By: Jason Sarney
We are officially two weeks away from Day One of the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland, Ohio. Mock drafts have been circulating, we’ve all been critiquing them, and everybody has searching for inside information prior to the draft to get a sense of what their team is thinking.
Looking back on one of the last things coach Brian Flores said when discussing the Miami Dolphins draft plans, he quoted a Rolling Stones song by saying “You can’t always get what you want.”
When we dissect that line, we all can speculate that what Coach Flores always wants is more defensive backs, similar to Jerry Seinfeld’s obsession with luxury cars. Sure, they already have a garage full of them, but when a decently priced one comes available, sometimes they just can't help themselves.
That may be Day Two for Flores, shopping for other items with his partner in crime, general manager Chris Grier. Like a kid in the toy area of Target while their parent needs household items, coach Flo could very easily “pound his fist on the desk” for at least one major “want,” not entirely unlike a five-year-old holding his breath until their parent gives in and gets the $4.99 Roblox toy.
(Note: This never happens to me)
A young cornerback pupil to mold in say the pick 50-81 range could make Flores as happy as a kid in a candy store, or a defensive back mastermind with another chess piece in his collection. With due diligence being done (as any person in this world is attempting this time of year), I have heard that a cornerback is certainly a possibility Day 2 for Miami.
In figuring out who those prospects are, I’m merely speculating, but it makes sense to utilize the knowledge of one’s personnel - team coaches and scouts. Flores’s defensive backs coach, Gerald Alexander, is just a few seasons removed from coaching at California, so there are likely heavy connections in his network in the PAC-12. In looking at Day 2 corners, a few come to mind as those who would do well with a coaching pair of Alexander and Flores.
In a season where coaches and scouts aren’t in combines and meetings as per previous normal years, due to the lingering Covid-19’s presence, networking and information through ready-made contacts could be a coach’s best friend this off-season.
I think Miami has their eye on corners that won’t cost a pick price of #6, #18 or #36. After that, the analogy goes back to the kid in the toy aisle whose parent just took a wrong turn; just give the kid what he wants.
Here are my PAC-12 guys to circle after I did some digging this week:
Paulson Adebo of Stanford has good size at 6’1”, smarts and ability to play in any system, and those traits put him in coach Flores’s wheelhouse. Mixed with coach Alexander being the California defensive backs coach from 2017-2019, it’s a solid bet there is decent knowledge of Pac-12 corners in that span.
Adebo had very productive seasons in 2018 and 2019 for Stanford, picking off three passes in each. He also recorded 27 passes defended, with 17 in his sophomore year. Adebo missed three games at the close of the 2019 season, and opted out of the 2020 season, so he’s a perfect under-the-radar draft target for this front office.
Pulling even further on the coach-Alexander-network-thread reveals Washington Husky corner Elijah Molden. Molden is a fun study, as he’s also a bit under-hyped, coming off a four-game 2020. In 2019, he led the Huskies team in both interceptions (4) and pass breakups (12). He was a 2020 All Pac-12 player and a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which is equivalent to the Academic Heisman trophy. The Dolphins already have a Campbell Trophy winner on the team in Christian Wilkins has; so Molden is a perfect Flores-type guy. He’d be perfect for this front office.
Molden is a classic prospect for this Miami regime being versatile; he’s highly football intelligent and has the DNA of a professional football player (he’s the son of former NFL defensive back Alex Molden), continuing the pedigree of a few of the top-tier corners in this draft like Patrick Surtain II, Jaycee Horn and Asante Samuel, Jr.
Lastly but not least is Oregon corner, Thomas Graham, Jr. at 5’11” and 196 lbs. Like Adebo, he opted out of 2020, so one could call him “fresh as can be” heading into a training camp. A ball-hawk who picked off a career eight passes in three seasons, while breaking up 32, he could be a terrific depth addition to an NFL group.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of listening to Zoom media meetings was how the defensive backs trained this past summer in Miami; it was amazing how clearly coach Alexander preached competition and turnover creation.
There was even a divided room in a creation of a turnover battle, so these three smart, savvy and shiftable cornerbacks are all candidates to be Miami selections, should Flores win the suits over. One of them could be a Top-81 pick for Miami, coach Flo goes home with a new toy…and the office gets back to business.
Everyone wins, and let’s not forget the rest of that Rolling Stones lyric: “But if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.”