By: Marek Brave (@MBrave13)
According to nearly every national NFL Draft analyst, the Miami Dolphins hit a grand slam during the 2021 NFL Draft this past weekend. By all accounts, Chris Grier and company added a minimum of four starters to the squad with their first four selections, while others are saying that Hunter Long will be contributing at the tight end position in very short order. To put it bluntly, the Dolphins are a better football team than they were at this point a week ago, and Tua Tagovailoa should greatly benefit from these new offensive additions.
With the sixth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins selected Tua’s former teammate, Jaylen Waddle, from Alabama. This speedy wide receiver has been drawing comparisons to Tyreek Hill during the entire run-up to draft day. However, Waddle does not come with any of the off-field concerns Hill has encountered over the past few seasons. Nick Saban has even been quoted as saying Waddle was the most important locker room leader during the 2020 college football season for the Crimson Tide. Upon entering the NFL, Waddle immediately becomes a contender for the title of fastest wideout in the league. Do a quick little Twitter search and you’ll find video of he and former teammate, Henry Ruggs, squaring off in a foot race, which appears to end in a tie. Why is that significant? Henry Ruggs was timed at 4.27 seconds in the 40 yard dash at last year’s Scouting Combine, tied for the third fastest time IN HISTORY.
Waddle is fast. Scary fast. But, he’s also an accomplished route runner, leading all wide receiver prospects in this draft with an 80.3% success rate vs man coverage according to Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception. He can fly on a go route, but he can also dig his feet into the dirt, pivot on a dime and get open on a comeback route, which he did with 100% success last season according to Harmon. Miami’s receivers last year couldn’t even spell the word separation. Now, with the additions of Fuller and Waddle, Miami adds two guys who defenses will be struggling to cover all game long.
Miami went on to add offensive tackle, Liam Eichenberg, in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Eichenberg is a lunch pail kind of player. He suits up, puts on his helmet and punches you in the mouth for four straight quarters. And he does it very, very well as he has not allowed a sack for the past two seasons playing for Notre Dame. With the trade of Ereck Flowers to the Washington Football Team, Eichenberg could fill in at guard, or if the talk of kicking Robert Hunt inside is true, Eichenberg can man the right tackle spot for Miami going forward. You have to love what Miami has done with the offensive line in the past two drafts. If these young guys continue to mature and improve together, look out!
In the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Hunter Long from Boston College was selected to join a crowded tight end room in Davie. Many people were initially upset with this selection, as Fins Fans all over were pining for a running back to be the pick. After taking a step back and listening to what draft pundits had to say, it was clear what Miami saw when they took a look at Long. At 6’5” and 254 lbs, Long has prototypical size for the position. He’s a willing blocker and has decent success doing so, but he will need to work on ramping up his aggression at the pro level. One intriguing stat is that Long led all tight ends in receptions in 2020, reeling in 57 balls, 14 more than number four overall pick Kyle Pitts. Long is also a very intelligent young man, graduating Boston College with a Computer Science degree. With Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe’s contracts up at the end of the year, Long could see himself in line for more work after he gets a year of NFL experience under his belt.
In round seven, Miami finally selected a developmental running back, as Gerrid Doaks from Cincinnati was the pick. Doaks is a physical back, typically choosing to run through defenders instead of trying to dance around them. Doaks also has experience catching passes out of the backfield. He will be a rotational piece alongside Gaskin and Brown. The running back position got better over the weekend, but not necessarily by adding Doaks. The additions of Fuller and Waddle this offseason mean that defenses can no longer stack the box with a safety against Tua and Miami as they often did last year. Speed kills and defenses will not want to flat-line by letting Miami’s newly acquired speed demons beat them deep time and time again, so they will undoubtedly drop into Cover 2 which should open up more lanes in the running game.
Yes, Miami is a better ball club after the 2021 NFL Draft, and that’s with us just taking into consideration the offensive selections that were made. With a long spring and summer ahead, the Dolphins’ new additions will have plenty of time to get to know Brian Flores and the coaching staff while also building relationships with their teammates. It is an exciting time to be a Fins fan, so buckle up, folks! It is going to be one hell of a season!