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Miami Dolphins Bottom-5 Worst Draft Picks of the 21st Century

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jonathan Brownfield-USA TODAY Sports

What a strenuously easy task to take on.

In a century littered with terrible draft picks, the problem wasn’t finding players to fit the criteria, it was deciding which players were more-deserving than the others.

Though every team is expected to have annual draft “busts”, the Miami Dolphins have made it their mission to screw up the most-prominent picks they have accrued this century.

How often do teams get multiple 2nd-round draft picks 3 years in a row (answer: since 2000, 2, both the Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots had multiple 2nd-round picks between 2009-2011), and yet, with those additional selections, the Dolphins couldn’t create a roster that had more than 1 winning season (2016).

If you were basing your bottom-5 off of statistics alone, your list would consist of 5 players that you’ve never heard of. Players like Jeff Harris (CB – 2000), Josh Heupel (QB – 2001), Tim Provost (T – 2003), Drew Mormino (C – 2007) or Chris McCoy (DE – 2010). So for the bottom-5 draft picks, we’re also taking into account value, overall performance and eventual implications to the Dolphins franchise.

See who made the cut and who just missed down below:

5) Jason Allen – 1st-round (#16 overall)

The punctuation mark to Nick Saban‘s tenure as the Miami Dolphins head coach.

Infamously choosing Daunte Culpepper over Drew Brees, Saban was clearly over-matched at the NFL level. A stellar college head coach who was used to recruiting a dominant team full of high school’s best players, Saban was surprised to learn that you only get a few elite talents – the rest you have to actually “coach up”.

Well, Saban’s coaching philosophy of yelling at everyone was confirmed after he made Manuel Wright cry during training camp back in 2005. Problem is, it didn’t translate to a successful NFL team.

Insert one of those lottery tickets Saban had to work with. Instead of bolstering the team around him, he failed miserably when he over-drafted Jason Allen with the 16th-overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft.

It’s easy to look at this in retrospect, but the only players selected after Allen that you could deem as “worse” picks were Manny Lawson (22nd-overall), John McCargo (26th) and Kelly Jennings (31st). The next cornerback taken in the draft? Antonio Cromartie at 19.

Allen lasted 4.5 years with the Dolphins and was active for 71 total games while starting just 19 of them. He averaged less than 2 interceptions per season with Miami (8 total interceptions), forced one fumble back in 2007, and never even recorded a quarterback hit let alone a sack. Allen had 19 passes defended during his Dolphins tenure, which was a mere average of 4.22 per season. And it’s not because opposing QBs avoided Allen, he just never seemed to defend his assignment well.

A missed 1st-round pick at #16 overall isn’t terrible, but General Manager Randy Mueller (2005-2007) is responsible for Ronnie Brown (not Aaron Rodgers), Jason Allen (not….anyone else) and Ted Ginn Jr. (the second receiver taken after Calvin Johnson that draft). If there was a worse stretch of crushing 1st-round draft picks for the Miami Dolphins, it was well before the NFL draft was viewed as favorably as it is now. While all 3 have hurt Miami in their own ways, Allen is certainly the least productive of the bunch and he finds himself above the other two disappointments.

4) Phillip Merling – 2nd-round (#32 overall)

Essentially an extra 1st-round pick, Miami figured it would solidify two bookend positions by getting an elite left tackle and a dominant defensive end. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, only 1/2 of that premonition came true (Jake Long) – and even that reprieve was only temporary.

Phillip Merling was an absolute disaster for Miami. Kendall Langford, drafted in the 3rd-round and 34 picks later, had a much more extensive and productive career than Merling did; which is great for Langford and the “acorn” they were able to uncover, but it also means that Miami’s most valuable assets (high draft picks) were failures that required additional assets to cover these mistakes.

Merling survived his rookie contract with the team, but managed to start just 5 games throughout his tenure. He combined to record 67 tackles, 5 tackles for a loss and 10 QB hits (an average of 16.75 tackles / 1.25 TFLs / 2.5 QB hits per season).

His lone highlight remains the infamous interception return for a touchdown against Brett Favre and the New York Jets to help seal the division for Miami in 2008. Though even that memory doesn’t sway us from remembering how underwhelming he was for the Dolphins.

