The 2020 NFL draft has come to a close, and there’s a very distinct theme with the Miami Dolphins draft class.
- 5. Tua Tagovailoa QB/Alabama
- 18. Austin Jackson OT/USC
- 30. Noah Igbinoghene CB/Auburn
- 39. Robert Hunt OL/Louisiana
- 56. Raekwon Davis DL/Alabama
- 70. Brandon Jones S/Texas
- 111. Solomon Kindley OG/Georgia
- 154. Jason Strowbridge DE/North Carolina
- 164. Curtis Weaver OLB/Boise State
- 185. Blake Ferguson LS/LSU
- 246. Malcolm Perry WR/Navy
Many people are assuming that this draft class is not good. There are very few instant impact players, clearly Chris Grier and Brian Flores don’t know how to draft. Well, those criticisms are half right. While it’s true that these players aren’t expected to make huge impacts right away, this draft is far from bad. In fact, in many ways, Miami’s 2020 draft was – for lack of a better term – inspired.
Instead of focusing on safe or popular picks, the Dolphins decided to forgo conventional wisdom and picked players who have much greater potential. Potential to become elite players.
Naturally, there is something to be said about finding players who are more guaranteed to work out. Players who are unlikely to bust will actually contribute in some way shape or form, which is important for a team trying to build a foundation on the backs of young players. However, Miami isn’t just trying to build a foundation. They want a strong foundation. Super Bowl caliber foundation.
1. Draft a franchise QB in Tua. 2. Make sure he doesn’t get touched
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) April 24, 2020
Hence, the picks the Miami Dolphins made. They are in a very unique position, one that perhaps no team has ever been in. Yes, Miami drafted their franchise quarterback. No one can deny the talent that Tua Tagovailoa brings to the table. If all goes well, he will lead the Dolphins into a new era of greatness they haven’t seen since Dan Marino. But this is not an immediate transition. Certain people feel that the best thing to do would be to throw Tagovailoa into the fire immediately. But Miami has different plans, and it has everything to do with the philosophy Brian Flores brings to the franchise, which GM Chris Grier indicated they would bring to the draft last week.
“We’re going to go with the same process of how we’ve done things.” Grier said. “Our scouts have done a great job, as well as the coaching staff. We always talk about communication and that’s really key because to get those guys on the backend, it’s the coaches and scouts on the same page and everyone on the phone, talking to players and identifying players that can help us or see something that has upside for us to develop.”
Davis has a prototypical build with noticeable length and block shedding ability pic.twitter.com/2ViOU9dZA2
— Mike Tannenbaum (@RealTannenbaum) April 25, 2020
There’s the word. “Upside.” The potential ceiling for a given prospect as opposed to how good they are at the moment of being drafted. Each and every player – except for Blake Ferguson, who’s a long snapper – has an incredible amount of raw talent that if properly developed, can turn them into elite level players. The Dolphins are in an extremely unique position where winning is not the main priority for 2020. This means that there’s no rush to get Tagovailoa onto the football field, and it means that Miami gets a free year to develop their new prospects and see what they can get out of them.
2020 is going to be another evaluation year, even more so than 2019. Last season was about stripping down the roster to remove the mistakes by the previous regimes. They released overpaid players, traded as many as they could for draft assets, and replaced them with young, cheap players with upside. The result of the new coaching staff was a revitalized DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki, with cornerback Nik Needham going from zero to hero as the season progressed.
That is the impact that a strong coaching staff can have. Players who no one expects to do well, suddenly look much better than they have any business to. This entire draft class matches that mentality.
Austin Jackson was selected 18th overall, a reach no matter who you ask by conventional wisdom. He has all the athletic tools you could ask for to be an amazing left tackle in the NFL, but his technique is subpar and he desperately needs to be coached up. Fortunately, the Dolphins can afford to spend that time tutoring Jackson and tweaking his game until he reaches the point where it’s safe to let him protect Tagovailoa in 2021.
The same goes for Robert Hunt. The offensive lineman out of Louisiana is a mauler who loves to take defenders to the ground and bully them no matter where on the line he plays. That sort of mentality hasn’t been present on the Dolphins offensive line since the days of Richie Incognito. But he sometimes gets too aggressive, and his balance can get thrown off because he focuses too much on overwhelming his assignment rather than simply following through on it. Aggressive is good. Overaggressive is not. Plus, a groin injury he suffered in 2019 hurt his draft stock as well, he’ll need to prove he’s healthy. Which, again, Miami can make sure of by simply monitoring him closely as the season progresses. There’s no pressure to keep him in if they feel they need to let him heal and learn in other ways.
Then there’s Curtis Weaver, who the Dolphins managed to trade up and draft with the 164th pick. Weaver was originally projected as a potential second round pick by some analysts, but he slipped due to his lack of motor and overall explosiveness as a pass rusher. He accumulated 34 sacks in his three years at Boise State, making him the All-Time Mountain West Conference leader in sacks. Production is definitely not an issue for him. There are, however, moments where he looks like he slows down and gives up on a play. That’s something that Brian Flores will need to fix. Again, he’ll have a year to see if he can draw the best out of him.
Rinse and repeat for the rest of Miami’s draft class, and suddenly it all makes sense. If, by some miracle, the majority of these drafted players develop into foundation type players, then the Dolphins will enter 2021 with a quarterback who’s had a year to sit and learn under a wily veteran in Ryan Fitzpatrick, and an offensive line that’s had a chance to play together for a year, ready for the task of protecting the franchise.
When that happens, the sky’s the limit for the Miami Dolphins.
To emphasize, there will be growing pains in 2020. There will be a lot of growing pains in 2020. However, that will actually be an exciting scenario to watch. Instead of being disappointed because expectations are insanely high, fans will get to watch the beauty of players learning and growing under a coaching staff that has shown the ability to get the best out of players. The more talent there is to develop, the better things will be. They will take their lumps with Ryan Fitzpatrick and maybe Josh Rosen for one year.
Then in 2021, there will be another round of free agency, another draft where Miami has two 1st and 2nd round picks, and a team full of players ready to do everything they can to not just make the playoffs, but win a Super Bowl.
“With The Fifth Pick In The 2020 NFL Draft, The Miami Dolphins Select Tua Tagovailoa” is our new favorite song 😁
📺 Watch the Draft on NFLN/ESPN/ABC pic.twitter.com/MSqzdYJ9TK
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) April 24, 2020
And there’s a very good shot that Tua Tagovailoa will lead the Miami Dolphins there with a solid foundation lifting him up.
Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for seven years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung