Next Gen Stats tabs Dolphins' 2021 class as most athletic in 2021

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Dolphins Wire 02 May, 2021 - 04:34pm 10 views

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The Miami Dolphin’ 2021 NFL Draft class got off to a roaring start on Thursday evening with the team’s selection of WR Jaylen Waddle and DE Jaelan Phillips, giving the team one of the most dynamic playmakers on each side of the football in this year’s class. But the Thursday night selections were honestly just the tip of the iceberg.

Jevon Holland is an explosive ‘do it all’ option on the back end and Liam Eichenberg is a smooth operator along the offensive front. Add in TE Hunter Long in the third round and Miami’s 2021 draft class has plenty of athletic ability at their disposal.

According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats? The Dolphins are tied for the most athletic draft class of the 2021 NFL Draft:

Top 5⃣ Most Athletic #NFLDraft Classes

These teams prioritized athleticism in their selection strategy according to the Next Gen Stats Draft Model.

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— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) May 1, 2021

This is the big question for Miami: can you find better playmaking threats to help push close games into your favor without compromising on the other dynamics that the team covets: intelligence, passion and effort. It would seem as though the Dolphins believe that they’ve managed to do exactly that this past weekend with their personnel direction: the braintrust of the Dolphins offered ample praise for the class. So, too, have nearly any pundits to have a microphone held in front of their place .

And now we have the seal of approval from NFL’s Next Gen Stats as well.

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Did Dolphins' Chris Grier get some roster do-overs right this NFL draft?

South Florida Sun Sentinel 03 May, 2021 - 04:20am

General manager Chris Grier re-spackled and re-painted some early cracks in this rebuilding job, so the first question out of the 2021 NFL draft is the simplest one: Did he get it right this time?

Did Grier and coach Brian Flores handpick a versatile, second-round safety in Jevon Holland to replace the woefully dismissed Minkah Fitzpatrick?

Did they get a tough, second-round offensive lineman in Liam Eichenberg to possibly move to guard and cover for the expensive, free-agent miss of Erik Flowers last offseason and the whiff of Michael Deiter in a previous draft?

Did they get a third-round tight end in Hunter Long to consider saying good-bye to the one-dimensional Mike Gesicki come contract time?

And, yes, they finally added a running back in the seventh round. You’d have thought for all the non-stop talk of adding playmakers to help quarterback Tua Tagovailoa it would have been a real priority. But look around the league and stop the obsessing of this, Dolphins fans.

Tampa Bay signed Leonard Fournette for one year and $2 million last year and won the Super Bowl. Kansas City took Dolphins cast-off Damian Williams and won the previous Super Bowl. Smart teams find running backs walking down the street — and the Dolphins better find one after missing last season.

And, sure, everyone misses. No general manager gets everything right. Here’s the more pertinent question: Who have the Dolphins hit big on? Who’s elite on this roster? There’s cornerback Xavien Howard. And, well, uh ... there’s Xavien Howard. He’s not happy being the second-highest-paid cornerback on the team behind Byron Jones.

Maybe one of the young players from the last couple of drafts become great. But I’m a believer in Bill Parcells’ line about they bite as puppies or they never do. You typically see a glimpse of greatness early on. This rebuild is still looking for some of that — and it’s not a rebuild anymore.

It’s rebuilt. Three years of drafts. Three years of free agents. The big pieces are in place, starting with Tua, considering getting the quarterback right is 60 percent of Grier’s work. By now, there no more qualifiers, justifications, pretexts or rambling discourses about where they are on the timeline.

They’ve arrived by now. Ten wins with marginal talent last season showed Flores can coach. To have sustained success, they’ll need better talent, though.

Receiver Jaylen Waddle’s speed and defensive end Jaelan Phillips’ relentlessness offer high-end talent. Throw in a 2023 first-round pick that gives some trade flexibility and it all looks good coming out of the draft. That’s assuming the Dolphins don’t look back in regret at passing on Florida tight end Kyle Pitts or the concussions Phillips has had.

The other high-end investments this draft told of present or coming issues. They’re fixable — and maybe they’ve been fixed in the last few days. Maybe this draft comes up roses in ways others haven’t.

Grier’s draft of Fitzpatrick in 2018 looks smarter by the season and his trade of Fitzpatrick looks dumber by the day. It’s tracking as the worst trade in franchise history. Fitzpatrick is a two-time All-Pro safety in three years - and on a rookie contract.

