US Sports Veteran
Publish Date: 04/15/2021
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster
Brian Flores and the Miami Dolphins won ten games last year but still missed the expanded playoffs. The Dolphins can continue building around Tua Tagovailoa this offseason and strengthen their already stellar defense. Miami has plenty of draft capital, but the team’s success in 2021 might come down to the growth and development of their young players.
The Dolphins are well ahead of schedule on their rebuild. Unfortunately, success breeds expectations. If Flores finishes his third season in Miami without making the playoffs once, he’ll hear nothing but criticism until the 2022 campaign. I don’t think there’s any way the team fires Flores, but a playoff run would do a lot of good for the young team and its fanbase.
Miami has four picks in the top-50 selections this year. Flores’ team could walk away with as many as five new starters, or they could trade back from sixth overall and gain even more assets. Flores and General Manager Chris Grier have plenty of ammo. All they need to do is bring the second phase of the offseason home by drafting better than last year.
I used The Draft Network’s mock draft machine and Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator to check each of my selections. At least one website had the chosen players available at their listed picks. I ran several simulations to add extra levels of justification behind these selections. I didn’t create any trades and included an “ideal pick” after every selection for optimistic fans.
Pitts is a generational talent. In the past ten, maybe even 20 years, no tight end prospect comes close to the 6-6, 245 lb. Florida prospect. Throw in 33.5-inch arms and over 10.5-inch hands, and you’ve got a player that goes beyond prototypical size. You could load up Madden and fail to build a player with the same physical gifts as Pitts. Did I mention he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds?
In eight games last season, Pitts hauled in 43 passes for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns. He finished tenth in the Heisman voting. Pitts lined up all over the field, including as an in-line blocker. He has the speed and acceleration to blow by cornerbacks and the size to outleap almost everybody. It’s hard to imagine there’s a player capable of locking down Pitts consistently.
While Pitts made it to Miami in over half of the mock drafts I ran for PFF and TDN, I’m personally projecting he goes to Atlanta at fourth overall. In that case, Miami turns to Ja’Marr Chase. If Cincinnati takes the LSU star at five, Miami takes DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle. I’m convinced the Dolphins are adding a new pass catcher for Tagovailoa, regardless of how the board falls.
Phillips comes with some injury concerns. He has a lengthy concussion history that led to his medical retirement while with UCLA. However, the nation’s former top recruit returned in 2020 as a member of the Miami Hurricanes. In ten games, Phillips tallied 45 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, and eight sacks.
If not for his concussions, Phillips would easily be the top edge rusher in the 2021 NFL Draft. He’s 6-5 and carries his 260 lb. frame with ease. Phillips ran a 4.56 40-time at Miami’s pro day and posted explosive times in the short shuttle and three-cone. All of that athleticism translates well on the gridiron.
Phillips lived up to his high school hype in his final collegiate season. He showed excellent bend and get off as an edge rusher. The former five-star recruit redirects with ease, making him an asset against the run and mobile quarterbacks. He’s a plus run defender capable of setting a hard edge despite some concerns about how he’ll physically hold up against larger tackles.
Ideal pick: Micah Parsons, LB Penn St.
Collins cleaned up during his final season at Tulsa, becoming a Consensus All-American and winning the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year award, the Bronko Nagurski Award, and the Chuck Bednarik Award. Three of the last four Bednarik Award winners have already made Pro Bowls, and the fourth player is Washington’s standout defensive tackle, Jonathan Allen.
Collins dominated the AAC in 2020, recording 54 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, four interceptions, two forced fumbles, and two defensive touchdowns. At his pro day, Collins measured in at 6-5, 259 lbs. His testing numbers weren’t phenomenal, but that’s understandable for a linebacker that weighs more than some of this year’s defensive ends.
Despite his large frame, Collins plays under control, allowing his length and range to engulf ball carriers. He’s decent at shedding blocks but can improve in that area. The Tulsa star stands out in zone coverage and gets plenty of penetration for big plays in the backfield. He needs a creative defensive coordinator to reach his full potential.
Ideal pick: Travis Etienne, RB Clemson
Miami signed free agent Matt Skura to a cheap one-year deal this offseason, but that shouldn’t prevent them from taking the best center in the draft. Dickerson has a lengthy injury history, but he’s got the build Miami loves in offensive linemen. The Consensus All-American is explosive and forceful at the point of attack, which creates plenty of movement for running backs.
Dickerson has a high motor that drives him to look for more work. Sometimes he’ll hit several defensive linemen in a single play. Dickerson packs a good punch that throws defenders off balance, and it’s over from there. He has good core strength, which only aids his stability and push in contained spaces.
From a raw athletic standpoint, Dickerson is at best average. He’s not tremendous in space and lumbers a little when tasked with climbing to the second level against twitchier players. However, he fits the style and mold of linemen the Dolphins are collecting.
Ideal pick: Dickerson
USC has a history of producing reliable receivers, but they don’t always reach their potential. Brown deployed primarily from the slot for the Trojans, where he amassed 178 receptions, 2,270 yards, and 16 touchdowns during his 30-game collegiate career. He ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at USC’s pro day and weighed in at 5-11, 197 lbs.
Brown isn’t a twitchy prospect. He struggled against press coverage and had a noticeable number of drops. Brown doesn’t offer much as a run blocker, and his overall play speed lags behind that of the top-tier players in this draft class. However, Brown makes up for his shortcomings with excellent body control and a clean release package.
The Dolphins could call it a day for pass-catchers after taking Pitts in the first-round, but they can’t overlook the value of Brown at 81. Besides, adding the big slot receiver means there are even fewer excuses for Tagovailoa underwhelming this year.
Ideal pick: Jackson Carman, OT Clemson
This isn’t ideal. While I don’t believe in drafting a running back short of Adrian Peterson or Barry Sanders in the first-round, I support going after one at 36 or 50. Unfortunately, the Dolphins got unlucky with how the boards fell. It seems like more running backs are going in the top 35 selections now that we’ve gotten closer to draft day.
Official measurements from Oklahoma’s pro day list Stevenson at 6-0, 230 lbs. He’s fresh out of the LeGarrette Blount mold. Watching the tape, Stevenson thrives running between the tackles, where he can pick up steam and drag defenders for a few yards. He has decent vision and enough burst to break through running lanes. The Dolphins shouldn’t expect many runs over 20 yards from Stevenson.
Ideal pick: Rodarius Williams, CB Oklahoma St.
Ford severely damaged his draft stock at Pittsburgh’s pro day by running a 4.90 40-yard dash. In comparison, Stevenson ran a 4.63 despite weighing 33 lbs. more. Pro day numbers shouldn’t dictate everything, but a 4.90 for a safety that often gets pulled out of position is damning. His speed and assignment discipline were limiting factors in college, and they’ll resurface in the NFL.
On the positive side, Ford intercepted six throws, broke up three passes, and forced three fumbles in his 19 final collegiate games. That production makes him a draftable commodity, but not one that’ll get picked any higher than the sixth-round.
Ideal pick: Cornell Powell, WR Clemson
McDuffie is a back end of the roster linebacker that will likely find himself on the practice squad. There’s also a fair chance that he goes undrafted, but it’s hard to find needs and player fits at this point. At least McDuffie was productive during his run at Boston College, amassing 222 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss in his final 27 games with the program.
Unfortunately, McDuffie is undersized and doesn’t possess the agility to thrive in coverage. He’s a hard worker, and sometimes that’s all you can ask for from a guy in the seventh-round.
Ideal pick: Warren Jackson, WR Colorado St.