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A way, way, way too early Miami Dolphins 53-man roster and depth chart prediction

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

We have reached March. Normally, we would be wrapping up the NFL Scouting Combine right now, talking about how fast Prospect A ran or how much Prospect B could bench press. In Covidland, however, there was no Scouting Combine, so there seems to be a hole in our offseason coverage plans.

To fill that hole today, I decided to take a way, way too early look at the Miami Dolphins 2021 roster and try to build a 53-man depth chart for the season. With the free agency period set to begin in a couple weeks and the NFL Draft kicking off in April, there are obviously a lot of additions and subtractions to Miami’s roster still to come. Where I think a new name will be added to the roster, I will add in either “Free Agent” or “Draft” to fill out the 53 players.

Time for an exercise in futility. Time to predict the 2021 Miami Dolphins roster on March 1.
(Starters in italics.)

Quarterbacks (2)

Tua Tagovailoa
Free agent

Notes: Forget Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson at this point. I think this is still Tagovailoa’s team and will until proven wrong. Maybe I will be proven wrong, and the Dolphins front office has to do their job and discuss the possibilities, but I do not see them giving up on Tagovailoa after basically spending two years scouting and working to get him, then a year developing him, just to move on. I think they look to free agency to add a backup quarterback. A rookie could be selected in the middle rounds, but it feels like they would prefer a veteran to continue to mentor Tagovailoa and to be that solid player who can come in if needed. Reid Sinnett and Jake Rudock are depth options if they want to keep a third, but likely would again be practice squad players available for depth if and when needed.

Running backs (4)

Free agent/rookie
Myles Gaskin
Salvon Ahmed
Patrick Laird

Notes: The top of the position group is in question, with Miami having multiple options here. They are linked to Aaron Jones, which could be their move to find a feature back, or they could look at Najee Harris or Travis Etienne in the first round of the Draft. Any of those three would make sense for the team. They could also look to someone like Javonte Williams later in the draft, having him compete with Gaskin for the starting spot.

Offensive linemen (9)

Austin Jackson
Ereck Flowers
Free agent (likely Ted Karras re-sign)
Solomon Kindley
Robert Hunt
Michael Deiter
Jesse Davis
Durval Queiroz Neto

Notes: I think the Dolphins land a rookie offensive lineman this year, likely in the first three rounds, but where they select him and at what specific position is up in the air. They could go with a first-round tackle or they could look inside somewhere in rounds two or three. If they were to go grab someone like Penei Sewell with the third overall pick, he likely starts from day one, which pushes Robert Hunt into a guard position - I would think replacing Ereck Flowers. Re-signing Karras for the starting center position seems to be in their plans, but you could also see Deiter take over that role, opening the door to another rookie addition or a free agent signing. And, I am just going to add Durval Queiroz Neto onto the roster right now because they have spent two years transitioning him from defensive tackle to guard. He may be destined for the practice squad again, with a free agent or another rookie taking that roster spot, but again, this is a way, way too early depth chart prediction, so why not?

Tight ends (3)

Mike Gesicki
Durham Smythe
Adam Shaheen

Notes: Unless the team decides Kyle Pitts is a cannot miss prospect they have to have in the first round, there should not be a lot of change at the tight end position. Adding Pitts to the group would make this an amazing position for Miami, with Pitts and Gesicki able to serve as wide receivers or in-line tight ends and create mismatches.

Wide receivers (6)

Rookie/free agent
DeVante Parker
Albert Wilson
Preston Williams
Jakeem Grant

Notes: This is likely to be the position group with the most volatility this offseason. The team could look to the free-agent market to add a player like Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, or Curtis Samuel. Any of them could come in and either be the top receiver on the team, or a perfect complement to Parker. A top free-agent addition could take a receiver off the Dolphins’ planned targets for the third-overall pick, but it would not take it off the board as a need for the entire draft. If they do not sign a free agent, DeVonta Smith, Ja’Marr Chase, and Jaylen Waddle (plus Pitts) are all options with the third pick, or a pick after a trade back. With the 18th pick or a second-round choice, Miami could add another rookie, with players like Rashod Bateman, Amon-Ra St. Brown, or (one of my personal favorite options) Kadarious Toney. Albert Wilson, after opting out of last season due to COVID-19 concerns, adds another dynamic to the offense, even if there is a group of fans who think it is time to move on from him. Preston Williams is a question mark here. He still has a ton of potential, but injuries and some regression last year do not make him a lock for the roster this year. Jakeem Grant is falling further down the depth chart and could find himself on the wrong side, but I have him still here because of his return ability - assuming he cleanly catches the ball.

Defensive line (9)

Defensive ends:

Christian Wilkins
Emmanuel Ogbah
Edge Rookie
Zach Sieler
Jason Strowbridge

Nose tackles:

Free agent (likely Davon Godchaux re-sign)
Raekwon Davis
Benito Jones

Rookie nose tackle or defensive end

Notes: This is where the Dolphin’s amoeba defense makes it hard to exactly how the position group works. Christian Wilkins is a defensive tackle, but they list him as a defensive end because that is the role he fills in a 3-4 front, though you will see him playing inside as a 4-3 defensive tackle as well. Basically, this group could just be listed as defensive linemen, with only the nose tackle position the defined role. I do not think Miami looks to spend big on an edge rusher in free agency this year, instead looking to add another rookie to the group. I think they likely re-sign Davon Godchaux, though adding a free agent nose tackle could be an option. Raekwon Davis played well, but an experienced nose tackle to eat up the middle of the offensive line makes sense. The team likely adds either another nose tackle or a defensive end later in the draft to provide a rotational/depth option.

Linebackers (8)

Jerome Baker
Kyle Van Noy
Andrew Van Ginkel
Rookie / Re-signed Elandon Roberts
Shaq Lawson
Sam Eguavoen
Free agent

Notes: It feels like there are questions to be answered with the linebacker position, and the Dolphins could look multiple ways when it comes to the position group. A big need is to find a run-stopper. That could be a rookie selected fairly early in the Draft. I think a depth rookie is also added, and a free agent is signed, but I do not see it being an immediate starter, but rather a depth player who contributes on special teams. Baker, Van Noy, and Van Ginkel is a good core that just needs to have a piece added.

Cornerbacks (5)

Xavien Howard
Byron Jones
Bobby McCain
Noah Igbinoghene
Nik Needham

Notes: I do not see a lot of change to the cornerback position, though I do move McCain back from safety to nickel cornerback. That seems to be an area of need for Miami, but an need they can solve internally.

Safeties (4)

Eric Rowe
Brandon Jones
Clayton Fejedelem

Notes: What makes me feel like Miami could move McCain back to cornerback is the play of Jones last year. He can take over as a starter along side Rowe in Miami’s secondary, with Fejedelem serving as the primary backup. A rookie could be added to the position group, including potentially someone like Richie Grant who could make a play at a starting spot.

Kicker (1)

Jason Sanders

Notes: With the new contract signed, there is no doubt who Miami’s kicker is.

Punter (1)

Re-sign Matt Haack

Notes: I think Miami comes to an agreement to keep Haack in South Florida.

Long snapper (1)

Blake Ferguson

Notes: No reason to think Ferguson does not stay with the Dolphins.