Draft Grades, Now and Then

The Miami Dolphins had one of the best-graded 2021 drafts, but how did they fare in the draft three years ago now that it more properly can be evaluated?
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It's been well established by now that the Miami Dolphins' 2021 draft was universally recognized as one of the best around the NFL, but where did it rank among the 32 teams?

It was right near the top, as evidenced by the work of a longtime NFL fan out of Germany named René Bugner who compiled 26 sets of draft grades and produced a grade point average for every team.

The Dolphins came in fourth in the entire in the NFL with a 3.62 grade point average based on four grades of A+, 10 of A, two of A-, two of B+, six of B, one of B-, and one of C+ (from Thor Nystrom of NBC Sports Chicago.

 The only teams that ended up with a higher grade point average were the Chicago Bears (3.87), Cleveland Browns (3.82) and Los Angeles Chargers (3.72).

The team that came in dead last with a 1.71 GPA was Houston, which of course had sent its first- and second-round picks to the Dolphins as part of the 2019 trade involving Laremy Tunsil.

Our position here in reviewing the Dolphins' 2021 draft was to list the pros and cons of each pick without assessing a grade because it truly takes at least three years to fairly evaluate a draft.

That means that the time has come to properly evaluate the 2018 Dolphins draft, and that's just what we'll do right here, right now.

We'll evaluate each pick first before coming up with an overall grade, keeping in mind that we're judging the picks for the players themselves and not necessarily how it's worked out for the Dolphins (and it will become obvious why very early).

Round 1, 11th overall — DB Minkah Fitzpatrick

This pick was made with the Dolphins clearly in a position where they could have used a quarterback, but after five of them already had been selected, including Josh Rosen on the previous pick. In selecting Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins got one of the most versatile defensive players in the draft and they obviously identified a very good player, given that Fitzpatrick is a two-time All-Pro with two Pro Bowl selections. That he's done that with Pittsbugh and not Miami is not a drafting issue. Grade: A

Round 2, 42nd overall — TE Mike Gesicki

There were a few highly regarded tight ends in the 2018 draft — Gesicki, Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews and Dallas Goedert. After Hurst went in Round 1, the Dolphins chose Gesicki, the receiving specialist from Penn State and after a forgettable rookie season he has developed into a productive receiver. Gesicki hasn't made the Pro Bowl yet, but he has 11 touchdowns over the past two seasons. This is a good, solid pick. Grade: B

Round 3, 73rd overall — LB Jerome Baker

It's difficult not to like this pick considering Baker has started 37 games in three seasons and last year he was one of only two players in the entire NFL sack with at least 100 tackles and seven sacks. Other players available when the Dolphins picked Baker were Andrews and tackle Orlando Brown Jr. Grade: A- 

Round 4, 123rd overall — TE Durham Smythe

It caught a lot of folks by surprise that the Dolphins would double up on tight ends in that 2018 draft, but they certainly have made full use of both of them, It's certainly worth noting that Smythe started more games than Gesicki each of the past two seasons. His contributions have been more subtle than those of Gesicki because he's a blocking specialist who's also contributed on special teams. As a fourth-round pick, that's a good return. Grade: B

Round 4, 131st overall — RB Kalen Ballage

Given Ballage's combination of size and speed, taking a shot with him in the fourth round was a worthwhile gamble even though there was a concern that he wasn't elusive and played smaller than his size. In very limited action as a rookie, Ballage did show the breakaway speed, but his shortcomings came to the forefront — in a big way. He's now trying to make a go of it with the Steelers. Grade: D

Round 6, 209th overall — CB Cornell Armstrong

Armstrong was a little-known prospect out of Southern Miss, and he's still in the year three years later — albeit now with Houston — playing mostly on special teams. Grade: C+

Round 7, 227th overall — LB Quentin Poling

Poling, who was an interesting prospect for the mere fact he was from a tiny community in Ohio (Gomer) with a population under 200, never has gotten much of a chance to show what he can do because he's been beset by injuries. He has appeared in one game over the past three seasons and currently is a free agent. Grade: Inc.

Round 7, 229th overall — K Jason Sanders

We really don't know to talk too much about what a great pick this was. In his third season, Sanders was the one kicker on the All-Pro first team and earned a contract extension. That's a great return for a seventh-round pick. Grade: A+

SUMMARY

This actually was a pretty solid draft class when you include Fitzpatrick, though the Dolphins only got one year and one game out of him before he asked for a trade for reasons that still aren't totally clear two years after the fact. But Baker, Gesicki and Smythe all were solid picks and Sanders obviously was a home run. So overall it's hard to have much of an issue with this haul. Grade: B+