Last year, we saw the Detroit Lions badly mishandle the number three pick in the draft, so it seemed. They absolutely should have traded down, and ended up taking Jeff Okudah with the pick instead. It looked like a reach, and a disappointing outcome for a team that seemed to be in the drivers seat heading into the draft. I’ll get onto why this is relevant to the Dolphins draft shortly.
With the Bengals securing Joe Burrow at number one, and the rest of the league knowing it, Washington were 99% likely to pick Chase Young as the best talent available, to complete their defensive line, which was four years in the making. So all eyes were on the Detroit Lions, as they sat holding the keys. Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert still on the board, the rest of the quarterback hungry teams in the league were at their mercy. How they ended up not getting anything for the pick and just having to choose a position they needed, I’m not sure. It’s definitely half Detroit’s fault for negotiating poorly, but I’d contribute the other half to the pandemic.
Let’s not forget that teams were not able to bring draft prospects in for testing, to see them throw, to check their medical condition, fitness etc. The lack of hands on preparation with the incoming rookies meant every team in the NFL was more cautious come draft day. You can’t give up a haul of picks for a player you’ve not been able to sit down with, and watch throw in person. Of course, with Tua, teams needed to be even more cautious, because they couldn’t get their own team doctors to assess the recovery etc.
So the Lions fell victim to the complications of the pandemic, and their own poor negotiation skills. In my opinion, there’s no way they should have been drafting at number three. Don’t get me wrong, I think Jeff Okudah is a very promising prospect, but still, to take him that early when they were in such a strong position to manipulate other franchises, hurts a little.
However, this season, things are different, and who sits in the three spot, in a very similar position? The Miami Dolphins.
Why is the pick worth more?
The Dolphins find themselves in a very fortunate position, holding the Houston Texans first round pick this season. That pick happens to be number three in the draft, which couldn’t have gone any better really. The comparison to the Lions is relevant because the Dolphins are the first team on the board not in need of a quarterback. The consensus is generally Trevor Lawrence at number one, and then one of the other quarterbacks at number two to the Jets.
Then the Dolphins draft third, and in exactly the same way as last year, there’s still going to be two quarterbacks worthy of a top 10 selection on the board by the time they’re on the clock.
Playoff Teams Out for a Rookie?
First of all, last season, there weren’t any playoff ready rosters without a quarterback. Currently, at the time of writing, there’s two of those. Both the Colts, and the Saints, are without a true starter, due to the retiring of Philip Rivers and Drew Brees respectively, while they boast a playoff calibre roster of talent. Now yes of course the Saints are going to need to move a lot of pieces around this season to sort a very complicated cap space issue, but that may involve moving one or two talented members of their team for solid draft picks.
Let’s say the Saints think about combining those draft picks and moving up to get their quarterback of the future by getting the Dolphins draft pick. If they believe they can get it right, they can be right back in the playoff race either this season, with a rookie, or next season in his second year. I’d consider this a viable option for a team that can’t afford to pay a free agent quarterback. They could even lose Jameis Winston if another team offers him money they can’t contend with. Let’s not forget they’re in cap hell and Jameis was on the league minimum for them last year. By adding a rookie, albeit a first rounder, they don’t need to spend a fortune in free agency. I wouldn’t put this method past the Saints at all, and the Dolphins could get a haul out of it.
Consider this trade:
Dolphins receive: Ryan Ramcyzk (OT), Saints first round pick (28), and a third rounder in both 2021 and 2022.
Saints receive: Dolphins first round pick via Houston (3)
The Saints more than likely need to move a couple of their stars. Ramcyzk is one of those I could definitely see this happening with. Whoever he gets moved on to will need to pay him a long term contract, which teams are going to be aware of, and the Dolphins could drop several birds with one stone here. They get not only their new franchise right tackle, but also another first round pick late in the day, and two third rounders to continue to support the building of their roster. Now of course people will always destroy your trade scenarios, but speculation is speculation, and these things are just interesting topics of conversation.