3) Pat White – 2nd-round (#44 overall)

It shows you just how much of an impact Players 1 and 2 on this list had for the Miami Dolphins organization when Pat White is #3.

From a player perspective, Pat White is most likely the worst draft pick this century. When researching his statistics, he appears as a rusher before a quarterback. That’s because during the 13 games he was active for his rookie season, White managed to rush 21 times for 81 yards (3.9 yards/carry) and, fitting enough, threw only 5 passes – completing 0 of them.

His career quarterback rating: 39.6. For comparisons sake, Nathan Peterman‘s career QB rating is 68.5.

Originally drafted to be the wildcard in Tony Sparano‘s Wildcat offense, Pat White lacked the size, weight, strength and skill necessary to be a productive NFL player.

Visions of opposing defenses standing utterly confused and left wondering if Pat White was going to throw, run or hand the ball off never came to fruition. And it all came to a halt after White took a nasty hit from Ike Taylor of the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17 his rookie year.

White suffered a concussion and never played another down in the NFL.

Though White’s rushing numbers in college were impressive for West Virginia (an average of 1120 rushing yards per season), his passing numbers were equivalently unimpressive (an average of 1512 passing yards per season).

Whatever Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano schemed up, it was about as harmonious and successful as their tenure together.

2) Dion Jordan – 1st-round (#3 overall)

One was self-destructive while the other affected different lives and entities; that’s probably the lone (yet significant) difference between #2 and #1 on our list.

After orchestrating a draft-day steal of a trade with the Oakland Raiders, Jeff Ireland then went and lit that good fortune ablaze when he selected the extremely athletic yet eternally turmoiled Dion Jordan.

If Ireland was hesitant to draft Dez Bryant, I’m not sure what convinced him to take Jordan with the #3 overall pick.

A history of demons that he assured was behind him, the Dolphins couldn’t pass up on a perfectly prototypical defensive end. Mired with internal struggles and negative influences from his friends & family, Jordan fell victim to the vices that plagued him; rendering him nearly nonexistent throughout his Dolphins tenure.

During his “4-year career” with the Dolphins, Jordan was active for just 26 games (41% of all possible games) and made only 1 start. He racked up 46 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss and 7 QB hits.

His “4-year career” is a mirage, as his last snap with the team was in 2014. After missing the 2015 season due to a year-long suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and missing 2016 “recovering from an injury”, Jordan signed with the Seattle Seahawks and proceeded to have a more-productive 5-game stretch out west than he combined to have in 4 years back east.

In just those 5 games, Jordan accumulated 18 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 tackles for a loss and 5 QB hits while also forcing a fumble – which was something he never accomplished in Miami (a turnover).

Since Jordan last played for the Dolphins, the team has gone through players like Mario Williams, Andre Branch, Robert Quinn and Charles Harris in hopes of finding a suitable starting defensive end. Olivier Vernon was the last productive player to line up opposite Cameron Wake, and he only cost a 3rd-round pick. To still be searching for a viable defensive end 6 offseasons later speaks to the detriment Jordan caused as a failed #3-overall pick.

Honorable Mentions

Here we have the list of players that bring us dread, discomfort and dismay. These players weren’t simply unsuccessful, but they were a detriment to the franchise. Some only for a short period of time, while others left an eternal mark. Check out which players did just enough to avoid the list:

Daniel Thomas – 2nd-round (#62 overall)

A phenomenal running back in college, the Dolphins figured they identified a steal when they traded their 3rd (79th- overall), 5th (146th-overall) and 7th (217th-overall) round picks to move back into the 2nd-round and select Daniel Thomas.

Averaging 1425 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns his final two years at Kansas State, Thomas combined for just 1480 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns throughout his 4-year NFL career. His 3.6 yards per carry career average didn’t translate to the “downhill running back” he was intended to be, as Thomas didn’t have the strength to break through the defensive line, and he didn’t have the speed to outrun opposing linebackers and defensive ends.

Eventually released and brought back on two separate occasions, Thomas may be the final lesson the Miami Dolphins front office learned about the running back position and its evolution.

Koa Misi – 2nd-round (#40 overall)

On this list more for the all the jokes we can sling at the front office than his overall production, Koa Misi wasn’t a bad linebacker for the Dolphins….when healthy. Problem is, his health deteriorated relatively quickly, and after signing a contract extension in 2017, he was almost immediately placed on Injured Reserve due to his neck injury. This extension cost the Dolphins a chance at signing Zach Brown, who went on to have one of the best seasons for any linebacker that year.

Truth be told, Misi wasn’t a bad player for the Dolphins during his rookie contract. He signed his first extension in 2013 and did have three productive seasons from there. However, his production was never dominant, and outside of his rookie season where he seemed to do a little bit of everything (2 passes defended, 2 fumble recovers, 1 touchdown, 4.5 sacks, 8 tackles for a loss and 7 QB hits), Misi was simply an average linebacker.

Normally not one to be deemed a “bottom 5” draft pick, but relying on him those final two seasons turned a solid career sour.

If anything, Koa Misi’s production further exasperates just how bad these other players were – because none of them have a stat line that even hints at being productive, let alone worthwhile.

John Beck – 2nd-round (#40 overall)

The first of the merry bunch of 2nd-round quarterbacks Miami selected between 2007-2009, John Beck’s inefficiency is the reason we have the legendary Cleo Lemon to Greg Camarillo play we have today.

After losing the first 4 starts of his career with a 56.1% completion percentage, 559 yards (less than 150 yards per game), 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions, Beck was replaced by Lemon in Week 15 against the Baltimore Ravens. It was the only game Miami won that season.

If anything, we can thank Beck for his aid in helping Miami tank. It should have set us up for the perfect rebuild, but instead, the Dolphins decided to select….

Jake Long – 1st-round (#1 overall)

It’s an understatement to say that this one set the franchise back a bit. In fact, you can argue that the Miami Dolphins have yet to recover from this draft. While selecting Ronnie Brown over Aaron Rodgers in 2006 is equally as bad (if not worse), Miami still had an opportunity to get themselves out of mediocre oblivion by selecting Matt Ryan with the 1st-overall pick in the draft. Instead, we got a potential hall of fame left tackle that broke down just as his medical report suggested.

Jake Long was an excellent left tackle for the first 4 years of his career, but injuries began to take a toll and the former #1-overall pick began to wear down.

Initially, you had a point if you said Miami made the right decision drafting Long. He was essentially a lock to go to the hall of fame, and you figured the team could find that quarterback at any other point during his career. Well that logic subsequently gave us John Beck, Chad Henne and Pat White in the 2nd-round of the draft – all in successive years (2007-2009). Also, unlike bonafide franchise left tackles like Joe Thomas or Jason Peters, Jake Long didn’t have a prominent and lengthy career, meaning Miami is yet again on the infinite loop of rebuilding.

Leonte Carroo – 3rd-round (#86 overall)

As if you needed to be reminded of the asinine value Miami gave up to trade up and acquire Leonte Carroo.

The Dolphins figured they were able to uncover a dominant receiver from Rutgers – a school not known to produce much NFL talent (Ray Rice is the most prominent player from that school) – and traded a 3rd, 4th and 6th round pick to move back into the 3rd-round and select Carroo.

I believe a player is worth the cost if you have conviction they’re the person you need, but you better make sure you’re selecting the right talent if you’re giving up more than double the value for the pick you’re acquiring. Carroo never paid off for Miami, and it was a mistake that cost them way too many additional resources. If the rest of the bottom-5 choices weren’t so bad, there’s a good chance Carroo would find himself here simply due to his cost.

When looking back at the Leonte Carroo trade, this quote from Chris Grier in 2016 stood out: “This is a guy who is a targeted player. A highly competitive kid who loves football.”

In fairness to Carroo, he did have 1 more receiving TD in 2018 after Aaron posted this GIF.

Eddie Moore – 2nd-round (#49 overall)

An unfortunate addition due to his health rather than his skill, Eddie Moore wasn’t able to take off with Miami after sustaining a season-ending injury in training camp his rookie season. Moore returned in 2004 and was underwhelming, starting just 3 games (active for 13) and recording 34 tackles with 1 tackle for a loss. An additional season-ending injury in 2005 spelled the end of Moore’s career, as the Tennessee linebacker never played another down in the NFL.