The Dolphins’ last multiple, All-Pro players were Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas. It’s not fair to think Holland is that guy. But can he fill the need Grier sees at safety that either Bobby McCain or Eric Rowe can’t?

Eichenberg is the latest offensive line investment. Maybe he moves into left guard to replace Flowers, who was the latest of some awful free-agent deals by Grier last offseason to leave town. By sending $6 million to Washington, the Dolphins paid $16 million for one year of marginal left-guard play.

Think of it: The Dolphins spent more than $100 million in guaranteed money last year — and what do they still have to show for it? A problematic contract to a good player in Jones? A solid addition in defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah?

If Bill Belichick’s free-agent spending frenzy this offseason proves as alarming in New England as Grier’s last offseason, it will be part of his post-Tom Brady legacy. The Dolphins’ swung big and missed big in the middle of a rebuild. But if team owner Steve Ross doesn’t care about writing big checks, why should anyone else?

Finally, there was the third-round pick of Hunter. He catches and blocks. That’s evidently important in the offense Flores wants to run. It’s also a sign of alarm for the Dolphins future of Gesicki, who is an impactful receiver but whose blocking hasn’t improved after three seasons.

Gesicki’s contract is up after this year. Stay tuned. Former NFL executive Scott Pioli said Long will be in the Pro Bowl in two years. Stay tuned.

Besides adding top-talent in the first round, the Dolphins repaired some problems this draft. Or re-repaired them in some cases. Did Grier get it right this time? Stay tuned.

2021 Miami Dolphins draft grades: Miami has top-five draft in NFL

The Phinsider 03 May, 2021 - 04:20am

According to a compilation of 18 draft grades from around the web, René Bugner on Twitter shows, Miami had one of the top graded drafts in the league. Using the 18 grades to create a “GPA” for each team has Miami land fifth in the league:

Below, you will find several of those same grade sites, along with a couple of others I pulled up, to give you an idea of what analysts are saying about Miami’s 2021 NFL Draft:

In Waddle and Phillips, the Dolphins took big swings on two talented players with injury issues. If they hit, Miami will be playoff-bound in short order. Holland and Eichenberg were solid picks in need areas, and finding a tight end like Long in the third should help address potential free-agent losses after the season.

Miami traded its fifth-round pick (No. 156) to the Steelers for a 2022 fourth-rounder, which is almost always the right call. Coleman’s length and athleticism make him a prototypical seventh-round pick in that he has plenty to improve upon but has a high ceiling. Doaks should provide competition in the backfield.

This was another great draft for Brian Flores and GM Chris Grier. Waddle keeps improving the big-play potential Around Tua Tagovailoa and Eichenberg should be his new starting right tackle. Long will help as a run blocker and additional receiver. Phillips will thrill Flores rushing the passer from several places in his front seven. Despite limited overall quantity, the quality was hard to beat with most key needs met.

Day 1: Like the Bengals, the Dolphins reunite their starting quarterback with a former wide receiver teammate. Jaylen Waddle arrives in Miami with experience catching passes from Tua Tagovailoa. He is an explosive play waiting to happen, whether it’s on a bubble screen or a post route. He is the elite burner receiver of the entire draft class and rounds out the Dolphins’ receiving corps.

Jaelan Phillips boasts the best production of any edge rusher in this class, and if medical concerns weren’t a factor, he could have come off the board much earlier. He recorded 42 quarterback pressures on 542 snaps last season for Miami but has already had to walk away from the game once due to concussion issues. As a result, he has less than 1,000 career college snaps to his name. There are concerns, but Miami is playing with house money with all of their draft capital and can afford to take that kind of gamble.

Day 2: Miami makes Jevon Holland the first safety off the board, shocking many who had TCU’s Trevon Moehrig projected as a sure-fire first-rounder. Holland, who can also play cornerback, was an excellent coverage player for Oregon over two high-level seasons of play. Miami needs help at safety after stacking their cornerback depth chart over the past year, and this goes a long way toward achieving that.

One of the top tackles in the country, Liam Eichenberg might not be quite as spectacular a prospect as some of the other players at his position, but he improved significantly in PFF grade every season of his college career, culminating in an 89.9 overall mark in 2020. Eichenberg didn’t surrender a sack in either of the past two seasons, and he gives the Dolphins some real competition at a position they’ve already invested significantly in without seeing clear and certain results yet.

