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 2020 Miami Dolphins Draft
Round 1; Pick 5: Tua Tagovailoa, Quarterback, Alabama
Tank For Tua. That was the mantra for most Miami Dolphins during the re-building first year of Brian Flores in 2019. Trading away key starters like Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick all but confirmed this strategy in the hearts and minds of fans, NFL pundits and analysts everywhere. Except, two things happened along the way…
Tua got badly hurt in college, and The Dolphins won 5 games, dropping them to fifth overall in the draft. Would Tua fall to Miami at five? Would they have to trade up to get him? OR even worse…did they still even want Tua after his hip went full Bo Jackson on him?
Turns out they did still want Tua, and took the former National Championship winning Quarterback at fifth overall. And everyone lived happily ever after…for about three minutes. In the fourth minute, the second guessers, doubters and naysayers took up sides against Tua supporters (affectionately known as “TuAnon”) and the Miami Dol-Fan Neverending Civil War started it’s next chapter.
Tua hasn’t been bad as the starting QB for Miami. He hasn’t been great, either. He is 13-8 as the starter, but has found himself benched twice in his rookie year, openly admitted to not knowing the entire playbook as a rookie and found himself injured again with rib, thumb and other injuries in year two. And if that wasn’t enough, his relationship with Brian Flores was driven hard into into the ground than he was against The Bills this season and fractured worse than his ribs.
The controversial QB has amassed 4,467 yards passing, 27 TDs and a 66.2% completion percentage in his two years in the NFL. He has also rushed for 6 additional touchdowns and had a QB Rating of 90 in 2021. All of this while playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in league history, statistically speaking. But Tua has also thrown 15 interceptions, been sacked 40 times and has had trouble locating receivers on deep passes, often settling for check downs to his nearer teammates, or making poor decisions while flushed out of the pocket. His performance has been up and down and anything but consistent. Perhaps the most alarming fact is that The Dolphins, and their fans, remain divided on whether or not Tua is a franchise QB or not. Not a great discussion to be having for what was supposed to be the face of the franchise back when he was drafted in 2020.
Re-Draft: Justin Herbert, Quarterback, Oregon (originally drafted by Los Angeles Chargers at pick number 6)
Much like this draft, hindsight is 2020. Justin Herbert has had a rocket start to his career as the starting QB for the Los Angeles Chargers. Despite his face looking like he is in a constant state of puberty, the two year vet has been quite manly on the field of play. In the same timeframe as Tua’s above, Herbert has thrown for over twice as many yards (9,350), two and a half more touchdown passes (69…nice!) and a QB Rating over over 97. Additionally, he has rushed for more yardage and more touchdowns than Tua, to boot.
About the only thing Tua has Justin beat on, is posting a winning record as a starting QB. Despite all of his statistical success, Justin Herbert is only 15-17 since coming into the league. That aside, I am not sure there is much discussion as to who has been a better quarterback in the NFL so far in their respective careers.
Round 1; Pick 18: Austin Jackson, Offensive Tackle, USC
The Miami Dolphins have had some wet farts for draft picks in their day, but Austin Jackson at #18 overall may be full blown diarrhea, at this point. After drafting their supposed franchise quarterback at #5 overall earlier in the night, The Dolphins tried to protect that investment with Mr. Jackson. It hasn’t gone well. In less than a year, Austin Jackson has gone from being a first round draft pick, to losing his job (TWICE!) and forced to move to left guard in an effort to mitigate is horri-bad play until they can figure out what to do with him this offseason.
Or, to put it another way…
…Austin Jackson sucks. A lot.
Re-Draft: Justin Jefferson, Wide Receiver, LSU (originally drafted by Minnesota Vikings at pick number 22)
Well isn’t this just a swift kick in the football bag, eh? Four picks after Miami decided to let Austin Jackson steal money from them, an actual bona fide star wide receiver was chosen by Minnesota. Jefferson has been nothing short of amazing since entering the league. 196 catches for over 3,000 yards and 17 touchdowns in two years (and this was with Kirk freaking Cousins throwing him the ball!). He has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons and has solidified himself as a top 1 receiver in the entire league. And the worst part? Miami NEEDED wide receiver help in 2020. It was a pretty glaring hole that was only half-assed addressed in free agency prior to draft day. Combining the Justins together with their first two picks would have given The Dolphins an extremely formidable rookie duo to build upon immediately. But wait, there’s more…
Round 1; Pick 30: Noah Igbinoghene, Cornerback, Auburn
The less said about this travesty of a pick, the better. Most Dolphins fans are pissed off that they spent considerable amount of time learning how to pronounce this guy’s name, only to see it show up on their television screens constantly as he tried to chase down the receivers who burnt him badly the few times he did play. Honestly, this pick was questionable at best and downright horrible in reality. Igbo’s draft grade coming into the 2020 draft was as low as a fifth rounder on some boards, yet somehow Miami felt compelled to make him a first rounder with their third and final pick of the first round.
