The NFL is typically the great equalizer for college football gamebreakers. In the pro game, everyone's freakishly athletic. And yet, watching Waddle on Sundays felt just like watching Waddle on Saturdays, with the same thought invariably springing to mind: That guy just looks different. Gennaro Filice, NFL.com
That speed, that different gear that Waddle accessed weekly in college was on-display in Miami's Week 13 win over the Carolina Panthers. Just listen to the inflection in play-by-play man Chris Meyers' voice on this reception.
Waddle was clocked at 21.8 miles per hour top speed on that run, the sixth-fastest time recorded in the league this season.
But wait, there's more.
Waddle wasn't the only Year 1 stud from this Dolphins draft class, either. Displaying the kind of versatility today's NFL teams covet in the safety position, Holland stuffed the stat sheet with 68 tackles, 10 passes defensed, seven QB hits, two fumble recoveries, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions. The second-rounder posted the fourth-highest Pro Football Focus grade in the entire rookie class, only trailing Offensive Rookie of the Year Ja'Marr Chase, Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons and egregious Pro Bowl snub Creed Humphrey. Meanwhile, Phillips really came on in the back half of the season, finishing with 8.5 sacks and earning a spot alongside Waddle and Holland on the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team. Gennaro Filice, NFL.com
For his efforts, NFL.com graded Chris Grier and his personnel department's 2021 draft class with an A-minus. Among AFC teams, only the Kansas City Chiefs graded higher with an A-plus.
Yet, still, there's more.
The 2020 Dolphins draft class produced another PFWA All-Rookie Team member (Raekwon Davis). The only safety with more QB pressures than the aforementioned Holland, his teammate and counterpart, Brandon Jones, who was drafted in the third-round of 2020. Also from that class, Robert Hunt, who was one of Pro Football Focus' top-graded guards during the final-third of the season.
It goes back further. Christian Wilkins' 89 tackles in 2021 were the most by an interior defensive lineman since 2013 while his classmate, Andrew Van Ginkel, finished 18th in the NFL with 20 QB hits.
Perhaps a roster full of young, promising talent -- in addition to ultimate flexibility with the NFL's most-available cap space, and three first-round picks over the next two years -- was a key selling point in the process of attracting Mike McDaniel as the 14th Head Coach in franchise history.
According to Chris Grier, that's exactly what happened during Miami's coaching search.
"It was clear that there was excitement and even into the last two weeks," said Grier. "You guys would be surprised the people that were calling trying to get into this job."
McDaniel's first couple of weeks on the job have been met with near-unanimous praise, from the fans and media alike.
First, nothing harnesses more power than nostalgia. As if one dose wasn't enough with the hiring of former four-time All-Pro Sam Madison, McDaniel gave an entire generation of Fins fans enough reminiscence to last a lifetime by landing his teammate, Patrick Surtain.
The foreshadowing for reassembling Dolphins legends might've been apparent by Coach McDaniel's first stroll through the building in Miami Gardens.
More than just nostalgia-inducing names, Madison has coached in Super Bowls and developed stars in his early coaching career. Surtain hit .500 when it came to winning state titles in America's most-competitive region for high school football (three-time state champion in six years). Joining them on-staff is Wes Welker, who coached Deebo Samuel during his 2021 All-Pro campaign.
While Madison, Surtain, Welker returning to Miami is enough to get fans fired up for the football season, it's the experience and accomplishments of McDaniel's staff that the national media and fans taking notice.
While plenty more work lies ahead in the player-acquisition period of the calendar, and ultimately the games come the fall season, excitement is brewing for the upcoming season.