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Repercussions and Benefits to Drafting a QB in Both 2019 & 2020

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest conundrum and worst-kept secret engulfing the entire Miami Dolphins franchise is the quarterback position.

Yes, they did sign Paul Bunyan’s doppelganger, Ryan Fitzpatrick, to be the team’s “starting quarterback” in 2019, but I don’t think there are too many fans thrilled with this signing as it correlates to the overall success of the franchise.

2019 was destined to be arduous, frustrating and outright boring, so at least we know we’ll have 17 weeks of entertainment courtesy of the smartest man (Harvard graduate) to play start for so many NFL football teams (8 and counting).

And while Fitzpatrick could be Thormund Giantsbane’s stunt double in Game of Thrones, what does the future hold for Miami?

Some of us want the Dolphins to select one of the 4-6 potential 1st-round quarterbacks in this upcoming draft so we can get a head start on rebuilding our franchise. We’ve passed on a starting quarterback all these other years, and we’ve seen a productive starter come from the 1st round in virtually every recent NFL draft (all except 2013, where E.J Manual was the best QB and Mike Glennon was next-best).

By my unscientific calculation, I’d say most fans want the Dolphins to grab their quarterback in the 1st-round of the 2020 NFL draft – where there are at least 3 QBs projected to be better professional players than any QB coming out of the 2019 draft.

Miami has wasted 19 seasons since Dan Marino retired; what’s another wasted year if it means we finally end the quarterback drought?

What most fans don’t want the Dolphins to do is invest a 1st-round pick on a quarterback in 2019 and then again in 2020. Why “waste” a 1st-round pick – such a desired asset – when you can draft an elite & cheap commodity at another position; a prospect that will still benefit the eventual QB you draft to take over your team.

But what if I told you that it’s quite alright if our beloved Miami Dolphins select a quarterback in the 1st-round of the draft in back-to-back years? What if Miami took multiple chances to end the curse that has plagued this franchise longer than some of us have been alive for?

Would the plethora of fans advocating for Miami to not “waste a pick in 2019” be justified? Would the group of fans yearning for the team to get their quarterback in 2019 be validated?

The short answer is: (insert The Rock voice here) it doesn’t matter where Miami drafts their franchise quarterback, just as long as they draft the right player. We won’t know who that right player is until their career begins, so fans won’t be justified until the 2021 draft at the absolute earliest. That said, we’ve gone back the past 10 years and analyzed just how teams have fared the year leading up to them drafting a quarterback in the first round versus the year after their rookie quarterback was drafted.

Let’s just say, there’s no absolute science, but there’s no concrete reason to avoid this conundrum.

The Breakdown

Some fans see drafting a quarterback in the 1st-round of the draft as the “endgame” when it comes to finding a starting quarterback for their team. Draft a quarterback in the 1st-round of 2019, and you’re marrying yourself to that prospect throughout their rookie contract.

While that may be right for players you misdraft like Charles Harris or DeVante Parker, it doesn’t necessarily apply to quarterbacks.

Yes, you do lose a prospect at another position, so you can automatically assume that misdrafting a quarterback is a missed player somewhere else on your roster, but do we all agree that there is only one position on a team’s roster that genuinely matters?

When comparing the two seasons, we wanted to see if teams saw a noticeable gain or drop between the two years. The main purpose? To see just how much the Miami Dolphins screw themselves over in 2020 if they select a quarterback in 2019.

The prevailing thought is that the Miami Dolphins will be out of the running for a QB in 2020 if they draft a QB in 2019. Judging by how teams have fared the past decade, there is no evidence to suggest that the Dolphins will be out on a 2020 quarterback. Especially when you take into account the Dolphins current roster status and talent, I think it’s safe to say that an improvement from 7-9 is very unlikely.

Take a look at the last 10 years and see how kind (or terrible) history was to these franchises:

Note: the draft slot listed is where the team was originally slated to draft – not necessarily where they actually drafted that year (plenty of teams traded up to acquire their quarterback). We wanted to show their original draft slot as that was a better indication of the team’s success between the two years.