In the midst of having one of the best defenses of the early 21st-century (featuring Zach Thomas, Jason Taylor, Patrick Surtain, Sam Madison, among other greats), a 2nd-round pick in the middle of the field could have elevated that defense to another level.

Dallas Thomas (2013) / Michael Egnew (2012) / Patrick Turner (2009) / Derek Hagan (2006) / Ben Kelly (2000)

A group of failed 3rd-round picks for Miami.

None of them cost the Dolphins more than the team’s 3rd-round pick in each respective season, so it’s hard to say that any of them deserve to be named in the Top-5. That said, each of these players were a detriment to the Dolphins during their tenure, requiring the team to use additional draft capital or spend on free agents to replace the mistake of drafting them.

  • Dallas Thomas was the poster boy to one of the worst offensive lines in Miami Dolphins history.
  • Michael Egnew was so out of place in the NFL, he was easily surpassed by the emergence of Charles Clay and the instant depth/production Dion Sims provided after being drafted in 2013.
  • Patrick Turner was outplayed by the receiver drafted one round after him (Brian Hartline) and just about everyone else on the team that training camp, leading to him being active for only 2 games and released the following offseason.
  • Derek Hagan was the sole surviving wide receiver after 2007 when Marty Booker was released, Chris Chambers was traded and Wes Welker was dealt the prior offseason
    • In 2008, your starting WRs were Ted Ginn Jr, Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo.
  • Ben Kelly was drafted as a defensive back and was active for 4 games over the span of two seasons…as a kick returner.

1) Jonathan Martin – 2nd-round (#42 overall)

There is just so much that encompasses this draft pick.

I don’t want this to seem like we’re make light of or poking fun at mental health issues, because that’s the last thing we want to infer, but everything about this draft pick was wrong – and it started before Miami even selected Andrew Luck‘s left tackle out of Stanford.

Jonathan Martin came into the NFL draft as some kind of black sheep on the offensive line. Extremely productive in college, the Dolphins thought they were able to draft their future right tackle to lineup alongside Jake Long.

The perfect example of a college player who isn’t built to be the best professional athlete, Martin was able to complete just 20 reps on the bench press during his Stanford Pro Day; an extremely low number for an offensive lineman. For comparisons sake, Jarvis Landry completed 12 bench press reps during his combine measurements.

However, his inconsistent/nonexistent production isn’t the reason Jonathan Martin is #1 on our list.

Martin is more famously known for the embarrassing “bullying scandal” that saw multiple people lose their jobs, multiple players leave the team, and the only remaining survivor being one of the main conspirators behind the bullying and one of Aaron Hernandez‘s best friends in college, Mike Pouncey.

In fitting Dolphins fashion, the team thought so highly of Pouncey that they subsequently named him team captain.

At this point, Jake Long has broken down, Miami has lost a really good left guard in Richie Incognito, their 2nd-round pick from 2012 is not only a bust, but a deterrent to the entire locker room, and the team is receiving the most attention it has since Marino retired.

Though the blame can be placed on Jeff Ireland‘s shoulders for drafting Martin, it’s hard to foresee Martin breaking down and causing such a ripple effect throughout the organization. Though we hope Martin is receiving the help he needs after threatening Richie Incognito, his former high school and others on Instagram last year, as Miami Dolphins fans, we’re still waiting to recover from an episode that has exasperated our offensive line ineptitude, and cemented the public’s perception of this organization as an embarrassment rather than a success.

Now that you’re done bringing all of this misery on to yourself, lighten up the mood as we head into the NFL draft and check out our top-5 best draft picks of the 21st-century here.

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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Miami Dolphins

Tua Yards Away, One Step Closer – Miami-Washington Week 6 Recap

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins 2-Point Conversion Fails, Team Falls to 0-5

It’s difficult to imagine a better game-script for the Dolphins fan that finds him/herself in the cumbersome position of rooting for better draft positioning. A chance to win on the game’s final play, a strong effort and overall improvement, but the ultimate prize remains unspoiled for a team in transition. For the first time this season, the box score didn’t tip heavily in the opposition’s favor.

