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Miami Dolphins’ predraft visits and their potential context clues

Shawn Digity

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USA Today Sports Miami Dolphins draft
Minkah Fitzpatrick being selected in the 2019 NFL Draft. Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

The Miami Dolphins are going through their due diligence of predraft visits and private workouts. Is there anything meaningful that can be taken from them?

It’s part of the process. All throughout the draft season teams will be doing their homework on numerous prospects in the several-month leadup to the main event in late April. But the million-dollar question is whether or not the visits have any relation to actual draft selections.

While it is left to each organization’s discretion on how to use the allotted 30 predraft visits, many of the teams will use the opportunity to bring in enigmatic or red-flag prospects to get a better grasp on how they could fit into the team dynamic. Other teams will use it to interview potential draftees. There are many ways a team can use the predraft visits–that’s what makes it so hard to discern the reason for each individual predraft 30.

Smokescreen season

So it goes without saying that this part of the draft process can really throw fans through a loop. Smokescreens are afoot, and a prospect visit could not be what it seems from the fan who’s watching from the outside.

I know I’m guilty of this almost every year, but I’ll see a list of prospect visits, dinners, workouts, and meetings and start trying to make connections and estimates for actual draft selections, akin to the hard-boiled 1950s detective with the photos and yarn on his bullet board looking for any possible clues.

Long-winded analogies aside, I don’t think there’s any historical correlation between visits and selections. This is not the answer that the conspiracy theorist in all of us wants to hear, but it’s the truth, more often than not.

Predraft visits and selection likelihood

Sometimes there are anomalies, though. In 2017, for example, Charles Harris and Raekwon McMillan were the first- and second-round selections and both had visits with the Dolphins.

Cordrea Tankersley, who was the third-round pick was not a visitor and did not have any contact with the Dolphins. But with the selections of Isaac Asiata, Davon Godchaux, Vincent Taylor and Isaiah Ford, the idea of the Miami Dolphins drafting players that they were in contact with during the predraft process went up in flames.

Was that a result of the trade-down with the Eagles from the fourth round and it caused the draft plan to go awry? Or are the predraft visits just smoke and mirrors meant to feign interest in Player A to drive down the interest or dim the spotlight for Player B in hopes of getting a good value pick? A lot of question come with any theory of connecting visits to actual interest.

Coach-GM coupling effects

I suppose that none of the fans truly know that answer–I certainly don’t. It also matters that the Dolphins have had many different front offices in the past several years. Maybe Mike Tannenbaum viewed the usage of the visits differently than Dennis Hickey or Jeff Ireland and even if Chris Grier was still the de facto GM in some of those cases, it might still be different yet now that he’s coupled with Brian Flores.

If that’s the case then this entire article is moot since this will obviously be Chris Grier’s first year working with Brian Flores. To a degree, it matters, but I’m not sure how different it will vary from regimes of yesteryear. The purpose of the predraft visits could, in fact, have many similarities over the numerous front office over the past decade or longer or it could not.

Seeing things that aren’t there

To me, it stood out that both Charles Harris and Raekwon McMillan had visits with the Dolphins and ended up being selected in consequent rounds. That’s enough to think that there could be a preference to draft players that came in for a workout or visit, but then that just begs more questions.

Are the Dolphins using the visits as opportunities to interview candidates they already like in a traditional job-applicatory style or are they gauging their overall interest based on the outcome of the visits?

I’m sure you’ll figure out the direction of this article with all the rhetorical, hypothetical questions, but I’m ultimately in the school of thought that there isn’t correlation or causality with the Miami Dolphins predraft visits and their actual draft picks in the subsequent draft.

What a coincidence

The 2017 back-to-back picks of Charles Harris and Raekwon McMillan was coincidental and was just the product of how the Dolphins had those two players rated on the big board and how the draft picks started falling.

The same thing can be said with the gift-wrapped Minkah Fitzpatrick in the 2018 Draft after he stumbled to the Dolphins at the 11th pick. Fitzpatrick had not been in contact with the Dolphins at any point, but when he fell, the Fins must’ve already had him highly rated on the board, enough to take him in the first round.

