In a little over one year from now the Miami Dolphins will be coming out of the 2020 NFL Draft with [BLANK] as their starting quarterback charged with ushering in a new era of winning football.
It’s filling in the blank that’s problematic. So many options, scenarios and names being passed around. So many variables dependent on win totals and draft position.
I have considered all of the players and possibilities in handicapping who is most likely to end up as the Dolphins‘ starting QB in 2020 and beyond. I am excluding only Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray from any possibility of being Miami’s answer, since he is a near-lock to be drafted No. 1 overall by Arizona later this month, and if that shockingly didn’t happen there’s no way he’d get past Jon Gruden and Oakland picking fourth.
So here’s how I see it most likely to shake out through the next two drafts as Miami charts its future after one fill-in season of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
And the Dolphins’ starting quarterback in 2020 is:
1. Justin Herbert, Oregon, 33% — This is the best-case fallback if Miami is too good to win the Tua Sweepstakes in 2020. Herbert has ideal size (6-6), arm strength and athleticism. He might have challenged Murray for who went No. 1 this year had he entered the draft, but instead he surprisingly (and dubiously) opted to return for his senior year. The good in that? He’ll be closer to NFL-ready. Miami could be better than expected this season and still be in play for Herbert. Not so with the next guy.
2. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama, 30% — This is who Miami wants, covets and loves — unequivocally. But it will take the No. 1 overall pick in 2020 to get him, and that would take a massive, costly trade-up or more likely a record in the 4-12/3-13 range. Can the Dolphins possibly be that bad? Even if they try? The simple odds are against it. And the odds got longer when Miami signed an often-capable veteran in Fitzpatrick as a one-year bridge to replace departed Ryan Tannehill. That move underlined the idea the Dolphins won’t be “tanking for Tua.” New coach Brian Flores calls the word tanking “disrespectful to the game,” and adds, “I’m going to go into every game trying to win.” That’s noble. Arguably not smart. But noble.
3. Drew Lock, Missouri, 15% — It’s far from a lock (sorry), but this is the most likely scenario if the Dolphins choose to target a quarterback in 2019 — as they should — rather than gamble they’ll be bad enough this coming season to get exactly who they want in 2020. Lock figures to be available at 13th overall if he gets past the gantlet of QB-hungry Broncos and Bengals, who barring a Miami trade-up both pick before the Fins do.
4. Jake Fromm, Georgia, 7% — He’ll likely be third on the Dolphins’ QB draft board in 2020, but if the other two are gone Fromm would be a solid consolation prize. He’s a first-round certainty and possibly a top-10 overall.
5. Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State, 5% — He’s likeliest to go sixth overall this month to the Giants, but could tumble if NYG decided to wait to target a QB with the 17th overall pick they got in the Odell Beckham trade. Even so, though, Haskins would still have to get past the Broncos and Bengals.
6. Josh Rosen, Cardinals, 5% — Assuming the big domino falls and Arizona drafts Murray No. 1 overall this April 25, Rosen, last year’s top Cardinals pick, will be gettable in a trade. Miami thought highly of Rosen a year ago, and might consider a deal if the asking price was below a first-round pick.
7. Daniel Jones, Duke, 3% — Average NFL arm and needs time to develop, but upside is there. Am told Fins don’t see him as first-round caliber but could be intrigued if he slips to the second round later this month. (How about Jones in the second round this year and Tagovailoa or likelier Herbert as top pick in ‘20? There is no law against high-drafting QBs in consecutive years. It doubles chances one will hit big, and you can always trade the one who doesn’t win the job).
8. A second-tier passer in draft, 1% — Mayday scenario. All the guys mentioned above are gone, so they resort to someone like North Carolina State’s Ryan Finely, West Virginia’s Will Grier or Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham (in 2019) or Washington’ Jacob Cason,. Stanford’s K.J. Costell or Michigan’s Shea Patterson (in 2020).
9. Someone on Dolphins now, or not mentioned above: 1% — That would be current Fins QBs Fitzpatrick, Jake Rudock or Luke Falk, or a draft surprise. Make that shock.
10. Dan Marino, 0% — Hey, he may be 57 now, but the arm can still fling it!