 

Stat Dolphins Washington
Total Yards 271 311
Rushing 84 145
Passing 187 166
Penalties 5 (45 yards) 6 (56 yards)
3rd / 4thDown 5/16 (31.3%) 2/11 (18.2%)
Sacks For 0 5
TOP 32:39 27:21

 

The Dolphins were dead in the water under the direction of second-year quarterback Josh Rosen. His three quarters of work produced a pair of interception, five sacks and three points from the Dolphins offense.

Enter Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The fired-up Fitzmagic passed for 132 fourth quarter yards en route to two Dolphin touchdown drives. The final play of the game — a failed two-point conversion dropped by Kenyan Drake — was the third bizarre play in critical situations during Miami’s ferocious surge.

A common play in today’s league — especially from Chad O’Shea’s New England influence — Drake short-motioned into the formation behind a pair of bunched receivers. The throw was a little bit off Drake’s back hip, but the back never secured the ball, ending the play before it had ever a chance.

On an earlier third down and nine, nine-year veteran Center Daniel Kilgore rolled a snap to Fitzpatrick that killed the drive. The possession prior, Fitzpatrick threw a hook-up route over the middle to Mike Gesicki, who had already been thrown to the ground. If any of those three plays is executed, Miami probably comes out of this game with a victory.

Though out-gained for the fifth-consecutive game, the Dolphins moved the chains 21 times to Washington’s 13 first downs. Miami also won the time-of-possession battle for the first time, and scored multiple touchdowns in a game for the first time.

There was enough energy and excitement to fulfil the quota for an admirable Dolphins effort, but the scoreboard not only keeps Miami in the driver’s seat for the first pick of the draft, it essentially gives the Dolphins a two-game buffer over Washington.

With strength of schedule serving as the only draft order tie-breaker, Washington’s likely greater S.O.S. means that if both teams finished with the same number of victories, the higher pick would go to Miami.

The only team left in Miami’s way is the 0-6 Cincinnati Bengals.

Let’s get to the individuals.

Quarterbacks

Last week, on The Locked On Dolphins Podcast, I referenced an article that featured quotes from prominent NFL Draft busts at the quarterback position. Joey Harrington and Brady Quinn discussed the difficult circumstances surrounding their respective insertions into the league. To summarize, they both feel that situations can ruin quarterbacks.

That feels prevalent in the case of Josh Rosen. From an armchair evaluator that was never big on Rosen’s game, the flaws he’s exhibiting have been developed. Consistently lifting his feet upon release, stepping out of clean platforms and into traffic, the kid has no trust in his surrounding parts or his own ability to dissect the defense.

His timing remains late, he’s not managing the pocket and finding space even at the level he was three weeks ago, and everything looks like a challenge for him in this offense.

Rosen will start going forward, I suppose, but this is broken quarterback that needs some time in the shop.

Fitzpatrick was excellent. He provided that classic, bearded spark that rejuvenates the team in a pinch. He was on-time, accurate, and navigated the same pass protection with no issues (no sacks, no turnovers).

Running Backs

The most interesting factoid from this position group came from Kenyan Drake’s post-game presser. Mark Walton began the game as Miami’s starting back, and Drake revealed that the two-point conversion play call had been repped all week by the Dolphins apparent new starter, and former Hurricane, Mark Walton.

Walton, after blowing a pass protection assignment on Miami’s first possession, was the most creative runner for the Dolphins. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry, a season-high for a Phins back, on six carries. Walton’s production was greater in the passing game. He caught another five for 43 yards, giving him 75 yards from scrimmage on the game.

Drake consistently churned out yards as well (10 for 40). He added six receptions for 30 yards — he and Walton’s 15 targets made up more than a third of Miami’s target-share.

Then, there’s the forgotten man, Kalen Ballage. He had three carries and no pass targets. Though Ballage bulldozed into the end zone on a goal line plunge, he has been almost entirely phased out of the offense. He’s essentially a short yardage back at this stage — can’t catch, can’t play tailback in this offense.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

It was a lot of fun to see the Dolphins receivers make some plays in a functioning offense. Devante Parker’s touchdown reception was an extremely difficult catch sliding into the end zone (go out in your backyard and try to catch a ball at your knee caps in a full sprint).

Preston Williams catch-rate remains atrocious (caught 2 of 6 targets Sunday), but his 21-yard stab on Miami’s final touchdown drive put the offense in scoring range.