How these dominoes ended up falling was circumstantial based on the one-time draft and the visits played no role on how the players were taken, how the big board was created or how the actual selections were chosen.

On to the future

Now I’ll be remiss if I didn’t use this opportunity to talk about the 2019 predraft visits and look for things that aren’t there for the newest crop of prospects. Here’s the most complete list of visits I could find.

Now at this point, the list of prospects that the Miami Dolphins has shown interest in is large enough that there will be at least one player drafted off of it. I’ll get to that prediction in a second. the list has 55 names on it, I would even humor arguments that say the Dolphins will take two guys off that list.

It’s just such a large number that you could take any random pool of 55 players in this year’s draft class and end up with one to two players that the Miami Dolphins will end up drafting.

It also matters that the Dolphins have seven regular picks: one first, one second, one third, one fourth, one fifth, and two sevenths. There’s an even spread of higher- and lower-tiered athletes on the Dolphins list, so that means that the potential for drafting the listees won’t wane as the draft gets into the later rounds.

The list includes big names such as Nick Bosa and Dwayne Haskins from Ohio State and lesser-known players like Koda Martin from Syracuse and Corrion Ballard from Utah.

Now I should make this point, the 2019 visit list I found includes all contacts and not just predraft 30s. Meetings from Pro Days, the Combine, Senior Bowl week, East-West Shrine week, and local-visit candidates are also listed. Although, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter since the reasonings for any of the meetings in any regard are different on a case-by-case basis.

Without Further Ado

So now that I’ve dismissed the idea of any major correlation between the visits/meetings, I will take a random stab at the list and make a prediction on who will be a Miami Dolphin after the draft. This is a whimsical, baseless guess and my only guiding light is how I think the team will address team needs this year. I’m predicting the Miami Dolphins will take Johnnie Dixon on Day 3, no rhyme or reason behind that prediction.

If anything, you can look at that 2019 list and see who the Dolphins will likely not take because in years past the trend has often been taking players that aren’t on the list. So if you see a player on that list, then that’s closer to a kiss of death than it is a positive bellwether.

Also for reference, 2018 and 2017 visits and meetings.

 

I am an Ohio University alum and I’ve been living in Pittsburgh for the last two years. I’ve been a Dolphins fan since I was a kid and I picked them because I liked the old-school logo. It grew from that as I got older and I luckily caught the tail end of Dan Marino’s career. It’s stuck ever since and now I’m an upstart, wild-and-free Dolphins beat writer, loving every second of it.

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NFL Draft

Scouting College Football’s Top 2020 QB Prospects – Week 7

Travis Wingfield

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Recapping Week 7 of the College Football Season

During the college season, here on Locked On Dolphins, we’re going to keep an eye on quarterbacks all throughout the country. Our primary focus will be on the big four, the options that Miami will likely choose from with an early pick in the 2020 draft.

Those quarterbacks are:

Tua Tagovailoa Scouting Report
Jake Fromm Scouting Report
Justin Herbert Scouting Report
Jordan Love Scouting Report

2019 Week 1 Recap
2019 Week 2 Recap
2019 Week 3 Recap
2019 Week 4 Recap
2019 Week 5 Recap
2019 Week 6 Recap

*LSU’s Joe Burrow has been added to the prospect watch list.

We’ll go in chronological order from when the games were played.

Justin Herbert vs. Colorado,Win 45-3
Stats: 18/33 (54.5%) 261 yards (7.9 YPA) 2 TDs

Regardless of what happens throughout Justin Herbert’s professional career, he will flash moments of brilliance. The consistency of those spurts, however, remains uncertain. When the defense reacts according to the play call, it’s over. Herbert’s ability to quickly drive the ball down the field excites scouts everywhere.

The issue of inconsistency remains, well, consistent. Lapses in accuracy, proper mechanical alignment and anticipatory throws raise concerns over Herbert’s ability to translate at the next level. When there’s no urgency, everything is rosy. Herbert can adequately process and adjust his throw type when he’s free of adverse circumstances.

