By: Jason Sarney
In one of the more obvious statements that you will ever read, hitting on 1st- round NFL draft choices and having them play the long haul of their career in their prime with their original team can be the key to consistent success and eventual Super Bowl appearances.
Inversely, not having success and actually having tremendous failure in retaining 1st-round selections can possibly hinder a franchise a decade or even more. In a quick study of the last 20 years of Miami Dolphin drafting, there has been some horrific, historical evidence as to why the Dolphins have not won a playoff game since 2000.
Dating back to the 1983 draft here is a list of players who have been selected in the 1st-round, played for at least five NFL seasons, and done so solely in Miami.
Not a ton of players hitting in the 1st-round for the long-haul in Miami, and even worse are the recent year’s 1st-round choices that are no longer Dolphins for various reasons.
They are, along with their drafted year:
2011 – Mike Pouncey
2012 – Ryan Tannehill
2013 – Dion Jordan
2014 – Ja’Wuan James
2016 – Laremy Tunsil
2017 – Charles Harris
2018 – Minkah Fitzpatrick
This is a tough list to look at, being that all of these players did not materialize in Miami, and only DeVante Parker has remained as a 1st-round pick prior to the last draft of 2020 when Miami welcomed Tua Tagovailoa, Austin Jackson and Noah Igbinoghene as well as 2019’s 1st, Christian Wilkins.
To go a bit further in the tough 2000’s draft history of Miami, here are the players to make Pro-Bowls this century as Dolphin-drafted players while still on the Fins roster as “all-stars.”
Brandon Fields -7th Yeremiah Bell -6th Jay Ajayi -5th Paul Soliai -5th Chris Chambers -2nd Ronnie Brown -1st Reshad Jones -5th Xavien Howard -2nd Jake Long -1st Mike Pouncey -1st Jarvis Landry -2nd
This is not an extensive list, and before people go running to the “blame-game,” I implore you all not to point the virtual finger at current General Manager, Chris Grier. Sure, he was named General Manager in 2016 however, there was an Executive Vice President of Football Operations over him, named Mike Tannenbaum.
This is not a bashing article, or at least the intent, so I will refrain from Tannen-bashing. This is a mere realization that the “clock” on Chris Grier and his “grading period,” is 2019. Two things happened then which official began the “clock,” in my opinion.
First off – Tannenbaum was gone, and the EVP of Football Operations title has since vanished. Almost like Grier absorbed the role like he is some super-powered football executive. There is no EVP title in this regard so clearly, there is no direct supervision or oversight for Grier in operating this football team’s front office and it’s personnel.
It can be argued that the first season of Grier’s tenure was to sweep the misses from the other regimes under the turf, and “rebuild” following a “renovation.” Gone was Tunsil and Fitzpatrick via and Harris via ineptitude, the last three 1st-rounders, and the cleanse had begun the moment Houston knocked on the door with a treasure trove of picks for the 2016 13th overall selection.
Following a 2019 draft that needs to include undrafted free agents in grading its rookies (UDFAs Preston Williams and Nik Needham), one could argue that the selections of Wilkins in the 1st is a hit thus far, while steals like Andrew Van Ginkel in the 5th and Myles Gaskin in the 7th are starters, and fan favorites heading into year three. The jury is out still on 3rd rounder Michael Dieter but there are “F” grades to OL Isaiah Prince and sadly, fullback Chandler Cox.
Grier also questionably traded with a pair of organizations in leading to the Josh Rosen acquisition, which was also looked at as a “F” universally by all football people who watch the sport. All in all, the 2019 rookie class produced 5 key players, and finished their drafted process with six actual selections following the Rosen deal, three “hitting.”
2020 is of course way too early to judge. Yet positionally, Grier did what he needed to do, getting a “potential” franchise quarterback, an outside tackle to protect him, and a developing cornerback who was picked and played his rookie year as the NFL’s youngest player. The second-youngest player last season was that offensive tackle referenced a second ago.
The uncommon and enviable position created by essentially trading Tunsil and Fitzpatrick has Grier as a certified “house-flipper.” He has created a clean slate, an open foundation which started in 2019, and began to rise in it’s layers in 2020. The current pair of 1st-rounders Miami possesses in next week’s draft are must-hits, and there is no question about it. It could be the difference of hopefully winning a lone playoff game in a year or two, or contending for a Super Bowl, consistently.
For this regime and the players they select to succeed on the field, these early picks must stay Dolphins through their rookie deals and maybe, just maybe, those homegrowns can just stay the course, and stay in the colors we love.
Orange and Aqua.