With the 2020 NFL Draft just days away, the focus for the Miami Dolphins draft might be something other than what most people imagine.
The Miami Dolphins have made no secret about seeking a franchise quarterback. Since Dan Marino’s retirement in 1999, the team started 21 different quarterbacks over those 20 seasons. Only Cleveland (29) and Chicago (23) have had more starting quarterbacks over that span.
Marino remains the last Dolphins quarterback to earn Pro Bowl (1995) and All-Pro (1986) selections.
Dolphins Draft Plans
Holding three first round picks, including the No. 5 overall, seems to have the team poised to pounce on their preferred prospect. But what if all this talk of a signal-caller as their first selection has been a ruse?
The Dolphins splurged at the start of free agency. Miami inked 10 different players and guaranteed over $150 million, but not every team need was filled. The Dolphins draft will need to address needs along both the offensive and defensive lines.
That’s where the quarterback intrigue comes into play.
Most people think the Dolphins have targeted either Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert for their No. 5 overall selection. But what if one of those players is lost when another team trades up to No. 3? Or what if the Dolphins actually have eyes for Jordan Love instead?
Here’s the case for Miami’s management making Auburn’s Derrick Brown the selection at No. 5.
The Case for Derrick Brown
Last season, the Dolphins drafted Clemson defensive lineman Christian Wilkins with the13th overall selection in 2019. He was effective if unspectacular in his rookie season. He registered 55 tackles, which led all rookie defensive linemen, but managed only three tackles-for-loss and two sacks.
Wilkins is listed as a defensive tackle, but when Miami used a 3-4 scheme, he shifted to defensive end.
Wilkins’ partner inside was Davon Godchaux, who the Dolphins drafted in the fifth round in 2017 ou tof LSU.
Godchaux played well at times last season and actually led all interior defensive linemen with 32 stops. According to Pro Football Focus, a stop is a play where a defender makes a tackle, and the location of the tackle means the play is a successful one for the defense.
He played all 16 games and his 718 snaps came in as 20th-most among interior defenders. Godchaux, however, did miss eight tackles last season, and managed only 18 pressures and two sacks over 321 pass-rush snaps.
And with the team electing not to resign John Jenkins, or to pursue one of the defensive tackles in free agency, it’s clear the Dolphins draft needs include a run-stuffer. In 2019, the Dolphins surrendered the 6th-most rushing yards (2,166) and allowed 4.5 yards-per-carry.
Dolphins’ Brass Visited Auburn
The case for Derrick Brown extends beyond the obvious need along the defensive line.
Back in March, Dolphins brass, including general manager Chris Grier, head coach Brian Flores, new defensive coordinator Josh Boyer and several other team officials went to Auburn for what the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson called “a comprehensive two-day evaluation of the school’s top NFL Draft prospects.”
During this evaluation, the team got a close-up view of Brown, as well as cornerback Noah Igbinoghene and defensive lineman Marlon Davidson. Dolphins brass met with the players, then watched their Pro Day performances.
Brown dominated the SEC last season. He registered 55 tackles, including 12.5 tackles-for-loss and four sacks, as well as four pass breakups and two forced fumbles.
In his NFL.com Draft and Player Profile report for Derrick Brown, Lance Zierlein wrote:
“Defensive tackle with rare combination of size and disruptive traits who frequently bludgeoned inferior competition across from him. Brown’s snap quickness allows him to take muddy running lanes by re-setting the line of scrimmage. He has the ability to power into gaps, but he really shines when he drops his anchor to stall double-teams or punch, press and prey on runners as a two-gapper. Brown’s upright rush style means he might be more of a pressure rusher than a sack-man, but he should keep improving as a rusher with more dedication to the craft. He could become a high-impact starter early in his career with an All-Pro ceiling and good starter floor.”
So, if a team like the LA Chargers trades up over the Dolphins and takes Tagovailoa or Herbert, Miami may pivot to a different need.
They can select Brown with the No. 5 overall pick, and either wait until No. 18 or perhaps trade up to No. 12 (Las Vegas) or No. 13 (San Francisco) to choose someone like Jordan Love.
Yes, the Dolphins have need at offensive tackle and running back as well, but taking Brown could elevate the defensive line that’s already been bolstered in free agency.
Miami holds 14 selections in the 2020 draft, including six in the top 70. This affords the Dolphins draft incredible flexibility.
In his article for the Herald, Barry Jackson noted that the Dolphins coaches, as well as the GM Grier, brought all of Auburn’s draft-eligible defensive prospects into a meeting for a specific defensive install with them.
Among those prospects was also Marlon Davidosn, who was overshadowed by Brown in his time at Auburn.
Davidson registered 48 tackles, including 11.5 tackles-for-loss and 6.5 sacks. He’s largely seen as an early Day 2 player.
So if the Dolphins manage to land a quarterback high in the first round, they could then turn around and select Davidson early in the second round. That’s assuming they’ve addressed offensive tackle and perhaps running back with their other first round picks.