I know some of you will be stunned by this, but ESPN does not seem to be crazy about the Miami Dolphins 2020 roster. I will give you a second to pick up your jaw... Okay, have you gotten over that stunning statement? Here is why this out-of-the-blue revelation has come about today.
ESPN’s Mike Clay published an article this morning ranking the position groups for all 32 NFL teams. He broke rosters into the “10 key offensive and defensive positions,” then ranked them against each other. For the Dolphins, only one of groups managed to be ranked higher than 19. He also included some explanations for each group on the best, the shakiest, the on the rise, and the unit to watch team selections.
Starting at quarterback, he ranked Miami as the 24th best group, just behind the Buffalo Bills and just ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets. With no write up about the Dolphins here, how Clay weighed Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tua Tagovailoa, and Josh Rosen 24th in the league is not clear. Is it assumed Tagovailoa is starting and the ranking hurt by Miami playing an unproven rookie? Does Clay not think Fitzpatrick can continue to be Fitzmagic for another season? Throw in the 20th ranked New England Patriots, and none of the AFC East seems to be in a good position when it comes to quarterback.
At wide receiver - where Miami should be fun this season with DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, and Jakeem Grant likely leading the group - the Dolphins ranked 28th, a spot behind the Patriots, and two spots ahead of the Jets.
For the tight ends group, where Miami will look to continue the breakout that seemed to start the end of the year for Mike Gesicki, the Dolphins were ranked 19th, the highest ranking in the division. The Jets, at 20, were listed as the unit to watch, with Clay admitting, “Adam Gase’s offenses haven’t been particularly kind to the tight end position,” but stressing that with the resurrection of Ryan Griffin’s career last year and Chris Herndon’s return for 2020, the Jets could be a surprise tight end group. The Bills were ranked 24th and the Patriots 31st.
On the offensive line, there is not a lot of positivity for Miami’s rebuild, with the team falling all the way to 31st on the rankings, only ahead of the Bengals. New England is 9th on the list, while Buffalo is 16th and the Jets are 19th. The Dolphins offensive line is miles behind the division according to these rankings.
The interior defensive line is a little better, according to Clay, with the Dolphins ranking 24th. The Dolphins should see this ranking rise, though Clay does not mention them, as Christian Wilkins continues to develop in his second year, while Davon Godchaux continues to work in the middle in both a 3-4 and a 4-3 front. The Dolphins added Zach Sieler, Jason Strowbridge, and Raekwon Davis as young players who can provide rotation at the position The Jets are 15th, the Bills 22nd, and the Patriots are 29th to sum up the division.
At edge rusher, the Dolphins are actually pretty decently ranked, coming in at 19, despite the team having no pass rush last year. While the Bills are ahead of them at 16, the Dolphins’ could make an impression getting after the quarterback this year with Kyle Van Noy, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Jerome Baker all coming out of the linebacker position to get after the quarterback. The Patriots were 23rd while the Jets were 31st.
The “off-the-ball” linebackers did not rate well in Clay’s eyes, ranking 29th. Raekwon McMillan Elandon Roberts, Vince Biegel, and Kamu Grugier-Hill will all likely have roles in this group, though Clay does not seem to expect much from them. Buffalo was ranked eighth, with the Jets 22nd,and the Patriots 27th.
The cornerbacks group is the one area where the Dolphins rank among the league’s elite. The addition of Byron Jones to pair with Xavien Howard sets up Miami for success this year, with Clay ranking them fourth, behind the Los Angeles Chargers, New England Patriots, and the Baltimore Ravens. Clay listed the Dolphins as the unit “on the rise,” writing:
I could’ve gone several directions here (Eagles and Lions, for example), but no team invested more in the position than Miami during the offseason. Byron Jones has emerged as one of the game’s top corners since being converted to corner by Dallas in 2018. He joins fellow newcomer Noah Igbinoghene, whom Miami selected in the first round of April’s draft. The key here will be the health of Xavien Howard (24 career missed games), who, like Jones, is one of the league’s top-three highest-paid corners. Nik Needham was competent when thrown into No. 1 duties for most of last season and is the favorite for the No. 4 gig in 2020. The upside here is massive.
Do not expect the positive vibes for Miami to continue, though, as Clay ranks the safeties dead last in the league. With the 32nd ranking, Clay writes about them as the “shakiest” group:
Miami is loaded at cornerback, but the team still has a lot of work to do at safety. Former CBs Eric Rowe and Bobby McCain are back after forcing four turnovers on 1,524 snaps in Miami’s defensive backfield last season. Third-round rookie Brandon Jones, as well as journeymen Adrian Colbert, Steven Parker and Clayton Fejedelem, are among those competing for work.
Clay then uses all of the position group rankings to give an overall ranking for the league. He has the New Orleans Saints taking the top spot, with the Bills the top AFC East team at 18. The Patriots are 24th, while the Dolphins come in 29th and the Jets are last at 32. Of the Jets’ ranking, Clay writes, “A fifth consecutive losing season appears to be on the horizon for arguably the league’s worst team on paper.” Between Miami and the Jets are the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Washington Football Team.
Are the Dolphins destined to be the 29th best team in the NFL this year?