Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook: Dolphins Dictate 2020 NFL Draft Ripple Effects

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterApril 10, 2020

Owner Stephen Ross, coach Brian Flores and GM Chris Grier have some franchise-changing decisions on their hands in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Owner Stephen Ross, coach Brian Flores and GM Chris Grier have some franchise-changing decisions on their hands in the 2020 NFL Draft.Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins control the 2020 NFL draft with a league-leading 14 selections.

What will they do with those picks, and how will that change the plans of other teams?

With three first-rounders (Nos. 5, 18 and 26 overall) and two second-rounders (Nos. 39 and 56 overall), the Dolphins have the draft capital to make shocking moves up the board or walk away with five or more starter-level players. 

This week, I talked to multiple league sources and posed the same question to each of them: "What are the Dolphins doing?" There have been strong signals coming out of the team's scouting department that they prefer quarterback Justin Herbert to Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa, which would frustrate Dolphins fans to no end after they spent two years waiting for the Crimson Tide signal-caller.

Tua or Herbert—which will it be?

Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

One high-level scout told me he continues to hear it will be Tagovailoa, and that the team's recent love affair with Herbert through the media is all a ploy to drive down the market for the quarterback it actually wants. If you convince the football world you don't want Tagovailoa, it's less likely someone will jump ahead of you in the order to land him. That's what this source believes the Dolphins are attempting to do.

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However, that's only one opinion. While it's an educated one, it's hard to listen to one voice when so many others are shouting that Herbert will be the guy. At this point in the predraft processand I'm writing this exactly two weeks before the first pick is announcedit's a safe estimate that 90 percent of the intel surrounding Miami points to Herbert.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Why Herbert over the more proven Tagovailoa? That doesn't make sense based on my latest draft board, which you can see below, but there is a growing sentiment that it's wise to draft the quarterback who hasn't had three major injuries in the last two years even if he isn't as talented.

One source I spoke with this week believes multiple teams have failed Tagovailoa medically—his team has—because of concerns about how long he'll stay healthy. He can pass the physicals now and be cleared to play, but what will his hip look like in three or five or 10 years? That's the question most people around the NFL are asking this week.

So, if Herbert is the guy at No. 5 overall and the Dolphins don't have to trade up for a quarterback, what will they do with their other 13 picks?

Improving at offensive tackle is as important as finding the right quarterback. They need to address both left and right tackle, which could be done at Nos. 18 and 26 with Austin Jackson (USC) or Josh Jones (Houston) on the left side and Isaiah Wilson (Georgia) at right.

In one round, the Dolphins would have addressed their offensive woes. Where would that leave the rest of the league?

The overwhelming expectation is that the Los Angeles Chargers would select Tua if he were available. With Tyrod Taylor getting a look at starter snaps (and sounding very confident in a profile published Thursday by B/R's Tyler Dunne), they could let Tua learn and fully rehab without a rush to get him onto the field. Tua is also a big enough name that would help sell tickets in the new SoFi stadium the Chargers will move into.

The ripple effect would hit the other quarterback-needy teams, too. The Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars, both of whom have been linked to quarterbacks but aren't a sure thing to draft one, would be out on the top three in this scenario and would have to debate the merits of Utah State's Jordan Love as a developmental player with awesome arm talent and plus mobility. 

With 14 selections, the Dolphins will have a major influence on this draft. They have the ammunition to trade up from No. 5 if so desired and could even make a run at the No. 1 pick if they wanted to cobble together an offer the Cincinnati Bengals can't refuse. The smart move, though, would be addressing the many needs on the roster with a bounty of picks rarely seen in the modern NFL.

                             

The Scout's Report

—Why is Cam Newton still unsigned? In talking to sources around the league this week, the belief is that he won't sign until after the NFL draft concludes on April 25. The reason? He wants a chance to start in 2020 and won't want to sign with a team that drafts a first-rounder at quarterback. Newton's camp will hope a quarterback-needy team doesn't land an early-round QB of the future. Where might that be? It's a stretch, but the Jacksonville Jaguars are a possibility, as they could afford to bring in Newton thanks to Gardner Minshew II's cheap contract.

—Why is Jameis Winston still unsigned? It's the opposite of Newton's dilemma. Winston isn't seen around the NFL as a starter, but he might be holding out hope for a situation where he can back up a starter who doesn't have a strong hold on the job, much like Ryan Tannehill did on the Titans last year. However, there aren't many of those jobs available with free agency largely wrapped up. Winston could instead back up an established quarterback in a good system as he attempts to rehabilitate the NFL's image of him in a positive learning environment. Green Bay and Seattle both make sense for him from that standpoint, but neither team has been willing to pay well for a QB2.

