Miami Dolphin 2019 Draft Musings

2019 Draft Musings
BY: Joe Tarell (Quadzilla)

The 2019 NFL Draft beginning on April 25th in Nashville is going to be a notable draft for a number of reasons.  The main theme for this class is that it will be remembered three to five years from now as very weak in overall talent.  First let me explain that and then I will dig into some of the players and how it will likely play out.

We all know that the QB class of 2020 is supposed to be a very strong group, just as in 2017 everyone pointed to the 2018 class.  The fact is this draft is not that strong overall or at the QB.  The unanimous top player in this draft is Nick Bosa.  While many expect him to be a good NFL prospect, the injury history and the measurables do not equate to an elite prospect.  He was well-trained, having NFL level players for a father, brother and uncle, but he will not out-technique everyone in the NFL the way he did in college.  The good news is that there is awesome depth in the D-line prospects, just not elite talent.  It appears to be the same at OT.  The two places where there appears to be elite talent are at ILB and TE, which are not the glamour positions. I just think this is a draft where we may not see a single HOF candidate when it is all said and done.

The QB’s in this class are led by Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray.   Both have strengths that can’t be denied, but both are one year starters with some major concerns as well.  I list Haskins first because his weakness is mobility and that can be overcome easier than size, which is Murray’s weakness.  I would rather go watch Kyler Murray play, but I would rather not draft either of them and risk my job on it.  After that, the talent drops off very quickly as I do not believe that Drew Lock is an NFL caliber starting QB, though I believe that Daniel Jones has the most upside of all of them considering he played at Duke and not a single player from that roster is going to be drafted.  The Dolphins should wait until next year for their QB in my opinion unless Haskins falls to them in the first or Jones in the second.

Drafting a QB is more art than science and most people get it wrong.  The fact is that three of the best QB’s in the history of the NFL are Tom Brady, Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas.  They were drafted in the 6th, 3rd and 9th rounds respectively.  Even Dan Marino, though technically a first rounder, was the sixth QB taken in 1983.  The key defining trait of great QB’s is leadership.  John Elway is the picture of the athlete you want playing QB, but took nearly 15 years to win a Super Bowl because it took time to become a leader and we are seeing that now in his role as a GM.  After leadership comes competitiveness.  And the next is the ability to deliver a football amid the chaos of an NFL pocket accurately and on time while seeing 22 moving parts and knowing how the movements will culminate in a completed pass… better known as spatial awareness.  Now tell me how the hell you measure those three things at the Combine or a freaking pro day?

Kyler Murray sat behind Baker Mayfield, but his three high school state championships and his one year at Oklahoma tell me all I need to know about his competiveness and leadership. I also think he has great spatial awareness and accuracy.  If he were over 6 feet tall we would have an Andrew Luck grade on him.  Draft him if you get the chance.  Haskins on the other hand, sat behind TJ Barrett (he’s an NFL star now isn’t he) and played on arguably one of the top three most talented teams in the country and still could not make the playoffs.  If you watch his tape closely, he has three NFL caliber WR’s and he waits for them to get clearly open before delivering the ball.  He got away with that because of the talent level at OSU but it caught up to him at times.  I still think he has a chance to be good in the NFL, but not elite.

I won’t spend much time on RB and WR because I do not believe there is a single player worthy of a first round choice in this draft.  I would almost never pick a RB in the first round and with WR’s it is almost as bad.  My theory on RB’s goes back to pee wee football and the best player is always at RB so by the time they get draft-eligible they are a dime-a-dozen and they only last three to four years anyway.  The WR position is similar these days with the proliferation of the spread offenses at the lower levels of football.  You add in the Diva Factor and the belief that this position is totally relying on the other 10 guys to have any chance for success and it is bad recipe.  Josh Jacobs is the best RB prospect and he did not even start in college.  Marquis Brown came to college weighing 144 pounds and now is a hefty 166, while DK Metcalf looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane.  Really?  These are the top two prospects?  I will wait until rounds two through four and reduce the Diva Factor, thank you very much.

The TE class is intriguing again this year.  TE’s usually take a year to develop in the NFL so there is still some hope for Gisecki and Smythe.  I bring those two names up for a couple reasons; one, because this is a Dolphins blog and I am still pretty high on both of them, but also because they are two separate types of TE.  One is primarily a blocker and the other is primarily a receiver. The feeling is that T.J. Hockenson can be both so he is expected to go early, Noah Fant and Irv Smith, Jr. are better receivers than blockers but Smith is probably closer to being a combo than Fant.  All three could go in round one as the TE position has become more of a focal point lately.  Teams play follow the leader and the Patriots have always been the leaders in utilizing the TE, but now with Philadelphia winning a Super Bowl and the Chiefs having Kelce as a primary threat, they are becoming all the rage.  We will see 15 or more TE’s get drafted this year after 14 went each of the last two years.

