By: Jason Sarney
With the NFL Draft four weeks away, it is the peak of Mock Draft season for the next month! April’s 2020 NFL Draft will be a monumental and seismic shift in the direction of one particular franchise, The Miami Dolphins.
The Miami front office has the reality of preparing for the annual selection meeting in an uncertain world with an unknown future at the moment. As they plan in reality, Mock Drafts are fan fantasies that rarely comes to fruition.
NFL Mock Drafts are as fun as it gets for football obsessed fans. Becoming a virtual General Manager is helping many get through that uncertain reality we are all facing. However, Mock Drafts bring a debate within fan bases, friends and foes. It is this mindset that Phin Maniacs will bring a series of Mock Drafts that will have the same two components.
The first being, to play the board with the best players available at needed positions as long as it does not deviate from the plan of getting their quarterback. Going into this study, to me there were about a half dozen roads to travel, which means there are a handful more of these to come on Phin Maniacs.
There is the Tua-Mock later in the series, the Joe Burrow Trade-up Mock, The Herbert, the Love, and the fantasy version of the “no-running-back-strategy,” the “no-quarterback-in-2020 Mock.”
We are going to begin, not with the obvious one being Tua Tagovailoa at pick #5, but with the “sit-back-and-wait” mindset of Jordan Love being the Miami Dolphins “guy” in this hypothetical Mock Draft.
Having said that, the luck of the draw led to picking Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, simply because he is too good to pass up, and could be the anchor in coach Brian Flores’ defensive scheme.
An athlete of Simmons’ stature and ability can see him roam all areas of the field with a likely home-base of middle-linebacker, bringing back the days of former greats in Miami of Zach Thomas and Brian Cox.
While Simmons is a much different player than both in size and ability, all three posses the leadership skills and ferocity completely necessary for a difference-maker at the position.
Simmons can do it all, and with pick #18, Miami now must focus on the protector for their current quarterback room composed of assumed 2020 starter, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and his presumptive backup as of now, Josh Rosen.
There is no certainty in the NFL Draft as it is a living, breathing organism which changes every pick and every trade.
In this Mock Draft, at #18 Miami selects the best available left tackle in a class that arguably has four or five potential decade-long starters for their teams. Top heavy, no pun intended here, but the left tackle class thins out after the big boys are taken in the top 20 picks.
Luckily in this model, pure left tackle Andrew Thomas of Georgia is the perfect pick at #18 for the Dolphins to protect the #26 pick, the quarterback who will be the apprentice to Fitzpatrick's masterful teaching on how to be a pro and survive in the NFL as long as he has.
Of course, I am talking about training camp’s 3rd-stringer on the rise and final quarterback in the room, Utah State’s Jordan Love in this case. He will find valuable NFL tutelage from Fitz, as well as Josh Rosen, who has dealt with a two year period unlike most 1st round drafted quarterbacks.
Josh Rosen will be in a position to fight to retain the back-up role/2021 potential starter, or even be relegated to trade-bait, making it a viable chance he sees his third team in three seasons, and four if you include college.
The first round was a massive haul for Miami in getting a captain on the defense in the middle of the linebacking group in Simmons. He is joined by guys like Kyle Van Noy, Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillian anchoring the group that includes the depth of Vince Biegel, Andrew Van Ginkel and newly signed free agents in Elandon Roberts and Kamu Grieger-Hill.
The offensive line vastly improves with an instant starter to protect a room of righty passers in Fitz, Rosen and Love, as Andrew Thomas takes the main security role in South Florida. This is hopefully your next Richmond Webb. Frankly, Miami would happily take 70% of Webb's career production from Thomas, as #78 was the legendary protector of the legend of legends, Dan Marino. Miami must leave the first round with a stud left tackle.
Thomas will join newly acquired guard, Miami-breed Ereck Flowers and with Ted Karras at center, there is seemingly a secured side to the line for Jordan Howard to run behind and for any quarterback to feel safe on his blind-side. The right guard spot will be up for grabs as well as the tackle spot. Michael Dieter and Shaq Calhoun could battle for the guard slot and Jesse Davis could man the right tackle for now.
April 23rd could be declared a win with a three-player upgrade of Simmons, Thomas and Love. Day 2 will need to address areas like the backfield, both defensively and offensively as a safety and running back surely need to be on the radar.
As stated earlier, the draft is a living creature to an extent, and that means human error is involved. Grant Delpit should not be around here, so I am not going to be the Mock-owner to pass on the all-around safety from LSU. You could simply replace Delpit with Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. if it makes you happy in this fantasy to make this a bit more realistic. Either way, you get the point. The defensive secondary needs to be of primary concern on Friday, April 24th.
Now that a perfect storm is brewing and “Thunder” has rolled into Miami Gardens in the form of Jordan Howard, Phin Maniac's Luis Sung told us all in our PodCast, no downpour is significant or scary without a bit of “Lightning.”
While there is that storm coming, there is still more Thunder on the way at pick #56 with interior offensive lineman, Tyler Biadasz out of Wisconsin. This is another apprentice situation to learn from a veteran, this time the mentor is Ted Karras. If the Dolphins choose to utilize Biadasz right away with his outstanding run blocking in the form of right guard, that is still a need, and an option if we are talking hypothetical situations.
Since the running backs at and around picks 39 and 56 went elsewhere, the three-headed class of tier-one runners were gone, being Deandre Swift, JK Dobbins and Jonathan Taylor.
There is a backup plan for Miami and luckily Florida State’s Cam Akers fell in the lap of a team looking for a complement to Jordan Howard and Patrick Laird. This backfield now feels a little like a Patriots group of Sony Michel (Jordan), James White (Akers), and Rex Burkhead (Laird).
This is New England South, right?
After the luxury of picking an unique six-pack of players in the top-70 selections, the Dolphins nearly have a full draft of immediate contributors. They possess eight more picks as their total of 14 picks is six players deep after Round 3.
This is now trade up territory with a gap of no picks until 71 selections away, which will leave Miami waving goodbye to dozens of high-ceiling prospects.
This is where three 5ths and three 7ths come into play with their standard 6th.
In this Mock Draft, The Draft Network provides a premium service for trades-ups and in this case, there were two. As the board hit the 90th pick range, I was getting nervous that a pair of New England picks closing out the top-100 would have my sleeper pass-rusher on the "edge" of being taken by a rival.
Brian Flores, who knows how Bill Belichick thinks and scouts, needs to whisper into the ear of Chris Grier and beg for a trade up. We called the Las Vegas Raiders, rolled the dice, and they turned down an offer of Miami’s 141st and 153rd for their 91st.
They said no, and asked, “is that the best you can do?”
We responded with a final offer of that 154th additionally, and they said, “deal.”
Alex Highsmith, remember that name, is going to be a 3rd round pick, and Miami better get another 3rd towards the back-end of it, as 70th may just be 20 picks too soon for the walk-on to scholarship player from the University of Charlotte.
The Highsmith deal means a few less picks since the deal netted Las Vegas an extra two picks, but if you expect to see 14 roster'ed rookies come Week 1, you are kidding yourself.
The next deal is for another need on the offensive line, so to speak, and that being blocking help that can also produce yards and points! Thaddeus Moss is a traditional in-line blocking tight end that can complement receiving-threat, Mike Gesicki.
Yes, Moss is the son of Randy and that fact is known as much as the fact Gesicki used to play basketball. Like every other tight end since Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates inspired the concept.
What Moss brings, is a tough and skilled run-blocker. Line him up on a weaker side for help, or solidify those sweeps and runs to the left on the new strong-side with these rookies. Moss pulverizes his targets and pancakes them before being a red-zone threat and target in his own right in the endzone and middle of the field, mainly.
The trade-ups to another 3rd and the move to get back into the fourth gave this draft 8 players in the top 111 selections, all of whom can be immediate contributors along with the 10 free agent additions.
