Do you know why magic tricks that depend on sleight of hand work so effectively? Because the human brain is easily distracted, hyper focuses on just one thing, and often fails to see the bigger picture unfolding right in front of its eyes.
Well, so far, that is exactly what has happened with the Miami Dolphins 2017 draft. Almost everyone has been fooled into believing it was all about defense. It wasn’t.
In fact, if you know how front offices generally think and/or how to properly assess a draft, this year’s choices tells us quite a few things about Chris Grier and Adam Gase’s thinking, and the biggest takeaway will both surprise you and boost your confidence in the team.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a quick look at three things we need to understand about Miami’s approach to this year’s draft.
- Perhaps the most common complaint fans are voicing about the Dolphins’ draft picks is that they lack star power, with some monumentally under-informed fans even voicing outrage over the Dolphins having passed on Rueben Foster. Well, clearly those folks need to be reminded of what led up to the recent Dion Jordan debacle, and at the same time, introduced to a simple math equation. A severe shoulder injury + a diluted drug test + character issues = a huge first round gamble on a player that may not even make it onto the field this year and could bring with him a whole slew of headaches the likes of which Miami feasted upon during the Joe Philbin era.
The Takeaway: Your front office is no longer stupid. Rejoice in that fact because it’s the first significant step towards winning a Super Bowl.
- Now, let’s get back to the notion that this year’s draft class lacks star power or instant starters. The truth is, GMs, coaches and fans with high football IQs never judge draft picks solely on their individual attributes and weaknesses. Anyone with a genuine understanding of the game knows that athletes are brought in to be a part of a system, and with very few exceptions, they need to be looked at in the context of how they will function within that system. In the case of Miami’s defense, that is primarily a Wide Nine scheme that will be looking to jam receivers at the line in order to prevent QBs from getting rid of the ball before the pass rush gets to them.
The Takeaway: While there are no guarantees that the individual pieces from this year’s draft will develop into stars, all five defensive players chosen, from the pass rushers to the press corner, make very good sense in defensive coordinator Matt Burke’s scheme, and if there is a football town in America that should be appreciative of what a
No Name” defense can accomplish, it should be Miami.
- If this draft has made one thing clear, even to the dullest of minds, it’s that the Dolphins aren’t nearly as concerned about the run as fans are. Yes, you read that right, and if you doubt it, simply go back and review the scouting reports on Charles Harris, Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor, the three defensive lineman Miami drafted. To a man, they are excellent pass rushers who need to improve against the run. Now, that isn’t to say that Miami intends to disregard the run. After all, they drafted linebacker Raekwon McMillan in the 2nd round, and before that, brought in free agent LB Lawrence Timmons specifically to bolster the run defense. Nevertheless, many fans were certain the Dolphins would go hunting for run stuffers at end and tackle in this year’s draft. After all, the team ranked 30th against the run in 2016. So why didn’t they?
The Takeaway: Remember when I said this draft was not all about defense? Like any good general manager and coach, Chris Grier and Gase looked at their entire team when making their decisions, and after considering how the offense and defense play off of one another, there is only one practical reason why they would have chosen pass rushers over run stuffers. The Dolphins fully expect to be playing with a lead most of the time in 2017, and that, as it turns out, gives us terrific insight into Adam Gase’s thinking moving forward.
- Gase has supreme confidence in himself and his ability to further implement his offensive scheme in year two, a big part of which will be getting his offense off to quicker starts early in games.
- Gase is equally confident in Ryan Tannehill’s ability to execute his vision on the field. In fact, this draft should be seen as a ringing endorsement of Tannehill by the entire Dolphins organization.
- Gase is keenly aware that veterans in the 2nd year of his system will now play without the hesitation of having to think through their assignments, and that will, in turn, not only make for a more efficient and effective offense capable of scoring early and often, but allow him to add more complex facets of his scheme to the Dolphins’ attack, including, quite possibly, the hurry up offense.
- Gase feels confident that Miami can become a frontrunner with the offensive weapons already at his disposal. Ajayi, Landry, Stills, Parker, Thomas, Drake, Williams, Carroo and, quite possibly, even Grant, are all dynamic playmakers, and he won’t by shy about expanding their roles and responsibilities in 2017.
- Gase believes the Dolphins will be running the ball late in games against worn down defenses in order to eat up the clock, while opposing QBs will be forced to throw in the hope of coming from behind. As a result, he expects Burke to use Andre Branch, William Hayes and Jordan Phillips early in games when their opponents’ play calling is more evenly balanced, and Charles Harris, Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor when teams are forced to throw.
The Big Takeaway: In the end, with the possible exception of safety, the Dolphins 2017 draft addressed all the team’s positions of need, just not with the players many fans were hoping for. Yet, as we have clearly seen, there was a very sound strategy behind their approach. Furthermore, when all the factors we have covered are taken into account, there is no way even the most misguided of fans can cling to the illusion that this draft was “all” about defense.
If anything, the hidden truth behind this years picks was actually anything but subtle. It was a bold statement about Gases’ self-confidence, his belief in Ryan Tannehill as a franchise quarterback, and his expectations of what his team’s offense will achieve this coming season. Gase isn’t expecting to be mired in another 10 games decided by a touchdown or less. He expects to win a lot of games, and to do so convincingly. In other words, fans aren’t the only ones who’ve adopted the slogan “In Gase We Trust”. While it should come as no surprise, Gase adheres to it as well!