NFL Draft 2020: Here's how Dolphins can ace the first round and build off free agency
The Dolphins have three first-rounders, six picks in the first three rounds and 14 picks overall
The Miami Dolphins own six of the first 70 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, including three first-rounders. After a solid start to free agency that saw the league's worst defense add defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah, linebacker Kyle Van Noy and cornerback Byron Jones, the Dolphins can address their most important needs with the No. 5, No. 18 and No. 26 selections. At the top of the to-do list: A franchise quarterback though that doesn't necessarily mean Miami has to take one at No. 5. Then there's the offensive line, running back and wide receiver, as well as safety and pass rusher.
So how will the Dolphins go about addressing these holes in the roster? Below are three draft scenarios that best utilize these first-round picks and give second-year coach Brian Flores a real chance to compete for an AFC East title in a Tom Brady-less division.
What would the perfect draft look like for the Dolphins and Cowboys? Sean Wagner-McGough and Ryan Wilson join Will Brinson to break down the draft's most interesting teams, size up the top EDGE/DL prospects and more. Listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
Pick No. 5: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama: If Tagovailoa's healthy, this is a no-brainer. So much so, in fact, that the Dolphins may have to trade up to get him. For Scenario 1, however, we'll assume, because of the coronavirus epidemic, that NFL teams don't get the chance to give Tagovailoa an in-person physical. There's some level of risk in taking him at No. 5 but even if Tagovailoa ends up being 95 percent the player he was before his hip injury last November it's worth the flier.
In March, Tua posted this video:
Our first thought was, "My heavens, he looks great!"
Our second thought: "Now what happens when he gets laid out by a 300-pound defensive tackle? Does he pop right back up or will that surgically repaired hip be a chronic problem?"
He then followed up with a virtual pro day for teams on Friday:
Again, these are the unknowns but for the Dolphins, who have been unofficially #TankingforTua since last September, the immediately solves their franchise-QB problem.
Pick No. 18: Josh Jones, OT, Houston: As evidenced by our weekly mock drafts, we know this isn't a popular pick with some Dolphins fans. But here's the deal: Jones had a really good 2019 season and that's underselling it. And he followed it up with an even better showing at the 2020 Senior Bowl. He's insanely athletic, moves well in space, is a monster in the run game -- and he was one of Pro Football Focus' highest-rated offensive linemen last season. The Dolphins need to protect their new franchise quarterback and Jones would be a solid option midway through the first round.
Pick No. 26: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama: This was exactly how our latest mock draft unfolded (it's a three-rounder, check it out!); Tagovailoa, Jones and then the Dolphins beef up an already-improved secondary. McKinney is listed as a safety but in addition to playing deep centerfield he can also play closer to the line of scrimmage, in the slot, at cornerback, and even blitz off the edge. He's not quite as versatile as Minkah Fitzpatrick, another Alabama defensive back who was a first-round pick of the Fins, but he's young, athletic and physical -- and fits in with what Flores wants this defense to look like.
Trade up to No. 3: Tagovailoa: Let's assume Tagovailoa gets a clean bill of health and he's expected to be the same player he was prior to the hip injury. The price of poker, as they say, just went up. Which means the Dolphins will almost certainly have to trade up to get him. So what will it cost? According to the draft value chart created by CBSSports.com's R.J. White, Miami would have to give up the No. 5 and No. 56 pick to move up two spots. But because the LIons, who are currently set to select third, know that the Dolphins are moving up for Tua, they could require more than the going rate, especially if there's competition for the pick. Knowing that, the Dolphins could sweeten the deal; in addition to No. 5 they could include their first second-round pick, No. 39, even if that's overpaying, according to the draft value chart. Miami has 14 draft picks, including those six picks on the first two days of the draft; giving up a second-rounder for who they believe is the future of their franchise seems like a pretty easy decision.
Pick No. 18: K'Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU. Yes, the Dolphins signed Shaq Lawson to a three-year deal but he had just 6.5 sacks last season for the Bills and there's still a real need for pass rushers in Miami. Chaisson could fall to No. 18 and if he's there Miami should seriously consider drafting him. He's explosive off the edge and he's only going to get better as he grows into his body. And with the Dolphins still having the No. 56 pick, they can circle back in Round 2 to get an offensive tackle (this OT class is much deeper than the EDGE class), and in Round 3 they can grab an interior offensive lineman.
Pick No. 26: D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia. You could also go offensive tackle here and get a running back at No. 56 but since we're only looking at the Dolphins first-rounders, we're going with Swift, our No. 1 back in this class. As it stands, the Dolphins have just-signed Jordan Howard and Kalen Ballage. Put another way: There's definitely room to add a versatile back like Swift, who is a terror in the run game but is also a weapon catching passes out of the backfield.
Pick No. 5: Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson. Simmons might end up being the best player in this draft class. He lines up virtually everywhere -- linebacker, deep safety, strong safety, in the slot, at cornerback and even at edge rusher -- and he can do virtually anything. There are plenty of great defensive talents in this draft class -- Chase Young, Jeff Okudah, Derrick Brown, CJ Henderson -- but after Young, Simmons may provide the most immediate impact on the field. We talked above how the Dolphins need to get better defensively and Simmons would go a long way in achieving that.
Trade up to No. 8: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State. (Before you ask, here's the cost, via the trade value chart created by CBSSports.com's R.J. White: The Dolphins get the No. 8 pick, the Cardinals get the No. 18 and No. 39 picks. Alternatively, the Dolphins could give up picks No. 18, No. 56 and a 2021 third-rounder.) The Dolphins got a chance to visit with Love before the coronavirus pandemic so clearly there is interest there. And if there are any concerns about Tagovailoa's healthy, Miami could choose to go in another direction. Love has all the physical tools NFL teams look for but the biggest hurdle that has to be cleared is his abysmal 2019 campaign. We've previously explained in great detail why Love struggled last season, and there's reason to believe that in the right system he could be very successful. And in Miami, he wouldn't have to start immediately; he could sit behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, learn the offense, and be brought along slowly -- just like Patrick Mahomes during the 2017 season.
Pick No. 26: Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan. Ruiz is the best center in this draft class (he also played some guard as a freshman), and he's also one of the top offensive linemen. The Dolphins signed former Patriots interior lineman Ted Karras in free agency, but it's only a one-year deal and there's no depth behind him. Ruiz was the top pass-blocking center in the nation, according to Pro Football Focus, which matched what we saw on tape; he regularly won with athleticism and strength, coupled with good hand usage and even better footwork. Then in Rounds 2 and 3, Miami can target offensive tackle to continue to reshape an offensive line that was among the league's worst in 2019.
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