Now that the 2021 NFL draft has come and gone, national media analysts have been revisiting their power rankings to provide an early assessment of the pecking order in the league at this time.
Though they were on the doorstep of the playoffs last season and have made clear upgrades, the Miami Dolphins are still considered a middle-of-the-pack type of team based on averaging out 10 national power rankings released this week.
The Dolphins' average position in the rankings is 14, which of course would represent the final playoff spot. The Dolphins' highest ranking was 10 (The Sporting News, USA Today and Bleacher Report) and the low was 21 by Pro Football Network.
Four of the 10 outlets had the Dolphins either 14 or 15, which seems to represent their sweet spot.
Here's a breakdown of those power rankings with their analysis (previous ranking in parentheses when applicable):
Ranking: 19 (14)
Analysis: The Dolphins took a bit of a tumble here, as perhaps recency bias gave them some inflation so soon after Brian Flores’s team went on a late-season charge. But now we’ve seen Miami start to use some of that draft capital, and the team looks to have done a responsible job with it. This team should be in the playoff hunt, and could be a popular preseason sleeper.
Ranking: 15 (15)
Analysis: They had a heck of a draft and can be a playoff team in 2021. That would mean big-time growth from Tua Tagovailoa. It's definitely possible.
Ranking: 10 (15)
Analysis: After a strong draft, they seem poised to take the next step with second-year QB Tua Tagovailoa – and that means playoffs this year.
Ranking: 14 (14)
Analysis: Miami hit its draft class out of the park, landing two of our top-10 talents in receiver Jaylen Waddle and pass-rusher Jaelan Phillips. Whether the Dolphins can compete with the AFC's top clubs will come down to Tua Tagovailoa's second-year development. But the team has done all it can to set him up for success.
Ranking: 12 (15)
I can't wait to see Tua Tagovailoa throwing the ball to Jaylen Waddle, but I would have taken Devonta Smith first.
Analysis: If Tua Tagovailoa fails, don't blame the Dolphins franchise. The former Alabama star has a big-time head coach, a good defense backing him up and just watched the franchise sign Will Fuller, draft speedster Jaylen Waddle, and find another impact tight end in Boston College’s Hunter Long. It’s time to see if this quarterback can play.
Ranking: 10 (10)
Analysis: The Dolphins established plenty defensively under Brian Flores. They've added to that on top of getting Tua Tagovailoa better settled with his protection and weapons so he can be let loose a lot more as a sophomore.
Ranking: 14 (15)
Analysis: Tua Tagovailoa has to wake up feeling great these days. The Dolphins have used this offseason to reaffirm their faith in the 2020 first-round pick in multiple ways. They let Ryan Fitzpatrick, the team's popular and productive backup QB, walk in free agency. They stayed out of the QB derby as veteran stars and draft prospects danced all around them. They signed a proven playmaker at wide receiver in Will Fuller. Then, on draft night, they used the No. 6 overall pick on Jaylen Waddle, an electric slot presence who further bolsters an offense that lacked explosiveness last season. Want to find out if your young quarterback can play at this level? Surround him with legit talent and see what happens.
Analysis: Given where the Miami Dolphins were a few years ago, what general manager Chris Grier has accomplished since then is quite impressive. In September 2019, Gagnon posited that the Dolphins could be in the early stages of the worst season in NFL history.Not even two full years later, the Dolphins are coming off a 10-win season and are a legitimate contender in the AFC East.Thanks in part to the fire sale they had in 2019, the Dolphins were loaded with draft capital in 2021. And they once again played Let's Make a Deal, first by trading down to the No. 12 spot while adding extra first-rounders in 2022 and 2023 and then using their own first-rounder next year to get back to No. 6 overall.Miami used that sixth pick to add a familiar face for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. Between that and signing wideout Will Fuller V in free agency, the Dolphins now sport a solid trio of receivers (Waddle, Fuller and DeVante Parker) and a good, young tight end in Mike Gesicki.The offensive line remains a potential problem area, but considering that the Dolphins were sixth in scoring defense in 2020, they appear capable of giving the Bills a run for their money in the AFC East.
Analysis: Tua Tagovailoa has some great receiving weapons around him after Miami drafted his former teammate, Jaylen Waddle. The Dolphins could be primed to take a big step forward, but only if Tagovailoa can take one of his own.