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2020 NFL Draft Grades – Miami Dolphins

Bold choices with six of the top 70 picks in the 2020 NFL draft were just the kind of big splash Dolphins fans have been waiting for.
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Given the months and months of build-up to the annual NFL draft, the rush to summarize a team’s rookie draft class in a few sentences and stamp a letter grade on it has never quite made much sense to me.

In the past, I’ve compared this process to patrons at a restaurant complimenting (or complaining to) the chef based on the menu, rather than waiting to actually taste the food.

In much this same way, it obviously takes time to properly evaluate a draft. Given all of the complexities of the 2020 NFL draft, specifically, this is especially true.

So, while we cannot skip years ahead to know for certain which players will ultimately exceed or fail to live up to expectations in the NFL, we can provide a much deeper dive into each team’s rookie class.

Therefore, over the next 30 days, will be providing a detailed breakdown of each of the NFL teams’ rookie hauls, following the original draft order. Each team will be evaluated on the quality, quantity and relative safety of their draft classes (including undrafted free agents), with specific players recognized as Best Player, Best Value and Best Project, culminating in one “final” grade.

Today’s team: Miami Dolphins

Head Coach: Brian Flores

General Manager: Chris Grier

Players selected in 2020:

Round 1, Pick 5 overall: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

Round 1, Pick 18 overall: OT Austin Jackson, Southern California

Round 1, Pick 30 overall: CB Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn

Round 2, Pick 39 overall: OL Robert Hunt, Louisiana-Lafayette

Round 2, Pick 56 overall: DL Raekwon Davis, Alabama

Round 3, Pick 70 overall: S Brandon Jones, Texas

Round 4, Pick 111 overall: OG Solomon Kindley, Georgia

Round 5, Pick 154 overall: DL Jason Strowbridge, North Carolina

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Round 5, Pick 165 overall: DL Curtis Weaver, Boise State

Round 6, Pick 185 overall: LS Blake Ferguson, LSU

Round 7, Pick 255 overall: WR Malcolm Perry, Navy

Undrafted Free Agents:

DT Benito Jones, Mississippi

DE/OLB Bryce Sterk, Montana State

OG Donnel Staley, South Carolina

DL Ray Lima, Iowa State

DE Tyshun Redner, Middle Tennessee State

Overview of the Dolphins’ 2020 draft: With three picks in the first round and six of the top 70 selections overall, Grier was the envy of every other general manager in the NFL on draft weekend. Rather than play it safe, Grier and the Dolphins made several high risk, high reward selections, starting off, of course, with Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Following rumors that his club was looking to package picks to move up for a tackle, Grier instead stayed calm and allowed paranoia over Tagovailoa’s durability to push the potential franchise quarterback down the board to fifth overall, saving valuable selections used to bulk up an offensive line which finished with an NFL-worst 58 sacks allowed a season ago. That is a stark contrast to the protection Tagovailoa received at Alabama, necessitating the smart picks of Austin Jackson, a future Pro Bowl left tackle as well as tough guys Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley, each of whom also should contend for early starting duties. Even after luring cornerback Byron Jones, linebacker Kyle Van Noy and defensive end Shaq Lawson, among others, to Miami through free agency, Grier gave defensive minded-head coach Brian Flores plenty of rookie talent on that side of the ball, as well, gambling on the exciting potential of cornerback Noah Igbinoghene at No. 30 overall before reinforcing the defensive line with excellent value picks on Day Two and Three. The selection of long snapper Blake Ferguson will be criticized by some but I can tell you this, he created a buzz in the stands at the Senior Bowl with the accuracy and velocity of his snaps. I’ve gone to the Senior Bowl for 20 years and have never seen that before.

Best Player of the Dolphins’ 2020 Draft: QB Tua Tagovailoa

The question, of course, is health. With all due respect to No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow, Tagovailoa is the most effortless passer in this class and would have had a real shot at overtaking the Heisman Trophy winner as the top pick if not for the durability concerns. While not as athletic as the quarterbacks he is often compared to – Steve Young and Russell Wilson – Tagovailoa does possess the combination of anticipation, accuracy and arm to project as more of a Drew Brees-type of surgeon from the shotgun. He was selected into an ideal situation with a veteran quarterback who has seen it all in Ryan Fitzpatrick to both compete and help mold him, with the same being true in legendary offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. While perhaps not yet household names, the Dolphins have sneaky talent at the rest of the skill positions with Devante Parker and Mike Gesicki beginning to show why the franchise invested early picks in them and the running back room was boosted significantly with the addition of veterans Jordan Howard and Matt Breida. Despite the pressure that will come to do so, the Dolphins are not likely to rush Tagovailoa onto the field as a young offensive line jells. When he does ascend to the starting role, the Dolphins should be able to support Tagovailoa, providing him with a terrific chance at long-term success and becoming the franchise-savior Dolphins fans have been dreaming about.

Best Value of the Dolphins’ 2020 Draft: DL Jason Strowbridge

With a tip of the cap to the brawling Hunt – who may very well outplay the higher-drafted and younger Jackson early on – the Dolphins got terrific value on Day Three along the defensive line in Strowbridge and the even more productive Curtis Weaver from Boise State. Of the two, I’m higher on the taller, nastier and more versatile Strowbridge, a 6-4, 267 pounder who played all over the defensive line at North Carolina and at the Senior Bowl. He isn’t the quick-twitch edge rusher his frame suggests, recording just 10.5 sacks in four years at North Carolina. He is a brawler at the point of attack, however, showing a similar junkyard dog mentality as the Dolphins’ free agent signee, Lawson, lured away from division-rival Buffalo. I was high on Strowbridge before and the Dolphins cutting ties with former first round picks Taco Charlton and Charles Harris in recent days only reinforces my belief that he is not only going to make this roster, but likely contribute meaningful minutes as a rookie. Given that Strowbridge was selected 154 overall, that would be terrific value.

Best Project of the Dolphins’ 2020 Draft: CB Noah Igbinoghene

Normally, projects are late round picks with athletic upside worthy of developing and few immediate expectations. That likely will not be the case of Igbinoghene considering that the Dolphins selected him 30 overall. With the outside corner spots already loaded with former Cowboys’ star Jones and Xavien Howard, however, Igbinoghene’s best chance at early playing time is likely inside at nickel. Igbinoghene, the son of Olympians and a former wide receiver who only made the transition to corner two years ago, certainly has the athleticism to handle this. Further, he is very physical. Playing closer to the big boys at the line of scrimmage won’t bother him. He is still a work in progress in terms of route-recognition, however, and that inexperience will make him a target of opposing quarterbacks early, especially if Pro Bowlers’ Jones and Howard are covering the other receivers. Igbinoghene may be a star one day but expect some growing pains as he develops.

Overall Grade for the Dolphins’ 2020 Draft: A-

Previous 2020 NFL Draft Report Cards: Cincinnati Bengals |Washington Redskins | Detroit Lions | New York Giants | Miami Dolphins | Los Angeles Chargers | Carolina Panthers | Arizona Cardinals | Jacksonville Jaguars | Cleveland Browns | New York Jets | Las Vegas Raiders | Indianapolis Colts | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Denver Broncos | Atlanta Falcons | Dallas Cowboys | Pittsburgh Steelers | Chicago Bears | Los Angeles Rams | Philadelphia Eagles | Buffalo Bills | New England Patriots | New Orleans Saints | Houston Texans | Minnesota Vikings | Seattle Seahawks | Baltimore Ravens | Green Bay Packers | Tennessee Titans | San Francisco 49ers | Kansas City Chiefs