The Colts, similarly, have spent time building a playoff roster, and now don’t have a quarterback to steer the ship. All signs at the moment seem to point towards the solution being Carson Wentz, but the offer so far stands at two second round picks, which is as high as they’re currently willing to go, and not enough for the Eagles. So if they can’t get that deal over the line, do the Colts also turn to the draft, and hand over some picks to grab a Justin Fields or Zach Wilson for themselves. I am not saying I’m expecting them to win a Super Bowl with a rookie, but adding one to a stacked roster certainly puts them in a strong position to succeed early on. Year one, 8-8 to 10-6, and suddenly in year two, they’re straight back into the playoffs. The Colts roster is young and overflowing with talent currently, so why not look at this approach?
If either decided they were all in on one of the rookie QBs, then the Dolphins get the call, and you best believe a playoff team only really missing a quarterback is going to be less worried about draft picks and more worried about not missing out on the guy they want. Result? The Dolphins get a haul of picks across multiple years.
Other teams interested?
Well, the main difference this season, is that teams will be able to have visits and pro day examinations of the rookies. This will generally create more hype around the prospects than last years anomaly. I read somewhere that typically, at pro days etc, scouts are talking, and the energy in the room generally causes a stir around the hot prospects. You get a feel for the energy associated with the players, and how other teams feel about them.
So how many teams don’t currently have their quarterback situation sorted? Well, the Bears, Broncos, Cowboys, Falcons, Panthers, Patriots, Texans, and Washington would be my list. None of these teams currently have a confirmed starter for the upcoming 2021 season. Of course, i’d imagine a few of these will fill the position with free agents. The Panthers could stick with Teddy for another year but still easily come up for a quarterback. The Broncos could give Drew Lock another year, but again, there’s no reason they won’t be sniffing around Fields, Wilson and Trey Lance this off season.
The Panthers are a very real contender to make an offer for the Dolphins draft pick, so here’s a second scenario for you.
Dolphins receive: Panthers first round pick (8), Panthers second round pick (40), Panthers 4th round pick (104), and a 2022 Panthers third round selection.
Panthers receive: Dolphins first round pick via Houston (3), Dolphins 6th round pick 2021
The Panthers have an energetic new coaching staff and an offensive genius in Joe Brady as their coordinator. He’s only been in the position for one year and head coach Matt Rhule is already struggling to keep hold of him. A shiny new rookie quarterback might help, and the Panthers understand they are in a long term building situation, as evidenced by Rhule’s seven year deal worth around $70M. Here, they trade away some picks to secure the guy they’ve scouted all year and believe will be the guy to take them back to the promise land. Again purely speculation, this might be a heavy haul to some, and I’m sure others won’t think it’s enough!
The Dolphins find themselves in the driving seat here, and can be smart about how they deal with this pick. Of course, something that actually works out in the Dolphins favour here, is that Tua wasn’t lights out as a rookie. If he’d gone and won OROY, balled out all year, this pick would actually be worth less because no team is going to buy that you’d consider taking another quarterback when you’re rookie just smashed his first season out of the park. Of course, as we all know, I still believe in Tua, and you can’t make your final judgement on a rookie quarterbacks first season… (See careers of Robert Griffen III, and Josh Allen for examples).
So the Dolphins can flirt with the idea and push that narrative with their media outlets, causing a panic amongst other teams. I can’t see either the Jags or the Jets moving anywhere, so Miami are going to get some phone calls. There’s plenty of hype around Zach Wilson and Justin Fields, and I’m sure there are teams willing to give up a few things in order to claim one of them.
What if the Fins are stuck with it?
Well, that doesn’t matter at all. The Dolphins could easily stay where they are and pick a franchise tackle in Penei Sewell, bolstering a young offensive line, and adding a blind side protector for Tua. Or, they have their pick of the elite receivers. Davonte Smith, Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle. If they stay at three, i’d imagine the tackle would be the selection, and the Dolphins would have absolutely no reason to complain about that. Sewell is a very strong prospect, and this would still be a win.
So basically, the Dolphins are in a win win situation with the number three pick in the draft, and whatever happens, they should come out of the day winning. All i’m saying is, this pick could end up being VERY valuable to several teams around the league, and you best believe the Dolphins are keeping an ear to the ground on everything that’s going on. One thing is for sure, however the Dolphins draft this year, it’d be hard to come out of it not feeling good.