When Herbert is forced to speed things up — get away from an unexpected free rusher, anticipate a route opening up against the leverage of the defense — errors occur. Balls on the wrong hip/shoulder, late throws into tight windows, there’s a lack of trust in what he sees post-snap.

The upside is difficult to ignore, but those issues have to become hardwired corrections for Herbert to ever realize that potential.

Jake Fromm vs. South Carolina, Loss 20-17 (OT)
Stats: 28/51 (54.9%) 295 yards (5.78 YPA) 1TD, 3 INTs

The first 54 minutes of this game were a struggle from Fromm and the Georgia offense. After early success that has Fromm accomplishing whatever he wanted against the Gamecock defense — man or zone — Fromm’s decision making and location went south during a 42-minute scoring drought.

The good version of Fromm showed anticipation, timing and location on point, as they all typically are. Fromm’s interception on a throwaway attempt to close out the first half started a cascade of poor football. His accuracy waned, his normally perfect communication with the receivers went awry, and Georgia trailed with just six minutes to play at home against an inferior football team. Fromm also lost a fumble on a failed quarterback-center exchange on the doorstep of the red zone.

Executing a 96-yard, game-tying drive when he had to have it speaks highly to Fromm’s character. The NFL will present adversity, and Fromm has showcased the ability to overcome hurdles. Still, at the end of the day, he made too mistakes for Georgia to win this game.

One week after elevating his draft stock ahead of Justin Herbert and Jordan Love, Fromm comes back to earth and makes one thing abundantly clear — there’s a big gap between Tua and the rest of this class.

Tua Tagovailoa at Texas A&M, Win 47-28
Stats: 21/34 (61.8%) 293 yards (8.62 YPA) 4 TDs, 1 INT

On a day where Tua wasn’t as finely tuned as we’ve come to expect, he surpasses A.J. McCarron for the career touchdown passes record at Alabama with another four touchdown day. Tua’s second touchdown was a classic example of his pre-snap acumen, post-snap mechanical alignment, and precise ball location against an A&M blitz. Quickly getting to his spot and setup, Tua throws it right in behind the blitz and right on the bullseye for a big play.

The fourth touchdown was a fantastic anticipation strike to Henry Ruggs. Tagovailoa’s trust in his own eyes and processor allows him to anticipate better than any passer in the country.

He also showcased his fluid pocket mobility. Whether it’s escaping, or climbing up and wading through the trash, the only thing more dangerous than Tua on-script, is the improvising version of Tua.

The trust can lead to some mistakes and easy turnovers, however. Tua’s interception was a carbon copy of one of his INTs in the SEC Championship Game in 2018 against Georgia. Tua checked his backside read and attacked play side with the information he gathered. He was wrong in thinking the safety was bailing out. Instead, the safety robbed a dig route from Jeudy, and Tua was late with the football for an easy pick.

There were additional accuracy issues (available in the video thread) in the game, but not by a significant margin. Typically, when he makes a mistake, he erases the wrongdoing on the next play. Tua can play better, certainly, but I sometimes wonder if we hold him to an unrealistic standard.

A career 9:1 TD:INT ratio will do that (81 TDs, 9 INTs).

Joe Burrow vs. Florida, Win 42-28
Stats: 21/24 (87.5%) 293 yards (12.2 YPA) 3 TDs

Kirk Herbstreit said it best early fourth quarter after Joe Burrow beat another Gators blitz. Herbie referred to Burrow having all the answers for the looks Florida threw at him, and it led to a strong, efficient performance.

Burrow not only threw on-time and on-target within the structure of the offense, he navigated murky pockets and extended plays with big results.

Burrow’s growth in year-two in this offensive system makes for a master attacking the middle, intermediate portion of the field. Dropping the ball in behind linebackers and underneath the safeties, Burrow’s accuracy on crossing routes leads to big plays after the catch for the talented Tigers receivers.

Burrow forced his way into this discussion. The big four have become the big five and Burrow could wind up top-three if he continues this success.

Recap

We’re entering the portion of the season where we can begin to compare common opponents. Fromm earned his way into QB2 status with steady, consistent play through six weeks, but Fromm had his ugliest showing of the year Saturday.

