The 2021 NFL Draft was odd from a Miami Dolphins point of view. The fans were frustrated by the three-day selection process, not seeing the names that had been mock drafted to the team and discussed by analysts being selected by their team. The analysts, however, seem to have a much brighter outlook on what Miami did during the seven rounds of selections.
According to a compilation of 18 draft grades from around the web, René Bugner on Twitter shows, Miami had one of the top graded drafts in the league. Using the 18 grades to create a “GPA” for each team has Miami land fifth in the league:
2021 NFL Draft Team Grades
I combined 18 evaluations for GPA incl:
Doug Farrar & Mark Schofield
Mel Kiper Jr
Thanks guys pic.twitter.com/vM6OnVl4aK
— René Bugner (@RNBWCV) May 2, 2021
Below, you will find several of those same grade sites, along with a couple of others I pulled up, to give you an idea of what analysts are saying about Miami’s 2021 NFL Draft:
In Waddle and Phillips, the Dolphins took big swings on two talented players with injury issues. If they hit, Miami will be playoff-bound in short order. Holland and Eichenberg were solid picks in need areas, and finding a tight end like Long in the third should help address potential free-agent losses after the season.
Miami traded its fifth-round pick (No. 156) to the Steelers for a 2022 fourth-rounder, which is almost always the right call. Coleman’s length and athleticism make him a prototypical seventh-round pick in that he has plenty to improve upon but has a high ceiling. Doaks should provide competition in the backfield.
(Editor’s Note: When the title of the Sporting News article is “NFL Draft grades 2021: All 32 draft classes ranked from best (Dolphins) to worst (Raiders)” there’s probably a pretty good chance the Dolphins got a high grade…)
This was another great draft for Brian Flores and GM Chris Grier. Waddle keeps improving the big-play potential Around Tua Tagovailoa and Eichenberg should be his new starting right tackle. Long will help as a run blocker and additional receiver. Phillips will thrill Flores rushing the passer from several places in his front seven. Despite limited overall quantity, the quality was hard to beat with most key needs met.
Day 1: Like the Bengals, the Dolphins reunite their starting quarterback with a former wide receiver teammate. Jaylen Waddle arrives in Miami with experience catching passes from Tua Tagovailoa. He is an explosive play waiting to happen, whether it’s on a bubble screen or a post route. He is the elite burner receiver of the entire draft class and rounds out the Dolphins’ receiving corps.
Jaelan Phillips boasts the best production of any edge rusher in this class, and if medical concerns weren’t a factor, he could have come off the board much earlier. He recorded 42 quarterback pressures on 542 snaps last season for Miami but has already had to walk away from the game once due to concussion issues. As a result, he has less than 1,000 career college snaps to his name. There are concerns, but Miami is playing with house money with all of their draft capital and can afford to take that kind of gamble.
Day 2: Miami makes Jevon Holland the first safety off the board, shocking many who had TCU’s Trevon Moehrig projected as a sure-fire first-rounder. Holland, who can also play cornerback, was an excellent coverage player for Oregon over two high-level seasons of play. Miami needs help at safety after stacking their cornerback depth chart over the past year, and this goes a long way toward achieving that.
One of the top tackles in the country, Liam Eichenberg might not be quite as spectacular a prospect as some of the other players at his position, but he improved significantly in PFF grade every season of his college career, culminating in an 89.9 overall mark in 2020. Eichenberg didn’t surrender a sack in either of the past two seasons, and he gives the Dolphins some real competition at a position they’ve already invested significantly in without seeing clear and certain results yet.
Even with Mike Gesicki on the roster, Long fills the need for a true inline tight end. He was a volume target at Boston College — head and shoulders the best receiving option for the Eagles over the last couple of seasons. He does a lot of different things at a very good level and can help in a few different roles, he just might not have the requisite athleticism to be a difference-maker.
The Dolphins came into this draft with an extra first- and second-round pick (and added a valuable 2023 first-rounder) and had clear needs to fill. They had to get some receiving help for Tua Tagovailoa. They needed a young, talented pass-rusher to put into their edge-rushing rotation. And if they are going to move Robert Hunt to guard full-time, they had to draft a potential starter at offensive tackle.
That’s why I like what general manager Chris Grier did. Tagovailoa struggled as a rookie last season, but there should be no way he averages 6.3 yards per attempt again in 2021. The addition of No. 5 overall pick Jaylen Waddle (and free-agent signing Will Fuller V) means he now has multiple playmakers to run after the catch and to target on deep balls. Waddle was the fifth-ranked player on my board. Jaelan Phillips (18) is a silky-smooth edge rusher with the physical traits to average 10 sacks per season. As I wrote Thursday night, he likely would have been a top-10 pick if he didn’t have an injury history.
I really liked their Day 2 haul as well. Jevon Holland (36) will compete to start at free safety. Liam Eichenberg (42) has a good chance to be their Day 1 right tackle in place of Hunt; he was a three-year starter at left tackle for Notre Dame. Tight end Hunter Long (81) is an awesome player who will compete as a blocker and catch a few passes up the seam. He’s one of my favorites in this class, and he’s a nice complement for Mike Gesicki, who had 703 receiving yards last season.
Grier didn’t have any picks in Rounds 4, 5 or 6, but seventh-round pick Larnel Coleman (231) has a chance to stick on the team as a swing tackle. I thought he might go in Round 5.
Looking at this roster, I don’t think it’s far away from being a Super Bowl contender, and the Dolphins hit their major needs. The other major bonus is that they ended up moving down three spots from No. 3 after some maneuvering and picked up that 2023 first-round pick. This is a stellar class overall, and the AFC East is going to be a fun race in 2021.
