Knock, knock. Hello? Hey, Chris Grier, it’s me, Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins and your boss. Umm, yeah... so, great job on acquiring all those draft picks in exchange for our former LT Laremy Tunsil, but can we talk about how you used those resources, especially our first round picks, in addition to our original draft picks, and discuss why the Dolphins are still searching for quality offensive linemen and other difference-makers at various other positions on the team? Great... I’ll be waiting in my office.
Okay, Chris, let’s start with the 2019 NFL Draft, shall we? We had the 13th overall pick in the first round and you selected DT Christian Wilkins. Now, Christian has been a solid, albeit not spectacular, player for us. Through two years, plus two games, he has 4.5 sacks and just 8 QB hits. Our run defense has been relatively poor all that time. However, you passed up a couple of really nice young defensive ends when you took Wilkins, as Brian Burns and Montez Sweat were both still on the board. Burns had 7.5 sacks as a rookie, 9 sacks in his sophomore season, and already has 2 sacks through two games this year. Sweat had 7 sacks as a rookie, 9 sacks his second year, and also has 2 sacks through two games this season. EDGE is a big need for this Dolphins team, so I wonder if grabbing either Burns or Sweat instead of Wilkins would have been a better decision.
You did get Michael Deiter in the 3rd round, Andrew Van Ginkel in the 5th round, and Myles Gaskin in the 7th round of that draft, so solid work there, but first round picks should be used for drafting superstars, and while we like Wilkins, there’s no question that he isn’t a superstar just yet in this league.
Moving on to the 2020 NFL Draft. We had three first round picks in this draft! That’s a ton of capital to turn the trajectory of this franchise around and have us competing for division titles, conference titles, and Super Bowl titles in the very near future as long as you hit on the picks. Unfortunately, it’s not looking so good for some of these selections.
Let’s start with the 5th overall pick and the selection of QB Tua Tagovailoa. Now, I like Tua. He is a good kid, with a very positive and upbeat attitude. He is a natural leader and his teammates love the guy. But he did have a very significant injury history when you drafted him, and that makes sense, because at 6’1” - if he stands on a stack of quarters - and 216 lbs, he is a bit undersized for the position. So far in his NFL career, he has flashed moments where you remember how good he was in college for the University of Alabama, but consistency has been an issue. I do believe he will end up being a quality starter in this league, but I look at what Justin Herbert is doing in Los Angeles and I do get a little jealous of his stat line. Over 4,300 yards last year, 33 touchdowns, and a 67% completion percentage? That’s looking mighty nice right about now. Let’s see how that decision pans out over the course of the next few seasons.
At pick 18 in the 2020 NFL Draft, we selected OT Austin Jackson after failing to move up for OT Tristan Wirfs. There’s no talking your way out of this one as Wirfs has been the far superior player so far, giving up just one sack through 20 total starts in 2020. Austin Jackson is on the verge of being benched here in Miami as his play has been a complete and total liability this season. He gave up 9 pressures last week against Buffalo.
IN ONE GAME.
That’s unacceptable. Jackson is on the fast track to bust status while Wirfs looks like an All-Pro waiting to happen.
But it gets worse. At pick number 30, many expected us to grab our future running back or at least someone who could make a major impact on game days. Well, we didn’t. Instead we took CB Noah Igbinoghene – a player who had only been playing the CB position for two years when he was drafted. Noah had a rough rookie season and has been a healthy scratch through the first two games in 2021. Instead of drafting Igbinoghene, we could have had the likes of Clyde Edwards-Helaire, D’Andre Swift, Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman Jr., Johnathan Taylor, Antoine Winfield Jr., ... and the list goes on.
So, of our three first round picks in 2020, two are looking like busts, while the jury is still out on our selection of Tua Tagovailoa. Not great, Chris. Not great.
The Robert Hunt and Raekwon Davis selections in the second round are looking like good picks, while the Solomon Kindley pick in the fourth round, a pick we gave up more draft capital to trade into, is looking like another poor decision on the offensive line front. What’s your deal with offensive line evaluation anyway?
Now, Chris, let’s take a look at our most recent draft – the 2021 NFL Draft. Once again, we had multiple selections in the first round of this one. We landed at pick 6 after a couple of trades and took WR Jaylen Waddle. It’s too early to tell how this will pan out, but Waddle looks electric when he gets the ball in his hands. Wouldn’t it be nice if our quarterbacks had some good protection so Waddle had time to get open a little deeper down the field though? Just saying.
At pick 18, we took EDGE Jaelan Phillips, another player with significant injury history, but a player who was a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks when he was healthy in college. Through two games this season, Phillips has no sacks and just 3 tackles, adding one QB hit. It’s far too early to grade these picks, so I won’t go too far into it, but I do wonder if adding another offensive lineman in Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater to shore up our tackle spot, and then coming back around and taking WR Rondale Moore – who has 11 receptions for 182 yards and a touchdown through two games this season – in the second round might have been the better way to go about this past year’s draft. But again, we’ll see how it plays out.
Well, Chris, so far I have a lot of questions about your performance as general manager over the past few seasons. Now, it’s time to get some answers through the play of the players you selected to change the future of this franchise. I’m willing to be patient to a certain extent, but if I don’t see some positive growth in the very near future, it’s going to be your job that’s on the line. Christian, Tua, Austin, Noah, Jaylen and Jaelan better all step up their games if you want to stick around sunny South Florida much longer. I just hope we didn’t miss our opportunity to add difference makers when we had all of those draft picks to burn.
We’ll revisit this conversation at the end of the season. Have a blessed day.