The Miami Dolphins added 11 prospects during the 2020 NFL Draft, starting with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth-overall pick. They continued with another two picks in the first round, adding offensive tackle Austin Jackson and, following a trade back, cornerback Noah Igbinoghene, followed by two more picks in the second round, offensive tackle/guard Robert Hunt and defensive tackle Raekwon Davis.
In the third round, Miami picked up safety Brandon Jones. The fourth round saw Miami use their two late picks in the round to move into the middle of the round to select guard Solomon Kindley. Miami entered the fifth round with three picks, using the first to trade for running back Matt Breida from the San Franicsco 49ers before using the other two picks to add defensive lineman Jason Strowbridge and edge rusher Curtis Weaver. In the sixth round, Miami picked long snapper Blake Ferguson. The seventh round originally featured three picks for the Dolphins, but they used one as part of the trade up in the fifth round for Weaver and they used their last pick to acquire a 2021 sixth-round pick from the Seattle Seahawks. In between those two traded picks, Miami added Navy wide receiver/running back Malcolm Perry.
It was a busy three days for the Dolphins, who started with a league-high 14 picks, then added one in the first-round trade to get to 15 picks, then used those picks to make 11 selections and acquire Breida. The Dolphins did really well with this Draft, addressing needs and building the foundation of the roster, a performance that is reflected in the Draft grades around the web.
The Dolphins had a load of picks going into the draft, and they took a load of players. That started with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Whether or not this ends up being a good pick is dependent on Tagovailoa’s health. If he can play two healthy contracts for the Dolphins, he should give them the franchise quarterback play they haven’t had since Dan Marino.
Even before the Dolphins took Tagovailoa, they had to improve their offensive line. That’s what they did by grabbing Austin Jackson in the first round and Robert Hunt in the second. Jackson needs some developmental work, but he has the potential to be a good starting left tackle. Hunt is likely to move from right tackle to guard in the NFL. Solomon Kindley, a fourth-round pick, provides good depth at guard as well.
Of course, under head coach Brian Flores, the Dolphins took plenty of players on defense. Cornerback Noah Igbinoghene was a surprise first-round pick. Defensive lineman Raekwon Davis, taken in the second round, had some first-round buzz before the season. Defensive end Curtis Weaver was a steal in the fifth round.
Drafting a long snapper was strange. Especially so instead of getting a running back. Maybe Malcolm Perry from Navy will be that player.
With extra first-round selections from the trades of Minkah Fitzpatrick and Laremy Tunsil, the Dolphins came into this draft with three picks on Day 1 and two more in the second round. They had to get their quarterback of the future. I also thought they needed to get their blindside protector for their quarterback, along with help at running back, with those five picks.
That they ended up with Tua Tagovailoa (5) is outstanding. As I wrote on Thursday night, he’s an elite talent when he’s healthy, but his injury history is worrisome. I said on air Thursday that Miami should try to redshirt him, just to get his body right. It’s not as if the Dolphins are going to compete for a playoff spot. Tagovailoa is a pick for the long term, so they should wait it out and make sure he’s good to go.
Miami took its left tackle with its next pick, but Austin Jackson (18) is a little inconsistent for me. I can’t get over watching him get beaten by AJ Epenesa when USC played Iowa. He’s going to need some time. Cornerback Noah Igbinoghene is also a developmental player, but he has the raw physical tools that make coaches drool. The upside here is that as I mentioned, Miami can afford to take developmental players with priority picks, just because of where it is in its rebuild.
Guard Robert Hunt (39) is going to be an immediate upgrade, and safety Brandon Jones (70) has some versatility as a potential slot defender. I wasn’t as high on edge rushers Jason Strowbridge (154) and Curtis Weaver (164), but I don’t mind them in Round 5. This is a good class that is going to be remembered for how Tagovailoa ends up, but it could swing to a C or A based on the players picked after the left-handed signal-caller.
