By: Jason Sarney
As we get to one day away from April, NFL fans can rejoice as the Draft seems to be the only game in town with what is going on in the world. Mock Drafts are a helpful distraction in these times, and with nearly a month to go until players know their new teams, it’s as fun as ever guessing who goes where.
In this Phin Maniacs Mock Draft series, Part 1 aimed for Jordan Love, and the draft was handled around him.
Part 2 today, deals with another 1st round quarterback prospect, who is perhaps the 2nd most polarizing passer in this year’s class. With Tua Tagovailoa, there seem to be varying degrees of extremes. With these two guys, it seems to be a love’em or hate’em deal.
Hypothetically typing and thinking, as all Mocks are, let us pretend the Dolphins had a plan of waiting for Justin Herbert, who they thought is their best choice after dealing with another area that could help any quarterback and any team.
With that setup, let’s take a look at – The Herbert Draft:
As mentioned, the Dolphins have a plan in Herbert in this faux-draft, and if I am pretending I am the one calling the shots, I am saying to myself, “address the biggest need, then see what happens.”
Yes, this sounds scary when a franchise like Miami is desperate for an elite QB they can call the savior of the Franchise. Yet , with the ability to solidify an offensive line, and get firepower for Herbert, this draft played out as best a Duck and a bunch of Dolphins can hope for…swimmingly.
With the #5 pick, the Miami brass looked at the worst weakness on the team from last year, which was undoubtedly the poor collective performance of the offensive line. Get ready for some tough-to-stomach truths.
In 2019 Miami was ranked 32nd in rushing yards, tied for last with the Jets in yards per carry, 25th in the league in rushing scores, and led the league in QB hits while tying the Panthers for the most times allowing a quarterback sack.
I don’t care who is throwing the ball. No one can succeed for a full season, plus a hopeful playoff berth, with an offensive line ranked so low. There was simply limited time for consistent air offense, and limited space for rushing room and holes for running backs.
This draft saw a strategic opportunity to get arguably the best offensive tackle in the class, with a twist. Jedrick Wills spent his Alabama years manning the blind side of a certain lefty, which means he is a ready-made NFL right tackle. Jesse Davis is penciled in at that slot at this moment in time.
Although the line improved in free agency with left guard Ereck Flowers and center Ted Karras, there are still bookend tackles needed. The Wills pick is a move that means Miami can potentially find another one of those tackles later to set the left side up for success.
So, Miami made an Alabama player a 1st round pick in the Top 5 and his college teammate is left wondering for about 10 minutes what his NFL future holds. Tua went to the Chargers, and in this alternate universe, the two 'Bama boys at picks #5 and #6 will still be attached in some way.
While half of the Miami fan base is reeling in disbelieve, the savvy football fan realizes that there are a) more quarterbacks in this draft b) two, call them – viable options – on the roster in Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen and c) there is that 2021 QB named Trevor Lawrence, as that emergency break-the-glass play.
The Dolphins have four picks in the first two rounds next year thanks to the Texans, a team that already is a contender for a tough season and a potential Top-10 draft slot if Bill O’Brien deals the way he has been.
Moving on, the Dolphins now are in wait-and-see mode for their upcoming two picks in the 1st round after nabbing a stud tackle. Who else can say that this year?
As the process continues in the Mock as it will, in reality, picks change things and each selection creates a potential rift in the “normal” or “expected selection.” Looking at picks 6-17, the drafts next two signal-callers were still available, being Justin Herbert and Jordan Love. A quick look at the market of teams in-between the 18th and the 26th, I picked up the fake-phone and called Seattle.
With that 26th pick less than a dozen selections away, the 2nd roll of the dice was taken, and the trade offer of the 27th, 101st and 144th was accepted after efforts to collect their 2nd round pick in compensation didn't fly. This deal allowed Miami to pick up another 3rd as well as a valuable 4th rounder in between their oasis of a huge pick gap until pick 141.
With Seattle picking a tackle in Josh Jones, that plays well as there are a few left tackles that rank a tad higher on the Dolphins board, or my fake board. And with a huge run of wide receivers taken, that means Miami now will have back-to-back picks following the Seahawks trade with plenty of needed positions available with top-tier talent.
The 26th and 27th picks are very strategic in Caesar Ruiz of Michigan and the consensus 3rd QB on most boards, Justin Herbert. Ironically, another Dolphins Quarterback was once drafted 27th overall, but I digress.
Ruiz, a Michigan interior lineman is a plug-and-play right guard, who can certainly take the reins from Ted Karras in 2021. Ruiz is the exact kind of inside offensive lineman you can rely on to improve the run game.
At the 27th pick, Miami takes a shot and now has a shotgun-style QB, with a brand-new right tackle and the drafts top interior lineman in Ruiz. They may even become a center-QB battery with the flexibility Ruiz brings to a line.
Moving up 8 spots, and one in front of the Jets this early will cost a few picks, and with the number of picks left, there was not a worry to toss a 4th and two of those three 5th rounders to Atlanta to move up and get a "Lighting" type runner to match with the "Thunder" of Jordan Howard.
Round 1 is complete and Miami picked up a franchise right tackle and center (who can play guard) along with a Quarterback in Herbert to watch and learn a season from Fitzgerald. This move turns Josh Rosen into trade-bait. And a potential pick-up of a 3rd or 4th rounder if a team comes calling, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The Dolphins head into Round 2 with their 39th selection and low-and-behold, there is a top-5 left tackle sitting there and that is Austin Jackson. At 6’6’’ 310 lbs., the USC big-man can be the final cog in an instantly improved offensive line that reads from right to left, Wills – Ruiz – Karras – Flowers – Jackson.
With the 56th pick up next, there was a bit of worry as running back Deandre Swift was an early pick at 14th overall, so the next two backs are close to being selected. With some extra ammo from the Seattle deal, another call was made and this time to another bird, the Falcons.
The deal was accepted, and Miami selects Ohio State single-season all-purpose yards record holder, JK Dobbins. Dobbins is a shifty and speedy runner who can take the ball through the gaps and hit the outside for long gains and has the strength to get yards after contact.
He is a capable pass-catcher who can contribute a few receptions a game, but Dobbins could be a terrific runner to eventually become the lead-back for Miami.
With the next pick being #70, Miami needs a safety and thankfully there is a coach in the war room who jumped up in excitement, in Gerald Alexander. Alexander is the new Miami defensive backs coach, fresh off a stint at the University of California as their DB coach. His former player, Ashtyn Davis, provides a starter at the free safety position and the familiarity with his coach will make his transition to the NFL smoother than most of his peers.
After the Davis pick, Miami has six players in the top 70, and they aren't done in the third round yet, thanks to the Seattle deal earlier.
With the 101st pick being the next selection up for MIA, there is too long a wait for the pass-rusher who could be the next great Miami sack artist. Alex Highsmith will be in every Mock Draft of mine. He is a relentless worker, who was a walk-on turned scholarship player at the University of Charlotte. He can be a rookie-rusher and one day a staple on the defensive edge. The only aspect better than his performance on the field is how he handles himself off of it. This is a Miami guy, a Flores guy, and instant fan-favorite at pick 103 if we go a tad ahead.
WR from Florida Van Jefferson goes to ay 101 and the Dolphins have players #7 and #8 in the top 103 picks. Jefferson is a guy who provides slot-skills and has NFL pedigree. Van's dad, Shawn was the wide-out who once had an up-close-and-personal meeting (savage tackle) from Zach Thomas.
With the amount of impact players already selected, and the trades made to do so, Miami has a few picks left in the 7th to give them 10 new rookies to add to 10 brand new free agents.
If you are counting at home, the trades lost four picks but really, do you expect 14 rookies on this opening day roster? The top 8 picks in this model will make the cut, and the 7th round dart-throws of a solid blocking tight end from Oregon in Jacob Breelan, he can room with his buddy Justin Herbert in training camp, and help protect him and give him a weapon he is familiar with.
Coach Alexander wasn't done hyping his guys, and Jaylinn Hawkins is a potential strong safety who has great size at around 6'3''. Not the worst idea in the world bringing in a pair of safeties who are both familiar with each other and their coach.
Hawkins is actually training in California as we speak, with best friend from high school, Dolphin cornerback, Nik Needham. I will bet a Golden Bear nickel than a California defensive back is drafted by Miami.
So there you have it! A ten-player haul with a full offensive line to match with the new additions of Karras and Flowers. Add on the running back and wide receiver that will grow with the quarterback in Herbert. Throw in a safety and edge pass-rusher in Davis and Highsmith to improve two levels of the defense. Close the process with a tight end to help the offensive line and a family face at safety to fight to make the roster or very least, practice squad.
Part I in this series had a different feel, and I happen to like the offensive mindset here, as Ryan Fitzpatrick can truly have a fantastic final year in the sun, as Justin Herbert watches, learns, and gets ready to lead a stacked offense in 2021, that will have more to add to it come next off-season and next year's draft.