Mike Gesicki is coming on, and I will not shut up about out from now until further notice. The athletic ability to catch contested balls up the seam should not be underplayed, and that catch he made to start that final drive was a godsend for this offense.

We’ll have more to say about the other tight ends in the film room session on Wednesday’s podcast.

Offensive Line

Another week of shuffling, another week of heading back to the drawing board — or is it? With Rosen in the game, the line was manhandled (five sacks). Once Fitzpatrick entered, the quarterback remained clean, and the offense produced at a rate better than league average (13 points on four drives, more than a point better than NFL average).

Jesse Davis was a tough watch at left tackle before the injury, and things did not get better working on the right side. He’s frequently a beat slow, and can’t gain the necessary depth to take on elite speed rushers. And calling Ryan Kerrigan’s speed rush elite at this stage is probably generous.

Michael Deiter remains a considerable work in progress. His tendency to get out over his skies, which makes him vulnerable to tackles that can rush effectively with lateral agility, shows up on tape each week.

J’Marcus Webb continues to struggle with speed rushes off the blindside edge, but that should be expected. After all, Webb was a street free agent. Miami found a way to help him as much as possible, but the leaks from the other side caused Miami to dial up even more max protection.

Isaiah Prince is serving the role that I always thought was best for him — sixth lineman when the formation goes heavy. I’m intrigued to look at the job he did in that role today, but I don’t have that evaluation ready just yet.

Defensive Line

Christian Wilkins is getting better as this season goes along, and that should realistically be the most important development on the roster. Wilkins’ ability to collapse pockets from the inside will determine what kind of line this group is going to be on the other side of the rebuild. He’s not getting many opportunities to do it just yet, but he’s showing up every week with impressive reps against good players.

Taco Charlton has replaced Charles Harris at the left defensive end position. We’ll have snap counts tomorrow, but Charlton is a fundamentally sound edge defender that typically funnels things back inside — something Harris struggled to grasp for 2.5 years.

John Jenkins put a nice move on Washington Left Guard Ereck Flowers, but was quiet for the rest of the game.

Linebackers

Raekwon McMillan is probably the team’s MVP to this point. He’s a decisive run defender that finds his fit and explodes through contact. This staff has discovered the best route for McMillan to be an effective player, and he’s rising to that challenge.

Jerome Baker was better in this game. He was able to put pressure on the quarterback at least a couple of times from my count, including a nifty inside move on Washington’s Left Tackle.

Vince Biegel is an interesting rush-package player — he was in the Washington backfield at times.

Deon Lacey was with Miami in camp a few summers back. He went to Buffalo and contributed on special teams, but he’s back in South Florida doing the same thing for the Dolphins.

Defensive Backs

Xavien Howard practiced throughout the week, but didn’t play Sunday, and the impact was palpable. Washington Rookie Terry McLaurin made big plays in Howard’s absence, including a touchdown against his replacement, Ken Webster.

Eric Rowe had his best game as a Dolphin. He showed recovery speed and made plays on the football a couple of times.

The same was true of rookie Nik Needham. After his call-up from the practice squad, Needham had a pass breakup and didn’t allow any catches on the day.

Reshad Jones was active against the Washington run-heavy attack. He picked up nine tackles and was a regular in the backfield.

Bobby McCain’s had a good day that included a crucial pass break-up in the end zone, but it was his profanity-laced interview post-game that caught reporter’s attention. Expressing this frustration should come as no surprise for a team captain that pours his all into this game.

Recap

The Fitzpatrick jolt should provide fans with some confidence in the coaching and the plan going forward. Suddenly, the passing concepts were effective, Miami found chunk plays to the backs, and Gesicki was unlocked up the seam.

Brian Flores’ and Patrick Graham’s defensive structure has been sound for the most part this season, and the defense’s effort was good enough to win. Washington scored 17 points on 12 possessions Sunday. The rush scheme, and consequent effort to fill those vacated areas, made life difficult on Washington’s antiquated offensive attack.

The Dolphins simply have to get better in multiple areas from a talent standpoint. The quarterback play, the offensive line, the interior rotation and edge rush, and secondary all need an infusion of players. The draft capital will allow Miami to put premium assets into those groups, then, and only then, can we adequately judge this Dolphins staff.