Miami needed a franchise quarterback and offensive line help coming into the draft — and they got both within the first 18 picks on Day 1. Add in a starting safety and run-stopper, and the Dolphins acquitted themselves well over the first three rounds.
Kindley is power incarnate but also has some mobility for his size (6-6, 337 pounds) — not unlike the guard they signed to a big free agent deal, Ereck Flowers. Strowbridge strengthens the outside of the defensive line. Trading a fifth-round pick for 49ers running back Matt Breida may turn out to be a really good move if the tough runner can stay healthy. Perry has the work ethic and athleticism to succeed in the backfield, as well. Weaver has always had the potential to be one of the best edge rushers in this draft class — if he takes care of business, watch him power past tackles to consistently get after quarterbacks.
Day 1: The fact that Miami didn’t have to move up from its fifth overall pick to secure Tua Tagovailoa is a huge win. Even with the injury, Tagovailoa was the second-best prospect on the PFF Big Board and QB2 over Justin Herbert by a mile. With his accuracy, pocket presence, ability to withstand pressure, decision-making and acumen for extending plays, Tagovailoa is every bit of a franchise quarterback. He was the only quarterback to post back-to-back elite PFF passing grades in the past two years. When your biggest con is that you played in with an elite supporting cast that had potentially four first-round wide receivers, you are clearly doing something right.
Austin Jackson was 94th on the PFF Big Board and was taken 18th overall. This was one of the biggest reaches we have seen in the first round of the draft. Jackson is going to be a project for Miami both technically and physically. His play strength was not that of a first-round pick. He got exposed by NFL-caliber edge rushers in college — when he went up against Julian Okwara, A.J. Epenesa and Bradlee Anae, Jackson gave up a combined eight pressures in those games.
While it wasn’t on the level of Jackson, taking Noah Igbinoghene in Round 1 was another reach on the Dolphins’ part. He was 55th on the PFF Big Board with poor ball skills and is still learning to play the position. That being said, this is a great fit for Igbinoghene. He played a great amount of press coverage in 2019 and has the athleticism and overall physical tools to develop into a solid corner, but you’re drafting on his potential at that point.
“Noah Igbinoghene is still learning the position and needs to improve his play at the catch point, but his match-and-mirror ability and deep speed are rare — he has special movement skills teams will covet early.” – PFF’s Austin Gayle prior to the 2020 NFL Draft
Day 2: Continuing on the trend of their two first-round picks, Day 2 was full of reaches once again for the Miami Dolphins. All three of their picks on Day 2 were picked over 50 spots ahead of their rank on the PFF Big Board.
Robert Hunt was a nasty run-blocker for Louisiana and owned a solid 86.0 grade in that facet of play. Miami general manager Chris Grier said he’ll compete for a starting job at both right tackle and right guard, but we believe the best thing for him is to kick inside. PFF’s Mike Renner actually thinks he has the size and power to be a future Pro Bowl guard. One of the concerns we had with Hunt — he slotted in at 89th on our board — was his out-of-control play style and the fact that he was barely tested in pass protection. And he did this all against relatively weak competition.
As for Raekwon Davis, he was just 115th on the PFF Big Board. He has all the length you could possibly want on the inside and is the definition of a run-stuffer, as he has put up run-defense grades of 87.0 or higher in each of the past three seasons. Run-stuffers along the interior don’t generate enough value to be taken this early on Day 2, though, and there isn’t much at all in the way of pass-rushing moves or quickness that leads you to believe he’ll ever be an impact player as a pass-rusher.
The biggest reach of them all, though, was taking Brandon Jones 70th overall — he was just 182nd on the PFF Big Board. Whenever he was playing free safety, Jones was a problem within the Texas defense, as he was exposed far more than he should have been. He might be a better option at slot corner than deep safety in Miami’s defense, which doesn’t help their need at the latter.
