The pieces fell just right. The player they coveted, the quarterback they saw as the long-term solution, was still on the board. The announcement came just before 9 p.m. Thursday night. And an entire organization collectively pumped its fist.
How sweet does that sound? How special? How downright exciting? The Dolphins haven't drafted a quarterback with the pedigree of Tua Tagovailoa since the unforgettable 1983 draft brought us Dan Marino. Whether Tua's name can be mentioned in the same sentence as Marino before his career ends is something all of us must patiently wait to find out.
But it's going to be fun watching this journey, having a front row seat in the career of a player who arrives as the most efficient and one of the most productive quarterbacks in college football history. Think about that. Of all the needs facing this organization, for far too long by far the greatest has been the void of a long-term answer at the most important position on the field. They now have one. They now have Tua. They now have real hope, a crucial building block, and an important part of a young, growing nucleus.
Give General Manager Chris Grier credit. He didn't waiver. He didn't fall to the temptation of giving up some of his valuable draft capital to move a few spots up in order to assure Tua's selection. I'm certain he was tempted. But his intuition paid off handsomely. He held his line, and was rewarded for it.
But it didn't stop there. Proving you can work well – very, very well – from home, Grier got Southern Cal offensive tackle Austin Jackson with the 18th pick and Auburn cornerback Noah Igbinoghene with the 30th pick (after a trade with Green Bay). The plan unfolded well, the Dolphins getting what sure seems like a long-term answer at left tackle in Jackson and another important piece for the secondary in Igbinoghene.
Jackson has the size (6-5, 322) and the speed (5.07 in the 40 at the Combine) you covet in an offensive tackle. He will help solidify a line that began coming together in free agency. He is just 20 years old, and somewhat raw. But the tape shows a player with an excellent skill set though it's his long-term upside that seems most intriguing. The pick makes sense any way you look at it.
As for Igbinoghene, the Dolphins are loading up in the secondary and early indications are that he could be an excellent option as a slot defender or a nickel corner. The Dolphins already have free agent Byron Jones and Xavien Howard. Add Igbinoghene to the mix and this could quickly evolve into one of the strengths of the team. This is a talented player who excelled against top-tier competition in college and was considered among the top three or four cornerbacks in the draft.
As much as Jackson and Igbinoghene each deserve to be the story of this column – and in most years they would be – the screaming headline on this night belongs to Tua. We've heard his name for so long. We've watched what he's done. We've seen all the mock drafts. Yes, the injuries he has had to overcome will always be a part of his resume. But he's healthy now, and you need to keep in mind if not for those injuries he probably would have been gone before the Dolphins had a chance to get him. Fate sometimes can travel in strange ways.
"A dream come true," Tua said after his selection. "A special day for both me and my family."
Undoubtedly special for the Dolphins as well.
I'm not here to tell you that Tua will be an instant success. There are too many unknowns to suggest that at such an early date. He's got a pretty good veteran in Ryan Fitzpatrick ahead of him – who's rightfully coming in as the clear No. 1 -- and there is so much for Tua to learn, a challenge even more imposing in these difficult and unfortunate stay-at-home times.
But we've seen the rapid-fire release. We've seen the uncanny accuracy. We've seen the remarkable athletic skills. We've seen enough to know it's just a matter of time: Yes, Tua Time.
You sort through some of the remarkable numbers he compiled at Alabama and one stat really hits you hard: 87 touchdown passes, 11 interceptions. The more you think about it, the more impressive it becomes. He knows where to go and he knows how to get it there, a combination you just can't teach.
Quarterback. Offensive tackle. Cornerback. Quite a first night, don't you think? Put all three of these first-round picks together, consider what they each can bring to this team, and it's safe to say the Miami Dolphins just got a whole lot better, and a whole lot more interesting as well.
On to Day Two and the fun continues.