Dolphins general manager Chris Grier, and Jeff Ireland in an earlier time, snagged several productive players at multiple positions in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds of the NFL Draft.
Grier found talent at running back (Jay Ajayi), cornerback (Tony Lippett and Bobby McCain), defensive tackle (Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor) and a speedy return specialist (Jakeem Grant).
Ireland and the Dolphins’ scouts during that era (2008-2013) unearthed quality fourth to seventh round pieces at safety (Reshad Jones), receiver (Brian Hartline and Rishard Matthews), cornerback (Nolan Carroll) and running back (Lamar Miller).
So that’s the good news.
Kudos to both of them for that.
But you notice the three spots where the Dolphins have discovered no longterm talent in the later rounds of the draft this past decade?
Quarterback, tight end and offensive line.
And certainly, a case could be made for the Dolphins to address any of those positions in the first three rounds of April’s draft, along with linebacker – which some Dolphins people consider their biggest need.
But the broader point of this piece is this: The Dolphins – for this entire century, through Dave Wannstedt and Nick Saban and Rick Spielman and Jeff Ireland and Randy Mueller and now with this regime - have displayed no ability, none whatsoever, to identify quality offensive linemen in the mid to late rounds of the draft, though Grier and his staff earn points for signing Jesse Davis 20 months after he went undrafted and after Seattle and the Jets waived him.
Consider this: Unless you count 2004 sixth-rounder Rex Hadnot, who started 3 ½ years for the Dolphins, Miami hasn’t found a longterm offensive line starter in the fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh rounds since the 21st century began, since before most Americans had ever heard of Barack Obama, since before Dwyane Wade arrived in South Florida, since before Larry Coker guided UM to a championship.
Dolphins’ third-day offensive line picks in the 21st century have been littered with washouts, from Shawn Draper to Brandon Winey to Tim Provost to Tony Pape to Anthony Alabi to Joe Toledo to Drew Mormino to Shawn Murphy to Donald Thomas (started parts of one season here, that bounced around for a time) to Andrew Gardner (12 starts elsewhere, none here) to Jamil Douglas.
And that doesn’t even include third-round disappointments such as Dallas Thomas, John Jerry and Billy Turner.
Wouldn’t you think one, just one, would have worked out longterm?
Now consider what the Patriots will be starting on their offensive line in the Super Bowl:
Two players they drafted in the fourth round (Cameron Fleming and Shaq Mason), a player they drafted in the third (Joe Thuney) and an undrafted player (David Andrews), along with first rounder Nate Solder.
With Tom Brady’s presence obviously an enormous help, the Patriots offensive line allowed two more sacks this season than Miami’s (35 to 33), but were better run blockers (Pats were 12th at 4.2 per carry, Miami 24th at 3.9) and had fewer offensive holding penalties than Miami (18 to 24).
And, oh yes, the Eagles will be starting center Jason Kelce, a player they picked in the sixth round who has made two Pro Bowls and was first team All Pro this season.
Certainly, you cannot blame the Dolphins’ current regime for much of this history of poor later-round offensive line evaluation, though this front office did select fifth-rounder Isaac Asiata, who never played a snap as a rookie in 2017 and cannot realistically be projected for a meaningful role.
So why didn’t Asiata help this season, even with Miami’s need at guard? Coaches told him he must simply get faster in his reaction time.
"Move my feet, not be so slow," he said. "I have to do speed training, have quick feet. I hate not playing but it doesn’t mean I’m not working my [butt] off."
But because he’s 25, it’s fair to wonder if he ever will be a factor for a starting job.
"These guys know what they’re doing," Asiata said of his coaches. "They will know when I’m ready."
Here’s the problem: The Patriots have displayed an ability to find offensive line starters with middle or late round picks. The Dolphins have shown no ability to do that even once this century. And for that matter, several of their earlier picks have underachieved or been hampered by injuries.
The vast gulf between the Dolphins and Patriots starts with the obvious fact the Pats have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and the Dolphins don’t. But from a Dolphins perspective, add this to the dozens and dozens of secondary demoralizing differences between the organizations.
On ESPN.com on Monday, Todd McShay rated his top 32 draft prospects in order, without regard to teams drafting in those slots or their needs.
With Miami picking 11th, here were McShay’s players rated 7th to 15th, in order:
Virginia Tech outside linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea, FSU safety Derwin James, Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans, Oklahoma offensive tackle Orlando Brown, Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen and Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey.
Here’s my Monday piece on UM continuing to lose several players who are projected for the mid rounds of the NFL draft or later and reasons for it.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz