The Miami Dolphins signed some talented prospects as rookie free agents after the 2020 NFL draft, but don't expect them to play as big a role as the UDFAs did in 2019.
Not even close.
This has nothing to do with the quality of the prospects the Dolphins signed after the draft, but rather an analysis based on history.
Put simply, last year was an aberration in terms of the impact of a rookie free agent class, a byproduct of the Dolphins' decision to rebuild their roster to amass salary-cap space and draft capital.
As a result of the departure of several established veterans, it created opportunities for young players to step in and take advantage — and that's just what a lot of them did.
For example, Nik Needham, undrafted out of UTEP, ended up starting 11 games at cornerback for the Dolphins. It was the highest number of games started by a rookie free agent for the Dolphins since the start of the new millennium.
The old record was six, by wide receiver Davone Bess in 2008.
And it wasn't just Needham who beat Bess' number. Wide receiver Preston Williams started seven of the first eight games before his season was cut short by a knee injury. Guard Shaq Calhoun also started seven games.
Linebacker Sam Eguavoen tied Bess' number of six starts, though he wasn't a pure rookie free agent, having spent three seasons in the Canadian Football League prior to joining the Dolphins.
In all, six of the rookie free agents the Dolphins signed after the draft started games in 2019 — Needham, Williams, Calhoun, Eguavoen, running back Patrick Laird and defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter, who started the season opener before landing on injured reserve because of a leg injury.
Here's the part where we illustrate just how abnormal that was: Those 36 starts by players signed by the Dolphins as undrafted rookie free agents were 25 more than the rookie UDFA starts for the rest of the 2010s COMBINED.
The most total games started by rookie free agents in any year in the decade that just ended was four — in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
What happened last year with the rookie free agents — and we didn't even mention rookie free agents first signed by other teams who ended up with the Dolphins and started games — just wasn't normal.
Nothing about last season was normal.
The Dolphins roster has been upgraded to a huge degree this offseason, and that's going to make it much harder for the 2020 rookie free agents to just make the 53-man roster, let alone start games.
And this has nothing to do with the quality of the rookie free agents the Dolphins got because there are some intriguing prospects, such as defensive tackle Benito Jones, defensive end turned tight end Bryce Sterk, and wide receivers Kirk Merritt and Matt Cole, who was called "Prospect X" by Sports Illustrated.
Those guys — and Dolphins fans — will just have to expect that becoming a major contributor for Miami will be a lot more difficult in 2020. It will be back to the way it was before last year.