Armando Salguero

Dolphins believe 2019 offers ‘good’ QB class, but finding right guy is a tough gamble

Dolphins GM Chris Grier agrees this needs to be a ‘great draft’

Miami Dolphins GM Chris Grier agrees the 2019 NFL Draft needs to be a "great draft" for their rebuilding effort, April 17, 2019.
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Miami Dolphins GM Chris Grier agrees the 2019 NFL Draft needs to be a "great draft" for their rebuilding effort, April 17, 2019.

There’s been a shift. Have you noticed it?

When the 2019 draft process began sometime in February, after the Miami Dolphins hired new coach Brian Flores, and then when the team’s representatives went to the Indianapolis Combine, the idea of the team picking a quarterback in the first round was very much on everyone’s mind.

General Manager Chris Grier talked about the possibility while no one within the organization discounted the possibility. Even last month at the NFL annual meeting, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross left open the chance of picking a QB this year.

But the vibe seems different lately. Suddenly the mock drafts that weeks ago had Miami picking a quarterback in the first round have changed. The pundits and analysts have moved on to seemingly other ideas. The idea of the Dolphins picking a quarterback in the first round in 2019 seems less popular now.

And I don’t know why.

Because no one within the organization has dismissed the idea. The possibility still exists.

But it is right that the chances don’t seem huge.

So why the apparent shift?

Well, I think what we have is not a change in the Dolphins but a change in the so-called analyzing of the team. I think the analysis has caught up with where the team has probably been all along.

And that is, the Dolphins are open to picking a quarterback in the first round this year. But it has to be exactly the right quarterback. It has to be someone they’re truly convinced will take the team into the next decade.

And if that guy is not found and available, the team will be perfectly content passing on a first-round quarterback and aiming for that franchise guy later — like even in the 2020 draft.

So that long-ago narrative about waiting until 2020 has rebounded in the media.

That narrative originated locally in this space in January and by the end of that month I wrote the broad details about who was not likely going to be included in the 2019 quarterback chase. (The linked story, by the way, was written weeks before Ryan Tannehill was actually traded).

So why does it seem like the more likely play for the Dolphins this draft is once again to not pick a QB in the first round?

It begins with the fact picking a first-round quarterback who becomes a great player is a gamble, according to Grier.

“Quarterbacks have been so hit and miss,” Grier said. “If you study them, 50 percent or less end up becoming even good starting quarterbacks. So it’s hard to say. But every class has one or two quarterbacks that become a good player in the league.”

And now I hand you over to my friends in the personnel department community. I talk to a handful of men in those ranks. And they often share tiny glimpses into their thinking about players. And their thinking on the obvious first-round quarterbacks this draft is, well, lacking consensus.

And a lack of consensus is a bit problematic.

Because Andrew Luck came with consensus and he’s outstanding. But other guys who have attained similar heights without consensus required really great work by scouting departments and then really great developing by coaching staffs.

And the Dolphins have not had a great deal of either on a consistent basis this century.

So here are some quarterbacks who come as first-round possibilities and what the scouts have told me about them:

Kyler Murray: One scout has serious questions about his makeup in that he doesn’t think the kid is able to shoulder the expectations of leading a franchise. The same scout says Murray is extremely accurate and has a great arm. Another scout doesn’t think Murray can win from the pocket. Another says he doesn’t like Murray’s size, at 5-10, but admits to becoming something of a relic in that thinking because peers simply point to the things Russell Wilson and Drew Brees have done in the NFL.

Drew Lock: “Don’t discount this guy because he’s the best of the bunch,” one scout told me. Great, so he’s the guy! The problem is two other personnel people have told me they question Lock’s accuracy and hate his footwork. One scout made the point that great quarterbacks should lift their programs and that Lock rarely did this and obviously not with consistency.

Dwayne Haskins: There is significant concern about his mobility outside the pocket. I challenged one of the personnel department friends to define whether Haskins’s mobility outside the pocket also applies to slow feet in the pocket — as in moving to escape the rush within the pocket. He said it does not necessarily apply to both in this case. But the biggest concern about Haskins that I haven’t seen elsewhere was about the “quickness of his operation” — in other words, does he come to the line with a plan, process what he’s seeing quickly, sets his feet and gets the ball out fast enough. All that stuff should happen fast. I’ve had multiple people tell me Haskins is slow in that regard.

Daniel Jones: “If you like Eli Manning, you’ll like this kid even though his arm isn’t quite as good,” was the way one scout described him. “He has a very similar demeanor to Eli which is probably a better thing than most people think.” Another scout wasn’t impressed with his arm which he rated a B-minus. One scout said he’s the most ready-to-play QB of the first-round possibilities. The same scout that talked about Lock not lifting Missouri made the same point about Jones at Duke.

“I think this class is a good class of quarterbacks,” Grier said. “I would say that, again, like all of them, this class probably has some players that haven’t started as many games as you would like to see in terms of helping paint the picture for what they could be, so it’s a little more projection on a lot of them. I would say overall, it’s a good quarterback class.”

Still, the first round doesn’t have obvious can’t-miss guys. And that suggests the Dolphins may not gamble on finding perhaps the one shining star in an entire draft constellation.

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