That three-interception performance comes against a defense that Tua carved up for 444 yards and five touchdowns. The already significant gap between QB1 and QB1 increased after the performances of Tagovailoa and Fromm this weekend.

Herbert has nothing to prove against inferior foes. His physical talents are too much for poor defense, especially units that are poorly coached like Colorado. For Herbert to enter QB2 status, he’ll have to show out in adverse circumstances — something he really hasn’t done in his career.

Love was off this week; perhaps the bye week we’ll supplement his familiarity in yet another system. Burrow has passed all of his tests this season, but he still has a way to go before he’s even considered a one-year wonder.

Half way through the college football season, my quarterback big board goes:

  1. Tua Tagoavailoa
  2. Jake Fromm
  3. Jordan Love
  4. Joe Burrow
  5. Justin Herbert

@WingfieldNFL

Additional Prospect Video Threads

Alabama Linebacker, Anfernee Jennings

Oklahoma Center, Creed Humphrey

Oklahoma Wide Receiver, Ceedee Lamb

Oklahoma Linebacker, Kenneth Murray

LSU Edge, K’Lavon Chaisson

Penn State Edge, Yetur Gross-Matos

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NFL Draft

Scouting College Football’s Top 2020 QB Prospects – Week 6

Travis Wingfield

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Recapping Week 6 of the College Football Season

The news that Ryan Fitzpatrick beat out Josh Rosen for the opening day start in Miami is a tough pill to swallow. Rosen’s wait only last two weeks, he’ll start Sunday in Dallas. Easing the blow to Rosen’s long-term franchise answer probability, is the fact that Miami is staring down the barrel of a loaded quarterback class set to hit the draft next April.

During the college season, here on Locked On Dolphins, we’re going to keep an eye on quarterbacks all throughout the country. Our primary focus will be on the big four, the options that Miami will likely choose from with an early pick in the 2020 draft.

Those quarterbacks are:

Tua Tagovailoa Scouting Report
Jake Fromm Scouting Report
Justin Herbert Scouting Report
Jordan Love Scouting Report

2019 Week 1 Recap
2019 Week 2 Recap
2019 Week 3 Recap
2019 Week 4 Recap
2019 Week 5 Recap

*LSU’s Joe Burrow and UW’s Jacob Eason have been added to the prospect watch list.

We’ll go in chronological order from when the games were played.

Jordan Love at LSU, Loss 42-6
Stats: 15/30 (50%) 130 yards (4.3YPA) 0 TDs, 3 INTs

The same issues that Jordan Love entered the 2019 season with have plagued him in the early going. While the ridiculous arm talent and big-play ability is on display each week, so are the inconsistencies in his set up and mechanics.

Because he’s capable of driving the football from any platform, regardless if he’s aligned in his lower-half, he will set up in the quick game without establishing his foundation. The result, erratic accuracy showing up on layup throws.

Another area of Love’s game that needs grooming, recognition of the danger areas on certain throws. His interception in the first half could’ve been avoided by putting the ball over the pylon, and making it catchable only for his receiver. Instead, he’s short and the ball is picked off (by an electric true freshman). There are also instances where Love is a beat late in his anticipation throwing.

The zip, velocity, and easy gas to challenge every blade of grass regardless of the circumstances are intriguing. Those traits are the reasons why scouts think he has a big time future, but it will probably take more developing than some of the other, more ready-made products in college football.

Risk versus reward. The way the situation stands in Miami, Love would be instantly inserted into savior status, and that might be too much on the young man. The best bet for Love is to go the route of his ceiling comparison, Patrick Mahomes. An established program that can ease him in behind the scenes would be the best path for Love’s career.

Joe Burrow vs. Utah State, Win 42-6
Stats: 27/38 (71.1%) 344 yards (9.05 YPA) 5 TDs, 1 INT

The classic pocket passer, Joe Burrow is adept at winning from within the structure of the offense. He throws a catchable football and can change speeds for the required throw (touch on downfield shots, zip on slants and in-breaking routes).

He has a firm grasp of the offense in his second year at Baton Rouge, and it allows him to anticipate and work to areas of the pocket where he can effectively deliver the football with accuracy.