That math brings you to 18 impactful new Dolphins, with three dart-throws of picks left to tell you about. Since they are dart-throws, these three 7th rounders are likely practice squad picks, or could even smell the roster mid-season.
James Proche is a speedy slot-receiver from SMU and a pair of Wolverines from Michigan in Jon Runyan (OT) and Lavert Hill (CB) may make owner Stephen Ross simile a bit more woth some fellow alums after getting 11 new players in a draft to go along with his free agency haul.
That’s 21 new players to add to a core, returning unit of DeVante Parker to lead the receivers with perhaps the best keep secret, once again, at the position in second-year star-in-the-making, Preston Williams. Rumor is, he is ahead of schedule in his rehab from last season's knee injury.
The core gets slot help from Proche if the team decides to part with Albert Wilson. Depth of veteran Allen Hurns and young contributor Isaiah Ford will give secondaries headaches, and migraines when you throw in 3rd year breakout tight-end candidate, Gesicki.
Howard and now Akers man a backfield with Laird, as Kalen Ballage and Myles Gaskin battle for supporting roles. They run behind a line that reads left to right, potentially, like Thomas – Flowers – Karras – Biadasz – J. Davis. And lest we forget, fullback Chandler Cox.
On defense, the linebacker unit is fearsome as can be in Simmons, Baker, McMillian, and Van Noy heading the group and Roberts, Grieger-Hill, Beigel and Van Ginkel coming in rotationally to help in certain situations and of course for some, on special teams.
As for the much needed improvement on the pass-rush, Shaw Lawson will help set the edge on the defensive line for Emmanuel Ogbah, Taco Charlton and Alex Highsmith, while line-pushers and run-pluggers like Davon Godchaux and Christian Wilkins sure up the middle.
The secondary, with Xavien Howard and free agent prize-piece, Byron Jones, has to be a Top-5 duo in the league by logic and math. They are the 2nd and 3rd highest paid in the NFL at the position, with Jones topping Howard slightly.
Second year pass-breakup machine Nik Needham now has two of the best in the game to learn from and spell, and in certain situations contribute on the field together as an Island-cluster of lock-down corners. This is sure to sarcastically highlight teams’ trips to South Florida with a 60-minute tour of the states highway of mini islands.
“The Florida Keys” will make sure the receivers entering Miami Gardens take caution of the under-toe. Lifeguards suggest no passes to be allowed, as the waterways around the Hard Rock are closed on Sundays, and hopefully... some Monday Nights soon.
Safety Grant Delpit patrols the middle of the secondary with Bobby McCain, Eric Rowe and Adrian Colbert adding to the island-set of defensive backs.
Enter "The Keys," at your own risk.
The Dolphins need something to make this whole experiment work. The catalyst to a two-year process of dismantling and rebuilding. That catalyst has been agonizingly lacking with this franchise for two full decades...save a flash of it at times, in all fairness.
Will Jordan Love be the straw to finally stir the drink that will lead Miami fans (of legal age) to sip a beverage of choice in celebration and not sorrow? This model leads to three Miami quarterbacks, all getting the potential chance to show us all who can get the results us mad scientists are looking for.
Can Ryan Fitzpatrick succeed and get four or five more wins than 2019 with this group, in a wide-open and Tom Brady-less AFC East? If he can’t, can Josh Rosen?
And if Rosen can’t…is some time around Week 8 the moment when Jordan Love can introduce himself to Miami, and once again, we all fall head-over-heels for the new passer we have all been waiting for and dreaming of?
And if this process of quarterback appraisal leads to a nightmarish and early divorce, well, there is a young kid on the way up. Miami still has their full 2021 draft, and most of Houston’s to get the quarterback of their dreams in Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, should Love break everyone’s heart. Always keep that in mind.
All we can do at the moment is Mock Draft, and if you are me, listen to Aerosmith while doing so, and literally…"Dream On."
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