We’ve had some time now to digest the draft, soak in the additions to our roster, and even catch a glimpse of them in dolphins training camp for the first time this week. We’ve got rookie jersey numbers, highlight film, and it feels like an exciting time for our beloved Dolphins. Today I wanted to kick back, use all the data I now have at my disposal, and figure out what these Dolphins draft picks mean for our roster, in a totally not ex NFL scout kind of way. Just an everyday guy, with a passion for the sport, using stats and analysis to figure out how our new additions are going to contribute this upcoming season. Fins Up!
Round 1 – Pick 6. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
I think the majority of us believed before the draft that the pick here would be Ja’Marr Chase, or an outside shot at Kyle Pitts. As it turned out, both went off the board before us. That being said, I’ve since heard and seen many times that Jaylen Waddle was always the guy for us, hence the trade down, and back up, to make sure the Dolphins could pick him up at 6.
I guess the question is why Waddle over the other guys, and what does he bring to our offence? Well let’s consider the addition of Will Fuller first and foremost. At first glance, we might suggest they’re a similar type of athlete, however, when you dive into it, they’re not. Will Fuller, who is often considered a slot guy, actually only ran 24% of his snaps out of the slot in 2020, despite being on the field for almost 95% of the Texans snaps in 2020. So what you actually have in him is an outside burner, who’s going to often run straight at the safety, or straight up the sideline, and could easily become a primary target for the Dolphins doing exactly that. Will Fuller received his highest PFF grade as a deep target (20+ yards), where he caught 8 of 15 passes, two thirds of which were contested catches. That’s not to say that Will Fuller won’t serve you on short to medium routes either, in fact, his efficiency shone the most in the middle of the field. This to me screams finding a soft spot in the defences coverage, getting the ball in his hands, and then allowing him to push for extra yardage.
The Texans utilised Will Fuller largely on the left side, and all 7 of his touchdowns for the Texans last year came from a left side position. With Tua dropping back and opening his body up to his throwing side, Will Fuller is going to be his closest target, and likely one of his first reads the majority of the time.
So what does that mean for DeVante Parker? It means you shouldn’t be prioritising him in your fantasy teams I can tell you that. Parker had 100 targets last season, and despite missing two games was our most targeted pass catcher. I’d expect to see those targets reduce a little this year with Fuller and Waddle in the picture. Parker is going to be your jump ball guy, and you’ll look to him in isolated one on one scenarios. 35 of Parkers 100 targets in 2020 were contested, and he caught 60% of those, to put that into perspective, Julio Jones caught 50% of his. Parker was sneakily pretty good in 2020, and life will get easier for him with Will Fuller on the field.
Dolphins Draft Waddle…
And that’s just your outside guys, now you add in Jaylen Waddle… See after looking into some of the information above, it makes sense to me that Jaylen Waddle was always going to be the pick. Otherwise, you’d have selected the likes of Ja’Marr Chase, and had three very talented first round picks, all who play their game outside the hashes on Sundays. Last season, our main slot receiver was Isaiah Ford. I love Isaiah, but we traded him for a reason, and then the Patriots released him, so he came back. Isaiah Ford is good depth, but he played 182 snaps (66%) at slot receiver, that’s too many for a guy you were willing to trade.
So the Dolphins have taken a look at their offence and recognised that what they need, Will Fuller addition considered, is a slot receiver who’s going to be dangerous with the ball in his hands, and we got the best one in the draft.
Waddle has been doing this for years. Starting out as a return man in his freshman season, Waddle earned his spot on the field for being so shifty, quick, and hard to tackle. Remember, the Dolphins couldn’t get guys open in 2020, it was a glaring problem. Adding somebody like Jaylen Waddle who will play primarily in the slot, with Fuller and Parker on the outsides, makes for a very promising starting wide receiver core, and the likes of Lynn Bowden, Preston Williams, and Mack Hollins will offer depth.