Even with Mike Gesicki on the roster, Long fills the need for a true inline tight end. He was a volume target at Boston College — head and shoulders the best receiving option for the Eagles over the last couple of seasons. He does a lot of different things at a very good level and can help in a few different roles, he just might not have the requisite athleticism to be a difference-maker.

The Dolphins came into this draft with an extra first- and second-round pick (and added a valuable 2023 first-rounder) and had clear needs to fill. They had to get some receiving help for Tua Tagovailoa. They needed a young, talented pass-rusher to put into their edge-rushing rotation. And if they are going to move Robert Hunt to guard full-time, they had to draft a potential starter at offensive tackle.

That’s why I like what general manager Chris Grier did. Tagovailoa struggled as a rookie last season, but there should be no way he averages 6.3 yards per attempt again in 2021. The addition of No. 5 overall pick Jaylen Waddle (and free-agent signing Will Fuller V) means he now has multiple playmakers to run after the catch and to target on deep balls. Waddle was the fifth-ranked player on my board. Jaelan Phillips (18) is a silky-smooth edge rusher with the physical traits to average 10 sacks per season. As I wrote Thursday night, he likely would have been a top-10 pick if he didn’t have an injury history.

I really liked their Day 2 haul as well. Jevon Holland (36) will compete to start at free safety. Liam Eichenberg (42) has a good chance to be their Day 1 right tackle in place of Hunt; he was a three-year starter at left tackle for Notre Dame. Tight end Hunter Long (81) is an awesome player who will compete as a blocker and catch a few passes up the seam. He’s one of my favorites in this class, and he’s a nice complement for Mike Gesicki, who had 703 receiving yards last season.

Grier didn’t have any picks in Rounds 4, 5 or 6, but seventh-round pick Larnel Coleman (231) has a chance to stick on the team as a swing tackle. I thought he might go in Round 5.

Looking at this roster, I don’t think it’s far away from being a Super Bowl contender, and the Dolphins hit their major needs. The other major bonus is that they ended up moving down three spots from No. 3 after some maneuvering and picked up that 2023 first-round pick. This is a stellar class overall, and the AFC East is going to be a fun race in 2021.

The Dolphins added two impact players in the first round, as both Waddle and Phillips have Pro Bowl upside and should be starters from the moment they join the team. Holland is an interesting addition too, as his versatility could allow him to wear a number of hats in head coach Brian Flores’s defense. Eichenberg has the size and footwork skills to man the team’s right tackle spot, and Long could be a valuable part of Miami’s future. He complements Mike Gesicki at tight end in the short term, and brings the tools to become Gesicki’s eventual replacement in the long run.

Waddle brings game-breaking speed to the offense – reunited with former Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa – and special teams. When you have four top-42 picks you can swing for the fences with Phillips (three concussions but big pass-rush ability). Four players with first-round grades?

Jaylen Waddle and Jaelan Phillips in Round 1 takes the cake for me. It couldn’t get much better for general manager Chris Grier. Hunter Long also has the potential to develop into a nice offensive weapon at 6-foot-5.

The Miami Dolphins made an incredibly strong start to the 2021 NFL Draft, giving them a great basis for their grade. However, their inability to get a running back severely hampers their final grade. Addressing the offensive line gives the Dolphins options in terms of the configuration of their line heading into 2021.

The Dolphins left the weekend with four immediate starters and a fifth that’ll be on his way soon in TE Hunter Long. I would have played things a little different up top, taking Penei Sewell. But I also spent the last two months arguing that you can’t begin judging Tua into you let him get fully healthy and construct a receiving corps of zippy receivers who can separate in the intermediate area (at least). Waddle is a great first step in that direction. Keeping Phillips in Miami is such a cool story — if that kid’s concussions issues are in his past, he’s going to be a star.

There were few of us out there who missed badly on projecting Miami’s first round based on their most glaring needs. Trading back into the top 10 almost locked them into a top wide receiver. Keeping the 18th pick almost guaranteed them an edge rusher. They did not disappoint.

This will be a formative draft for Chris Grier and Brian Flores, who have already transformed the Dolphins into a relevant division power player but now have to shift the gear into a team dripping with playmaking talent good enough to consistently compete with Buffalo and New England.