The Steelers are railroading the Chargers currently, so the dream for a pair of top-three picks will be put on hold, for now.

Miami’s battle with Cincinnati for the top pick could come down to a week 16 showdown in South Florida. The Bengals do have dates with Pittsburgh, the Jets, Dolphins, and up-and-down Browns to round out the season.

Given the Dolphins weak S.O.S., a victory shouldn’t interrupt the Miami’s collision course with the first pick next April. Washington’s remaining slate features only two more losing teams — it’s difficult to find another win for a team that survived a last-minute scare from the NFL’s unanimous doormat.

A win today would’ve made the path to the first pick treacherous. The loss instead, however, keeps Miami in the catbird seat to land Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.

@WingfieldNFL

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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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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins Aren’t Tanking, They Just Suck

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Plenty of people want to tell you that the Miami Dolphins are tanking, and depending on how they’re looking at it, they’re either entirely right or woefully wrong.

You see, each player on this football team is attempting to put forth their best effort. They are trotting onto the field branding aqua and orange with the intent of being as successful as they can be.

There may be particular instances where a player prioritizes their health over a few extra yards, but overall, they aren’t going out there just to collect a paycheck.

These people have played football their entire lives. It’s insulting to assume they aren’t trying to maximize the one thing they’ve passionately performed since they were a toddler.

It’s also insulting to assume that this fanbase is so oblivious and naive that rooting to lose means they are not a “real fan”.

When linebacker Jerome Baker called out Dolphins fans (that are actively rooting for a “tank”), he was making a fair point, but he did so without acknowledging what these fans are actually rooting for deep down.

There isn’t a single fan that genuinely enjoys losing. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that fans are rooting for one miserable season with the hope that it breeds 10 successful ones.

But Baker is right, the players are performing as hard as they can. They’re pridefully going out there and trying to build their resumes for the other 31 teams to see. These snaps will be meaningless in a few weeks (when the Dolphins are unofficially eliminated from the playoffs), but you can’t sell that to a person looking to boost (or, heck, just ensure) a paycheck going forward.

The thing is, the performance that these players are putting out there is the reason why Miami is not just 0-4, but historically one of the worst teams in NFL history.

The front office may have helped create this mess, but they aren’t the reason why people assume the players aren’t trying.

A Surprising Development

2019 was supposed to be a season filled with growth and progress. Establish who your building blocks are, and mold them into a youthful core that can lead the new franchise quarterback to victory.

But all of that growth and progress we expected to see has been virtually nonexistent. In fact, there have been more “surprises” than there have been developments that we can rely on. And while that’s great for the players we had lower expectations for, it speaks minimally for either the players we expected to develop, or the coaching staff we expected to develop them.

Raekwon McMillan has been Miami’s best linebacker so far this season. Though we have to provide the caveat that it comes with a limited snap count, McMillan has been a force in the running game. Did McMillan have too much on his plate last year? Did he finally (fully) recover from his torn ACL in 2017? Is he flourishing without the expectations? Is this really just a flash in the pan?

It’s hard to pinpoint why McMillan has improved so much this season, but this is a welcomed site to see. I’m not expecting 2020 starting middle linebacker or even an elite talent from the former second-round pick, but McMillan has gone from an afterthought to a necessity on this 2019 team.

With just 121 snaps (compared to Sam Eguavoen‘s 251 and Jerome Baker’s 279), I hope defensive coordinator Patrick Graham finds a way to incorporate McMillan a bit more.

After watching the Washington Redskins and the Cincinnati Bengals for 5 weeks, fans are legitimately concerend that Josh Rosen will win too many games this year. While judging Rosen has always been one of the primary objectives of 2019, it was only 3 weeks ago that we expected Ryan Fitzpatrick to start a majority of the season because Rosen wasn’t picking up (or processing) the playbook well enough.

If it weren’t for so many dropped passes, Rosen would have a handful of highlights that make you think he’s the guy. Instead, those drops may be an omen that the Dolphins franchise quarterback isn’t currently on the roster.

But this is where the surprising storylines end. There have been plenty of other surprising developments in 2019, but none of them have been good. It’s these (lack of) developments that further explain why everyone believes the Dolphins are tanking.

