You want a final verdict on the Dolphins' 2020 draft? It's far too early for that. Come back next year at this time and we'll certainly have a better idea.
But if first impressions matter, and they usually do, how can you not be impressed with what the Dolphins accomplished over the most important three days of the offseason. They found a quarterback. They continued to rebuild their offensive line. They added juice to their pass rush. They brought in a couple of important pieces in the secondary. They traded for a productive running back. Need I go on?
How can you not admire the work of General Manager Chris Grier and the carefully crafted plan that unfolded round after round, pick after pick. He was disciplined. He was creative. He was prudent. He maneuvered so well, first refusing to bow to the temptation of trading up early on to get his quarterback, though he did trade up a couple of times later to get other players he coveted. He traded down once in the first round to get an extra fourth round pick, gave up a fifth-round pick for 49ers' running back Matt Breida and then capped things off with some forward thinking, getting another piece in next year's draft, trading a seventh-round pick to the Seahawks for a sixth-round pick in 2021.
Overall, it may have been Grier at his best. He seemed so in control throughout, and the split screen views with him and Head Coach Brian Flores only reminded us of the trusting relationship these two have developed and how much aligned they are in their thinking, bringing in so many players with similar DNAs.
"We were really, I would say, in lockstep the whole way," said Flores.
No, I'm sure Grier didn't get everyone he wanted. You never do. He even admitted there were a couple of pound the table moments. But when you look at the 11 players selected, when you start with Tua at the Top, when you see how many important needs were met and when you ponder the potential of three offensive linemen taken in the team's first seven picks, this draft could grow up to be downright special.
It already sure has the look of it.
Getting Tua Tagovailoa with the No. 5 overall pick has a way of doing that. His selection has created a buzz in South Florida that you don't need to leave your house to feel. You hear it from your neighbor in the next driveway, you listen to people call in on sports radio and you read about the excitement online, but mostly you just understand the gravity of this selection and what it could mean for, oh, the next decade or so.
Nobody is anointing Tua anything at this early juncture. He's not expecting that. But what we are talking about here is promise and potential and about the most physically gifted quarterback to come this way in a long, long time. The numbers he compiled at Alabama, and many of them are incredible, are only part of the story. He is a leader. He is a student. He is an inspiring story.
You hear so much about the "IT" factor when it comes to great quarterbacks. You can't teach it. You can't really earn it. You simply have to have it. Tua has already shown, every step of his journey, that he does have IT. And now we'll get to find out together what he does with IT as part of this franchise.
Can't wait for that to start, a Tua-riffic pick any way you frame it.
But the story of this Dolphins draft is far more than just one player. For those keeping track, there were also three offensive linemen, three defensive linemen, a cornerback, a safety, a long snapper and a running back.
So many of these players will add to the promising nucleus of this young team moving forward. Each one comes with his own unique path, his own reason for wanting it so badly. Not all with make it. But three picks in the first round and two more in the second for starters certainly gave Grier the ammo he needed to fill some important needs.
A few examples:
- Between free agency and the draft, this will be a new-look offensive line, more talented, more versatile and far deeper than we've seen in a long time. Hard to know how things will shake out as far as starters go, but there are now at least 10 quality players in the mix. Whenever Tua's Time arrives, the Dolphins obviously want to make sure he's well protected. Note from my personal file: Pay special attention to second-round pick Robert Hunt, a massive guard from Louisiana-Lafayette with a bulldozer mentality. Got a feeling we'll see plenty of him. "He plays with an attitude," said Grier.
- The pass rush, a major source of concern last season, has been buoyed by the selection of three front seven players: defensive tackle Raekwon Davis, defensive end Jason Strowbridge and edge player Curtis Weaver. Davis will join Davon Godchaux and Christian Wilkins to give the Dolphins a formidable trio at tackle; Strowbridge, a pure defensive end, did some impressive things at North Carolina and Weaver may be the most intriguing prospect of all with his 34 sacks over the past three seasons at Boise State, including 13 ½ last season.
- Got to admit I was scratching my head a little when all the top running backs came off the board with the Dolphins certainly in need of someone to pair with veteran Jordan Howard. But Grier had it figured out, trading for a 25-year-old back in Breida who has averaged 5 yards a carry in his three NFL seasons and with his speed and moves has shown to be equally productive in the passing game. Love this trade. Makes total sense.
- I'm not sure whether the drafting of Malcolm Perry in the seventh round fills a pressing need, but this nonetheless is a player you have to be rooting for, a feel-good story of commitment and perseverance. The first member of a service academy ever drafted by the Dolphins, Perry is coming off a remarkable career at Navy where he played quarterback, running back and receiver. A new rule will allow him to go straight to the Dolphins without first having to serve and I've got a hunch he's going to find a role somewhere. Watch the tape. You'll see what I mean.
"All in all," said Flores, "it was a good weekend."
So now we wait to see how this offseason continues to unfold given the uncertainty of our times. But until some sense of normalcy returns, have comfort in knowing this: A remarkably successful four months, beginning in free agency and culminating with this draft, offers powerful evidence of a franchise rapidly heading in the right direction.