Miami Dolphins Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Jevon Holland, S, Oregon – Round 2
The Dolphins have made the secondary a priority under head coach Brian Flores and general manager Chris Grier. Ownership forced them into trading away safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, which was a regrettable move, but they did sign cornerback Byron Jones in free agency and drafted cornerback Noah Igbinoghene in the first round in 2020. The Dolphins drafted safety Brandon Jones in the third round of 2020, but they needed more difference-making safety talent to replace Fitzpatrick. Miami could have found that with Holland, who was a sleeper steal in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The 6-foot-1, 196-pound Holland is a real pass-coverage weapon. What gets evaluators really excited is his ability to run with receivers in coverage. Holland shows the ability to pick them up downfield and blanket them in the deep part of the field. Holland is fast and has the speed to run with wideouts vertically. With enough size, Holland shows some ability to cover big receivers, and while Holland does not have great height or length, he is a competitor who finds a way to be effective. Holland also can play nickel corner and cover man-to-man on slot receivers.

In zone coverage, Holland displays good instincts and quality route-recognition. He uses good vision to read the eyes of the quarterback and sees receivers well to pick them up coming into his area. Holland uses his speed, vision and instincts to be a rangy safety in zone coverage who covers a lot of ground in the middle of the field. He has a burst to close on receivers and uses that second-gear speed to jump routes and make plays on the ball. Holland has very good ball skills and is a dangerous threat to pick off passes. He is a true ball hawk on the back end.

Holland is a willing run defender, as he uses his speed to come downhill in a blur and make tackles. While Holland is not the biggest of safeties, he does not hesitate to get physical and will deliver some hard hits. For the NFL, it would help him to gain some weight and strength to tackle pro backs. Extra weight could also help him with durability.

For added value, Holland is an excellent special teams player who is a dangerous returner and a good contributor to coverage units. At the pro level, he probably won’t be the starting punt or kick returner to protect him from injury, but he could contribute by returning in clutch situations or help his team close out a game if there is an injury to the primary returner. Similarly, Holland could be on some coverage units but it would be better to save him for the defense.

At the pro level, Holland fits more as a free safety because of being undersized, and he also can contribute as a slot corner. The Dolphins don’t need him to play corner, but he could be an excellent free safety for them. Early in his rookie contract, I could see Holland emerging as a quality starter and dependable defender in the back end.

2020: Noah Igbinoghene, CB
2019: Michael Deiter, G
2018: Jerome Baker, LB
2017: Raekwon McMillan, LB
2016: Xavien Howard, CB
2015: DeVante Parker, WR
2014: JaWuan James, OT
2013: Dallas Thomas, G

Most Likely To Bust

Hunter Long, TE, Boston College – Round 3
Players with a third-round grade are viewed as “backup-to-starters”. They are projected to being their careers as backups before developing into starters. Long could fall short of that, however, and may only be of backup caliber for the NFL. Hence as a third-round pick, he could be a disappointment for Miami.

Long (6-5, 254) had issues separating from coverage in college, and that will be harder in the NFL. He is not fast and lacks the speed to run by defensive backs or outside linebackers. In terms of his route-running, Long is not sudden or explosive to generate separation, so he is going to have to be a tight end who wins on contested catches while also serving as an underneath outlet receiver who also could be functional to attack zone coverage. He probably won’t be viewed as a sufficiently dynamic receiver to be a starter.

I think the Dolphins are likely to retain Mike Gesicki, who is a perfect fit as a receiving weapon for offensive coordinator George Godsey. Hence, Long could be stifled on the depth chart. It would not surprise me if Long ends up disappointing and never devloping into a starter.

2020: Brandon Jones, S
2019: Andrew Van Ginkel, LB
2018: Mike Gesicki, TE
2017: Cordrea Tankersley, CB
2016: Leonte Carroo, WR
2015: Bobby McCain, CB
2014: Billy Turner, G
2013: Jelani Jenkins, LB

Potential Boom Pick

Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami – Round 1
There were two prospects who I thought had top-10 potential for the 2022 NFL Draft if they had gone back to school and had another good season. Those players were Miami defensive end Jaelan Phillips and Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis. Phillips had some off-the-field concerns relating to his transfer from UCLA to Miami, but his support system remains in place due to remaining in South Florida, which I think could help lead to the talented Phillips becoming a boom pick for the Dolphins.

There is no doubt that the 6-foot-5, 266-pound Phillips has a good skill set for the NFL. He has good size, strength, quickness and athleticism. He has versatile skill set, so he could fit any NFL defense because he play as a base end in a 4-3 or stand up to play outside linebacker in a 3-4. Thus, Phillips is a great fit in Brian Flores’ defense as a chess piece to move around in the front seven. Phillips has a phenomenal motor and puts forth a relentless effort in both phases, making him a very disruptive edge defender. His mentality and tenacious style of play make for the kind of attitude Flores seeks from his players.