Waddle is going to create separation no matter who you line him up against, and if you lose him in zone coverage and give him a little space to work with at the point of the catch you could be in trouble. His speed is every bit noticeable in his game, he maxes it out in his routes, and will blow by the majority of defenders. Slippery is the best way to describe him. I’d love to see him paired with a dominant outside receiver, as between the two of them that’s going to be extremely hard to cover, and that’s where you’re going to get the best out of him. In a similar fashion to the success former Alabama alum Calvin Ridley has had as the two guy to Julio Jones, the same is absolutely true for Waddle.
When you factor in the fact that he offers so much in the return game, both kicks and punts, as well as his wide variety of skills as a receiver, you can see why he brings something unique to the draft this year. Ja’Marr Chase & DeVonta Smith are both outside receiver body types, albeit very different to each other, that’s where they will both fit best in the NFL. Pitts is of course technically a tight end, but also a bigger body. Waddle is the one guy at the top of this years draft who will occupy the slot perfectly.
Dolphins fans should be excited about this, your starting wide receiver core, if it’s Fuller, Parker & Waddle, consists of three first round draft picks. Now that’s something to celebrate.
Round 1 – Pick 18. Jaelen Phillips, DE, Miami
The Dolphins signed both Emmanuel Ogbah and Shaq Lawson to short term free agency deals in last years off season. Both had fallen out of favour with their previous teams, and found a home in Miami. Ogbah was incredible, and fit the system perfectly. His athletic ability, length and size is a perfect fit for the way Brian Flores wants to run his defensive scheme. Ogbah ended up with 10 sacks on the season, and 66 total QB pressures. Some argued he had a pro bowl calibre season…
Defensive coordinator Josh Boyer runs all sorts of looks, has an aggressive play calling style, and really mixes it up. When it’s broken down it’s actually a joy to watch. Here’s an example of that, where the Dolphins actually have defensive tackle Christian Wilkins drop into coverage, which again, displays the need for versatility in order to play in this Dolphins defence. They’re going to ask things of you, and you’ll need to deliver.
Now I was actually surprised to see Shaq Lawson get traded, however I understand the need for Benardrick McKinney. The Dolphins have been missing a premium run stuffing middle linebacker, able to be a sure tackler, for years. This is what they’d hoped Raekwon McMillan would be, but Flores and his staff quickly recognised that McKinney wasn’t the right fit for the role in this new look defence, and was sent to the Raiders.
McKinney on the other hand, sniffs the ball out with the best of them in the run game. He adds something the Dolphins didn’t have last season at MIKE linebacker, and his sure handed ability to bring down a running back or plug a gap in the run game, will give the likes of Jerome Baker more freedom, which opens up windows of opportunity for more versatile scheming on the defence. So overall, yes Shaq Lawson was good for the Dolphins, but McKinney offers them something else.
That being said, there’s an anticipation that outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel deserves a starting role. Based on last years efficiency, he absolutely does. Van Ginkel was the Dolphins second best graded defender last year, second only to star corner Xavien Howard. When you look at Van Ginkels production, the Shaq Lawson trade makes even more sense, as VG ended up with 6 sacks of his own off of 19 QB pressures. So far, he’s looking like an absolute steal of a draft pick, considering he was picked up in the 5th round out of Wisconsin in 2019. We didn’t get to see him until week 12 as he battled a foot injury during his rookie year, but what we saw from him in 2020 has Dolphins fans keen for more.
We then lost Kyle Van Noy, to many Dolphins fans surprise, however when you consider the contract, which was backloaded, and the season that Van Noy had, which was actually very average, I understand the cut. He held one of the worst tackle grades on the entire defence, and allowed 20 catches on 22 targets when dropping into coverage.
So the Dolphins draft Phillips in the first round, and was supposedly the number one guy in the entire draft for the Miami Dolphins. There’s a role to fill for Van Noy, who played a hybrid role last season. Van Noy spent just over 30% of his snaps in coverage last year, and one of the three, either Ogbah, Van Ginkel, or Phillips, is going to have to take over the role. This image from the first day of camp does actually appear to show Phillips in a coverage position at outside linebacker, which will be very interesting to keep an eye on.
