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The Top 10 Dolphins Performers of 2021

Ranking the top 10 players for the 2021 Miami Dolphins, from Xavien Howard to Mike Gesicki

With the 2021 season now behind us, we'll take a regular look back at what the Miami Dolphins accomplished through a series of top 10 lists.

In this installment, we'll rank our 10 top performers, otherwise known as our ballot for best players of 2021.

1. CB Xavien Howard

This pretty much was a slam dunk from this vantage point, and we quite frankly understand how it was that rookie Jaylen Waddle ended up being voted team MVP. Along with ranking among the league leaders in interceptions with five, Howard played a huge role in the victories against New England in the opener and against Baltimore with fumble recoveries after forced the fumble himself. Sure, he didn't play nearly as well in the first half of the season, but that applies to just about everybody on the roster.

2. DE Emmanuel Ogbah

Ogbah was a revelation as a free agent pick-up in 2020 and he was even better in 2021 even if — and here we go again — he was relatively quite in the early weeks of the season. But Ogbah finished with nine sacks, the same number he produced in 2020, but was even more impressive with his passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. He finished with 12 of those, the highest total for an NFL defensive lineman since 2016. 

3. DT Christian Wilkins

Remember when there was a lot of mumbling in training camp because Wilkins wasn't taking snaps with the first-team defense? Well, if that was some kind of motivating tactic, it worked because Wilkins broke out in a big way in his third season. Wilkins ended up with 89 total tackles, which tied Pittsburgh perennial Pro Bowl selection Cam Heyward for most by a defensive lineman since 2013.

4. WR Jaylen Waddle

Yes, we have Waddle all the way down at 4 despite him being voted team MVP and this is by no means a sign of disrespect or lack of appreciation for what Waddle did as a rookie. After all, he did set an NFL record with 103 receptions, but it would be a stretch to suggest he was a game-breaker because so many of the receptions came on throws around the line of scrimmage. And to wonder what the offense would have done without Waddle, well, it's not like it exactly was that dynamic with him. That's our rationale for him being no higher than fourth, though the bottom line is he produced the big reception numbers.


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5. LB Jerome Baker

Same old refrain here, Baker wasn't very noticeable in the first half of the season but played a big role once the defense got going. Baker ended up leading the team in tackles with 92 along with 5.5 sacks.

6. LB Andrew Van Ginkel

This might be the unsung player of the defense because he doesn't generate a lot of headlines, but he was a big-time factor throughout the season half of the season. The number that stands out with Van Ginkel was the 20 quarterback hits.

7. DT Zach Sieler

This might be a surprise to many to have Sieler this high, but that's only because he was a part-time player on the defensive line. The truth is that Sieler was a big-time factor relative to his number of snaps, mostly in short-yardage run defense situations. He finished with six tackles for loss, which ranked as the third-highest total among Dolphins D-linemen.




8. S Jevon Holland

The second-round pick from Oregon made quite an impression as a rookie, whether it be in coverage, with his tackling or while blitzing the quarterback. Holland's knack for his being around the ball was evident with his 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

9. TE Mike Gesicki

We now get to our second and final offensive player on this list, and Gesicki gets the nod for setting career high in catches and receiving yards. While some fans will knock Gesicki for disappearing at times, the bottom line is he finished fourth in the NFL among tight ends with his 73 receptions.

10. OLB Jaelan Phillips

If we're being honest, we kind of struggled to come up with a 10th player here. After considering safety Brandon Jones and guard Robert Hunt (we simply couldn't go with an offensive lineman), we went with Phillips for setting the Dolphins rookie record with 8.5 sacks. Phillips wasn't a game-in, game-out disruptive force as a pass rusher, but he got real hot during a stretch late in the season and showed enough to think he could become a force before too long.