Lack of Player Development

It all started somewhat shockingly before the season began when Vincent Taylor was cut. The former 6th-round pick was expected to be a starting defensive tackle for the next couple of years; instead, he was removed from the roster entirely with little explanation why.

Different coaching staffs have different philosophies and playing styles, but Taylor was a productive player with plenty of potential. Whether it was his attitude or the shape he was in when he reported to camp, Miami found a reason to remove a budding talent. Can’t blame the players for taking talent off the roster.

Linebacker Sam Eguavoen was expected to become a future starting linebacker for this team. And while he’s still raw, he hasn’t shown the same level of potential that fellow former CFL transfer Cameron Wake displayed when he joined Miami.

Next to John Denney, Jason Sanders was the only player you had unwavering confidence in.

Sanders has missed as many kicks through 4 games than he did in all of 2018. After making 18 of 20 kicks (and 35 of 36 PATs) in 2018, Sanders has made just 4 of 7 FGs so far this season. Are we adding kicker to the list of holes this team has to plug in 2020?

Jerome Baker hasn’t lived up to the preseason hype. Is it the extra work stacked on his plate? Is it just a sophomore slump?

We expected Baker to be a jack-of-all-trades linebacker who could cover the pass, stunt the run and rush the quarterback. So far, he seems a bit over his head. Granted, he receives minimal help around him, but this defensive front isn’t that much weaker than last season’s.

It’s safe to say that we all expected Baker to be a bit better at this point. If you’re going to “call out” the fanbase for cheering on long term success at the expense of short term misery, you better make sure your performance gives those fans a reason to think otherwise.

If Baker was meant to do everything up front, Bobby McCain was expected to be a Swiss army knife in the secondary. Not only has that experiment been subpar, but it appears more and more like McCain is a player without a position rather than a player that can do it all. It just makes me wonder what McCain “could have been” if the coaching staff left him in his natural slot cornerback position all these years.

After receiving a 4-year, $24m contract extension this offseason, Jakeem Grant has gone from a threatening #3 receiver – and a menacing kick returner – to a player that becomes cringeworthy when the ball is in the air. There isn’t a single person reading this that is confident when the ball is headed in Grant’s direction. Yet, just last month we felt we had a competent wide receiver for the next 3+ years.

There was LOTS of hype around Kalen Ballage when camp broke this offseason. He looked faster, quicker, more-toned and ready to take the #1 running back role from Kenyan Drake. Instead, Ballage has contributed more touchdowns to the opposing team than he has recorded himself. His 1.5 yards-per-carry (YPC) isn’t entirely his fault, as the offensive line in front of him is pedestrian at best, but that logic doesn’t seem to fit Drake’s 3.6 YPC or Mark Walton‘s 3.9 YPC.

I don’t need to tell you that Ballage has been a disappointment, I think we’ve all come to that conclusion the moment he ducked away from an RB screen pass coming his way.

What the Fans Want

Fans are tired of witnessing performances like this.

Every team has draft picks that flame out, but the Dolphins seem to load up on under-performing players. Is it this team’s “culture”? Is it terrible ownership? Is it terrible scouting?

Easily enough, 20 years of mediocrity can be summed up by the quarterback position. And right now, there are two entities that have identified that obtaining an elite quarterback solves ineptitude: fans and the Front Office.

If you were to say that the players are tanking, you’d be terribly wrong. If you were to say that the intellectual minds that make decisions for the Miami Dolphins are tanking, you are absolutely right.

You don’t trade away a cornerstone left tackle, your best wide receiver, your most-experience linebacker, and a handful of other assets if you’re trying to win as many games as possible.

Reshad Jones and Xavien Howard may not miss as many games if every game was crucial.

These are active decisions made (or heavily suggested) by the Front Office. They’re not asking the players to under-perform, they’re doing a good job of that themselves.

When all is said and done, it’s possible this coaching staff is the reason for the lack of development. They could all be in over their heads, and Brian Flores is just a temporary band-aid that allows the next coach to reap the benefits of stocked draft picks and abundant cap space.

I understand that it’s deflating to watch your team’s fanatics root against you, but their apathy isn’t the most disappointing part of the 2019 season. Give the fans a reason to cheer, and you might actually be reciprocated with applause.

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