What does The Miami Dolphins team look like in hindsight?
The Brian Flores Era is over in Miami. A mixed bag of results on the field, in the front office and in the draft room. Coach Flo hit some homeruns alongside Chris Grier in each of these areas, and whiffed completely in others. From mid-round offensive line gems to late round linebackers, and even a superstar quarterback or two to choose from, The Miami Dolphins under Brian Flores could have easily (without any additional trades or transactions) fielded one of the most talented young teams in modern football history with a few simple draft day changes in each year.
Let’s take a look at at what could have been the draft for The Miami Dolphins under Brian Flores.
The 2019 Miami Dolphins Draft
Round 1; Pick 13: Christian Wilkins, Defensive Tackle, Clemson
The very first pick for Brian Flores Era, Christian Wilkins made waves immediately by almost launching Roger Goodell into orbit right after The maligned commissioner called his name. The jovial monster in the middle of Miami’s line has thrived in Miami. From ripping chains and towels off opposing players, to violently celebrating his teammates touchdowns. The former college football national champion has made quite the name for himself in South Florida during and off the field. He hit career highs in 2021 in games started (all of them), and broke the NFL single season record for tackles by a Defensive Tackle (89). 11% of those 89 tackles, were for lost yardage. He also had 4.5 sacks and caught a touchdown pass on offense.
In short, the first pick in the Brian Flores Era, was a good one. A very excitable, vocal, chain-ripping, good one.
Round 3; Pick 78: Michael Deiter, Offensive Center, Wisconsin
The Round Mound from Wisconsin was supposed to be the first step for a much needed rebuilding of their offensive line in Miami. And while Dieter has kept himself on the roster for The Dolphins, he hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, either. Deiter has struggled to remain healthy, which may have been a blessing in disguise for Miami because up until 2021, he wasn’t helping the team too much when he was able to play. While he has improved statistically in 2021, he is still below league average and only looks better than decent because his fellow linemen are horrendously worse than him.
Re-Draft: Nate Davis, Offensive Guard, Charlotte (originally drafted by Tennessee Titans at pick number 82)
The starting Right Guard for the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs, Tennesee Titans, Nate Davis earned his way into helping Derrick Henry develop into the menacing running back he has become, and kept Ryan Tannehill (I know that guy!) upright long enough to make plays to his receivers for the past few years. He would instantly be the best offensive linemen for Miami, had they drafted him instead of Deiter. In fact, Davis has been so good the last few years, that it is rumored he may be in line for a huge pay day with his next contract.
Round 5; Pick 151: Andrew Van Ginkel, Linebacker, Wisconsin
“The Gink” as he is known by Miami fans, has added to a lineage of defensive standouts drafted by The Dolphins in the fifth round (Bryan Cox, Zach Thomas, Reshad Jones, Nolan Carroll, etc.). In fact, Van Ginkel played so well in 2020, that he took the starting linebacker job from prized free agent, Kyle Van Noy and ultimately led to “KVN” being released from his contract and hightailing it back to New England. With a knack for timely hits and big plays, Van Ginkel set career highs for tackles, tackles for loss, QB hits and passes defensed, in 2021. He, like Christian Wilkins, has endeared himself to Miami Dolphins fans with his hard work and productivity.
Round 6; Pick 202: Isaiah Prince, Offensive Tackle, Ohio State
The late round draft pick never panned out for Miami. In fact, he only played in four games for the team that drafted him before being waived in December of his rookie year. He was picked up by The Bengals the very next day. Prince opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 but remained with Cincinnati in 2021 where he graded out as a decent tackle for the playoff-bound Bengals. He appears to be headed in the right direction with his career. Too bad it hasn’t benefited Miami.
Re-Draft: Scotty Miller, Wide Receiver, Bowling Green (originally drafted by Tampa Bay Buccaneers at pick number 208)
While Scotty hasn’t been a world beater of a wide receiver, he has certainly been productive enough for a later round pick, and his touchdown against The Packers in the NFC Championship game last year, was the difference in the score and sent Tampa Bay to the Super Bowl where he would earn himself his first Super Bowl Ring. He had over 500 yards receiving in 2020. Granted, this is in large part due to Tom Brady throwing him the ball. But on a team that has a ton of dangerous weapons like The Bucs have, earning 500 yard receiving is an accomplishment by itself.
Round 7; Pick 233: Chandler Cox, Fullback, Auburn
In a league that has almost rendered fullbacks extinct, The Miami Dolphins decided it would be a good idea to draft one.
It was not.
He was asked, and agreed to take on the role of a blocking fullback and didn’t seem to be too good at it. He had two career receptions for nine yards and was cut by The Dolphins after the 2020 season. He has not been back in the league since.
Re-Draft: Kaden Elliss, Linebacker, Idaho (originally drafted by New Orleans Saints at pick number 244)
While certainly not Lawrence Taylor, Kaden, at least, is still in the league and has actual stats show up under his name, unlike Chandler Cox. The third year linebacker mainly contributes on special teams for The Saints, with some occasional work on the defensive side of the ball. He contributed more to that defense in 2021, including nabbing his first career sack against The Buffalo Bills (I love him for that, alone).
Round 7; Pick 234: Myles Gaskin, Running Back, Washington
The last pick from the 2019 NFL draft for The Miami Dolphins, may actually be the most statistically successful one. The 5’10” running back quickly made himself known for The Dolphins and earned his way into the starting role and a major contributor for Miami over the past three years. Combining quick and shifty moves and having a knack to catch the ball out of the backfield, he exploded for nearly 1,000 all purposes yards in 2020 and 5 combined touchdowns. His production, as well as Miami’s inability to upgrade the position, led to him keeping the starting running back job for most of 2021, where he set career highs in rushing yards (612) an touchdowns from scrimmage (7).
While it appears that his days as the featured back for Miami are numbered, he will certainly be coveted by Miami and/or other teams bad on his work ethic, production and versatility.
The original draft should be considered somewhat successful. Flores hit on his first pick and landed a Pro Bowl caliber Defensive Tackle in Christian Wilkins. He also draft an above average starting linebacker in Andrew Van Ginkel and a solid contributor to the running backs room in Myles Gaskin in the seventh. Those three picks hold tremendous value and represent 50% of the overall draft haul. You could make a case that Isaiah Prince was also a decent pick as he has developed into a pretty good linemen for Cincinnati, but he never did much here in Miami and drafting Scotty Miller instead, may have cured some of the back end receiver issues the team has experienced over the past three years.
Michael Deiter may still have value for someone somewhere, but it is hard to argue that Miami is better off with him versus the tremendously talented Nate Davis. And drafted a pass catching, run specialist Fullback and forcing him to be a blocker is, in a word, stupid. Chandler Cox made zero sense for Miami, especially when you consider the type of offense they would ultimately employ. Getting a back end linebacker who contributes mightily on special teams would have been a better use of that seventh round pick, in my opinion.
A few tweaks to which offensive linemen they should have drafted, and using some picks to help solidify the back end of some positions and this first draft would have been a nice start for a team that was in full rebuild mode back in 2019.
In the next piece, I will take a look at the 2020 Dolphins Draft. Try not to cry as we realize what we COULD have had in the first and second rounds of a talent rich pool.