For months, Dolphins Twitter has bickered and postulated about what the team would do with the third overall pick. Would it be Penei Sewell to reassure Tua Tagovailoa’s blindside? Would it be a weapon such as Florida’s Kyle Pitts, Alabama’s Devonta Smith, or LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase? How much could they get if they traded down to Philadelphia, Carolina, Denver, or someone else in need of a signal caller? Renowned gasbag Colin Cowherd even floated the idea of drafting a quarterback in the top five one year after doing exactly that.
Friday gave Miami fans more clarity as general manager Chris Grier channeled his inner Sonny Weaver from Draft Day mixed with a little Dwight Schrute from The Garage Sale episode of The Office. After the dust settled, Miami moved down from third to sixth, moved down from the fourth round to the fifth round, acquired a third rounder in 2022, a first rounder in 2023, and gambled on the 49ers record this fall being worse than their own as they gave Philadelphia their own 2022 first while keeping the newly-acquired 2022 San Francisco first. Got all that? Good. So now, let’s look at who all figures to be in play at sixth overall next month.
Wide Receiver from LSU
Likelihood to be taken fourth: Very Low
Likelihood to be taken fifth: Better than average
Chase avoided unintelligible sideline rantings from Ed Orgeron last fall as he sat out the 2020 season to prepare for the draft. This has caused some to forget just how much of a monster he was in the Tigers’ 2019 national title run with Joe Burrow. Chase notched 1,780 yards on 84 catches, 20 of which went from touchdowns, en route to unanimous All-American honors and the Fred Biletnikoff Award. He did all of that as a true sophomore in the most difficult conference in the country, while having Minnesota Vikings rookie phenom Justin Jefferson also lobbying for throws his way.
Miami is in dire need of a true alpha, No. 1 receiver. DeVante Parker has played just one full season in his six years in South Florida. Newly-signed Will Fuller has never played a full season in his five years in Houston, and won’t next year, either, as he will miss Week 1 completing his suspension. Drafting Chase, who figures to run around a 4.4 40 at the LSU Pro Day next week, can do just about anything you need from a receiver.
Offensive tackle from Oregon
Likelihood to be taken fourth: Less than average
Likelihood to be taken fifth: Very high
Sewell is one of the annual curious cases of declining draft grades without playing a game. He was a shoe-in for a top five pick just a month ago, and now there is chatter of some preferring Slater or Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw with Sewell going anywhere from fifth to 11th. Let’s not forget that the last time we saw Sewell play (in 2019 due to opting out of the 2020 campaign), he was the highest-graded offensive lineman evaluated in the history of Pro Football Focus dating back to 2014.
The 6’6 and 325-Lb. Outland Trophy winner would be the third offensive lineman taken in the first two rounds in just two years if the Dolphins make him their pick at six. Tagovailoa really faced a lot of duress in his rookie season as fellow rookies Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt tried to make adjustments of their own to the next level. Sewell would slide into the right tackle spot, causing Hunt to either supplant yet another 2020 draft pick Soloman Kindley at right guard, or serve as the team’s swing tackle. Investing in another offensive lineman at this point seems to be a jumping off the shark to some, but Sewell’s upside as the blindside protector for the next decade could be too much to pass up on. Imagine if the Dolphins turn one elite tackle in Laremy Tunsil into another elite tackle in Sewell in addition to two more first rounders, two second rounders, and a third. Bill O’Brien may never work in the NFL again.
Wide receiver from Alabama
Likelihood to be taken fourth: Very low
Likelihood to be taken fifth: Less than average
Smith will almost certainly be available when the Dolphins are on the clock. Part of that is due to team needs and the other is due to his slight stature at 175 Lbs. Smith’s biggest supporters champion Hall of Fame Indianapolis Colts receiver Marvin Harrison as a reason to dismiss his weight concerns, while his detractors point to the anomalous nature of that comparison.
What cannot be argued, however, is his production. Like Chase, Smith competed in the toughest conference in the country and did so while battling other elite receivers for catches. He logged what could be the greatest season a receiver has ever had in college football, totaling 117 catches for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns while playing an All-SEC schedule with two less regular season games. He is as good as anyone in the draft at finding soft spots in a zone or beating man coverage with a crisp route and elite footwork. His catch radius is that of a much taller receiver and his hands are as sure as it gets.
Last season, the Dolphins could not give Tagovailoa open windows. Getting Albert Wilson back in the fold or seeing an emergence from second-year receiver Lynn Bowden should help with that, but adding Smith would take it over the top.
