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An Outstanding Rookie Class Begins Its Ascent

NFL: Miami Dolphins-Training Camp Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Before we go any further, let’s get something straight right here, right now, today: the Miami Dolphins’ 2020 draft will almost certainly go down as the best in the team’s storied history. It almost has to, unless you want say that 1983, the year they selected Dan Marino, was better. The fact that this group of players had the misfortune of coming into the NFL during a year when all sorts of events have transpired, which has resulted in many fans steadfastly believing that there either won’t be a season at all, or if there is a season, it will stink, isn’t their fault. Regardless of the timing of when they arrived, this is, nonetheless, an amazingly talented group. Believe it or not, there will come a day in the not too distant future when we we’ll no longer be viewing these youngsters through the prism of misery, and only then will we be truly able to appreciate this rookie class for what it is.

The presumed starter at left tackle, Austin Jackson, has been a revelation these first few days of live action; at Saturday’s practice, he reportedly ripped the jersey right off the back of fellow rookie Raekwon Davis’ back. In case you’re wondering, the NFL banned ‘tear away’ jerseys, which were designed to allow offensive players to avoid being tackled, in 1979. Having just turned 21 two weeks ago, and still recovering from the after effects of bone marrow surgery, there is a perception that Jackson isn’t as strong as some other rookies and sort of a finesse player. Nothing could be further from the truth. Any time you’re talking about a guy who has 34 inch arms, and who pounded out 27 reps of 225 lbs. on the bench press, I guarantee you, he’s strong as hell. As for the idea that he’s more of a developmental player, because he was the fifth tackle selected, this was an exceedingly deep draft for offensive linemen, which is why Miami took three of them in the first four rounds. Jackson has three very highly coveted attributes that NFL scouts drool over: he’s very young, very talented and has tremendous upside. He’s also under contract through the 2024 season, or ostensibly, the 2025 season, if the gloom-and-doomers’ predictions come to pass.

Jackson may not even be the best offensive lineman in camp thus far; that distinction probably belongs to fourth rounder (111th overall) Georgia alumnus Solomon Kindley, who is making a credible argument to garner some significant playing time at right guard, if not win the position outright. One of those ‘phone booth’ type players, Kindley scares me a little bit, because I fear he’ll be vulnerable to stunts and blitzes up the middle by opposing linebackers and safeties, but if he can improve his foot quickness and overall technique, he could end up being a forth round steal. Even if he doesn’t do that, the Dolphins could still use him late in games when they have a lead, and want to mostly just run the ball to run out the clock. Like Jackson and Kindley, guard/tackle Robert Hunt, a high second round pick (39th overall), also figures to make his presence felt in the days and weeks ahead.

There are so many other guys who look like they’re destined for greatness; 30th overall pick Noah Igbinoghene has done nothing thus far to diminish my expectations that he’ll eventually be one of the top ten players to come out of this draft, and other players, like third round safety Brandon Jones, seventh round do everything player Malcolm Perry, who the team now has working at slot receiver, have made contributions, as well. Guys, I get it — you’re probably fed up with the whole COVID crisis, and I imagine that, like me, you hope the league will either get on with it already, or if they’re going to scrap the season, then scrap it, and stop leaving us twisting in the wind like Autumn leaves. As of today, it’s looking increasingly like there is, indeed, going to be an NFL season, and that they plan on starting as scheduled. I’ve never seen so much disinterest and general apathy about a sports franchise as I have about the Dolphins recently, but then again, we’ve never seen a year like this, either. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be excited about this year’s rookie class, because it may just be the best group the team the Dolphins have ever had in their history. That’s the wrap for today, have a great week, everybody.