Armando Salguero

Spin vs. Fact: What is true about the 2019 Miami Dolphins draft

Brian Flores and GM Chris Grier talk about the Dolphins draft and Rosen trade

Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores and general manager Chris Grier respond to questions about quarterback Josh Rosen on day three of the NFL Draft on Saturday, April 27, 2019.
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Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores and general manager Chris Grier respond to questions about quarterback Josh Rosen on day three of the NFL Draft on Saturday, April 27, 2019.

The NFL Draft is by definition a opinion exercise. People working for one team form an opinion on a prospect and act on that opinion. Or don’t.

Everyone accepts this.

And it’s fascinating how bright people can come to vastly different opinions. For example: Kyler Murray was selected No. 1 overall in the draft. But I have spoken to people who work for two different teams — one of which didn’t have Murray in the top five, the other of which had him as the draft’s third-best QB prospect.

So the difference of opinion can be vast.

But when opinion gets distributed as fact that bothers me a little. Because that’s spin. And spin is different.

Spin takes what is a fact and tries to shape it toward an intended conclusion.

And this draft, particularly this Dolphins draft, has been the focus of more spin than I’ve seen in a long time, perhaps ever in all my years covering the team. People not necessarily working for the team have tried to shape and adjust facts to suit a narrative.

So today I’m going to examine some Dolphins draft narratives, check for spin, and see how it holds up to scrutiny. I’ll tell you what I think. You make your own decision:

Narrative: If Josh Rosen had been in this draft, along with Drew Lock, Murray, Dwayne Haskins and all the other quarterbacks, he would have been the first one taken or been selected ahead of most of the others.

Mando verdict: This is spin. Rosen for all intents and purposes was in this draft. After the Arizona Cardinals selected Murray first overall, picking Murray over Rosen as their preferred quarterback, they put Rosen on the trade block. And they initially wanted a first-round draft pick for Rosen either this year or next.

No one would offer that.

And then the Cardinals wanted a second-rounder.

So any of the 31 other teams could have picked Rosen with such a pick, same as they were doing in the draft. And no one picked Rosen in the second round until the Dolphins did it with the No. 62 overall selection.

Meanwhile, Daniel Jones was picked ahead of Rosen. Haskins was selected ahead of Rosen. And Lock was picked ahead of Rosen. Rosen was actually the fifth QB chosen in this draft — behind Murray, Jones, Haskins, and Lock.

Narrative: The Cardinals got played by the Dolphins in this trade.

Mando verdict: This is spin because we have no clue. No one does. Look, if Rosen turns out to be a baller for the Miami Dolphins, then this will become a truth. Getting an elite quarterback for a second- and a fifth-round pick is amazing value.

But if Rosen plays in Miami as he did in Arizona, the Cardinals are going to look pretty smart unloading a subpar quarterback for a second-round pick.

The point is anyone asserting this narrative is spinning. We do not know at this point.

Narrative: The Dolphins basically gave up a third-round pick for Rosen.

Mando verdict: This is spin. The Dolphins gave up a second-rounder in 2019 and fifth-rounder in 2020 for Rosen. Those were the terms. It wasn’t a third-rounder.

The people spinning this narrative argue that because Miami gave up the 62nd overall selection, which is three picks from the third round, then this is basically a third-rounder.

The factual problem with that, aside from that second-rounder being in, well, the second round, is that those same people will tell you the Dolphins got a 2020 second-rounder from the New Orleans Saints in the trade down for pick No. 48.

And that is disingenuous because the Saints went to the NFC Championship Game last year, should have been in the Super Bowl were it not for an officiating error, and were in the No. 30 overall slot. And anyone with brains understands it is entirely possible the Saints can be just as good in 2019 — which would mean their second-rounder could be just as low as it was this year.

So that second-rounder from New Orleans that people are trumpetting could be very close to a third-rounder. But no one notes that part. And folks don’t say anything about Miami giving up a 2019 fourth-rounder to New Orleans in the same trade, further diminishing the value of the Saints’ compensation.

One more thing on this: The Dolphins are hopeful of getting a third-round compensation pick for losing Ja’Waun James and other veterans in free agency. Those picks come at the very end of each round. Do you ever hear a team that says it acquired a third-round compensation pick say it’s really a fourth-rounder?