Tight end from Florida
Likelihood to be taken fourth: Very good
Likelihood to be taken fifth: Very good
Pitts suffers from the same thing — though to a lesser degree — as Alabama running back Najee Harris: devaluing due to the position he plays. The Florida Gator was an absolute nightmare a season ago, outrunning linebackers and overpowering safeties. The last time a tight end was taken this high was 2006 when the 49ers took Vernon Davis out of Maryland with the sixth pick.
We’ve seen a renaissance of pass-catching tight ends take over the league in recent years with San Francisco’s George Kittle and Kansas City’s Jason Kelce among others. A big, sure-handed target at tight end is a young quarterback’s best friend, especially when one deals with as uncertain of a pocket as Tagovailoa had to a year ago. The Dolphins do still have Mike Gesicki, but he is entering a contract year and will warrant a compensatory pick if they let him walk. I do think the consideration of Pitts is null and void as he is a strong candidate to be taken at both No. 4 and No. 5.
Linebacker from Penn State
Likelihood to be taken fourth: Moderate
Likelihood to be taken fifth: Very low
Parsons is an interesting name at this spot. He was projected to be a top five to top 10 pick in the fall, when he joined Chase and Sewell among those who sat out 2020. Then, some unspecified “character concerns” pushed him down projections into the teens and even into the 20s by some. That all changed this past week when the highly-productive linebacker run a blazing 4.39 40 at the Penn State Pro Day, tying Arizona Cardinals’ Isaiah Simmons for the second-fast fastest 40 by a linebacker in the last 15 years, trailing just former UCF Knight and Seattle Seahawk Shaquem Griffin who ran a 4.38.
Through Week 16, Miami had the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL, but the unit went through a bit of offseason upheaval. Defensive tackle Davon Godcheaux defected to the New England Patriots, linebacker Kyle Van Noy was released and then signed also by the Patriots, and edge rusher Shaq Lawson was traded to the Houston Texans. Outside of Emmanuel Ogbah, the Dolphins don’t really have a proven pass rusher on the roster. Getting the uber-athletic Parsons into the linebacker rotation could be a dream for Flores, though one that is likely to get overruled by the need for help for Tagovailoa.
Three quarterbacks figure to go in the first three picks, so the draft truly begins for the Dolphins at No. 4 with Atlanta. The Falcons are as true of a wild card as anyone with anyone telling you what they will do just hazarding a guess. Matt Ryan can still play at a high level, but if local product Justin Fields is there, do they pull the trigger and let him learn behind Ryan? Will they acquiesce to their fanbase and take Pitts from Florida to pair with Hayden Hurst, who is fresh off a really good season? Will they trade back with a team that falls in love with whatever quarterback is left, be it Fields or Trey Lance? One thing we know they won’t do is take a wide receiver, given they have Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley still patrolling the field.
Then you have Cincinnati at five. The Bengals have been pegged by seemingly everyone as all in on Sewell. Things got a little trickier this week as the Skyline Chili contingency signed former Viking Riley Reiff to man the right side opposite of 2019 first round pick Jonah Williams. Does Reiff move inside? Does Cincinnati prefer Rashawn Slater out of Northwestern who has the versatility to play inside or out on the line? Many are now speculating the Bengals could be in on a pass catcher for Joe Burrow despite the fact Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins combined for 1,747 yards a year ago. Drew Sample showed promise at tight end a year ago, but if Pitts is there at five, they could be tempted to upgrade, as well.
One option that is still incredibly in-play is trading down once again. There are five quarterbacks that can be safely assumed will go in the first round: Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence will go first to Jacksonville, BYU’s Zach Wilson is strongly-rumored to be going to the Jets next, with one of Fields, Lance, or Alabama’s Mac Jones slated to go third to San Francisco. If Atlanta passes on a quarterback and neither the Falcons nor Bengals trade down, that means there will be at least two quarterbacks available at six.
Each of the next three picks — Detroit, Carolina, and Denver, respectively — are in need of long-term answers at quarterback and may need to jostle ahead of one another to secure the one they fancy, if they so choose. Other contenders to trade up, though unlikely given their positions in the draft, include the Vikings (14), Patriots (15), Washington Football Team (19), and Bears (20). Trading down to one of those teams would not be an option that manifests itself until the Dolphins get on the clock at six. That’s when things will truly get interesting behind the scenes in Cleveland.