Their picks reflected as much; a mix of top-end skill and speed, with high risk-reward potential (Jaylen Waddle and Jaelan Phillips) and a handful of safer bets that should be able to contribute right away. Liam Eichenberg and Hunter Long will not be as frequently discussed but could serve as foundational blocks that, if they play up to their potential, will go a long way toward rounding out the operation.

While much of the success of this team hangs in the balance of Tua Tagovailoa’s left arm, there is little else Miami could have done.

Dolphins general manager Chris Grier boldly and aggressively collected assets in this and next year’s draft in the weeks leading up to it, and has methodically filled some of Miami’s biggest needs so far this weekend.

Even after signing Will Fuller in free agency, and dropping him to a receiving corps with DeVante Parker, Grier and the Dolphins chose Alabama wide receiver — and one of the biggest threats in the vertical game in this class — Jaylen Waddle No. 6 overall. Waddle reunites with Tua Tagovailoa, and throws open the Dolphins’ playbook after averaging 10.3 yards after the catch per reception and catching four touchdowns last season.

This season is all about evaluating Tua and Miami hopes to make the postseason in the process, a task that got significantly easier by drafting Waddle and then adding Notre Dame offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg in Round 2 to help keep the quarterback upright.

Tagovailoa now has the offensive weapons, and support up front, to take the next step in his development, and the Dolphins have one of the more exciting young rosters on both sides of the football with a defensive-minded head coach in Brian Flores, that could make Miami a sneaky competitor in 2021.

As the Dolphins have put the full weight of their faith behind Tua Tagovailoa, there was no need for the Dolphins to get aggressive with a quarterback with the sixth overall pick. Instead, general manager Chris Grier did the smartest thing possible by reuniting Tagovailoa with Jaylen Waddle, the Alabama yards-after-catch monster who brings Tyreek Hill to mind with his ability to compress any field to his liking.

Then, head coach Brian Flores got a couple of potential stars on the defensive side of the ball with Miami edge-rusher Jaelan Phillips at the 18th overall pick, and Oregon safety/slot defender Jevon Holland in the second round. Phillips was the consensus best edge defender in this class, and Holland is a perfect fit with a team that demands effective versatility from its defensive backs.

Those three picks make the rest of the Dolphins’ draft, which was a bit of a mixed bag, perfectly okay. You have to like Notre Dame offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg a lot more than I do to make that second-round pick a resounding success — I had Eichenberg as my 11th-ranked tackle in this class, and his rudimentary ability to use leverage and work with his hands makes me wonder if he’ll succeed at tackle or guard at the NFL level. That’s a big project for offensive line coach Lemuel Jeanpierre.

Did they get too cute with their circuitous route from No. 3 to No. 6? TBD. But this much is sure: Despite a sensible near-term commitment to help second-year QB Tua Tagovailoa, neither Pitts nor Chase is walking through that door. It will be a moot point if WR Jaylen Waddle, a teammate of Tagovailoa’s at Alabama, becomes the second coming of Tyreek Hill, to whom he’s been compared. And, collectively, first-round DE Jaelan Phillips, second-round S Jevon Holland and OT Liam Eichenberg and third-round TE Hunter Long could form a strong class. But the Fins’ future considerations could have a hard time compensating for the immediate opportunity cost.

There was little doubt that the Dolphins would take a WR at No. 6. But did they take the right one by choosing Jaylen Waddle and passing over DeVonta Smith? Miami had five of the draft’s first 81 selections and added plenty of promise — as one would expect — with Waddle, pass rusher Jaelan Phillips, S Jevon Holland, T Liam Eichenberg and TE Hunter Long. One possible quibble was the decision to make Holland the first safety drafted over Trevon Moehrig.

What the Tunsil trade has netted Dolphins thus far; running back on board?

South Florida Sun Sentinel 03 May, 2021 - 04:20am

How’s the draft-heavy haul looking from the trade of Laremy Tunsil?

This draft brought it more into focus. Of course, you need footnotes, backdoors, dot-connecting and general patience to bring the full trade into focus.

That’s because general manager Chris Grier turned that one trade into five sub-trades. And for the sake of history, the original trade wasn’t just Tunsil. In the full trade, the Dolphins gave up Tunsil, receiver Kenny Stills, a fourth-round pick in 2020 and a 2021 sixth-round pick for Houston’s first-rounder in 2020, first- and second-round picks in 2021 and tackle Julien Davenport and defensive back Bademosi.

