By: Jason Sarney
The NFL Draft is within a week from touching down in living rooms, Zoom conferences and social media groups all over the world. In a time of social isolation and self-quarantining, April 23rd-25th will bring us together, and undoubtedly, rip us apart at the same time.
The Miami Dolphins fan base is one of the most passionate in football, nay, sport. Those who witnessed the 1970’s have been reeling in pain since the last Super Bowl Victory, which was the 2nd in a row and the 3rd appearance in a row from the 1971-1973 seasons. They lost to the Cowboys before the magical perfect season of 1972 and cemented the NFL’s first dynasty when they beat the Vikings in Super Bowl VIII. The Miami Dolphins were the 1st team to appear in three straight Super Bowls.
Miami and those fans waited nearly 10 years to see another Super Bowl, but the 1982 season ended against the Redskins in the Rose Bowl of Pasadena, California with no trophy. Just two years later, a young kid from Pittsburgh electrified the NFL, and sent a shock-wave to all future passers, as although runner-up in the 1984 season, Dan Marino became the face of the next generation of Miami Fans.
As the Niners, led by Joe Montana, raised their arms in victory, little did Marino know at the time, he would never see the big game again. That didn’t stop him from carving out a legendary career, as many would argue was the best of any “passer” the game has ever seen.
As an organization, from that Super Bowl loss, say what you want about the building of the team around him, through several regimes and general managers and even coaches. The decades leading into the end of Dan Marino’s career, unfortunately, didn’t have a transition plan.
In fact, Miami and Jimmy Johnson accumulated a total of 25 picks between 1996 and 1997, with zero quarterbacks taken to be the heir-apparent to the king of the air attack. In fairness, those draft classes were rather poor in quarterback talent, but you get the idea. Imagine if Jake Plummer learned for a few seasons under Marino? I digress.
The next, new generation of Miami Dolphin fans may not have seen the full story of the great number 13, just clips, highlights and movie rentals. However, the scope of his greatness can’t be overlooked, however, the lack of rings was not his fault.
In a team game, it is hard to place blame on one player, or a coach or the people hiring those men. On a team each player must pull their own weight, and the better the overall roster is, the easier the leader’s job of making it work is.
Miami has seen a Dynasty with a team of Hall-of-Famers. They have seen a legend at quarterback for 17 years, but 0-1 in his Super Bowl efforts. Miami has also seen a dominate defense in the late-90’s and even better as they fine-tuned their core, and became a lethal unit in the early 2000’s. The team welcomed Ricky Williams, and finally there was a power running attack to match a mind-bending defense for the opponent.
Alas, no overall success.
Why? Perhaps the weights were scaled towards one direction. One era, it was all about the QB and another era it was all about the defense. There needs to be a happy middle here for success in 2020 and beyond.
Of course the game has changed, and players skills and attributes are heightened and advanced in today’s world versus the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. However, evaluation hasn’t. The ultimate evaluation is near its peak, and the Draft is upon us. The Miami Dolphin fans of every generation seem to be in their own sects of how they want their beloved team to select the next “savior.”
I am guilty of idolizing a few potential saviors but let us look at what has happened in the past, and let us look at the patterns made by Chris Grier and his front office. Listen to his words or read them, about the importance of “team” as well as long-term success.
The following Mock Draft has that in mind, building a team, from the inside, out. An old-school mantra, that could take the Dolphins to a promised land not seen since 1974, in January in Houston Texas, as Coach Don Shula hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, for the last time in Dolphins history, so far.
Will the Dolphins return to the game they once appeared in five times in 14 years? We can’t guess that, nor can we guess each and every player selected by them in the coming week. What we can do is hope that all of the picks, (14 or around that number based on potential trades) will lead to what this franchise needs to win the “big-one.”
The Mock Draft - April 17th, 2020
The Draft began with a familiar top-3, as perhaps a few phone calls were mad, but the Lions are in love with Jeffrey Okudah, and a deal to move back didn't materialize.
However, a conversation that has been going on for weeks between Jacksonville and New York is about to close.
