A Look at Recent Trends and Reflections
When it comes to draft variety, no one seems to love mixing it up more than the Miami Dolphins. Miami’s player selection has been a mixed bag. Casting a wide search leads to finding talent in places some teams wont even bother to look. By the same token, it puts less focus in areas quality players are more commonly found.
Teams such as New England and their head coach Bill Belichick have close relationships with collegiate head coaches and can get the inside track on players from those closest and the most knowledgeable to them. One example, Belichick communicates with University of Georgia’s head coach Kirby Smart regularly. Smart being one of the best talent evaluators of high school players in the country and his opinions are greatly valued by many.
In the past couple of drafts, Belichick has looked to the SEC, most notably several of Smart’s UGA players. He signed the undrafted David Andrews after the 2015 NFL Draft. Andrews has since gone on to become one of the best centers in the league finishing in the top two of Pro-Bowl voting his first season. In 2018, with the endorsement of Kirby Smart he drafted two more Bulldogs, Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel, in the first round.
In the past five seasons the Dolphins have selected eight BIG 10 players with a matching eight coming from the SEC as well. The PAC 12 and BIG 12 have combined for a total of nine of Miami’s draft selections in the same span.
Search Far and Wide
Miami selecting from 11 different conferences in the past five seasons means they have a wide search. Miami’s approach lead uncovering value overlooked by many. However, there’s something to be said for sticking to the big schools with more winning programs and players many consider to be more NFL ready. Comparatively, Miami with those eight SEC players in five seasons, has seen the Patriots select seven in just the past two seasons.
The Dolphins with a smattering of other conference school selections as well as independent colleges like Notre Dame have seen Miami look to their programs as well. This trend will need adjusting if Miami wants to continue to trend up in the ranks. Some of the most notable players from SEC schools who were Dolphin selections are Minkah Fitzpatrick and Kenyan Drake. Both who have since been traded from Miami but both proved to be solid players with incredible value.
Best Player Available vs Position Need Approach
To put it in perspective, Miami was ranked dead last in rushing in 2019. This after passing on Alabama’s Josh Jacobs who went just 11 spots later to the Oakland Raiders and rushed for almost 1,200 yards. In all fairness Miami wasn’t targeting a running back in the first round of the 2019 Draft. In hindsight maybe they should have. Especially if he was considered the best player on the board.
While on the board, NFL teams go one of two ways when drafting early. They either draft based off of a specific need or best player available. More often than not, the best player available isn’t what a team needs.
Miami should take the best player available approach in the first two rounds. The focus can then shift to “needs” in rounds 3 to 7. In all likelihood, great value can be found in those rounds in this year’s draft.. Typically in the larger SEC/BIG 12 type of programs with players that have less developmental needs.
Focusing on needs later in the draft might even be applicable to quarterback. In this year’s draft, there is no one guy that is a sure bet, the likes of a Marino or even Manning. Even with Burrow and Tagovailoa drawing so much attention from the teams picking in the top 5, they both come with many question marks from durability to consistency.
With a best player available mind set, Miami’s roster would’ve looked very different today. Passing on players such as Sony Michele, T.J. Watt, and Teddy Bridgewater in recent years, Miami is still searching for players at each of those positions in this year’s draft.
It’s clear Miami might need to make some changes to their approach to drafting and go big early and often.
Big players, big moves, big schools for big rewards!