The world knows the Tua Tagovailoa story now and how he was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft to end Miami’s search for the first franchise quarterback since Dan Marino.
The Dolphins, in the second year of the teams rebuild, orchestrated by general manager Chris Grier and lead by head coach Brian Flores, have solved many of Miami’s deficiencies. Miami improved by five wins in just one season, they missed the playoffs by just one game and Flores also took them from the worst team in opponent’s scoring to No. 6. In fact, the Dolphins hovered around the top two spots in this category coming down to the end of the season.
On the Right Track
Some improvements were made on the other side of the ball also. The Dolphins were last in total rushing yards in 2019, with the leading rusher that season being quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick — who’s not exactly what many consider a mobile quarterback. In the recent season, Miami got some production from their running backs. Accordingly, they improved from the worst rushing offense to the No. 22 in 2020. That improvement was marginal at best though and more is needed.
The good news is that the defense and special teams looked solid. And with four picks in the first two rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Dolphins can go all in to improve their offense this season.
While the Kansas City Chiefs had two players go for over 1,200 yards receiving, Miami’s leading receiver had less than 800 yards. Even with a great defense, teams can no longer compete with the best without a competent offense. This is where the Dolphins look to Alabama once again for hope.
You have to draft a special player with the No. 3 overall pick. The great thing is there is a special player available that fills a big need for the Dolphins. DeVonta Smith, Alabama’s wide receiver and this year’s Heisman would be a great addition to the Dolphins. Not only does he have a rapport with Tagovailoa, but he’s coming off of a college season in which he notched 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Six wide receivers were drafted in the first round in 2020, the highest of which was Henry Ruggs at No. 12 to the Raiders. By this comparison, some team will take Smith in the top 10. Miami should be the team that pulls the trigger.
Solving the Running Game
Last season, there was the slight possibility that Derrick Henry could be available and it was suggested that Miami should target him. The Tennessee Titans quickly sounded the alarm clock on that dream. 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns — Henry’s 2020 stat line — later, compared to the Dolphins leading rusher with only 584 yards and 3 touchdowns; Miami will once again be looking to upgrade the running back position.
The Dolphins opted not to invest a high draft pick in a running back last season. Miami looked to free agency and trades with the addition of Jordan Howard and Matt Breida. Howard was cut midseason and Breida fell down the depth chart behind Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed. Meanwhile, Miami saw teams that did draft running backs in the first three rounds get a return on their investments. Many of the running backs selected early — Clyde Edwards-Helair, Jonathan Taylor, J.K. Dobbins, to name a few — had significant contributions on playoff teams.
Again with the luxury of having multiple high draft picks, Miami can go against conventional wisdom and take a running back early. The interesting part is they can pull from a place from where they are getting quite familiar.
At 6-foot-2 inches and 230 pounds, the Dolphins have a chance to draft a guy that is just a shade smaller than Derrick Henry, that moves well and seems to have better hands. Najee Harris would be a day one starter in Miami and his presence would immediately elevate the play of the entire unit. Harris had back to back 1000+ yard seasons and is a factor in the passing game. Miami could even move down a few spots and potentially still get their guy.
If Miami is able to land either of these players in the draft, it would be a positive move. It would be quite the spectacle to kick off off the 2021 season with Tua, Najee, and DeVonta reunited, but this time donning aqua and orange.