There's a new leader in the clubhouse when it comes to the most popular prospect mocked to the Miami Dolphins for their first pick of the 2021 NFL draft.
That player is Jaylen Waddle.
For most of the offseason, it's LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase as the most popular option for the projection as to the Dolphins' pick at number 6, followed closely by Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.
But largely because Pitts is expected to be taken fourth overall by the Atlanta Falcons and many figure the Cincinnati Bengals will take Chase at number 5, it has put Waddle as the leader in the clubhouse.
But it's close between Waddle and Chase, based on a survey of 20 national mock drafts released this week.
In those 20 mock drafts, Waddle is the choice at number 6 a total of eight times with one other scenario having the Dolphins taking him at 9 after a trade-down with the Carolina Panthers.
Chase is the projection at 6 for the Dolphins on seven other mocks, while three have Oregon tackle Penei Sewell at 6 and one other (the ESPN NFL Nation mock) had the Dolphins taking Waddle's Alabama teammate DeVonta Smith.
What's noteworthy here — and not surprising — and that all 20 mock drafts have the Dolphins taking an offensive player with their first pick. That goes along with the overwhelming odds in that favor that we chronicled a while back.
When it comes to the 18th overall pick, the expectation based on the 20 national mock drafts is that the Dolphins will be taking a defensive player, with the tally 14-6 in that direction.
More specifically, the Dolphins will be looking at an edge defender, according to 12 of the mocks.
And the two most popular choices are Jaelan Phillips from the University of Miami (five mentions) and Kwity Paye from the University of Michigan. The other edge defenders mocked to the Dolphins at 18 are Azeez Ojulari of Georgia and Gregory Rousseau of Miami.
The other defensive player mocked to the Dolphins at 18 is Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins, who got two mentions.
While the edge defenders clearly would fill the need for a pass rusher, Collins is more of an all-around defender who could be asked to do a variety of things by head coach Brian Flores and defensive coordinator Josh Boyer.
Interestingly, the six offensive players mentioned in mocks going to the Dolphins at 18 include the previously mentioned DeVonta Smith, which clearly would make it a win for Miami at that spot.
Also interesting is the fact that three mocks had the Dolphins taking a running back at 18, but each one with a different prospect. Ryan Wilson of CBSSports.com projected Najee Harris from Alabama; Clarence Hill Jr. from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram projected Travis Etienne from Clemson; and Doug Farr from the USA Today Touchdown Wire projected Javonte Williams from North Carolina.
The other player mocked to the Dolphins at 18 was Oklahoma State tackle Treven Jenkins, with the idea he'd jump into the starting lineup on the right side in conjunction with 2020 starting right tackle Robert Hunt sliding inside to guard.