—After sending DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 overall pick, the San Francisco 49ers are looking at trade-back opportunities from No. 31 overall. With only seven selections in the draftincluding none in Rounds 2, 3 or 4the 49ers need more draft capital in the middle rounds, which is an area where general manager John Lynch and Co. have been great at finding starters. 

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

If Love is still on the board at No. 31, the 49ers are in prime shape to trade back to the top of the second round and let a team come up for a quarterback.

—Could Green Bay Packers draft a quarterback in Round 1? Yes, but it isn't seen as a major need headed into the draft. Instead, this would be a perfect-world scenario, like when Aaron Rodgers fell into their laps in 2005. Rodgers wasn't a dire need, but the team was starting to think about life after Brett Favre or at least developing a quality backup behind him. It stands to reason that the Packers will take a few swings of the bat to find their successor to Rodgers, just like when they added Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn back in 2008.

—What will the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs do at No. 32 overall? Many league sources believe general manager Brett Veach and head coach Andy Reid will draft a weapon for quarterback Patrick Mahomes instead of prioritizing needs on defense such as cornerback and linebacker. If that's the case, don't be surprised to see Kansas City trade back out of the first round. With only five selections in the draft and more needs than picks, the Chiefs would be wise to move down if they have their sights set on a running back like LSU's Clyde Edwards-Helaire to help Mahomes.

                                   

The Big Board

1. EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State

2. QB Joe Burrow, LSU

3. CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State

4. LB/S Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

5. WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

6. QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

7. OT Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama

8. DL Derrick Brown, Auburn

9. EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU

10. DL Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina

11. OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa

12. WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama

13. WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

14. CB C.J. Henderson, Florida

15. RB D'Andre Swift, Georgia

16. LB Patrick Queen, LSU

17. OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia

18. OT Mekhi Becton, Louisville

19. LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma

20. WR Justin Jefferson, LSU

21. EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State

22. S Xavier McKinney, Alabama

23. EDGE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa

24. CB Jeff Gladney, TCU

25. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU

26. OC Cesar Ruiz, Michigan

27. QB Justin Herbert, Oregon

28. WR Tee Higgins, Clemson

29. S Antoine Winfield Jr., Minnesota

30. RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

31. QB Jordan Love, Utah State

32. LB Zack Baun, Wisconsin

                                                 

Parting Shots

      

5. B/R GOAT Sim

The #BRGOATSim final four got underway Thursday night, with the New England Patriots knocking off the Pittsburgh Steelers. Former Patriots legends Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski linked up one more time for the game-winning score.

They will play the winner of Friday's NFC Championship Game between the all-time New York Giants and all-time Green Bay Packers on Monday at 8 p.m. ET.

         

4. Sleeper of the Week: EDGE Bryce Huff, Memphis

When you're looking for a late-round pick who has a chance to make an impact, you often look for tools that can be developed through better coaching or better strength and conditioning. That's what you find in Bryce Huff, who is NFL-ready from a strength standpoint but needs to be coached up on technique and tools.

The 6'3", 245-pound Huff has one of the cleanest first steps in the edge-rusher class. His ability to stun blockers with speed is eye-opening, which is why he's this week's sleeper. If Huff gets into a system where he can pin his ears back and get into the backfield, and one that will develop his countermoves, he could become a star.

       

3. Riser of the Week: EDGE Darrell Taylor, Tennessee

Wade Payne/Associated Press

If you want first-step quickness at the edge-rusher position and can't get a first-rounder like Chase Young, Darrell Taylor is a worthy developmental player in Round 3. When evaluating pass-rushers, it's easy to get caught up looking at stats or body type, but more often than not, the best determining factor of success is quickness and speed off the edge. Taylor has plenty of that. He was inconsistent during his Tennessee career and needs to be coached up, but his raw traits are as exciting as any rusher in this class not named Chase Young.

                

2. Faller of the Week: TE Brycen Hopkins, Purdue

Hopkins is one of my favorite tight end prospects to watch in the 2020 class thanks to his athleticism and size (6'4", 245 lbs), but he moves down this week as we finalize NFL Draft 400 grades due to drops. It's impossible to overlook the amount of targets he put on the turf, no matter how much his athletic profile stands out.

If he can clean up his drops, Hopkins could easily be a steal and a starter in the NFL. But when projecting his draft value for 32 teams, an issue as large as not consistently catching the ball can't be ignored or explained away. 

   

1. Stick to Football is back in the studio this week with each host giving you his updated 2020 one-round mock draft—plus interviews with former Utah State quarterback Jordan Love and Appalachian State running back Darryton Evans!

Check out all our podcast episodes, which are also available on YouTube as a video series, and subscribe if you haven't already. We will also post a ton of behind-the-scenes content on our Instagram page.

                                               

Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.

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