Day 3: Miami had some reaches on Day 2 but got incredible value on Day 3 with Curtis Weaver, who was the 26th-best prospect on the PFF Big Board and EDGE3. Weaver had great production in the past two years, posting pass-rushing grades above 92.0 in each and combining to form a win rate that was three percentage points higher than any edge rusher. Weaver may lack burst, but his elite power and bend make up for that. The Dolphins got a first-round talent in the fifth round.
The Dolphins get high marks for volume and sticking with Tagovailoa as their future franchise passer. After early stumbling reaches with Jackson, Igbinoghene and Hunt, Davis was their next best pick. Weaver can be a steal as he should have gone in the second round. Ferguson is a big boost to their special teams. But it’s strange how they addressed running back by trading for Breida to pair with Jordan Howard and not getting any wide receivers.
With four of this draft’s first 39 picks, this was a productive Step 2 in Miami’s multi-year rebuilding process. Step 1 was cleaning house and introducing a new coaching staff in 2019. Step 3 will be repeating Step 2, as the Dolphins have two first-rounders and two second-rounders in 2021.
At pick No. 5, the Tua Tagovailoa represents a perfect outcome for Stephen Ross’s team. 2019’s “Tanking for Tua” slogan proved false, but only because the Dolphins played so much better in the second half of the season and fell in the draft order. Tagovailoa’s late-season hip injury may have been a blessing in disguise, as none of the other QB-needy teams traded up to get him.
That hip is reportedly healed, and there is time for it to get even stronger as the Dolphins don’t need Tagovailoa to play right away. But it’d be a surprise if he’s not the starter come mid-November. The Dolphins are still in the early phases of a massive rebuild, and stopgap veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick can be counted on for at least a half-dozen of the type of head-scratching interceptions that get a quarterback benched.
Tagovailoa’s draft status also speaks to the expanding definition of an NFL quarterback. Ten years ago, a small-statured, good-but-not-great-armed QB would have never gone fifth overall. But football IQ, athleticism and intangibles have become even more valued at the position. Still, for Tagovailoa to succeed, the Dolphins must support him with a strong cast and crisply defined system. He projects to the NFL as more of a timing and rhythm passer than a Russell Wilson-style playmaker.
The Austin Jackson selection made sense, too. The Dolphins had just drafted a quarterback who must be protected. They had an extremely limited offensive line in 2019, and signing free agent left guard Ereck Flowers alone was not enough to change things in 2020. So, they used their next first-round pick on a left tackle. Jackson likely wasn’t atop their offensive tackle board (there were rumors that they were trying to trade for the No. 3 overall pick), but he is a long-bodied, flexible athlete who showed competitiveness at USC.
They also found a right tackle shortly after Jackson—another wise move. Miami entered this draft with glaring needs at both tackle spots, considering that young veterans Julie’n Davenport and Jesse Davis are both better suited for utility backup roles. Some had suggested Robert Hunt, who is a compact 6’5”, 323 with just 33.5-inch arm, might play guard in the NFL. But given that Ereck Flowers was just signed to a surprisingly expensive contract to play left guard, and Michael Deiter was drafted in the third round last year to play right guard, the plan at this point is likely for Hunt to be a right tackle.
Defensively, it was about finding players who fit head coach Brian Flores’s Patriots-style scheme. With just two years of cornerback experience, converted wide receiver Noah Igbinoghene is a gifted but raw prospect. The athleticism and competitiveness he showed at Auburn is mandatory in the man-to-man-intensive scheme that Miami is aggressively investing in. With pricey ex-Cowboy Byron Jones and pricey incumbent Xavien Howard on the roster, it’s possible the Dolphins plan on grooming Igbinoghene for a role in the slot. At 5’ 10”, 198 he has the measurables to play inside or outside. More likely, though, is the Dolphins just pounced on raw talent that they’d like to groom and figure they’ll decide on a long-term role later in the process.