As a pass rusher, Phillips is not a pure speed demon off the edge, but he is quick and has quality speed. Phillips has an excellent move to the inside, showing on his functional strength on a swim move to dart to the inside of tackles, and a burst to close on the quarterback in a hurry. Phillips displays good strength and leverage to bull rush his way into the pocket. He also has active hands and uses them at the same time with his feet. With his length, strength, and good hands, Phillips is adept at shedding blocks and getting pressure on the quarterback. He shows nice vision, instincts, and ability to redirect to chase down moving quarterbacks.

Phillips is very good against the run because he is strong to set the edge and holds his ground against downhill runs. He uses his strong hands, length, and strength to shed blocks to chase down backs for tackles. With his burst, Phillips is dangerous to get upfield and blow up runs in the backfield. He is a well-rounded player who will be an asset as a run defender in the NFL.

The Dolphins needed an edge defender to go across from Emmanuel Ogbah, and Phillips could quickly evolve into an impactful player for Miami. Phillips has a ton of potential and upside to only get better as he gains experience. I think Phillips has Pro Bowl potential and the ability to become one of the better edge defenders in the NFL. He has real boom-pick potential in Miami.

2020: Austin Jackson, OT
2019: Christian Wilkins, DT
2018: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S
2017: Charles Harris, DE
2016: Laremy Tunsil, OT
2015: Jordan Phillips, DT
2014: Jarvis Landry, WR
2013: Dion Jordan, LB

Future Depth Player

Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame – Round 2
The Dolphins drafted bookend offensive tackles in the 2020 NFL Draft, taking first-round pick Austin Jackson and second-round pick Robert Hunt, so it was a surprise when they used a second-round choice on Eichenberg this year. Immediately, Eichenberg gives Miami better competition and swing tackle depth behind those two young veterans. Eichenberg could also be cross-trained at guard and back up left tackle Michael Deiter, but Eichenberg is not a power player and may not have the strength that teams look for on the inside of their lines. As these young players develop, it would not surprise me if Miami moves Hunt inside to guard and Eichenberg becomes the starting right tackle. Even if he doesn’t become a starter,Eichenberg could be an excellent depth player for Miami.

2020: Jason Strowbridge, DE
2019: Isaiah Prince, OT
2018: Kalen Ballade, RB
2017: Davon Godchaux, DT
2016: Kenyon Drake, RB
2015: Jay Ajayi, RB
2014: Arthur Lynch, TE
2013: Mike Gillislee, RB

Walt’s 2021 NFL Draft Grades:

6. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama – B Grade
The Dolphins couldn’t really go wrong as long as they went with one of Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith and Penei Sewell. That said, I would have preferred the other two options, especially Sewell. With Will Fuller and DeVante Parker on the roster, receiver wasn’t a huge need, while the offensive line continued to be. The Dolphins need to protect Tua Tagovailoa, which they could have done incredibly well with Sewell.

18. Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami – B- Grade
This is such a difficult grade. Based on talent alone, Jaelan Phillips is worth an A+. He’s a tremendous athlete and a devastating pass rusher. He could be a star for the Dolphins. Unfortunately, he has a long medical history, and one or two concussions could knock him out for a long time. This is such a risky choice. It could easily pan out, but it could also be a huge bust. Players with injury worries typically fall, so I’m surprised that Phillips went this high.

36. Jevon Holland, S, Oregon – B Grade
Over Trevon Moehrig? That’s a surprise. Still, the pick makes sense. Jevon Holland was a prospect some team in the middle of the second coveted. He’s a very instinctive linebacker and will be able to play right away. He’ll fill a big need in Miami’s secondary.

42. Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame – A- Grade
Liam Eichenberg was usually slotted in this area in my mock draft; sometimes higher. He ended up at the end of the first round in my final update, so I like this value for the Dolphins, who needed to improve the offensive line. Miami must protect Tua Tagovailoa to help him succeed after a disastrous rookie year, and Eichenberg will help make that happen.

81. Hunter Long, TE, Boston College – B- Grade
The Dolphins really wanted Kyle Pitts, but missed out on him because the 49ers selected Trey Lance instead of Mac Jones, creating a domino effect where Pitts was snatched off the board. Hunter Long is a solid, tough and smart player, but he lacks speed and the ability to separate.

231. Larnel Coleman, OT, UMass – B Grade
This is the Dolphins’ first pick since No. 81, which is kind of nuts. It’s also nice that the Dolphins were able to obtain another offensive lineman to help protect Tua Tagovailoa. I had Larnel Coleman in the seventh round of one of my updates, so the range makes sense.

244. Gerrid Doaks, RB, Cincinnati – C+ Grade
It’s wild that the Dolphins waited this long for a running back. Gerrid Doaks is not the answer – he wasn’t on my radar as a draftable prospect – so Miami will have to move into the 2021 season without a strong ground attack.

2021 NFL Draft Team Grade: B+. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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