The Miami Dolphins, led by general manager Chris Grier, went on an absolute rampage during the 2020 NFL draft a few days ago, leaving many of their fans, myself included, more excited and optimistic about the team’s future than they’ve been in, literally, decades.
Over the course of three days and seven rounds, the Dolphins identified and filled need after crying need, summoning a bumper crop of strong, fast hungry young players to South Florida, to participate in the team’s almost inevitable march back up the NFL mountain in pursuit of their return to competence, relevance and redemption.
In stark contrast to just two years ago, this is clearly an organization that knows what it’s doing, how they want to go about it and how to, ultimately, accomplish it. Although many in the press have painted the Dolphins as sort of bumbling and stumbling their way through the draft after their first pick like a modern day inspector Clouseau, nothing could be further from the truth. Every single move this off-season, whether in free agency, the draft or via trade, was conceived and executed tactically and strategically. It all started with the elaborate series of smoke screens and ink clouds they laid down in the months leading up to the draft, in their quest for the prized quarterback they knew they had to have to become a perennial playoff contender again. Sure, they tried to pry Joe Burrow away from Cincinnati, but that was always going to be a long shot anyway, and for all we know, that may very well have been part of the overall ruse to make other teams believe that it was Burrow, or no quarterback for Miami, to dissuade anyone from leapfrogging them to take Tua ahead of them. It was sort of like Clark Griswold — I mean, Adam Gase, on third and long, only in reverse. Whereas Gase would run the most obvious play, because it was so obvious that the defense wouldn’t be expecting it, but then stuffed it anyway, Grier and his staff put so much misinformation out there that it ended up being all but impossible for anyone to have any idea of what they were going to do.
Love him or hate him, Tua Tagovailoa is a rare player for any NFL team to be able to acquire. Here’s what I think is the most fascinating thing about him: did you know that although he’s a left handed quarterback, he was born, and therefore obviously remains, a right handed person? It’s only because his father taught him, at a very young age, to throw a football with his left hand that he’s a lefty QB today. Now, if that doesn’t convince you that this guy is one heck of a freak of nature, I don’t know what else would. A lot of baseball players bat both right and left handed, but when it comes throwing any kind of ball, you almost without exception throw with the same hand you write and sign your name with. So, there’s that. But we’ve already talked at length about Tagovailoa for months now; I’m here mostly to talk about the other players the Dolphins selected in this draft.
After the consensus top four offensive tackles were all pulled off the board within the first thirteen picks, the Dolphins turned to Southern Cal’s Austin Jackson to presumably man their left tackle spot on the offensive line. I loved the pick when it was announced, believed that he was downgraded more than he deserved to be after having been a bone marrow donor for his sister and, unlike many other years, have no reservations about taking the fifth rated tackle coming out, in year in which that was one of the strongest, deepest positions available. I think he starts week one.
Next, well . . . . you know, there’s not really much to say about what the Dolphins did with the thirtieth overall pick in round one. I mean, all they did was pass up all these other big name players at positions that they could have used to take . . . . just a guy who, five years from now, will probably be regarded as one of the top ten players to come out of this draft, that’s all; no big deal. Are you kidding me? Where in the heck did Noah Igbinoghene come from, and why didn’t I hear about him before last Thursday night? With that pick, Chris Grier probably just earned himself a ten year contract extension from Steve Ross. This guy is absolutely jaw dropping, and I’ll tell you why. First of all, not one, but both of his parents were Olympic track athletes. Olympic, as in, you know, among the fastest on the planet. Okay, you say, so he’s a fast guy, so are a lot of guys, and fast ‘track’ type guys usually don’t fare very well in football. Except, maybe when they hit harder than almost anyone else on the field. Most track athletes can’t handle the strength and physicality requirements of the NFL game, but I guarantee you, this kid can. Just watch a couple of his highlights, watch him run. I’m going to take some heat for saying this, but when I think I’m right, I don’t care how much heat I take — I have not seen an NFL player run as smoothly, fluidly or effortlessly as Noah Igbinoghene since Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice 20-25 years ago. And here’s the thing so many people miss about corners: sure, he’s raw as hell, but it doesn’t matter, because 90% of playing corner-back is athletic ability. I said on this site six years ago that the Dolphins had the worst corner-back unit in the game, and of course, I received heavy, heavy opposition at the time. Guys kept saying, ‘You’re not being patient enough (with Jamar Taylor, Will Davis, etc), they need time to develop . . .’, etc. Develop what? Listen, folks, either you can run step for step with 4.4 receiver for forty yards down the field, catch up to him after he throws you a double move and recover to break up the pass, or you cannot. Take the population of the entire world, and narrow it down to 1%. Now, take that 1% and divide it ten or twenty more times. That minuscule remaining sliver of humanity — 1/10th or 1/20th of 1%, represents the number of people on the planet who could even remotely be in the conversation to be invited to an NFL training camp to try out at corner-back. That’s how hard a position it is to play. This guy has talent and ability in truckloads, and he hits like a truck. Since the Dolphins will probably never let him get away, we’d better learn how to pronounce his name, and it’s actually really easy. Igbinoghene rhymes with mahogany, so just put an ‘Ig’ prefix in front of ‘mahogany’, and you’ll have an exact syllabic rhyme to his name. Let’s all say it together quickly, three times: Ig-mahogany, Ig-mahogany, Ig-mahogany, Igbinoghene, Igbinoghene, Igbinoghene. Hey, at least his name’s easier to pronounce than Donald Igwebuike’s. Igwebuike (Ig-way-BWEE-kay) was the placekicker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1985-89.
This Dolphins regime finally figured out what the Joe Philbert and Clark Griswold staffs and front offices could never seem to comprehend: that if you plan on blocking guys like Vince Wilfork, Pat Williams, Leonard Williams, Quinnen Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson, you have a better blocking scheme that isn’t ‘all zone, all the time’, and better players than guys like Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner and Daniel Kilgore with whom to block them. Miami let it be known early and often this year that they intended to get bigger, stronger and nastier along their front wall, and if they had to sacrifice some speed and quickness to accomplish that, so be it. Clearly, the Dolphins are tired of seeing their linemen being manhandled, rag dolled and pile driven into the backfield, and like that skinny kid in the back of the comic book who read Charles Atlas’ ad, they weren’t going to take it anymore. Nearly a century ago, Notre Dame’s football team had ‘The Four Horsemen’. In 2020, the Miami Dolphins have ‘The Four Plowhorses’ — Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt (second round, Louisiana-Lafayette) Solomon Kindley (fourth round, Georgia) and Ereck Flowers (former first rounder, signed in free agency). I look for all of them to see substantial playing time this season, and each should be a long term fixture on the Dolphins’ offensive line for the next several years.
Miami also added Alabama DT/NT Raekwon Davis later in the second, Texas safety Brandon Jones in the third, North Carolina defensive end Jason Strowbridge, Boise State speed rusher Curtis Weaver and former Niners running back Matt Breida (via trade) in the fifth, LSU long snapper Blake Ferguson in the sixth and Navy running back/wide receiver Malcolm Perry in the seventh.
In the final analysis, the Dolphins did more than just rock this draft, they annihilated it, usurped it and hijacked it. Our beloved team, which has been bullied for so long, looks increasingly like they plan on becoming bullies themselves. That’s the wrap for today, have a great week, everybody.