There’s a clip in there of Burrow missing an open downfield shot because he takes his eyes off the progression and peeks at the rush. This is something of a common occurrence with Burrow, and it’s probably due in large part to his lack of quick-twitch ability to get off his spot at the top of the drop.

Pocket passers (Brady, Brees, Rivers) are still getting it done at a high level in the NFL. But the way the league is going, drafting a quarterback that can turn statue under the face of the rush is a risky proposition.

Jake Fromm at Tennessee, Win 43-14
Stats:
 
24/29 (82.8%) 288 yards (9.93 YPA) 2 TDs

This was Fromm’s coming out party for the 2019 season. Playing more of a game manager role through September, Fromm took the reins with sharp processing, accurate throwing, and big plays all night long.

That video thread contains a clip of the color commentary breaking down Fromm’s full-field reads. Getting through four progressions in a play is commonplace for Fromm. That level of quick decision making, and consistent mechanical set up, makes Fromm a lot more intriguing than his tangible traits would suggest.

The back-shoulder throw has become Fromm’s signature toss. There was a rhythm and tempo to the offense that demonstrated the complete comfortability and command from the Junior Quarterback. He still hasn’t thrown an interception this season. The big tests are coming, but something about Fromm’s makeup leads me to believe he’ll pass those test without much of an issue.

Justin Herbert at Cal, Win 17-7
Stats:
 20/33 (60.6%) 214 yards (6.48 YPA) 1 TD, 1 INT

The story is the same with Justin Herbert. Every game, Herbert showcases the ridiculous size, strength, and massive arm that can put the ball on any inch of the field from any platform or arm-angle. But he also demonstrates the same shortcomings that leave his offense sputtering against formidable foes.

There’s no video thread tonight, so we’ll use description. Herbert’s first interception of the season was a misidentification of the Cal coverage. He tried the middle of the field and a safety came over to step in front of the pass. This is often an issue as Herbert is late to pick up on the defensive plan post-snap, and he can’t always overcome the lapses with the physical traits.

Cal’s swarming defense was alternating between a variety of pressures, and dropping eight into coverage. The lack of comprehension of this disguise magnifies his propensity to drop his eyes and anticipate the pass rush.

The evaluation becomes increasingly difficult as Herbert engineers an offense based on the short game. With plenty of runs and screens, the downfield shots are few and far between.

Jacob Eason at Stanford, 10:30 ESPN
Stats:
 16/36 (44.4%) 207 yards (5.72 YPA) 1 TD, 1 INT

With the easy gas to drive the football down the field, Eason prefers to do his work from the pocket. His big arm and wrist action allow him to vary speeds between squeezing tight windows and laying the vertical shots out in front of his target. There’s a smooth, arching trajectory when he takes his deep shots to future draft pick, Aaron Fuller.

Those highlight plays come from clean pockets, but any compromise of Eason’s surroundings typically spell trouble. His initial instinct in this game was to retreat and extend the play by running away from the rush. By doing this, he eschewed opportunities for big plays within the structure of the offense.

Stanford would change the coverage-look post snap by moving a safety on the signal. Eason missed Fuller in the red zone because of this disguise, and the frequency of the issue stems from his own sense of pressure — whether it’s actually there or not.

Weekend Recap

This will provide detractors of this column — or the opinions I share each week — to label me as a biased observer, but watching every throw of all these quarterbacks, one thing is obvious: There’s a big gap between Tua and the rest of the crop. The upside of others (Herbert, Love) might intrigue scouts, and both could develop into better prospects, but the choice is clear right now.

Still, this is a great year to need a quarterback. There’s a chance that six passers come off the board in the first round.

As far as Miami’s concerned, that only serves to benefit the Dolphins. More QBs coming off the board early means big-time players at other positions will slide down the board for Miami’s other, many high draft picks.