The Jags having several trading chips, including franchise-tagged Yannick Ngakoue, and I am not sold on Gardner Minshew as a "franchise quarterback." Can he lead a team for a year, and see what 16 games could bring while having a rookie red-shirt QB learn and get ready to take over? Perhaps.
It is a shocking "dart-throw" here, but as we have seen in nearly every draft, shocks happen, and more times than not it is involving a quarterback. The Jaguars pull a stunner, and trade for Tua, as not many are expecting it, and that is the theme...expect the unexpected this year.
This scenario means Miami can choose the next QB on their board, or they can do what Grier has been doing in reacting and not over-reacting to a move around the league. He will get the best player available, and that is "football player" Isaiah Simmons. Simmons can be a superb hybrid of a player for Brian Flores, who is a master defensive planner. The Chargers "settle" for Justin Herbert, as Miami's "Plan B" starts to take shape.
Other than the blockbuster Giants and Jags trade, which landed New York a offensive tackle to protect Daniel Jones as well as a franchise pass-rusher in Yannick, the next section of picks were relatively calm and on par to the board. One could argue that Javon Kinlaw slipped, but the Bucs pounced, as Kinlaw can help keep the offense, and Tom Brady on the field more than their opponents.
The Raiders love speed, as it kills, and Henry Ruggs III is a blazer who would like amazing in Silver and Black. It's a safe bet Las Vegas calls a wide-receiver's name in round 1.
The Dolphins draft Jordan Love at #18, and the polarizing quarterback will certainly learn from Ryan Fitzpatrick, and even Josh Rosen about life in the NFL. Two extremes and two different players and people to help do a job unseen on stat sheets. Tutor, help, and assist a younger player progress.
Love, may not see the field in 2020, but in a year with 6 top 70-picks, the Dolphins do not have to "rush" their new signal-caller. At all.
The Jags pick up Grant Delpit, as they are rolling so far in Jacksonville, as people are still shocked and picking themselves off the floor.
21-26 sees back-to-back WRs and this could easily be flipped from Mims and Jefferson on those teams. It's a preference for Philly, but both teams needs help for their passers. The Patriots get a great kid in Epenesa and the Saints go local with a linebacker need in Queen, who could be the King of New Orleans after a great run at LSU. Look out for high-rising corner, Jaylon Johnson who could fit in Minnesota like a defensive glove on NFC North receivers.
The Dolphins take a major prospect who can excel at potentially three positions. Cesar Ruiz can play either guard spot and center as well. This is perhaps 10 picks early for him, but Miami does not want to miss him by three or five selection spots. Ruiz, a Michigan Wolverine, makes Mr. Ross happy, and any Quarterback and running back as well. Ruiz was named the nation's top pass-blocking center in 2019 and can certainly improve Miami's dead-last rush attack from last season.
The end of the 1st round has need matching prospect towards the team selecting, perfectly. Seattle gets their edge rusher in Gross-Matos, as the Ravens take a picture-perfect player for them in linebacker Kenneth Murray. Josh Jones is a terrific tackle, with massive frame as well as upside, and will help the Titans protect their quarterback as well as help their runners.
Jalen Reagor is Aaron Rodgers' new pal, and his presence will be helping Davante Adams, and vice versa. Rodgers has a few runs left, so might as well re-load his arsenal. And now another surprise...but is it?
The San Fransisco 49'ers are void of picks in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th rounds and have needs beyond their two 1st rounders. Miami knows this, and they can help with picks #39, a 3rd and a 6th. They move back into the 1st to select their 4th player in the top 31, Alabama Safety Xavier McKinney. They will still have picks #56, and their 4th, three 5ths, and three 7ths. They can use the 4th rounder and those 5ths to move back into the end of the top 100.
This model has a few shocks, but a number of solid fits for other teams as well as for Miami. The need is still there in more offensive line, particularly tackle, which is pick #56 in my mind. Edge pass-rusher can see a trade up to the end of the 3rd, and Day three can get running backs, defensive back help, a slot receiver and more line help.
Like any other Mock, this is simply a few dart-throws, with a few educated-guesses and some lite guidance chips from connecting the dots across cyberspace.
You can Follow Jason on Twitter @OrangeAquaman