Some fun stats to take note of regarding this information:

  • Teams moved an average of 3 draft slots lower the year after they drafted a quarterback in the 1st round (lower meaning they went from #7 overall to #10 as an example)
  • Of the 31 selections, 15 teams (48%) ended up drafting within the top-10 the following year
  • Of the 31 selections, only 12 teams (39%) ended up drafting later than #13 (where Miami is currently slotted to draft in 2019) the year after they drafted their QB in the first round.
    • And of those 31 selections, only 9 (29%) teams ended up picking 20th or later
  • Of the 31 quarterbacks taken, 17 of them (55%) have led their teams to the playoffs
    • With 11 of those 17 (65%) quarterbacks going deeper than the 1st round of the playoffs
    • 5 of those 17 (29%) ended up going to the Super Bowl
  • Of these 31 instances, teams ended up improving their record after they drafted their rookie QB 17 of those times (55%)
    • 11 of the 31 teams (35%) did worse the year after
    • 3 of the 31 teams (10%) ended up with the same record

What can we take away from all of this? There is no scientific evidence to confirm that Miami will select the right quarterback, but it also indicates that Miami wouldn’t be in a “worse spot” in 2020 if they drafted a quarterback in 2019.

Outside of Matthew Stafford in 2009, Cam Newton in 2011, and Andrew Luck in 2012 (all 1st-overall picks), the quarterback classes were pretty stale from 2009-2016. Sure, Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, Robert Griffin III, Tim Tebow and Teddy Bridgewater led their teams to the playoffs throughout that time, but none of those quarterbacks are necessarily viewed as franchise QBs at this time.

Though with that being said, how many of us would enjoy Jacksonville’s run to the Super Bowl? Or the Tennessee Titans upsetting the Kansas City Chiefs after Mariota caught his own pass? How electric would the fanbase have been watching RGIII and Bridgewater lead Miami to a division title? Even Tim Tebow has been a more-successful quarterback than anyone the Dolphins have had this century.

While the answer isn’t always available, it’s evident there are answers. It’s just a matter of finding a legitimate long term solution and not one of these quarterbacks who bring temporary success.

How should the Dolphins approach this dilemma? Do they make their selection and stick with it or do they finally decide that finding the right quarterback is worth the risk & hassle?

Advocating for a Quarterback in 2019

What do you have to lose?

Outside of the obvious aspect that you do not have a 1st-round talent at another position (a snowball effect that plays into the team’s total cap space when you account for the fact that you have to spend on a roster spot that would have otherwise been filled by elite, cheap talent), there isn’t much the Dolphins can lose by drafting a QB at #13.

Frankly, as long as the quarterback you select isn’t horrendous, you can still flip him for a 3rd or 4th-round pick the following year (see Josh Rosen).

If you get the selection wrong, you may have even enhanced your draft status the following year rather than hurt it; which means you’re in an even better spot to draft your franchise QB in 2020.

Of all the 1st-round QBs that have “failed” over the past decade (to keep it simple in this instance, any QB that didn’t lead their teams to the playoffs “failed”…there are 14 total QBs in this instance), 8 of those teams ended up with a lower draft pick – though that stat is a bit misleading:

  • Between all 14 of those teams that “failed” to pick the right QB, they slid an average of 1.5 draft slots lower
    • 8 of those 14 teams ended up picking in the top-10 the year after they drafted their QB
  • Of those 8 teams that ended up with a lower pick, 3 of them had the #1 overall pick when they drafted their QB – making it pretty easy to “beat” that statistic

Assuming Miami doesn’t trade-up and make the wrong selection, all of their 2020 draft picks will still be available to use in a trade if you want to move up to grab one of the diamonds coming out of the 2020 draft. You’ll even have all of your 2021 draft picks to help make that trade a reality.

Pros:

  • Potential franchise quarterback (this is kind of a big one)
  • Maintain all future draft capital
  • Tank properly for 2020 (if pick is wrong)
    • Given Miami’s current roster and how rookie QBs perform, it’s safe to say Miami would get a better draft pick in 2020 rather than falling further than #13
  • At worst, a really good backup quarterback

Cons:

  • Missing 1st-round talent at another position
  • Hurts cap space if player is released
    • Hurts cap space by requiring team to spend on replacement for position you could have drafted

Advocating for a Quarterback in 2020

You have EVERYTHING to gain.

Sure, 2019 may solve Miami’s quarterback problem, but will it make the Dolphins a contender for years to come? Or are we looking at the potential of overdrafting the next Andy Dalton at #13 and setting ourselves up for continued (albeit, slightly elevated) mediocrity?

There’s a difference between a quarterback and a difference maker, and the 2020 draft class provides the potential for 3 outstanding difference makers to join the fray: Jake Fromm, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert. By some accounts, even the next-tier of QBs in the 2020 draft (K.J. Costello and Jacob Eason) are better than most of the 2019 QBs coming out.