Week 7 Schedule

Herbert – vs. Colorado, Friday 10:00 FS1
Fromm – vs. South Carolina, Noon ESPN
Tagovailoa – at Texas A&M, 3:30 CBS
Burrow – vs. Florida, 8:00 ESPN
Eason – at Arizona, 11:00 (PM) FS1
Love – Off

@WingfieldNFL

Additional Prospects –

Grant Delpit, LSU Safety

Aaron Fuller – Wide Receiver, Washington

Paulson Adebo – Cornerback, Stanford

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NFL Draft

Scouting College Football’s Top 2020 QB Prospects – Week 5

Travis Wingfield

Published

on

Recapping Week 5 of the College Football Season

The news that Ryan Fitzpatrick beat out Josh Rosen for the opening day start in Miami is a tough pill to swallow. Rosen’s wait only last two weeks, he’ll start Sunday in Dallas. Easing the blow to Rosen’s long-term franchise answer probability, is the fact that Miami is staring down the barrel of a loaded quarterback class set to hit the draft next April.

During the college season, here on Locked On Dolphins, we’re going to keep an eye on quarterbacks all throughout the country. Our primary focus will be on the big four, the options that Miami will likely choose from with an early pick in the 2020 draft.

Those quarterbacks are:

Tua Tagovailoa Scouting Report
Jake Fromm Scouting Report
Justin Herbert Scouting Report
Jordan Love Scouting Report

2019 Week 1 Recap
2019 Week 2 Recap
2019 Week 3 Recap
2019 Week 4 Recap

We’ll go in chronological order from when the games were played.

Tua Tagovailoa vs. Ole Miss, Win 59-31
Stats: 26/36 (72.2%) 418 yards (11.61 YPA), 6 TDs, 1 rushing (7 total)
Season: 113/148 (76.4%) 1,718 yards (11.61 YPA) 23 TDs, 2 rushing (25 total)

Detractors are running out of things to say about Tua. Evading pressure, throwing strikes 45 yards down the field, manipulating the defense to create passing lanes, the Heisman front-runner did it all on Saturday.

The repetitive work habits to strengthen his lower-half mechanics allows Tagovailoa to stay on-time and on-target with better consistency than any passer in this class. The routine slant routes that often go the distance aren’t necessarily impressive in a vacuum, but the regularity with which the play is executed to perfection has scouts fawning over this prospect.

That sturdy foundation also allows Tagovailoa to quickly get off of his spot, change directions, and use ball fakes to fool rushers and defenders as they close in for tackle attempts.

Jordan Love vs. Colorado State, Win 34-24
Stats: 17/33 (51.5%) 204 yards (6.09 YPA) 2 TDs, 2 INTs

This was not the version of Jordan Love that scouts project to go in the top 10 next April. While the freaky arm talent was on display at times, so were the inconsistencies that lead to mistakes in Love’s game. He threw a pair of picks on drive throws to the field — one a hitch, another an out — both undercut by a defensive back driving out of his back pedal.

Love doesn’t consistently get from one read to the next with his mechanics aligned. He’s more than capable of ripping those throws, but unbalanced platforms cause Love to lose velocity.

It was a rainy night in Logan, and that probably impacted Love’s performance. He dropped a snap on a second and goal situation, and was uncharacteristically erratic in the short game.

Another week, another decisive gap demonstrated between Tua compared to the rest of the class. Right now, given the way Love and Fromm have performed of late, it’s down to Herbert and Tagovailoa.

At this point, it’s difficult to imagine anyone supplanting Tua as the top of the class — he’s been nearly flawless. Dolphins nation is all in.

Week 6 Schedule

Love – at LSU, Noon SEC Network
Fromm – at Tennessee, 7:00 ESPN
Herbert – vs. Cal, 8:00 FOX
Tagovailoa – Bye Week

@WingfieldNFL

Additional Twitter Video Scouting Threads From Saturday:

Isaiah Simmons – Safety/Linebacker/Slot, Clemson

Tee Higgins – Wide Receiver, Clemson

Tyler Biadasz – Center, Wisconsin

Lucas Niang – Right Tackle, TCU

Ceedee Lamb – Wide Receiver, Oklahoma

Khalid Kareem – Edge, Notre Dame

Jeff Okudah – Cornerback, Ohio State

JK Dobbins – Running back, Ohio State

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