Dolphins Draft 2021: The Dream Scenario at Running Back

The Miami Dolphins would do well to come away from the 2021 NFL draft with a running back, but how early should they take one?
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The Miami Dolphins have several clear needs heading into the 2021 NFL draft, and one of them is a feature running back.

Yes, the Dolphins signed physical runner Malcolm Brown as a free agent in the offseason to complement promising young slashers Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, but there's no clear No. 1 back on this roster.

Come to think of it, it's a little like the wide receiver position where the Dolphins have several viable options but no clear top choice because of the injury history of both DeVante Parker and newcomer Will Fuller V.

It's why no one would be surprised if the Dolphins ended up selecting a wide receiver with the sixth overall selection, whether it be Ja'Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith.

With the running back position, it's not quite as simple because there's the issue of positional value to consider, as well as where the top prospects in the draft will fall.

It's generally accepted that Alabama's Najee Harris, Clemson's Travis Etienne and North Carolina's Javonte Williams rank as, by far, the top three running backs prospects this year, with some disagreement as to whether the speedy Etienne or the versatile Harris deserves top billing.

We've already seen a few mocks pegging Harris to the Dolphins at number 18, and we've already made the argument as to why that would not be a move we would make (though from the team has asked us for our opinion yet).

No, it says here the right move is to wait until the fourth pick of the second round to take a running back, with the likelihood that Williams would be the one remaining.

Williams is the punishing back in the Class of 2021, as evidenced by the well-publicized stat that he led the nation in breaking tackles last year. Williams also is a good enough receiver that he could be a three-down back.

And the difference here between Williams and Harris, who it must be said played behind an almost-NFL-caliber offensive line, is minimal at best. There might not even be a difference.

Shoot, Williams might be just as good a prospect, if not better.

And he certainly represents better value at 36 than Harris does at 18 — and that's not even close.

Now, what about the concern for the Dolphins of missing out on all three running backs?

That's valid, especially after they chose last year to bypass the six running backs taken in the first two rounds despite the fact they would have had their choice of any of them with the 30th overall pick before they instead took Auburn cornerback Noah Igbinoghene.

But history tells us it's more likely than not that one of the running backs will be there at 36.

Why?

Because over the past 10 years, only twice have three running backs been selected before that slot. It happened in 2018 with Saquon Barkley, Rashaad Penny and Sony Michel, and in 2012 with Trent Richardson, Doug Martin and David Wilson.

Besides, who's to stop the Dolphins from trading up a spot or two in the second round if they fear another team would take that third running back before them. It's what they did in 2016 when they moved up four spots (from 42nd to 38th) to land a cornerback who has become a pretty good player.

Yeah, Xavien Howard.

Well-respected draft analyst Dane Brugler of The Athletic doesn't believe the Dolphins will have to trade up because he's got them taking Williams at 36 in his recently released seven-round mock draft.

That right there indeed is the dream scenario for the Dolphins draft when it comes to the running back position.