No.

Me?

I’m calling a second-rounder a second-rounder. And I’m calling next year’s compensation pick a third-round pick if and when it comes. And the second-rounder the Dolphins got from New Orleans? I’m calling that a second-rounder, too, because that’s the round it will slot into.

Same rules apply to everything, folks.

Narrative: The Dolphins trade down in the second round was part of Miami’s plan to land Rosen.

Mando verdict: Not only is this spin, it is demonstrably untrue.

We understand that from general manager Chris Grier himself. From the Dolphins’ news conference at the end of the draft Saturday:

Question: Were there discussions at pick 48? Did you have to trade back from 48 to make that [Rosen] trade happen in your mind, to make the numbers add up?

Answer: “No. The Cardinals were steadfast in what they wanted for it and they were pretty up front with all of the teams. We hadn’t really talked to them until right at the start of the draft, and I think that’s when they started contacting everyone that might be involved. As we went through, we had talked throughout the day a little bit here and there and we finally got to a point where we were comfortable in making a pick. In terms of picking up, for us, it was huge to get the second-round pick in 2020, with the Saints when we made that trade. Regardless of what was there, we were going to make that trade to get the second-round pick. We went into the draft trying to find either another first or second-round pick in 2020.”

In one-on-one phone interviews served up by the Dolphins media relations department for a couple of national writers, Grier told both Monday Morning quarterback and Football Morning in America that the two were not connected. And he told FMIA that reports of a deal with Arizona being done earlier that somehow guaranteed a trade for Rosen after Miami traded down were wrong.

“We were not going to give a one, this year or next,” Grier said. [Friday] we communicated again and laughed over the fact that it was out in the media that we’d agreed to make a deal, when we hadn’t.”

So the narrative the Dolphins’ trade with New Orleans for second-rounder is part of Miami’s trade with Arizona for Rosen is spin.

The trade was Miami giving up a No. 2 in 2019 and No. 5 in 2020 for Rosen. Period.

The trade was not Miami giving up a No. 2 (to Arizona), a No. 4 (to New Orleans) and a No. 5 in 2020 (to Arizona) for Rosen, plus a No. 2 in 2020 and a No. 6 in 2019 (from New Orleans).

Narrative: The Dolphins were brilliant in that they save $11 million in guaranteed money for Josh Rosen, which Arizona must swallow.

Mando verdict: This is true. The Dolphins, in fact, are not on the hook for that money that Arizona must account for on its salary cap.

This is also true: The Dolphins this year must make a cap accounting for $18.4 million in guaranteed money (including an extra $5 million they kicked in to improve the trade terms) in trading away Ryan Tannehill.

Again, we must be consistent in what we believe and it must be tied to unvarnished facts.

Narrative: The Dolphins are taking a flier on Rosen and nothing can prevent them from drafting another quarterback, a franchise-caliber quarterback, in 2020.

Mando verdict: This is true.

I wouldn’t call giving up a second- and a fifth-round pick for a player “taking a flier.” Those picks are valuable. A second-rounder is a premium pick according to anyone in the NFL you ask. But ...

Because rookie contracts — even for players taken in the top 5 — are cheap relative to veterans since the new collective bargaining agreement was signed in 2011, it doesn’t hurt to trade for a guy on a rookie deal this year and then draft another guy next year.

Remember, all rookie deals are bargains compared to veteran deals, and rookie QB deals are gold.

The only potential trouble here is going to be if the Dolphins allow themselves to get caught in the weeds of indecision next April.

Look, if Rosen lights it up in 2019, all is well.

If Rosen stinks in 2019, all is well.

The answers then will be obvious.

But if Rosen is middling, then we have the potential for mucking up the decision to take another guy. Because someone will make the case it’s his first year in the system, and the offensive line struggled or some other mitigating excuse.

My hope is the Dolphins, who wasted seven years waiting for Ryan Tannehill to reach his ceiling, don’t repeat the mistake.

If Rosen is not great, pick another guy, no matter the circumstances. And keep picking until you find someone who truly is great.

Finally ...

Narrative: The Dolphins had a great draft.

Counternarrative: The Dolphins had a bad draft.

Mando verdict: Both are spin. I assume you know this. We won’t know for a couple of years when the facts are actually available. Let’s simply agree to that.

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