The Miami Dolphins are one of the more intriguing teams to watch heading into the 2019 NFL draft because of their high volume of needs — most notably at quarterback and on the offensive and defensive lines — and a propensity to make a draft-day trade.
Dolphins general manager Chris Grier has picked up draft assets throughout the offseason with eyes on making future moves. A move for a quarterback could change the whole dynamic of the draft, and Grier has certainly given that option some thought.
“If there is a guy there that we like this year that we feel we need to go get, yeah, we will be aggressive trying to get him. But we’ll also be smart about it,” Grier said. “We’ll have a lot of flexibility to do stuff, whether it’s this year’s draft or next year’s draft.”
Miami making a move up or down in the first round is a likely option rather than sitting tight at pick No. 13. ESPN’s Dan Graziano ranked the Dolphins as the third-most likely team to trade up in the draft.
Grier has said all options are on the table, including trading up to get their franchise quarterback in 2019.
Here’s my ranking of the Dolphins’ most likely first-round options on Day 1 of the draft Thursday:
Trade back for the best non-QB prospect
The story of the Dolphins’ offseason has been jettisoning veterans, collecting draft picks and clearing up salary-cap space. All of those moves point toward 2020 being a more important on-field season than 2019. A trade back would indicate they are stockpiling talent in 2019 with more picks and aiming to select their franchise quarterback (cough, cough, possibly Tua Tagovailoa) in the 2020 draft.
Grier said at the NFL owners meeting last month that trading back would be under consideration, but it would depend on how the draft board falls.
“You always need a partner to do a move like that,” Grier said. “So we’re not going to do anything just to do it and then we come out and look bad on a move.”
One realistic goal that Grier has set is the team emerging from this draft with at least three starters and some solid role players. The odds of that happening certainly increase with more picks.
Trading back is the slight favorite for how Miami attacks the first round. The Dolphins could move back a few spots with a team such as Carolina at No. 16 and still draft a first-round prospect in the trenches or make a double-digit trade back with a team such as Houston at No. 23 in exchange for major draft capital in 2019 and/or 2020.
“I would say you should always have a list of maybe a handful of guys that you definitely take no matter what,” Grier said last week. “But as you move down and get closer and you get there and there’s a group of players who are good players and we’ve got three at that pick, you may say, ‘All right, we can move back a few spots and get one of these guys for sure and create some more picks for later in the draft.'”
Chances I believe it will happen: 40 percent
Stay put and draft best non-QB
Whether they select a quarterback in the first round or not, the Dolphins’ draft shopping list will be heavy on meat and potatoes. Miami has to find at least four new starters in the trenches, and coach Brian Flores indicated they would take multiple shots at doing that in this draft.
After seven years of Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins can’t afford to settle at quarterback anymore. So if they don’t believe one in the 2019 draft is available and likely to be a franchise quarterback for them, look for them to wait until 2020 and build the roster around that player in the meantime.
As much as the Dolphins need a high volume of good players, they also have a dearth of stars. Grier says he sees five elite defensive linemen in this draft, and it’s a strong possibility that if one of those players falls to him at No. 13, he will pick him rather than trade back.
An offensive or defensive lineman should be considered the heavy favorite if they don’t pick a QB. Outside of having a franchise quarterback, there’s nothing more important in the NFL than protecting the QB and getting after the opposing quarterback.
They could have their pick in this group of nine talented trench players who are likely to be selected in the first round but outside the first few picks: Montez Sweat (Mississippi State, edge); Clelin Ferrell (Clemson, edge); Brian Burns (Florida State, edge); Rashan Gary (Michigan, edge); Christian Wilkins (Clemson, DL); Jonah Williams (Alabama OT/G); Jawaan Taylor (Florida, OT); Andre Dillard (Washington State, OT); and Cody Ford (Oklahoma, OT/G).
Keep a close eye on the two Clemson defensive difference-makers as possibilities.
Chances I believe it will happen: 30 percent
Trade up to draft their franchise QB
No NFL team has a bigger need at quarterback than Miami. This isn’t lost on Grier and Flores, both of whom said their No. 1 priority is finding a franchise quarterback.
The Dolphins are adamant that they aren’t tanking, and a move of this magnitude would back up their words.
The players to watch here are Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins and Missouri’s Drew Lock, the two wild cards for Miami’s draft. The Dolphins worked out or visited with each of the top four quarterback prospects, including Haskins and Lock. If Miami falls in love with either, Grier’s plea to be “aggressive” could come to fruition.
Detroit at No. 8 and Buffalo at No. 9 seem to be ideal partners for the Dolphins to work with in a move up. Take into account, also, that both the Lions and Bills have shown a willingness to trade down. A move up four or five spots would allow the Dolphins to fill their top priority in Year 1 of the rebuild and at a cost that wouldn’t mortgage the franchise’s future.
When asked if he sees any potential franchise quarterbacks in the 2019 class, Grier hesitated, and said, “Umm, there could be.” He then described how much risk there is in drafting first-round quarterbacks, particularly those who have so little starting experience in college — such as Haskins (he started 14 games at Ohio State).
“Quarterbacks have been so hit-and-miss. If you study them, 50 percent or less end up becoming even good starting quarterbacks. So it’s hard to say,” Grier said.
Hearing Grier’s hesitation about the top quarterbacks in this draft could be a smokescreen, but there’s plenty of reason to believe Miami sees more promise in the trenches.
Chances I believe it will happen: 20 percent
Stay put and draft their QB
A dream scenario would be if the Dolphins loved Haskins and/or Lock, and one of them fell to them at No. 13. But franchise quarterbacks rarely fall in teams’ laps, particularly when selecting those players outside the top 10.
Quarterbacks are typically drafted higher (not lower) than expected. So while this isn’t impossible, it seems unlikely. If you want a quarterback, go get him.
Chances I believe it will happen: 8 percent
Trade up for a non-QB
This is the least likely of the options because the Dolphins simply don’t have the luxury to trade up for a player who isn’t a QB. There are too many holes elsewhere, and Grier typically follows the philosophy that three good players are better than one great player.
Chances I believe it will happen: 2 percent