The Dolphins are armed with a league-high 14 selections in the 2020 draft, and if free agency is any indication, they won’t be afraid to spend big and swing for the fences. Miami shifted most of its attention in free agency to the defensive side of the ball by inking corner Byron Jones and linebacker Kyle Van Noy to big-money deals, along with adding fellow linebacker Elandon Roberts and others.
As we now turn to the draft coming up on April 23, the Dolphins are once again in position to be big players across the entire board, starting at the top. They currently own the No. 5 overall pick, and many have pegged this first selection to be a spot where they address the quarterback position.
As you’ll see below, we’ve concocted a five-step plan for Miami to execute the perfect draft that not only lands them their franchise quarterback, but builds a wall in front of him, adds weapons around him and continues to develop a defense than can get him on the field.
Step 1: Trade up to No. 3 for Tua Tagovailoa
The Dolphins and Tua Tagovailoa have been dancing around one another throughout this pre-draft process. While the perfect scenario would be for the Alabama quarterback to be sitting there when Miami is on the clock at No. 5, there’s a possibility that he may be off the board if they simply sit on their hands and wait. The Lions (picking No. 3 overall) and the Giants (No. 4) have both made it clear that they are open to making a trade with their selections, which opens the door for teams like the Chargers and possibly the Patriots or others to leapfrog Miami for Tagovailoa’s services.
With that in mind, it may be a bit unrealistic to simply expect him to be there at No. 5 overall. That’s why we have Miami being aggressive to secure their franchise quarterback by trading up with Detroit at No. 3 overall to get him. Because of their boatload of picks in this year’s draft, they have the flexibility to pull off a move like this. According to the draft value chart created by CBS Sports’ R.J. White, the Dolphins could climb to No. 3 by sending the No. 5 pick and a second rounder, No. 56 overall, to Detroit. While that’s what the trade value chart says is a competitive price, I expect the asking price to be a bit higher than that, so let’s put it over the top and send over the No. 5 pick and Miami’s first pick in the second round at No. 39 overall.
Again, competition to trade up could make this deal even more costly for the Dolphins, but in this perfect draft scope that we are talking about here, we’ll keep it at the highest second. In this scenario, the Dolphins get the peace of mind that no club can leap over them and it doesn’t come at the expense of one of their other first rounders.
Step 2: Find pieces to shore up the offensive line
Now that the Dolphins have their franchise quarterback in-house, it’s time to protect Tagovailoa, who has quite the injury history during his days at Alabama. Thanks to the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade, Miami owns the 18th overall selection, but that likely is outside of the realm of where this class’ top-tier tackles are coming off the board. It may be a bit of a reach at this spot, but it’d behoove them to look in the direction of Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones. He’s coming off a strong 2019 season and Senior Bowl and has the potential to be a long-term answer at left tackle for Miami, who traded Laremy Tunsil last year.
While Miami could look to add another playmaker on defense with their final first-round selection at No. 26, nabbing Cesar Ruiz out of Michigan would give them the best center in the draft and could give them the flexibility to move Ted Karras, who signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins at the start of free agency, to one of the guard spots. Ruiz is another prospect that may be a fringe first-rounder, but he fills a need for Miami, who traded away their top second-round pick to move up to No. 3 in Step 1.
Step 3: Identify a running back in the second
Ryan Fitzpatrick was Miami’s leading rusher last season, so it’s clear they need an upgrade at the running back position. With the No. 39 pick already shipped off to Detroit, the Dolphins have just the No. 56 overall selection at their disposal in the second. They could always wait and spend less of a premium for a running back, but this is a legit need that should be addressed sooner rather than later especially after they dumped a ton of money on defense in free agency.
If the Dolphins are able to come away with Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor or someone like LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire, that should be looked at as a major coup.
Step 4: Add a defensive tackle
The Dolphins have invested a lot to the defense side of the ball this offseason, but they should specifically look to add some more bodies at the defensive tackle spot. They struggled against the run in 2019, allowing the sixth-most rushing yards in the league on a 4.5 yards per carry clip. The club spent a first-round pick on Christian Wilkins last year, but it’d be wise for them to add even more depth in the trenches. Davon Godchaux, who started every game for the Dolphins last season, is also entering the final year of his rookie deal, which should only further emphasize Miami’s need to at this spot.
Their premium picks have already been spent to help the offensive, but if they were to address the defensive tackle spot in the third round where they pick at No. 70 overall, Texas A&M’s Justin Madubuike or Alabama’s Raekwon Davis could be had in this range.
Step 5: Give Tua another pass catcher
With the remainder of Miami’s picks, they could really just roll with selecting the best player available. In the fourth round, however, I would look to see what kind of pass catchers have fallen into this area of the draft where they own the 141st pick. Of course, the Dolphins already have a No. 1 receiver in DeVante Parker, but they should look to add another complementary piece. Preston Williams is recovering from a torn ACL while Albert Wilson has a pretty large cap hit ($10.8 million) heading into 2020 and the club could get out from under the most of it. Developing a player like UCF’s Gabriel Davis or Rhode Island’s Isaiah Coulter would be intriguing here.