The Dolphins added two impact players in the first round, as both Waddle and Phillips have Pro Bowl upside and should be starters from the moment they join the team. Holland is an interesting addition too, as his versatility could allow him to wear a number of hats in head coach Brian Flores’s defense. Eichenberg has the size and footwork skills to man the team’s right tackle spot, and Long could be a valuable part of Miami’s future. He complements Mike Gesicki at tight end in the short term, and brings the tools to become Gesicki’s eventual replacement in the long run.
Waddle brings game-breaking speed to the offense – reunited with former Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa – and special teams. When you have four top-42 picks you can swing for the fences with Phillips (three concussions but big pass-rush ability). Four players with first-round grades?
Jaylen Waddle and Jaelan Phillips in Round 1 takes the cake for me. It couldn’t get much better for general manager Chris Grier. Hunter Long also has the potential to develop into a nice offensive weapon at 6-foot-5.
The Miami Dolphins made an incredibly strong start to the 2021 NFL Draft, giving them a great basis for their grade. However, their inability to get a running back severely hampers their final grade. Addressing the offensive line gives the Dolphins options in terms of the configuration of their line heading into 2021.
The Dolphins left the weekend with four immediate starters and a fifth that’ll be on his way soon in TE Hunter Long. I would have played things a little different up top, taking Penei Sewell. But I also spent the last two months arguing that you can’t begin judging Tua into you let him get fully healthy and construct a receiving corps of zippy receivers who can separate in the intermediate area (at least). Waddle is a great first step in that direction. Keeping Phillips in Miami is such a cool story — if that kid’s concussions issues are in his past, he’s going to be a star.
There were few of us out there who missed badly on projecting Miami’s first round based on their most glaring needs. Trading back into the top 10 almost locked them into a top wide receiver. Keeping the 18th pick almost guaranteed them an edge rusher. They did not disappoint.
This will be a formative draft for Chris Grier and Brian Flores, who have already transformed the Dolphins into a relevant division power player but now have to shift the gear into a team dripping with playmaking talent good enough to consistently compete with Buffalo and New England.
Their picks reflected as much; a mix of top-end skill and speed, with high risk-reward potential (Jaylen Waddle and Jaelan Phillips) and a handful of safer bets that should be able to contribute right away. Liam Eichenberg and Hunter Long will not be as frequently discussed but could serve as foundational blocks that, if they play up to their potential, will go a long way toward rounding out the operation.
While much of the success of this team hangs in the balance of Tua Tagovailoa’s left arm, there is little else Miami could have done.
Dolphins general manager Chris Grier boldly and aggressively collected assets in this and next year’s draft in the weeks leading up to it, and has methodically filled some of Miami’s biggest needs so far this weekend.
Even after signing Will Fuller in free agency, and dropping him to a receiving corps with DeVante Parker, Grier and the Dolphins chose Alabama wide receiver — and one of the biggest threats in the vertical game in this class — Jaylen Waddle No. 6 overall. Waddle reunites with Tua Tagovailoa, and throws open the Dolphins’ playbook after averaging 10.3 yards after the catch per reception and catching four touchdowns last season.
This season is all about evaluating Tua and Miami hopes to make the postseason in the process, a task that got significantly easier by drafting Waddle and then adding Notre Dame offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg in Round 2 to help keep the quarterback upright.
Tagovailoa now has the offensive weapons, and support up front, to take the next step in his development, and the Dolphins have one of the more exciting young rosters on both sides of the football with a defensive-minded head coach in Brian Flores, that could make Miami a sneaky competitor in 2021.
As the Dolphins have put the full weight of their faith behind Tua Tagovailoa, there was no need for the Dolphins to get aggressive with a quarterback with the sixth overall pick. Instead, general manager Chris Grier did the smartest thing possible by reuniting Tagovailoa with Jaylen Waddle, the Alabama yards-after-catch monster who brings Tyreek Hill to mind with his ability to compress any field to his liking.
Then, head coach Brian Flores got a couple of potential stars on the defensive side of the ball with Miami edge-rusher Jaelan Phillips at the 18th overall pick, and Oregon safety/slot defender Jevon Holland in the second round. Phillips was the consensus best edge defender in this class, and Holland is a perfect fit with a team that demands effective versatility from its defensive backs.
Those three picks make the rest of the Dolphins’ draft, which was a bit of a mixed bag, perfectly okay. You have to like Notre Dame offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg a lot more than I do to make that second-round pick a resounding success — I had Eichenberg as my 11th-ranked tackle in this class, and his rudimentary ability to use leverage and work with his hands makes me wonder if he’ll succeed at tackle or guard at the NFL level. That’s a big project for offensive line coach Lemuel Jeanpierre.
Did they get too cute with their circuitous route from No. 3 to No. 6? TBD. But this much is sure: Despite a sensible near-term commitment to help second-year QB Tua Tagovailoa, neither Pitts nor Chase is walking through that door. It will be a moot point if WR Jaylen Waddle, a teammate of Tagovailoa’s at Alabama, becomes the second coming of Tyreek Hill, to whom he’s been compared. And, collectively, first-round DE Jaelan Phillips, second-round S Jevon Holland and OT Liam Eichenberg and third-round TE Hunter Long could form a strong class. But the Fins’ future considerations could have a hard time compensating for the immediate opportunity cost.
There was little doubt that the Dolphins would take a WR at No. 6. But did they take the right one by choosing Jaylen Waddle and passing over DeVonta Smith? Miami had five of the draft’s first 81 selections and added plenty of promise — as one would expect — with Waddle, pass rusher Jaelan Phillips, S Jevon Holland, T Liam Eichenberg and TE Hunter Long. One possible quibble was the decision to make Holland the first safety drafted over Trevon Moehrig.