Underrated Prospects Dolphins Must Prioritize in 2021 NFL DraftApril 7, 2021
Underrated Prospects Dolphins Must Prioritize in 2021 NFL Draft
The Miami Dolphins have already made plenty of headlines in the 2021 NFL draft. With two picks in the first round and two trades involving top-15 picks already made, general manager Chris Grier has put his team in the spotlight.
With pick Nos. 6 and 18 in the first round, the Dolphins are in a position to grab two immediate impact players. But the best drafts are the ones in which teams can find multiple starters and even more contributors.
Roster building is all about depth. The best teams find value in the draft beyond Day 1. While the Dolphins have a surplus of premium picks, they don't have a whole lot of later picks. Once you get past their four picks in Rounds 1 and 2, they have a third, fifth and two seventh-round picks to add to their roster.
Here, we'll take a look at who they should be considering with a few of those picks beyond the first two rounds. These players may not be getting as much hype as their Day 1 counterparts, but they are capable of being important players for the Dolphins as they develop.
Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis
Last year, Antonio Gibson was one of the biggest sleepers in the 2021 draft. His explosive athletic traits were shrouded by a lack of production and touches at Memphis.
Kenneth Gainwell was the reason for that lack of touches. Gibson's time at Memphis in 2019 only included 33 carries while Gainwell was the lead back with over 1,400 yards rushing and another 651 yards in the passing game.
Despite the success of Memphis running backs in the NFL and his production with another NFL running back on the roster, Gainwell is going under the radar a bit heading into the draft. He doesn't have great size (5'8", 201 pounds) and he was out-of-sight, out-of-mind in 2020.
But he brings a patient running style and excellent change-of-direction skills to the table. In 2019, he was the only running back who was given a grade over 85.0 in both receiving and rushing by PFF.
The Dolphins still have a pressing need for a running back to share duties with Myles Gaskin. Gainwell can give them that guy and likely won't cost them a premium pick unlike the top backs in the draft class.
Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Brian Flores will once again have a different look in the linebacking corps in 2021. The Kyle Van Noy era in South Beach lasted just one season as he was cut and went back to New England.
Kamu Grugier-Hill also left as he signed with the Houston Texans. The team brought in Benardrick McKinney, but in the team's hybrid 3-4 defense, they are going to need additional linebackers to fill the shoes of Van Noy.
What better place to go to do that than the player who draft analyst Matt Miller declared a "twitchier Kyle Van Noy." Miller noted that Davis has "versatility in traits and body to play all linebacker positions".
At 6'3" 234 pounds, he's only slightly smaller than Van Noy but has better coverage skills. One of his drawbacks is he only has one season as a starter at Kentucky, but he had three interceptions in that season.
The Dolphins coaching staff should love his versatility, and it makes him a great scheme fit. He can offer help on the blitz while also covering tight ends. That's of huge value if they can get him outside of the second round.
Khyiris Tonga, DT, BYU
The Dolphins have been busy retooling the interior defensive line, but they are still short on prototypical nose guards. They brought back John Jenkins, but he's 31 years old and only on a one-year deal.
The Patriots-style scheme the Dolphins have in place calls for a nose tackle who can command double teams on the inside. Plus-athleticism to string plays to the outside and push the pocket are a bonus.
That's where Khyiris Tonga comes in. The BYU product is 6'2" and 325 pounds, making him a stout nose tackle prospect well-versed in eating up double teams.
Tonga was a four-year starter for the Cougars and was a big reason why their defense surrendered just 3.5 yards per carry in 2020. Lance Zeirlein of NFL.com noted in his profile of the defensive lineman that he, "snaps hands into centers' shoulders first after [the] snap as 0-technique" and credits him for having "decent change of direction inside the pocket."
That's the kind of thing that doesn't make headlines during draft season but comes in handy when it actually comes to winning football games.