Not only has Noah been a complete and utter bust, he also had the added bonus of pissing off our star cornerback, Xavien Howard, which may have helped lead to The Miami Dolphins having to give X some “we’re sorry money” before the 2021 season to make up for it. Noah has been outplayed by street free agents like Nik Needham and at this point, I would be surprised if he is still employed as an NFL player beyond his rookie contract.
He makes Austin Jackson look like Richmond Webb, in comparison.
Re-Draft: Tee Higgins, Wide Receiver, Clemson (originally draft by Cincinnati Bengals at pick number 33)
Feeling depressed yet, Dolphins fans? You should. Because your favorite team not only had the ability to add Justin Jefferson to a shallow wide receivers room, but could have bolstered it even further with Tee Higgins. The standout wide receiver from Clemson has nabbed 141 receptions for 2,000 yards and 12 TDs over the course of his two year career. This is the equivalent to what Noah Igbinoghene gave up to the Jacksonville Jaguars receivers in London this past year. Higgins has become a staple of the Bengals offense that catapulted them to the top of the AFC North and winning their first playoff game in three decades.
If only we had a different Noah that would have granted us the gift of two wide receivers coming on to the Miami Dolphins Boat in 2020. Sigh…
Round 2; Pick 39: Robert Hunt, Offensive Linemen, Louisiana
Robert Hunt has been a quality linemen for the Miami Dolphins since he was drafted in the second round of the 2020 draft. In fact, you can make a strong case that he has been Miami’s BEST linemen in that spent. You won’t get any argument from me on that. The talented big man from Louisiana has been the lone bright spot in a unit that has been hilariously bad. And speaking of hilarious, how funny was it to see Big Rob try to shoot his shot against Baltimore and end up inverted as he crossed the goal line? Sadly, the touchdown didn’t count, but the effort sure did. He has endeared himself to Dol-fans everywhere with that play. But alas, when your an offensive linemen and best known for a play that was ultimately just a fancy penalty, it tells you all you need to know about the state of your offensive line.
Re-Draft: Jonathan Taylor, Running Back, Wisconsin (originally drafted by Indianapolis Colts at pick number 41)
The fact that Miami failed to address their painfully obvious hole at the running back position with this pick, is enough to make even the most hardened Dolphins fan break down into tears and sob in the corner of their room. It seemed SO obvious that this was the pick for Miami here, yet…it wasn’t. And no one really knows why, either. JT was highly regarding coming out of college, went to a school The Dolphins were intimately familiar with (they drafted two of his teammates in the 2019 draft) and was a perfect blend of size, speed and strength.
Taylor led the league in rushing in 2021 with over 1,800 yards rushing and 18 TDs. I am no math major but that means he scored more than a touchdown per game and averaged more than 100 yards on the ground per. Not to mention another 300 yards receiving and a couple of TDs and you have yourself a superstar tailback with over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 20 damn touchdowns in one season.
But Miami had signed Jordan Howard who rushed for 33 yards on 28 carries so, you know, ALMOST the same exact thing…
Round 2; Pick 56: Raekwon Davis, Defensive Tackle, Alabama
If nothing else, The Miami Dolphins showed they could get great defensive linemen during the Brian Flores era. Trades, free agents and of course, draft picks, have all been pretty damn successful for The Dolphins during this span. Raekwon Davis is further evidence of that. The 6’7″ mountain of a man was voted to the 2020 All-Rookie team and had made his presence felt for this vaunted Dolphins defense. While he doesn’t get the press of his fellow DT, Christian Wilkins, Davis often does the dirty work of gobbling up linemen so that his teammates can get the glory. A rock solid pick for Miami in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Round 3; Pick 70: Brandon Jones, Safety, Texas
It really felt like The Dolphins hit their stride in the 2020 draft midway through the 2nd round. Raekwon Davis followed by Brandon Jones? Yes please. The second year safety has come into his own as a rock solid defender for The Miami Dolphins in 2021, amassing 79 tackles on the season, an interception, five sacks and 10 additional QB hits. His ability to come up to the line and blitz off the edge helped key a defense that was near the top of the league in QB sacks, hits and pressures. The Dolphins may have missed completely in the first round of this draft, but they hit some solid single and doubles in the middle rounds.
4th Round; Pick 117: Solomon Kindley, Offensive Linemen, Georgia
The fourth round pick has a bit of an incomplete grade, at this point. On one hand, he has a kick ass name. He was either going to be a road grading offensive linemen in the NFL, or a Batman villain. He also did not allow a sack in 2021 and was only flagged for a penalty once. But then again, he only played about three games worth of snaps on the season and that should be somewhat concerning considering he wasn’t injured and the rest of the Dolphins offensive line was garbage. He played much more in 2020 as a rookie and while he gave up more snaps and more penalties, he seemed to be a guy Miami was excited about building with.
So why didn’t that happen? Why wasn’t he able to crack this putrid starting lineup? Was it coaching? Or was he only able to contribute in spot situations before he would get exposed? He is a 6’6″ 315 pound mystery, at this point.
