst rushing attack last season, and Hunt would help.”
Adding a top-flight guard is not completely out of the question for Miami this year, so Hunt could be a target. Miami added Ereck Flowers in free agency, while having 2019 third-round pick Michael Deiter, 2019 undrafted free agent Shaq Calhoun, and Danny Isidora, a 2017 fifth-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings for whom Miami traded last year only to have him land on injured reserve, all looking to claim starting positions. Adding Hunt likely gives Miami the starter oposite Flowers, while the others are looking to establish themselves as the primary depth options. If Miami adds a starting tackle at some point in the Draft, it adds current right tackle Jesse Davis to the starting guard conversation as well.
That does not happen with the 56th pick, however, as Kiper has Miami adding a wide receiver with the selection, picking USC’s Michael Pittman, Jr. He writes, “Let’s finish Miami’s five picks with a pass-catcher to help out Justin Herbert. Pittman has great hands and a 6-foot-4 frame, and his 4.52 40 at the combine was a great time for his size. He’s a smooth route runner who knows how to get open. The Dolphins got a breakout season from DeVante Parker in 2019 — and undrafted free agent Preston Williams impressed in eight games — but their depth chart for outside receivers is barren after that. And if you’re keeping score, that’s three offensive players and two defenders for the Dolphins in the first two rounds.”
I would have liked to see an edge rusher or offensive tackle here, but Pittman does give Miami a big-bodied receiver to groom and grow with Herbert. The wide receiver group does feel crowded here, however, with Parker and Williams (assuming he returns healthy from an ACL tear) as well as Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant, Allen Hurns, and Isaiah Ford likely all in contention for roster spots. The addition of Pittman could lead to Miami releasing Wilson, creating $9.5 million in salary cap savings, but it does not feel like wide receiver is as much of a need as some analysts seem to believe.
What are your thoughts on a Herbert-Kinlaw-Winfield first-round and a Hunt-Pittman second-round for Miami?