Joining Igbinoghene in the secondary is the third-rounder Brandon Jones. Incumbents safeties. Adrian Colbert and Steven Parker were not bad down the stretch last season, but neither is a surefire starter (though Parker is young and worth monitoring). Expect Jones to get a long look in centerfield first and foremost.
Up front, Raekwon Davis is a somewhat less-heralded prospect, but he has potentially explosive trench-fighting traits and is built for the gritty, two-gap plugging tactics that Miami’s scheme often calls for on first and second down. Before the draft, the only real scheme fits in this sense on Miami’s roster were last year’s first-rounder Christian Wilkins and space-clogging nose tackle Davon Godchaux.
After months of letting everyone think they preferred another quarterback, the Dolphins were able to land the one they wanted all along without having to trade up for him. If Tua Tagovailoa stays healthy, he has Hall of Fame potential.
USC offensive tackle Austin Jackson was a slight reach at No. 18 overall, and Auburn corner Noah Igbinoghene was an unnecessary use of a first-rounder, considering what they’re already paying Xavien Howard and now Byron Jones.
Louisiana offensive lineman Robert Hunt was another slight reach early in the second (mostly because of the running backs that were still on the board), but Miami nailed the value on their next handful of picks. So many starting-caliber players added in the middle and late rounds here. Home-run class.
The Dolphins made the most of the draft assets amassed from last season’s roster dismantling. They made the bold move with their QB choice, taking the risk that Tua Tagovailoa will recover fully from last season’s hip injury to be a franchise centerpiece. That was a chance worth taking for a franchise that once passed on Drew Brees in free agency because of injury concerns. The Dolphins made six of the draft’s first 70 selections and split them evenly between offense and defense. They fortified Tagovailoa’s offensive line with T Austin Jackson and G/T Robert Hunt, and they strengthened the defense with CB Noah Igbinoghene, DT Raekwon Davis and S Brandon Jones. They also traded for 49ers RB Matt Breida.
Heading into the NFL Draft, there was serious speculation that the Dolphins would pass on the chance for their first franchise quarterback since Dan Marino. They pulled the trigger. The Dolphins played it pretty safe down the line, focusing on defense and getting Tua some offensive line help. There are definitely worse strategies for your new star quarterback with serious injury concerns.
The Dolphins moved up and down the board with very reasonable draft day trades, which made up for some iffy mid-round picks, but all eyes are at the top of the class… Tagovailoa fell into their laps with the Chargers sold on Justin Herbert at No. 6, and the Heisman runner-up is a worthwhile risk given the current state of the Miami organization. If healthy, Tagovailoa can be a Pro Bowl quarterback capable of picking apart defenses with above-average accuracy and mobility. Dr. David Chao believes Tagovailoa can play on his hip injury in 2020 and shouldn’t face arthritic problems until way later into his career… Jackson will need to develop — he’s only 20 years old and was inconsistent at USC — but he has 89th percentile athleticism and the size of NFL left tackles. He can iron out the wrinkles of his game while the Dolphins are rebuilding and has the upside to be a perennial Pro Bowler by the time they are contending for the playoffs… A similar story can be told about Igbinoghene, who has only played corner for a few seasons but has all the speed in the world. His 6.9 yards per target in coverage from last season is quite good for an inexperienced player defending SEC receivers. He’ll play in the slot to start his career… Once again, the Dolphins are betting on upside with Hunt. He was injured last season but showed NFL skills, athleticism, and size at Louisiana. They probably hope he can play right tackle. He may have to kick inside and play guard. That’s totally fine. Miami needed to invest assets into the offensive line with Tagovailoa headlining the class… Davis was an unproductive pass rusher at Alabama and had some off-field question marks, a combination that prevented me from ranking him inside my top-100. It was a big gamble to draft him at No. 56, but he should at least be playable against the run… Jones will compete for starting duties with the Dolphins hurting at safety, but he profiled as a low-end starter and special teamer to me despite being a highly productive tackler at Texas. His overaggressive style needs to be tamed, at least in pass coverage… Kindley was inconsistent at Georgia because of injuries but has the raw strength to compete for starting reps if healthy.
