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19th May 2019

What’s Going On With The Miami Dolphins Rebuild

Miami Dolphins Rebuild © Miami Herald

After many, many years of mediocrity, the Miami Dolphins have finally decided to take the bull by the horns and enter “full” rebuild mode. However, some of the decisions that are being made seem to contradict this and risk leaving the Dolphins mired in average seasons for years to come.

With a roster that has a lot of holes the most obvious of these are the quarterback position, and the offensive and defensive lines. However, the hardest of these to fill should be the quarterback role. So what are the Dolphins doing to address this issue?

QB Next Year?

With a new head coach, and a structure no longer clogged up with Mike Tannenbaum, the Dolphins decided to move on from starter Ryan Tannehill. Say what you like about Tannehill he give his all for the team and took an absolute beating behind one of the consistently worst lines in the NFL.

However, he never took the team to the next level and despite flashes, he never consistently looked like raising his own level to a consistent playoff quarterback. So the decision to move on wasn’t entirely unexpected. Managing to trade him for a 2020 4th round pick was a bonus.

The trading of Tannehill saves just $8.2m in cap space in 2019, but another $25m in 2020.

The Dolphins then moved on in a seemingly haphazard way, targetting Tyrod Taylor, and Teddy Bridgewater, before signing Ryan Fitzpatrick for a surprising $11m over 2 years with $7m guaranteed.

Fitpatrick is the Miami Dolphins starter for 2019 © Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Fitpatrick is the Miami Dolphins starter for 2019 © Grant Halverson/Getty Images

From a cap perspective alone this makes the Tannehill trade less appealing, as the Dolphins have downgraded at QB in 2019 and saved just $2.7m. However, this is about the rebuild and that 4th rounder is still around for 2020.

The problem with Fitzpatrick is that while he’s a definite downgrade, he’s not that much of a downgrade. He’ll probably lead the fins to 6 to 8 victories…the extra area where the Dolphins have been living for the last decade, and exactly where Tannehill likely would’ve got them.

So what does this do for the draft prospects in 2020 when the draft is deeper with quarterbacks? If we look at a 6-10 record, that would see Miami drafting around the 8th or 9th pick based on the last few years. If the Dolphins want to be up in the top 3 or 4 picks to get a genuine top-tier QB.

To move from 6th to 3rd in 2018 it cost the New York Jets two second-rounders. If we look at the value difference between the 8th pick and the 4th pick, it looks likely to cost the Dolphins at minimum a second and third round pick to be in the conversation.

But remember, other teams will also be looking to trade up, so the price could well be higher. If the Dolphins are all-in on someone like Tua Tagaolvailoa, or the next massively hyped prospect, they may have to go to the number 1 spot and that would almost certainly cost them their 2021 first-rounder as well.

So that fourth-rounder for Tannehill is nice, but won’t help massively in moving up for a quarterback next year.

Miami Dolphins targetting Tua? © Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
How much would it cost the Miami Dolphin to trade up to Tua Tagovailoa © Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

QB This Year?

As for this year’s quarterback class, it has been called one of the weakest in a while. The team at Football Outsiders have graded the prospects, and say “This is the first draft since 2014 where no quarterback has a QBASE projection over 600”. If you like your analytics it’s an interesting read and can be found here.

That said, most mock drafts have at least two Quarterbacks going in the top-10. Kyler Murray is widely tipped to be the number 1 pick, and Dwayne Haskins is most pundits second best quarterback in the draft, although he has been dropping on some boards.

If Haskins, or Drew Lock drop to the Dolphins I don’t see them passing. Haskins in particular looks a very solid option and would do well to learn behind Fitzpatrick for a year. While they may not appear to be the cream of the crop, the Dolphins have been mediocre at quarterback since the days of Dan Marino. Taking a quarterback this year, and in 2020 would be a viable plan in my opinion.

When we factor in the impact of the above scenario of a 6 win 2019 season, it also makes selecting a quarterback this year if possible the wise option. However, if Miami is not interested in either of these QB’s, another option would be to trade back and take a quarterback in a later round such as NC State’s Ryan Finley or Duke QB Daniel Jones.

Trading For Josh Rosen?

This is a long-shot for the Dolphins unless things begin to fall into their laps in a big way. With the Giants, Patriots, and Redskins in the mix for Rosen, the Dolphins seem to have little interest. Whether this is a ploy remains to be seen, but Rosen would be a very good option at the right price.

With the Cardinals wanting a first-rounder, the Dolphins will not be in the market at that price. Although to be fair, it seems none of the suitors are in at that price. Things could get interesting for Miami however if the draft falls their way.

If the Giants take Haskins with the number 6 pick, and the Redskins trade up to take Lock at number 10, as has been mooted, the market for Rosen would have considerably thinned. With just the Patriots and Dolphins left, Miami’s number 48 pick would probably be the highest the Cards could hope for at that point. Miami could also throw in the 2020 fourth-rounder they got for Tannehill to sweeten the pot.

Should the Miami Dolphins Trade for Josh Rosen © David Wallace/azcentral sports
Should the Miami Dolphins Trade for Josh Rosen © David Wallace/azcentral sports

It’s a long shot, but Rosen would be worth a second-rounder in my opinion. Especially with Fitzpatrick in the room to learn from.

Perspective

It’s important to maintain perspective and add some context to this discussion. Pundits and fans alike will espouse the benefits of their favourite prospect, but the success rates of first-round quarterbacks is startlingly poor. If we take round one quarterback picks since 2008, only 51.8% of them were a success according to the inside the pylon crew.

While rates have been increasing in recent years, in large part due to better analytics, it is still very hit and miss. So taking a quarterback in consecutive years is a very plausible option.

A prime example of this is the Josh Rosen situation at the Arizona Cardinals. Taken with the 10th pick in 2018, Rosen looks likely to be usurped by this years number one selection Kyler Murray. And if Rosen were in this draft? Well, he would grade as the best quarterback.

One last little caveat, quarterbacks who look great now may not look so great after another year of college. With all the talk of the Tank For Tua brigade, it’s worth noting that he wasn’t stellar in the championship game, and his spring has got off to a bad start.

And in 2017 Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen were the golden boys going into the college season, and they were both surpassed by Baker Mayfield. So things change quickly and hedging your options by adding a quarterback whenever you can until you finally get the right one is a very smart play.

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