The OT class is not very strong this year.  If there is top LT prospect he is usually going in the top five and we may not see one come off the board until after 10 and even some of the other Tackles expected to get first round attention are potentially moving to OG.  Jawaan Taylor seems to be the top  OL prospect followed by Andre Dillard, Jonah Williams, Cody Ford and a couple of interior guys like Garrett Bradbury and Chris Lindstrom or Erik McCoy.  Again, some good depth, but not exactly rated as elite.

The defensive line is the strength of this draft and  is usually split into two groups these days.  The edge rushers, who could be OLB’s in a 3-4 or DE’s in a 4-3, but they are primarily edge defenders who rush the passer and set the edge in the run game.  The second group is the interior players, which may be a 3-4 DE, a DT or NT.  The edge group is pretty strong and deep, but not elite in my opinion.  Bosa, Josh Allen, Montez Sweat, Rashan Gary, Clelin Ferrell, Brian Burns and potentially one or two others could all go in round one.  When it comes to edge defenders I always count productivity over measurable, that is why Sweat, Allen and Bosa should all go well ahead of Gary.  The leading sacker of all time in the NCAA is in this draft, Jaylon Ferguson, who went to Louisiana Tech – I want him before I want Rashan Gary.  A wise person once wrote, ‘whatever they are before they get paid, they will only become more like that after they get paid.’

In the interior defensive line we again have a strong and deep group led by Quinnen Williams, who may be the best player in the draft.  Ed Oliver, Christian Wilkins, Jeffrey Simmons (who is recovering from a torn ACL), Dexter Lawrence and Jerry Tillery could all go in the first round.  There are also enough good players here that talent can be found into rounds three and four.  Again, though, other than Williams, I do not see any elite players.  You can pick them apart for a variety a flaws; Oliver had some attitude issues and is on the small side, Lawrence has minimal production, Simmons has the ACL and some character flags, so buyer beware.  The Dolphins first pick could come from these two groups, my guess is Wilkins.

At the LB position there a couple of players that really turned heads at the combine.  Normally, I am opposed to the workout warrior, but when the production is there and with Devin White and Devin Bush it is definitely on film, and they run 4.41 at the combine, hello first round.  Bush will go later because he is only 5’11”, but these two guys are three down linebackers with a ton of tackles and plays made from sideline to sideline at two big time schools.  Plug and play.  Unfortunately there is not much depth here.

Defensive back is another area where there is no truly elite player in this draft.  Many have the best CB as Greedy Williams from LSU but I wouldn’t draft him before the third round for one simple reason; he won’t tackle.  Watch his tape and you will see he is a pile inspector.  Tackling is about desire, not talent or skill, it does not get better in the NFL.  Deandre Baker and Byron Murphy are much better candidates and likely first rounders, but there really is not much to get excited about.  Some safeties like Jonathan Abram or Taylor Rapp may go in round one but they are mostly graded as 2nd rounders.

So what is the consensus? Miami at 13 should be able to get a really good OL or DL candidate.  I don’t expect an all-pro to be sitting there unless you want to draft Jeffrey Simmons and give him a redshirt year.  He has top 5 talent, but tore his ACL in February preparing for the draft so there is little chance he contributes this year.  If the Dolphins are truly rebuilding for 2020 and beyond this pick make sense.  Otherwise pick Andre Dillard, Jonah Williams or Cody Ford for the OL.  I also like Garret Bradbury as a guard or center, but this is a little early.  Maybe a trade back is in order.

Then in the second round Miami should just flip the side of the ball.  If you go Simmons in round one, go OL at 48, where Kaleb McGary, Titus Howard or one of the highly ranked interior players should be available.  If you go OL in round one, then Jaylon Ferguson, Jerry Tillery, L.J. Collier or Chase Winovich should be available.  The point is stick to the strength of this draft and go get some big uglies.

Miami should avoid skill positions until at least round three unless a DB falls in their lap in round two.  If Dwayne Haskins somehow slips to 13, take him.  I have a good feeling about him, but all of this talk of him slipping is a just smoke screen.  Remember, it is lying season.  Three or four QB’s will likely come off the board before the Dolphins pick at 13.  And this means with T.J. Hockenson also likely off the board, the Fins will get one of the top 9-10 linemen in the draft at 13.  Get a big ugly that sacks the QB or protects the QB or trade out of the pick.  And don’t be surprised if they trade out multiple times next weekend and take 2020 choices in return.