That being said, with McKinney slotting in at middle linebacker, I could easily see Jerome Baker picking up the coverage snaps for Van Noy, allowing your premium first round pick pass rusher to focus on driving the offensive line and attacking the quarterback. Make no mistake about it, that’s where he will excel the most, but as an athlete, I believe he’s also capable of dropping out when required to do so, and that will be something Flores and Josh Boyer recognised in him.
Phillips offers elite length, strong tackling ability, and a keen scent for the football. He’s 6 foot 5, 260 pounds coming in, was recruited tremendously as a standout 5 star talent, many stating he was the best high school talent in the country that year. Phillips technically retired from football due to concussions, after two seasons with UCLA, before then returning to play one year with the Miami Hurricanes. Phillips could have stayed and played another year, but chose to forego his eligibility and declare for the draft.
I love the pick. Phillips offers so much to our defence. With Ogbah, Van Ginkel and Jaelen Phillips as your premium pass rushers, with Raekwon Davis and Christian Wilkins plugging the middle, the Dolphins have a seriously energetic, young front, which they can mix up and move around as they please. You want to keep Ogbah as a pass rusher, but both Van Ginkel and Phillips could drop into coverage, and end up with sneaky picks. Phillips could also easily end up with 7+ sacks as a rookie. We really might have got ourselves the best pass rush talent in this draft, with the 18th pick, due to a slight health risk that might turn out to be totally null and void.
Don’t forget, this Dolphins defence wreaked havoc last season, and a tonne of that was to do with the confusion they caused opposition offences… and I’ve not even got to the secondary yet.
Round 2. Pick 36. Jevon Holland, S, Oregon.
I’ve already done a full breakdown on this pick, as I loved it so much it deserved it’s own article, but here’s a snippet from that, and a link to the full post:
Holland can play nickel corner, so what you’re going to see from the Dolphins is a mixture of looks for him. Now this rings a bell right? A safety, who can play nickel corner, or sub linebacker, etc. We had one of those right? Yes we did. A versatile safety in Minkah Fitzpatrick, and what have we missed since Minkah left for Pittsburgh… say it with me now…
A VERSATILE SAFETY. Eric Rowe is great defending tight ends, and he can play that strong safety role. Bobby McCain is a corner, and I still maintain that. He’s better there. He was converted to safety to fill the need and he’s done alright, but he’s by and large a corner. Then last year we drafted Brandon Jones, who actually showed some promise during the season, but we’ve not seen enough of him yet. What we have in Jevon Holland, is the Minkah Fitzpatrick role which is SO important to the way Flores wants to run the operation on D. I cannot stress this enough. This is why Holland is a home run pick. He couldn’t be more perfect for what we needed to take an already very strong defence to the next level.
So as I mentioned, he can play the nickel spot, and we will see him line up there. However, what we’ve also seen this off season is last years first round pick Noah Igbinoghene get bigger, faster, and stronger already. The nickel role ideally belongs to him. But the versatility allows Flores to rotate his guys around, give offences different looks, and cause chaos. Holland will line up man to man in a nickel formation, and he’ll be incredibly successful at that. This is how Oregon used him. He’s a rotating piece.
Additionally, Bobby McCain was released this week. Bobby playes 77% of his snaps at free safety this season, while also contributing in the box and off the edge as a rusher occasionally. Jevon Holland is an upgrade at the position. This is the role he will play, and his instincts and ball skills will allow him to make plays and cause turnovers. Primarily a free safety, I can’t wait to see him shine in the Dolphins defence.
Dolphins fans you will get used to seeing him patrol the deep field, but you’ll then find he suddenly flies downfield like a missile and flattens a tight end. His tackle technique, and fearless attitude towards making a play in the run game, or levelling a pass catcher, stands out on tape. I compared him to Budda Baker in my day two steals post, because Budda Baker comes downhill and makes those plays, but is also dangerous with the ball in the air. Jevon Holland is slightly less stocky, but also a lot more agile.
Round 2. Pick 42. Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
The Dolphins got their business done early on day two of the draft. Now this pick does cause me a little confusion as to where he’s going to play. Austin Jackson, who is still very young, was our second, first round draft pick last year after Tua. We drafted him early, and he played 844 snaps at left tackle as a rookie. He wasn’t perfect, far from it, and he has a lot to learn, but what stands out to me is that he didn’t play a single snap anywhere else across the line.