Talk about working from abundance. They made 11 picks, including Tua Tagovailoa at fifth overall. Protecting him with Austin Jackson later in the first was a predictable next step, then adding some more defensive pieces in the ensuing rounds also made sense. Serious question: Could the Dolphins be an 8-8 team this season? Don’t call us crazy.
All the smokescreens the Dolphins put up ahead of the draft allowed them to snatch their preferred quarterback without moving up. Durability concerns may follow Tagovailoa to the NFL, but his supreme talent and polish is well worth the risk. The rest of this class isn’t as exciting: Jackson is raw and has ways to go to develop into the star left tackle Laremy Tunsil was, while Igbinoghene lacks the ball skills that most top corners possess. Nobody selected on Day 2 or Day 3 screams “impact,” but with 11 selections, one of those darts is bound to hit. At the end of the day, the Dolphins got the quarterback they began setting their sights on over a year ago, and that makes this draft an automatic win.
Goals Entering the 2020 NFL Draft: The Dolphins obviously need to decide whom they want as their franchise quarterback and then build around him. Their offensive line is dreadful, so they need at least two new blockers. They also must find a new running back to pair with their franchise-signal caller. The defense must be addressed as well, particularly the weak pass rush.
2020 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Dolphins general manager Chris Grier won the ultimate game of draft chicken when he refused to trade up to No. 3 or 4 despite there being rumors that the Jaguars were attempting to do the very same thing. Grier remained at No. 5 and snatched the player the Dolphins wanted ever since they began tanking, Tua Tagovailoa.
Rebuilding is a two-year project by default because Tagovailoa probably won’t be able to play in 2020. Despite this, Miami still used two of its next three selections on offensive linemen Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt. Jackson was an underrated commodity because he struggled after donating bone marrow to his sister in 2019. Hunt is versatile and can upgrade at either right tackle or guard. And speaking of upgrades at guard, fourth-rounder Solomon Kindley could provide just that.
The Dolphins didn’t draft a running back, which was a surprise, but they traded for Matt Breida. The former 49er is a talented player, but has an extensive injury history. If he doesn’t pan out, the Dolphins can just use a 2021 choice on a replacement. Meanwhile, Miami added some defensive talent like Noah Igbinoghene, Raekwon Davis and Brandon Jones. The Davis pick was nice, but I think the Dolphins reached for the other two players.
Nevertheless, I like what the Dolphins did overall. They appear to have missed with some picks, but not surrendering anything for Tagovailoa and providing blocking for him is considered a win.
They had the stones to take Tagovailoa fifth overall, and this draft will largely be defined by the outcome of his career and its longevity given his medical concerns. Of course, the Fins’ abundance of of picks enabled them to roll the dice on Tagovailoa and others who arrive with significant questions, including first-round CB Noah Igbinoghene and second-round DT Raekwon Davis. The rampant boom-or-bust variables suggest a swing for the fences for an organization desperate to return to relevance. (Admittedly, Navy’s Malcolm Perry was a nice touch in Round 7.) But remains to be seen if they were better off retaining the services of Fitzpatrick and Tunsil, whose departures padded Miamis’s arsenal of picks but stunted forward progress.
Brian Flores was a busy man, starting with his pick of Tagovailoa at No. 5 overall. We may look back at that pick as one that changed the course of the Dolphins franchise, or we could look back at one of their biggest mistakes given Tua’s lengthy injury history. Jackson was a nice pick to follow up with as protection for Tua is a major need. The same can be said for Hunt. With Flores leading the way, it’s no surprise that defense was a major focus for Miami as well. Igbinoghene was a bit of a reach, but Davis and Weaver could turn out to be steals. Kindley was another excellent selection to protect the injury-prone QB. Drafting a long-snapper was weird, but whatever.