With the NFL Combine wrapping up and free agency fast approaching, this offseason is just about in full swing for the Miami Dolphins. Chris Grier is a somewhat controversial figure within the community of Dolphins fans. Most fans seem to either love Grier’s moves or hate them.
When it comes to analyzing a general manager’s football philosophy, I go with the old adage “actions are worth a thousand words.” You can listen to countless interview questions on players and never really hear anything of substance, but once Chris Grier is on the clock at this year’s NFL Draft, he’ll tell you what he really thinks.
That leaves me with the following questions: which positions does Grier like and when does he like to select them?
It’s easy to look back and see where he’s focused, but I would rather get some concrete data going back to when he took over as General Manager for the Miami Dolphins. Let’s look at his three favorite positions since that time.
This will also look specifically at his draft selections in the top three rounds of the draft and I did this for two reasons. First, on day three of the draft (rounds four and up) your hit rate plumets-league wide. GM’s shouldn’t be graded harshly on these picks. Secondly, once you get to day three of the NFL draft teams will begin selecting (some) players to fill out their roster, rather than look for early contributors.
Position Group #1: Cornerback/Safety
It ended up being a four way tie at the top, so we’re combining two of those into one position group. Grier loves to build in the secondary and he’s had a lot of success in doing so.
Hits: Xavien Howard, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Brandon Jones, Jevon Holland.
Misses: Cordrea Tankersley, Noah Igbinoghene.
Bottom Line: The Dolphins unfortunately traded away Fitzpatrick, but I count two all-pro caliber players and one that could make that step this upcoming season (Holland). What’s even more impressive is that two of them came outside of the first round. If Grier needs a feather to stick in his cap, this is it.
Position Group #2: Offensive Line
This is again an instance where I’m combining two position groups (offensive tackle and interior offensive line). I did this because players like Robert Hunt and Liam Eichenberg were college tackles that eventually converted to interior players (and were recruited as players that could make that switch). It also better highlights his team building philosophy.
Hits: Laremy Tunsil, Robert Hunt,
Misses: Michael Deiter, Austin Jackson, Liam Eichenberg.
Bottom Line: It doesn’t feel fair writing off Jackson and Eichenberg at this point, but if I have to pick between a hit or a miss... so far they’ve been misses. If they come out and have strong 2023 seasons, that judgement would be reversed. It also isn’t unprecedented for offensive lineman to take a few years to develop.
Jackson is the most damning of the three because of where he was drafted. When you take someone in the top-20 you expect them to be positive contributors to your club and he just hasn’t consistently been that.... yet.
Tunsil... well, do I really need to comment on this? He may have been traded away, but that trade has helped to make them a more relevant franchise again.
Position Group #3: Linebacker
We’re talking off-ball linebacker here-not pass rusher. It was surprising to me as well, but he’s taken three off-ball linebackers in the first three rounds since 2016-which is tied for the most out of any (specific) position group.
Hits: Jerome Baker.
Misses: Raekwon McMillan.
Idk: Channing Tindall.
Bottom Line: I just couldn’t bring myself to mark Tindall as a “miss.” He hasn’t gotten an opportunity to show what he can do in a game setting. The reality is that he was a raw prospect with elite traits. He didn’t start regularly until his final season at Georgia but had a level of burst and athleticism rarely seen at his position.
In my opinion, Baker has been playing out of position since the day that Flores took over as head coach in Miami. His rookie season, he played 70% of his snaps from an outside linebacker position or in the slot. During that same season, 75% of his coverage snaps came in zone and he had a really strong rookie campaign.
In 2022 he played almost half of his defensive snaps from an inside linebacker role and was forced to play man coverage on 38% of his coverage snaps. He’s grown into the position and improved year over year, but I think he’ll flourish in this new scheme. (Snap Location Data is per PFF)
It’s obvious that Grier’s plan was to build the offensive line and secondary through the draft. He’s had a few hits, and a few misses. He’s also been forced to bring in some high-price free agents in the past to augment each group (Terron Armstead, Byron Jones). The secondary was the team’s strength from 2020-2021, while the offensive line has consistently lagged behind.
Whether you’re pro or anti Grier comes down to what you focus on- the hits or the misses. The 2022 draft class hasn’t shown much yet, so it will important for Grier to find some early contributors in the 2023 class.