Aside from selecting a head coach, the single most important decision the Dolphins face this offseason came into focus Monday, with Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins — the draft’s top quarterback prospect — announcing he will turn pro.
Here’s the question that confronts football operations czar Chris Grier: Do you: 1) offer a ton of appealing assets to try to move up from 13th in the draft in order to select Haskins or 2) bypass selecting a quarterback with the plan to tank next season and select one of several top quarterbacks in next year’s draft; or 3) stay where you are in this year’s draft and select a quarterback who is far from a sure thing in the first three rounds?
If Miami takes the long view, it could (wink-wink) tank this season and try to position itself to get a top two pick next season, which would mean a chance to select Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert or as consolation prizes, perhaps Georgia’s Jake Fromm or Stanford’s K.J. Costello.
But if Grier becomes enamored with Haskins, then Miami might aggressively try to trade up in April to get him.
At least four teams picking ahead of Miami could be looking for quarterbacks to develop as a potential starter: the Giants (picking sixth), Jacksonville (seventh), Denver (10th) and Cincinnati (11th). It would easier for any of those teams to move up than it would be for the Dolphins at No. 13.
What the Dolphins have going for them, should they try to move up for Haskins, is the fact the top three teams in the draft either drafted or traded for their starting quarterbacks in the past two years — Arizona (first pick), San Francisco (second) and the Jets (third).
The Raiders, at No. 4, have Derek Carr, unless they try to trade him, and Tampa Bay (fifth) already has said Jameis Winston is returning.
Haskins is “going to be in contention to go No. 1 overall,” Mel Kiper Jr. said Monday on ESPN.com, noting that the Giants, Jaguars and Broncos are all teams to watch for trade-ups (with all picking ahead of Miami).
Kiper noted that two teams have moved into the top 10 to draft quarterbacks each of the past three years, and Haskins “is a guy maybe teams will look to move up [to get]. He’s the single entity as a top-five, top-10, maybe No. 1 overall pick.”
The best example of what the Dolphins might need to give up to move from 13 to 1: In 2016, the Rams moved from No. 15 to No. 1 in the first round (giving them a chance to draft quarterback Jared Goff) by trading to Tennessee the No. 15 overall pick in that 2016 draft, two second-round picks (2016), a third-round pick (2016), a first-round pick (2017) and another third-round pick (2017).
The Titans also sent their fourth- (No. 113) and sixth-round (No. 177) picks in 2016 to the Rams, along with the No. 1 overall pick.
Miami has one pick in each of the seven rounds of April’s draft.
The Jets, in moving up from sixth to third to select quarterback Sam Darnold last April, gave the Colts their No. 6 overall pick, two second-round picks — No. 37 and No. 49 overall — as well as a 2019 second-round pick. Moving from 13th to a top pick assuredly would take even more.
As for Haskins, “at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, he can make every throw,” Kiper said. “He has an effortless and compact release, and that shows when he’s launching balls across the field on out routes, and when he’s hitting receivers in stride on go routes. He’s accurate, shows great anticipation on throws and takes care of the ball. He’s athletic, but he’s not a runner.
“Haskins shows poise and never gets rattled. He loves the spotlight and craves pressure — just look at how he stepped up and torched Michigan, one of college football’s top defenses. The high ceiling is there, and that’s what NFL teams want.”
Some other feedback on Haskins, who threw for 4,831 yards this season, with 50 touchdown passes, eight interceptions and a 70 percent completion percentage:
▪ ESPN’s Todd McShay: “Based solely on his physical tools, the bar is really high for the Ohio State starter despite a limited college career. Haskins anticipates well, and he has touch on shorter throws and the high-level arm to drive the ball down the field with accuracy. The numbers were eye-popping for the third-year sophomore.”
▪ NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks: “The Buckeyes’ QB exhibits all of the traits coaches and scouts covet in a franchise quarterback. Haskins is a classic pocket passer with A-plus arm talent. He is one of the few quarterbacks capable of making every throw in the book from the pocket with power, touch or finesse.”
▪ Draft analyst Tony Pauline, in a stitcher.com podcast: “Big-time talent. The thing about Haskins you have to be excited about is he seemed to improve every week. There weren’t peaks and valleys in his game like Justin Herbert. He always came through.”
▪ Zac Robinson,a former Oklahoma State quarterback and Pro Football Focus analyst, said Haskins is “incredibly efficient with 20 plus throws this year, with 17 touchdowns. Deep ball touch has shown up over and over all season. He’s able to drive some of these throws down the field. Biggest thing when you watch him play is he’s quick rhythm passer. Decisive, accurate and sees the field really well. Goes through progressions really well, able to go from 1 to 2 to 3. He can almost lull you to sleep with his ability to work the intermediate passing game and then throw it over your head.”
▪ Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller said Haskins, in completing 25 of 37 passes and three touchdowns in the Rose Bowl win against Washington, “showed the kind of pocket poise, accuracy outside the hashes and arm talent all over the field to secure his status as the top quarterback in the 2019 draft class should he decide to enter.
“It’s nice to go out on a hot streak, and that’s exactly what Haskins has done by putting together elite tape against Michigan, Northwestern and Washington to close the season. Against three premier defenses, Haskins showed all the tools to make him the first quarterback off the board this April.”
One minor concern is that he had only 14 college starts, though Mitch Trubisky had only 13 before being drafted by the Bears.
As good as Haskins is, a case also could be made for staying at No. 13, picking a player at another position in the first round (or Duke quarterback Daniel Jones, though I have reservations about that) and positioning yourself for one of the quarterback gems in 2020.
“Herbert is in line to be No. 1 pick,” Kiper said of the 2020 draft. “Tua will be true junior; he’s got a ton of talent; very accurate throwing the football. [Stanford’s] K.J. Costello very talented throwing the football, he could be up there. Jake Fromm at Georgia.”
And if Miami is still looking for a franchise quarterback in 2021, Bleacher Report’s Miller notes that a scout said Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence (the potential top pick in 2021), “is the best I’ve seen since [Andrew] Luck was a freshman.”
DOLPHINS SIGN LINEBACKER
The Dolphins signed Canadian Football League linebacker Sam Eguavoen to a futures contract. He had 81 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception for Saskatchewan this past season. He went undrafted out of Texas Tech and was honorable mention all Big 12 as a senior in 2014.