A Tale of Two Dolphins Drafts

The Miami Dolphins didn't get a good grade for their 2020 draft from the NFL website, but it's more fair at this time to evaluate the 2018 haul
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The headline alone is not very flattering: "Rocky Start for Dolphins' First-Rounders."

That's how NFL.com presented his review of the 2020 draft among AFC East teams, complete with grades.

The Dolphins received a C in the story by Gennaro Filice.

It was the lowest grade given to any team in the division, trailing those of the Patriots (B), Jets (B) and Bills (B-).

While it makes for interesting reading, assessing a draft after one year isn't really fair.

The truer gauge, as is often suggested, is more like three years.

And that would bring us to the 2018 Dolphins draft, and three years down the road we'd have to say it actually was a very good haul — with one big asterisk.

As a reminder, the Dolphins' eight picks in 2018 ended up being safety Minkah Fitzpatrick in Round 1, tight end Mike Gesicki in Round 2, linebacker Jerome Baker in Round 3, tight end Durham Smythe and running back Kalen Ballage in Round 4, cornerback Cornell Armstrong in Round 6, and linebacker Quentin Poling and kicker Jason Sanders in Round 7.

Of the eight players, the first four are starters and Sanders just earned All-Pro honors in his third season.

That, by any measure, is a good success rate.

The big asterisk goes next to the name of Fitzpatrick, of course, because the 11th selection in the 2018 draft has become a bona fide star — only with a different team.

But the fact that Fitzpatrick ended up being traded logically falls more on head coach Brian Flores for allowing a conflict to get to the point where Fitzpatrick wanted out — unless we want to buy into the narrative that Fitzpatrick came in with an attitude problem, in which case he shouldn't have been drafted that early.

RELATED: Revisiting the Minkah Mess

In any event, the Dolphins ended up getting a first-round pick from the Steelers for Fitzpatrick that was used on tackle Austin Jackson, who's going to have to step up his game to match the exploits of Fitzpatrick, who has been named All-Pro each of the past two seasons.

But we still call that a good pick in retrospect.

Gesicki has gotten progressively better and on the verge of becoming one of the elite receiving tight ends in the NFL, Baker had a really strong finish to the 2020 season, Smythe is a versatile two-way tight end, and we've already discussed Sanders.

RELATED: All-Pro Honors for Sanders, Howard

Ballage was a bad miss, though it happened in the fourth round. It's a bad miss because the book on him out of Arizona State was that he wasn't nearly as effective a back as his physical attributes suggested he should be.

Armstrong has appeared in at least five games in each of his three NFL seasons, the last two with the Houston Texans, so he certainly wasn't a washout of a sixth-round pick. Poling hasn't been able to get his career going because of injuries.

But if you look at the overall picture, the Dolphins did a very nice job of picking players in that 2018 draft after a rather nondescript first year for that rookie class. It was a great rebound after an utterly forgettable 2017 draft for Miami.

The overriding lesson there should be to take the NFL.com story for what it's worth: fun reading for now but not something on which you make a final determination of the Dolphins' 2020 draft class.