When all of the draft hoopla is over, fans of every NFL fan base are left with one question: "How did my team do?" If you're a Dolphins fan, you can rest easy knowing that your team used the 2021 draft to strengthen a roster that nearly qualified for the playoffs in 2020.
With their two first-round picks, the Dolphins added playmakers on both sides of the ball. Miami used the later portions of the draft to add some much-needed pieces to its offensive line. And while they only selected two defensive players, Miami coach Brian Flores spoke glowingly about what both players can add to his defense for the 2021 season and beyond.
Here's a deeper look at the things the Dolphins' did and didn't do during the 2021 draft.
2021 Dolphins draft picks
- Round 1 (No.6): Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
- Round 1 (No. 18): Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami
- Round 2 (No. 36): Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
- Round 2 (No. 42): Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
- Round 3 (No. 81): Hunter Long, TE, Boston College
- Round 7 (No. 231): Larnel Coleman, OT, UMass
- Round 7 (No. 244): Gerrid Doaks, RB, Cincinnati
When the 2020 season concluded, the Dolphins were sitting pretty with the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft. Instead of using the pick to select the best non-quarterback in the draft, they traded the pick to the 49ers in exchange for the No. 12 overall pick (which they then flipped to the Eagles for the No. 6 overall pick), first- and third-round picks in 2022 and a first-round pick in 2023. The 49ers used the No. 3 overall pick to select quarterback Trey Lance, while the Dolphins used the No. 6 pick to select receiver Jaylen Waddle.
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Waddle is an exceptional talent who brings much-needed big-play ability to the Dolphins offense. Furthermore, the trade with the 49ers has set the Dolphins up very well for the future. All that said being said, had the Dolphins stayed pat with the No. 3 pick, they would have been able to draft tight end Kyle Pitts, who ultimately went to the Falcons at No. 4 overall. Pitts is considered to be one of the draft's transcendent players, along with quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell. Pitts would have likely flourished in a Miami offense that relies heavily on getting big plays from its tight ends.
The Dolphins are probably not having buyer's remorse. By trading the No. 3 pick, they received a bevy of future draft picks and were able to get Tua Tagovailoa a top flight receiver. But if Pitts ends up realizing his potential in Atlanta, rest assured that more than a few Dolphins fans will be wondering "what if."
One of the draft's biggest gambles
With the 18th overall pick, many thought the Dolphins would take a running back to help improve what was the league's 22nd-ranked rushing attack in 2022. But despite Najee Harris and Travis Etienne being there for the taking, the Dolphins instead spent the pick on defensive end Jaelan Phillips. Making the pick more surprising is the fact that Phillips dealt with concussion issues in college. If Phillips is able to stay healthy, the Dolphins will ultimately be praised for this pick. But if Phillips doesn't pan out, and Harris and Etienne go on to enjoy fruitful careers, this pick could be the subject of criticism for years to come.
Similar to the Dolphins' earlier first-round pick, this was a gamble Miami surely feels comfortable with. Phillips proved to be a formidable pass rusher at the University of Miami, and he could be a key force on the Dolphins defense if he is healthy. And while they are still devoid of a game-changing running back, Miami does have a nice combo in the backfield in Myles Gaskin and former Ram Malcolm Brown.
As alluded to above, the Dolphins did more right than wrong during the draft. With the 42nd overall pick, they selected Liam Eichenberg, one of the top offensive linemen in the draft. The Dolphins also drafted two players who were lauded by Flores in safety Javon Holland and tight end Hunter Long. Holland, who picked off nine passes during the 2018 and '19 seasons, can bring his skill set to a Dolphins secondary that already includes safety Bobby McCain and cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Long, who worked with Miami's coaching staff at this year's Senior Bowl, will look to complement Mike Gesicki, who set career highs in receptions (53), yards (703) and touchdowns (six) in 2020.
"Jevon was one of, honestly, my favorite players to watch," Flores said of his new defensive back, via the Dolphins website. "Very versatile, played inside, played safety, punt return. I think you mentioned it – a lot of ball production – so we're excited to get him and work with him, and I think he'll be a great fit for our team."
Flores had similar things to say about Long, who like Flores played his college football at Boston College.
"He's a typical Boston College player," Flores said with a laugh. "He's tough, he's smart, he's team first and we're excited to have him."