The Dolphins are scheduled to make nine selections when the 2021 NFL Draft kicks off on April 29 in Cleveland. The influx of rookies will join the 2020 crop, who have already made an impact on the gridiron as well as away from the football field.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa announced on Thursday the establishment of the Tua Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the support of youth initiatives, health and wellness, and other charitable causes. The Tua Foundation will primarily focus on charitable endeavors in South Florida, Alabama and Hawai'i.
Today on Drive Time with Travis Wingfield, Dane Brugler of the Athletic broke down Tagovailoa's rookie season and projection for Year 2.
"The pinpoint accuracy, the quick release and quick processing … I think he's in for one of those big sophomore season jumps," Brugler said.
Brugler continued his admiration of the 2020 rookie class starting with Miami's first-year offensive tackles.
"Then there's the tackles," Brugler said. "Austin Jackson played even better than his draft position at times and I was very impressed with Robert Hunt, who I had as the best guard in the 2020 class. He proved this year he can play tackle at this level giving the Dolphins a pair of bookends."
Brugler's praise extends beyond the first day of the Dolphins 2020 draft.
"Whether it's free safety, in the box or the slot, Brandon Jones' instincts always stand out," he said.
"Any time you get a quality starter on Day 3, I think you have to consider that a win and that's what Miami got in Solomon Kindley in the fourth round," Brugler said.
You can find the entire episode wherever you get your podcasts or listen below.
Super Bowl media coverage provides us with countless quotes and soundbites. Another Dolphins rookie from the 2020 draft class earned praise from one of his peers and 2021 Heisman Trophy Winner, DeVonta Smith.
In an 'Ask Me Anything' Q&A on Bleacher Report, Smith identified Dolphins cornerback Noah Igbinoghene as his most challenging matchup in college.
“The cornerback Noah Igbinoghene from Auburn, best DB I played against,” Alabama WR DeVonta Smith
The proof is in the numbers. The two squared off in the 2019 Iron Bowl (Alabama vs. Auburn). According to Pro Football Focus, Igbinoghene was targeted four times in that game allowing just one reception.
Igbinoghene also produced against other top-of-the-line prospects playing in the loaded SEC. In that same season, he faced the record-breaking LSU Tigers offense, which featured 2020 first-rounder Justin Jefferson (Vikings), projected 2021 first-round pick Ja'Marr Chase, and the No. 44 player on Brugler's board, Terrance Marshall. The Tigers offense completed three of five passes on Igbinoghene for 40 yards, giving him a combined 73 yards allowed and just 44.4 percent completion against two of the nation's top offenses.
The youngest player in the NFL in 2020, Igbinoghene played 223 of his 286 snaps in Miami's first four games. The 63 defensive snaps he played over the final 12 games produced just two receptions allowed on six targets for 26 yards, including 18 coverage snaps without allowing a catch against the Bengals in Week 13.
"He's a guy who's been practicing very well," Head Coach Brian Flores said after the Cincinnati game in Week 13. "I've seen a lot of improvement with him at practice. I think he's made a lot of plays in the kicking game for us over the last few weeks. Those things don't go unnoticed. He's young. He just turned 21-years-old last week. I think he's getting better. Like I've said, developing players and watching them improve is something that we always have an eye on and I've seen that in practice and he got an opportunity yesterday. I thought he played well."
Statistical improvements were a mark of the development and work ethic Igbinoghene displayed daily, a trait veteran cornerback Byron Jones recognized early in the youngster.
"He's probably one of the most impressive young guys I've seen in a very long time," Jones said. "The way he approaches the game, this kid is here early. He's here early with the coach looking at film. He's there late. The way he practices and the way he really approaches practice is really impressive for a young guy to understand that."
Igbinoghene's mental toughness were cultivated due in large part to strict parents – both Olympian track stars – who were committed to instilling a strong work ethic in their son.
Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun Sentinel told the story of Igbinoghene's origin and the exhaustive workouts that tested his physical conditioning and mental fortitude from a young age.
"I had a guy come to me recently and say he wanted to be like Noah," Said Festus, who coaches youth sports. "I Said, 'OK, I'll put you through the workout he does.'"
The Plyometric drills centered on jumping. The sprints. The hopping up and down every other stadium step. The endless drills that become a part of his life since youth sometimes for two, sometimes three sessions a day.
"That guy did one day of work and didn't come back the next day," Festus said.
Those workouts helped Igbinoghene prepare for life in the SEC and eventually the NFL, as told by his defensive coordinator at Auburn, Kevin Steele, in a story from The Athletic.
"He's got a tremendous skill set, he's got a great defensive temperament, and he's very knowledgeable. Put that with a toughness — just an innate toughness — and you'll see a guy that progresses and progresses. The ceiling is really high for Noah."