Now of course you don’t want to confuse the rookie, allow him to play his position and settle into the speed of the game in the NFL. The reason I bring this up, is because Liam Eichenberg is exactly the same thing, a pure left tackle. Now drafting more tackles isn’t unheard of by any means, that’s not what I’m saying, but in the second round, and considering the Dolphins also traded up, you’re drafting a starter.
So Eichenberg will come into camp and compete for the left tackle spot with Austin Jackson, and my guess is that one of them slides to guard and fills the Ereck Flowers gap, or moves over to right tackle, and protects Tua’s blindside, which would mean Robert Hunt kicks back inside to guard.
However, Robert Hunt was one of the better performing offensive lineman for the Dolphins last season, and could have done enough to keep the right tackle position to himself.
So with all of this considered, my guess would be that the line looks a little something like this: Eichenberg LT, Jackson LG, Skura C, Kindley RG, and Hunt RT. You can never have too many good offensive linemen, and as Adam rightly pointed out, the Dolphins jumped up to get him because they didn’t want to allow him to slide any further.
Round 3. Pick 81. Hunter Long, TE, Boston College
Fins fans started to speculate after this pick that Long is going to be Gesicki’s replacement when he demands a mammoth contract in a years time. I disagree. Hunter Long is going to be the perfect compliment to Mike Gesicki, and we’ll see them on the field together, a lot.
Mike Gesicki was our top pass catcher in 2020. He’s really come on and he looked incredible. The one hander comes up in my dreams weekly. But behind Gesicki this season was a supporting cast of Adam Shaheen and Durham Smythe. Between the two of them, they totalled 36 receptions on 49 targets, and Shaheen was actually third on the roster in yards per catch, with a strong 9.3. They had 5 touchdowns between them, compared to Gesicki’s 6. Teams got so caught up trying to cover Mike Gesicki that these secondary tight ends were typically 1 on 1. That’s where Hunter Long comes in. He might be the best pass catching tight end in the draft, and the Dolphins saw a role for him early in his Dolphins career. The Dolphins use double tight end formations a lot. This will only support that further. It’s not good news however for Smythe and Shaheen, who I’d be surprised if we kept both of. I’d imagine that Hunter Long quickly becomes TE2.
I do agree that there will still be a decision on Mike Gesicki, and drafting Hunter Long will come into that yes, but at least until then, these two will cause damage together. I loved this pick for Miami.
Round 7. Pick 231. Larnel Coleman, OT, UMass
Now the 7th rounders of course I know less about, but I do know that Colemans’ a three year starter and has played both right and left tackle. He allows us depth on the line, and will contribute in some way I’m sure.
What I like about him, is his mauler attitude as a run blocker. He’s one of those guys who wants to push down the field and create a lane for the running back, and that’s something you can never have too much of! We’ll see how he gets on in camp, you never know, he could be a gem!
Round 7. Pick 244. Gerrid Doaks, RB, Cincinnati
Yes we were all upset we didn’t draft a running back this year. But I feel like we’re employing the Patriot way. The Patriots have won Super Bowls without a superstar running back for years. Yes they drafted Sony Michel in the first round, but he wasn’t what you’d hope for in a first round pick, and outside of that, the likes of James White are durable guys who can do a job. You don’t need a Christian McCaffrey to win a Super Bowl, and it seems like that’s the approach we’re taking.
Doaks is a physical back, and will likely be the two back in power sets behind Malcolm Brown. Think late round version of Javonte Williams. Was this the plan for the Dolphins draft all along? Maybe. Apparently we were never going to draft Williams at 36 anyway… But Doaks comes in the same way Myles Gaskin did, 7th round, something to prove, and an opportunity to do so.
The Dolphins draft received serious props amongst analysts and experts everywhere. They got what they needed, what they wanted, and got better all over the field. That paired with a couple of trades we made, and free agency pick ups, it’s time to really see what Tua can do. I couldn’t be more excited.