The Miami Dolphins went a surprising 10-6 on the season, just barely missing the playoffs. This Miami team is young and talented. After a blockbuster deal two years ago, Miami owns 4 picks within the first two rounds thanks to the Houston Texans. With significant cap space to improve, this Dolphins offseason will be busy.
Roster Needs: WR, RB, OT, IOL, LB
Halfway through the season, Ryan Fitzpatrick was benched for Alabama phenom Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa had his struggles but flashed promise. His sharp accuracy and ability to make quick decisions translated to the NFL level. Deshaun Watson rumors aside, Tagovailoa simply lacked playmakers around him. Alpha receiver DeVante Parker struggled to stay healthy, thus affecting his play. Number two, Preston Williams, tore his ACL early in the year and Miami did not have anyone to pick up the slack. Jakeem Grant, Isaiah Ford, and Mack Hollins failed to make an impact and as a result, the offense produced the 20th ranked passing game.
Preston Williams displays great potential as a receiver going forward, but, for the sake of Tua’s development, Miami needs receivers that can perform now. $26 million in cap space means the Dolphins offseason will consist of big spending on the offensive side of the ball. Receivers Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson, and Kenny Golladay are the top receiving free agents this offseason. Golladay and Parker play similar roles in the offense, but Godwin’s ability to win in the slot makes him a top option. There is a decent chance he may remain in Tampa but expect the Dolphins to throw plenty of cash Godwin’s way.
Juju Smith-Schuster is not as accomplished compared to the other free agents, but he can make a big impact for the Miami offense. Smith-Schuster’s ability to separate and find holes out of the slot is something Tua was missing from his receivers in 2020. The 24-year-old is still young with some unknowns pertaining to his overall ceiling. A breakout sophomore season in which he amassed 1,426 yards on 111 receptions had people convinced he was the next NFL superstar. The next two seasons put those narratives to shame, as lacking consistent production and nagging injuries plagued Smith-Schuster’s development. The USC product has the makings of a star as he will continue to grow in Miami alongside Tagovailoa.
The third overall pick in the draft via the Texans gives Brian Flores the luxury of addressing the top need with the best the NFL draft has to offer. Studs Ja’Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith will be available. Both are top receivers in the 2021 class and pay immediate dividends for any team they are drafted by. However, the Dolphins may opt to invest in protection for Tagovailoa.
Tackle, Penei Sewell, is a generational prospect and will be strongly considered by Miami with the third pick. Current tackles Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt are young and have untapped potential, but neither compares to the ability of Sewell. Hunt profiles better as a guard due to his length, therefore, he can slide inside to help fix the interior of the line where Sewell can come in to protect Tua’s blindside. The movement of Hunt to guard is key to shoring up the interior front. Capable center, Ted Karras, is a pending free agent who should be re-signed as well.
If the Dolphins go receiver with the pick, then a big-time tackle will be signed. Trent Williams and Russell Okung are the best left tackles available. Williams will likely be re-signed by San Francisco, but on the off-chance, he tests the market, Miami should jump. The 32-year-old veteran proved yet again that age is just a number in 2020, rating as the top tackle in the league per PFF. Okung is slightly older, but the former sixth overall pick remains a stellar run and pass blocker. Either of the two tackles would be monumental additions during the Dolphins offseason.
The air game was not the only issue for the offense. Dolphins’ running backs averaged a mere 3.9 yards per attempt, the 4th worst mark in the league. Running back Myles Gaskin was great when healthy last season making plays in the passing game and making defenders miss. However, Gaskin lacks the burst and tackle-breaking ability top NFL running backs have.
The Dolphins should not waste any significant cap space by bringing in a running back through free agency but should draft one in the later first or with either of their two second-round picks. Home run hitting halfback, Travis Etienne, out of Clemson, is electric with the ball in his hands. Etienne’s elusiveness and burst will be a gamechanger for the offense. Alabama back, Najee Harris, runs through arm tackles and displayed intriguing pass-catching chops. Javonte Williams out of UNC runs violently showing a fantastic combination of both elusiveness and power. Either of these running backs will be available to be drafted by Miami and would become an immediate bell cow.
Brian Flores put together a solid defense that forced more turnovers than any other team. A lot of the cap space is invested in a top-tier cornerback room (consisting of Xavien Howard and Byron Jones) with a young defensive line that applies consistent pressure. The only glaring weakness to the defense is the linebacking group. 24-year-old Jerome Baker is still young and has the athleticism to be solid in coverage. Elandon Roberts, however, lacks any of the tools to be an off-ball linebacker in the NFL.
If Miami does not throw all their cap into an upgrade at receiver or tackle, they will at linebacker. Lavonte David defines the modern-day linebacker and would stymie opposing quarterbacks with his coveted coverage skills. Gashed through the air last season, the Dolphins gave up most yards to opposing tight ends. David has been locking down tight ends and running backs for years in Tampa and would continue to do so for the Dolphins.
If cap space is spent elsewhere and the front office cannot afford to bring in David, the multitude of early draft picks gives them options. The undersized Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah plays larger than he is. The speed and range give him the coverage skills to play all over the field. The do-it-all Notre Dame product displayed great versatility for the Fighting Irish by dropping deep into coverage like a safety and even covering slot receivers. His explosiveness allows him to excel between the tackles to be effective in the run game too. JOK is the future of linebackers in the league and could alleviate Miami’s offseason needs.