In more simple terms: Tunsil was traded for two Houston first-round picks and a second-round pick. Here’s the breakdown:

Houston’s first-round pick (No. 26) in 2020:

*Noah Igbinoghene. The Dolphins traded back from No. 26 for Green Bay’s No. 30 and No. 136 (fourth-round) pick. With the No. 30 pick, they took Igbinoghene, who played little as a rookie cornerback.

*Solomon Kindley. The No. 136 pick was packaged with the Dolphins’ own fourth-round pick (No. 140) and traded up with Houston to No. 111 to pick Kindley. He moved from his left-guard spot at Georgia to start 13 games as a rookie.

Houston’s first-round pick (No. 3) in 2021:

*Jaylen Waddle. The Dolphins traded that No. 3 pick back to No. 12 with San Francisco and then up to No. 6 with Philadelphia. From the combined trades, the Dolphins netted the No. 6 and No. 156 pick in the 2021 draft, San Francisco’s top pick in 2023 and exchanged first-round picks in 2022. They gave up the No. 3 pick and their fourth-round pick in 2022. With that No. 6 pick, they chose Waddle.

*They traded the No. 156 pick to Pittsburgh in exchanged for a 2022 fourth-rounder. With that pick, Pittsburgh drafted Wisconsin defensive tackle Isaiahh Loudermilk.

*This was a straight pick of Oregon safety Jevon Holland at No. 36.

Bottom-line: So far, the Dolphins’ bounty is Igbinoghene, Waddle and Holland. They also used the pick in a package to trade up for Kindley. The exchange of 2022 picks with San Francisco and the 2023 first-round pick are still in play (We’ll call the fourth-round pick they gave up to Philadelphia and the fourth-rounder they got back from Pittsburgh a wash.) Let’s remember, too, that Tunsil was a Pro Bowl left tackle — a position of impact. For this deal to be as lopsided as it could be, the Dolphins need to get at least one Pro Bowl player out of it.

2. Some readers wondered about my mentioning in a column that the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade is tracking as the worst deal in team history. The heretofore worst is Don Shula sending sight-unseen Anthony Carter to Minnesota for veteran linebacker Robin Sendlein and a second-round pick before the 1985 season. Dolphins were a year off the Super Bowl and needed defensive help. Carter had played in the USFL out of college but not the NFL. It was a disaster for the Dolphins as Sendein played one year with Miami, the second-round pick was part of the deal to bring linebacker Hugh Green from Tampa Bay. Green was hurt within weeks of the trade. Carter went on to become one of Minnesota’s all-time greats and a three-time Pro Bowl player.

Fitzpatrick? He’s a two-time All Pro player in his first three years. All Pro is a healthy cut above the Pro Bowl. Sure, he wanted out. So did Dan Marino at one point. It’s an organization’s job to work with top talent. Do you think Mark Clayton was a joy to coach every day for Shula? If Fitzpatrick keeps playing like he has in Pittsburgh, it’s a no-brainer — worst trade in franchise history.

3. Grier was true to his pre-draft word. 1) Size doesn’t matter? A lot of people thought that with the Alabama receivers and the Dolphins got the the 5-9, 182-pound Waddle. “I just think the game has changed a little bit, and these smaller players are given more room and freedom to showcase their talents,” Grier said before the draft; 2) Player opting out wasn’t a concern to Grier considering the college season was turned upside down by the pandemic. Second-round pick Jevon Holland opted out of the season.

4. Malcolm Brown isn’t the Dolphins big running-back buy this offseason ... is he? He was quietly signed this winter — and that becomes more prominent because they didn’t take a top-rated back in the draft and coach Brian Flores mentioned Brown in the draft aftermath. Brown played five years with the Rams, had a career average of 4.0 yards rushing and never run for more than the 419 yards he did last season.

5. Quote to remember: “There will be three guys taken in the first round this year that will get head coaches and GMs fired in three years. I guarantee you.” — former NFL executive Scot McCloughan said weeks before the draft pointing to the number of quarterbacks expected to be taken. Rule out New England’s Bill Belichick being fired for taking Mac Jones at No. 15 and the pool of fire-able names is narrowed.

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