The Miami Dolphins have added wide receiver Will Fuller to start alongside DeVante Parker as well as several solid players who will compete for starting or key rotational roles for the team this year. They head into the 2021 NFL Draft with some key needs still to be addressed and pieces the team needs to move from competing for a playoff spot to claiming one. In his latest 2021 NFL Mock Draft, Mel Kiper, Jr., looks to give Miami those pieces, as well as set them up for 2022.
Kiper has ended his ban on trades in mock drafts for this year, and he has Miami immediately moving back. The Dolphins hold the third-overall pick in this year’s selection process thanks to a 2019 trade with the Houston Texans. According to Kiper’s projection, they trade that pick to the Carolina Panthers for the eighth pick, as well as “what could be a 2022 first- or second-round pick (plus more considerations).” He continues, “Miami already owns four picks in the top 50 — including the Texans’ first- and second-round picks — and now it could add another premier pick (or multiple ones) in next year’s draft.”
Now holding the eighth pick, Miami uses the selection to add another wide receiver, Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle, to their roster. He explains of the pick, “Let’s go back-to-back Alabama wide receivers (DeVonta Smith to the Lions at number seven) and reunite Waddle with his former college quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Adding Will Fuller V in free agency shouldn’t put Miami out of the running for a wide receiver with its top pick; Fuller got only a one-year deal, and this team needs to add playmakers around Tagovailoa for 2021 and beyond. A top three of Fuller, Waddle and DeVante Parker would be one of the NFL’s best, and each of them could take the top off a defense. Waddle is the best deep threat in this stellar class. The Dolphins also could address their front seven here and use the No. 18 pick on a wideout.”
I think the pick makes sense as Miami likes to use multiple receiver fronts and create mismatches. If Miami looks at the top receivers, Waddle, Smith, and LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, as about equal, they could trade back and select whichever falls to them. It could be a ideal move.
That said, I have moved to thinking Florida tight end Kyle Pitts could be the best pick for the Dolphins. Pitts can be moved outside like a receiver, or play on the line. He could be a perfect pairing with Mike Gesicki, setting up Miami with a dynamic duo at tight end. Unfortunately, Kiper sees him coming off the board at five, landing with the Cincinnati Bengals. If Miami were to zero in on Pitts, a trade back could open up the possibility of losing him.
The other interesting piece to Kiper’s mock is the player who comes off the board with the ninth-overall selection, with the Minnesota Vikings moving up five spots to select Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell. A player largely considered the top talent in the draft, Sewell still sitting on the board at nine is a surprise. Could the Dolphins pass on picking him at eight?
Moving to Miami’s own pick , the 18th-overall selection, they do not have to look far to find their target. Kiper gives the Dolphins edge rusher Jaelan Phillips from the University of Miami. He explains, “When I look at this roster, I don’t see many holes. This team is going to contend for the AFC East title again next season. Since I gave Miami a wide receiver at No. 8, let’s address the pass rush with Phillips, a former five-star prospect who thrived in 2020 at Miami after transferring from UCLA. He had 5.5 sacks in his final three games, really catching the eyes of NFL scouts. If you’re talking about a pure pass-rusher, he might be the best in the entire 2021 class. He’ll need some time to become a complete edge defender, but he is going to get to the quarterback in a hurry.”
The selection of a top edge rusher makes sense for the Dolphins. They are thin at the position right now, and they could use the pick to pair with Andrew Van Ginkel as the team’s primary threats to opposing quarterbacks. I like this pick, though it probably would not be the one I would make in this projection. Alabama running back Najee Harris is still on the board (30th to the Buffalo Bills), and that would be a pick a lot of fans would support. Another name that could be considered is Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (23rd to the New York Jets). As Kiper explains in his write-up of the Jets’ pick, Owusu-Koramoah is a “sideline-to-sideline tackling machine.” Miami could use a player like that - like Zach Thomas - and Owusu-Koramoah could be that guy.
I would be happy with a Waddle/Phillips first round for the Dolphins, especially given the Dolphins have two second-round picks to use as well. Those first two picks set them up for a strong draft, with running back and offensive line likely the top two needs still to be addressed. How would you react to Kiper’s projection coming true?