Re-Draft: DJ Wonnum, Linebacker, South Carolina (originally drafted by Minnesota Vikings with pick number 117)
The edge rushing specialist had himself a pretty decent season for The Vikings in 2021. He started 14 games, had 47 tackles, eight sacks and 15 QB hits. Miami seems to have turned a corner in the pass rushing department, but mainly due to creative and timely blitz packages, as well as finally hitting on a draft pick in 2021. Wonnum would have given Miami another weapon in their pack to unleash on opposing offenses.
5th Round; Pick 154: Jason Strowbridge, Defensive End, North Carolina
I remember being way more excited about this pick than I probably should have been. As I referenced in the 2019 re-draft article, The Miami Dolphins have had a long history of drafting defensive gems in the fifth round. So it seemed like a no brainer that Strowbridge would continue that lineage.
He did not.
In fact, he is out of the league less than two years later.
Re-Draft: Bryce Hall, Cornerback, Virginia (originally drafted by New York Jets with pick number 158)
You hate to admit it, but The Jets got themselves a steal with Bryce Hall in the fifth round. While Miami wasted a first round pick on Noah Igbinoghene, they could have had an ACTUAL starting cornerback in this draft here in the fifth round with Bryce Hall. Had they made this one change, they may have actually beaten The Jaguars in London this year and made the playoffs instead of missing out again, firing their coach, and forcing me to write close to 3,000 words about their clusterfuck of a 2020 draft.
Thanks a lot, Miami.
5th Round; Pick 164: Curtis Weaver, Defensive End, Boise State
Full disclosure, this was m favorite value pick in this draft back when it happened. I even stated as such on Episode 160 of the podcast. But despite my glowing endorsement of Curtis Weaver, he didn’t even play on snap for The Miami Dolphins as we was “injured” and was released from his contract. He ended up signing with The Cleveland Browns where I pronounced that Miami would regret their decision to let him go. Since then, Curtis Weaver has played in exactly one game for The Browns and is barely in the league, which goes to show you that drafting players in this league is way easier in hindsight.
Re-Draft: Michael Onwenu, Offensive Guard, Michigan (originally drafted by New England Patriots with pick number 182)
Like a lot of unheralded linemen that make their way to New England, Michael Onwenu has graded out to be pretty decent guard for The Patriots. PFF has him rated at 87 overall in 2021, which is an improvement from 84.1 his rookie season. While not a full time starter for Bill Belichick, the two years vet has played quite a bit in his offense and would be a vast improvement to a Miami Dolphins line that currently hands out QB pressures like they were candy on Halloween.
6th Round; Pick 185, Blake Ferguson, Long Snapper, LSU
Well…there isn’t much to say about Blake Ferguson other than he seems to be pretty decent and throwing the ball pretty far and accurately between his legs. If you have to draft a Long Snapper, the sixth round seems like the right time to do it. Blake’s brother Reid also bends over and shoots balls through his legs as the starting LS for The Buffalo Bills. Reid might be a better Long Snapper, but Blake has better hair.
In all seriousness, the less you have to talk about your long snapping situation, the better off you are. Blake has been rock solid on the field, and a fun follow on Twitter.
7th Round; Pick 246, Malcom Perry, RB/QB/WR, Navy
Perry is/was an interesting case study because while he was with The Dolphins, he never seemed to get a ton of playing time despite being an intriguing gadget player that could play in a variety of offensive skill positions. His biggest claim to fame seemed to be that Bill Belichick wanted to draft him but Miami beat The Patriots Coach to the punch, thus pissing off Lord Vader In A Hoodie. Despite the player swipe by Miami, Perry ended up in New England anyway in 2021, much to the chagrin of many Dol-fans who labeled him a traitorous traitor, despite Miami having not lost since Malcolm Perry went to The Dark Side. In fact, his only real success came when he was a member of The Dolphins and caught a touchdown pass against The Bills from fellow draft mate, Tua Tagovailoa.
Re-Draft: SAME (honestly everyone drafted after him was garbage)
Wowzers. This draft is discussed frequently because of the Tua/Herbert debate. Occasionally people will grumble when the remember that Jonathan Taylor was available for Miami to grab in the second round, as well. But when you look at the glaring oversights of Justin Jefferson and Tee Higgins as well, you have to develop instant diarrhea as a Dolphins fans. This franchise had the ability to draft Justin Herbert, Justin Jefferson, Tee Higgins and Jonathan Taylor on four consecutive picks and somehow managed to miss each time. And these were at positions of need, too!
This is the type of draft that ultimately will get people fired. And while it wasn’t completely devoid of talent, the additions of Raekwon Davis, Brandon Jones and Blake Ferguson don’t make up for the deficit at the top of The Dolphins draft in 2020. This blunder will go down as one of the biggest failures in team history, when it is all said and done. I am honestly shocked at how poorly this draft went for Miami.
In the next piece, I will break down the immediate result from the 2021 NFL Draft. As bad as the 2020 draft was, The Dolphins seemingly did the exact opposite just a year later. They may end up turning this draft frown upside down.