Even the Miami Dolphins front office recognizes that 2020 is the more-optimal year to set their franchise up for success. With all of these recent trades netting Miami 2020 draft picks, it seems the team is gathering all the ammunition they need to get the quarterback they want at the turn of the decade.

Assuming the Dolphins didn’t trade any 2020 or 2021 draft capital, they will be in a prime position to grab the man they want in 2020.

Trade the farm. Trade valuable assets in 2021 and potentially 2022 if need be. We’re beyond strategically trying to draft our quarterback (no more 2nd-round picks on the Chad Henne‘s, Pat White‘s and John Beck‘s of the world). Take that risk, whatever the risk costs.

  • Of the 20 quarterbacks drafted in the top-10, 11 of them took their team to the playoffs
  • Of the 11 quarterbacks that were drafted in the top-5, 7 of them took their team to the playoffs
    • With Baker Mayfield being one of the quarterbacks who hasn’t (yet)
    • Another is Brandon Weeden, and he was technically selected 22nd overall (the Cleveland Browns originally had the 4th-overall pick in the draft, so the stat is a tad skewed. For your entertainment, after a bunch of maneuvering that spanned multiple seasons, the Browns eventually traded up to select Trent Richardson with the #3 overall selection the same year Weeden was drafted)

While there’s a chance you draft Mark Sanchez, there’s a better chance you draft a playoff-caliber quarterback. Unless Miami is tanking for Trevor Lawrence in 2021, it’s time they identify the risk they want to take and execute accordingly.

Pros:

  • You’ve probably drafted someone equivalent to Eli ManningPhilip Rivers, or Ben Roethlisberger rather than someone like Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert or Christian Ponder
  • You’ve (hopefully) utilized 2019 to build a better roster around your QB so he isn’t getting sacked 184 times in his first 4 years like Ryan Tannehill did
    • This also coincides with having the ability to field an expensive team that can make a deep run in the playoffs while your quarterback is cheap

Cons:

  • If you get it wrong in 2020, you’ve now wasted 2-3 seasons simply misidentifying the most important position
    • Quite frankly, this would absolutely justify Chris Grier being fired, and you could argue Brian Flores should follow suit

Why Not Both?

So why not take a flyer on a quarterback in back-to-back years? Are you afraid of losing out on one (potentially) really good player for the sake of waiting yet another year to take your risk?

A friendly little reminder of who the Dolphins have drafted in the 1st round since 2008:

  • 2018 (11th-overall): Minkah Fitzpatrick
  • 2017 (22): Charles Harris
  • 2016 (13): Laremy Tunsil
  • 2015 (14): DeVante Parker
  • 2014 (19): Ja’Wuan James
  • 2013 (3): Dion Jordan
  • 2012 (8): Ryan Tannehill
  • 2011 (15): Mike Pouncey
  • 2010 (28): Jared Odrick
  • 2009 (25): Vontae Davis
  • 2008 (1): Jake Long

By drafting a QB at #13, it’s possible you miss out on someone like Laremy Tunsil or Minkah Fitzpatrick, but there’s also a solid chance you’re drafting someone like Parker or Harris.

You may end up with “very good” players like Ja’Wuan James or Mike Pouncey, but would you rather have someone like James or Pouncey, or would you rather take a minimal risk to get this franchise to the point where it can have back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2002-2003?

Pros:

  • Multiple quarterbacks on your roster giving you security or a huge trade chip
  • There is virtually no detriment to your future cap space, given the rookie contracts
  • Unless Miami royally screwed it up, you can exhale and enjoy the next decade of your football fandom knowing the Miami Dolphins have the right player at the right position

Cons:

  • Missing a 1st-round pick at another position

By the way, the last time the Dolphins had a losing season before 2003 was 1988. Before that? 1976. You know why? The team had legitimate franchise quarterbacks.

While there is logic behind waiting until 2020, there isn’t much preventing the team from getting a head start in 2019. Confidence? Stagnating quarterback development? I guess those are a couple of concerns if you give a quarterback competition (at least those were the main reasons for avoiding competition for Ryan Tannehill), but the Miami Dolphins need to identify a player that can lead them to, at the very least, a playoff victory.

At this point, we aren’t necessarily asking for a Super Bowl. Hope would be a good start. Drafting a quarterback in 2019 provides hope. Drafting another quarterback in 2020 virtually guarantees success.

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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