Dolphins' Team Needs to Fill in 2021 NFL DraftMarch 31, 2021
Dolphins' Team Needs to Fill in 2021 NFL Draft
Even before the Miami Dolphins have turned in their first pick, the 2021 NFL draft is shaping up to be a franchise-defining event.
General manager Chris Grier has been incredibly busy. Armed with the third overall pick from the Laremy Tunsil trade in 2019, he moved back to the 12th pick and then up to the sixth pick, netting additional selections in the 2022 and 2023 drafts.
It leaves the Dolphins with four picks in the top 50 and five in the first three rounds. With a roster that went 10-6 last season and narrowly missed the playoffs, that's a serious opportunity to find some immediate difference-makers.
If Miami picks wisely, it can find at least five starters in the draft which would be huge for a team looking to overtake the Buffalo Bills as the new favorite in the AFC East in a post-Patriots-dominance world.
Here are some of the needs the Dolphins will likely want to address in this year's draft.
The Dolphins should be giving Tua Tagovailoa every chance to prove himself as a franchise quarterback. Passing judgment on a first-year signal-caller coming off a major injury in a COVID-impacted offseason was always going to be silly.
Part of giving the 23-year-old that best opportunity is to make sure he has the weapons to run a dynamic passing game. Signing Will Fuller V in free agency was a great start, but he is often injured and will be coming off a suspension for PEDs.
Fuller's one-year deal isn't enough to take a wide receiver off the list of needs for the Dolphins. If anything, it puts Preston Williams on the hot seat as he is in the final year of his contract.
Devante Parker, Williams and Fuller are a fine collection of receivers, and Lynn Bowden Jr. showed some signs of being a solid YAC option in his rookie campaign. But a bona fide No. 1 option is still something the offense is missing.
With the sixth pick, DeVonta Smith and Ja'Marr Chase could be in play. The Dolphins also could use the 18th pick to address the position and hope someone like Jaylen Waddle or Rashod Bateman falls to them.
The Dolphins were 11th in pressure percentage last season. Paired with one of the best secondaries in football, that's a lethal defense.
That pass rush lost some teeth during free agency, though. Shaq Lawson (25 pressures) was traded to the Houston Texans, and Kyle Van Noy (18 pressures) went back to New England.
Lawson and Van Noy were second and third, respectively, in terms of pass-rush production. Jerome Baker was next on the list from his inside linebacker position.
That puts a lot of pressure on Emmanuel Ogbah to carry the pass rush after a career year in 2020. Grier's defense is going to put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks through blitzing out of his hybrid 3-4, but it helps to have guys who can win in one-on-one situations.
That makes the Dolphins a prime candidate to target an edge-rusher with either the 18th or 36th pick. Kwity Paye or Azeez Ojulari would be ideal targets at 18, and they could wait for someone like Jayson Oweh or Joseph Ossai with their second-round selection.
Anyone hoping the Dolphins would be in play for Aaron Jones was sorely disappointed by free agency. While they were a speculative fit for any and all running backs on the market, they ended up bringing in Malcolm Brown.
The 27-year-old had just over 1,000 yards in six seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. He's a fine complementary piece and joins Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed in a rotation of decent backs.
However, if the Dolphins are really serious about giving Tagovailoa all the weapons he needs, a dynamic back should be on the list of needs.
In general, early picks are better spent outside of the running back position. There's a great argument to be made that teams can find good enough running backs by other methods. But one of the great benefits of having as many picks as the Dolphins have is the ability to spend on a luxury.
One such luxury is acquiring one of the few game-breaking backs in this draft class. Najee Harris, Travis Etienne or Javonte Williams would add another element to a Miami offense that could be pretty scary by the end of the draft.