Every NFL offseason there are several mock drafts. Some mock drafts even come out as way to early drafts for the next season a week after the current NFL draft. Even fans jump on the bandwagon of living the fantasy of wanting to be a general manager of their favorite NFL team, making comments on social media about which player their team should draft. In the end, the NFL drafts are left to the professionals, the general managers.
When the draft is over, it sometimes appear that it is every sports-related website on the internet that comes out with official draft grades on how well a team did with their draft selections. More times than not, fans use those draft grades to debate how well their team did and others didn’t. Unfortunately, draft grades can’t always be a deciding factor on how well that draft went. Sometimes, a draft grade that is given an A for a certain round ends in a bust for that player’s career. The 2021 NFL draft will be no different.
Even though the season hasn’t started, most NFL teams are already into their second pre-season game of the year and the draft outcome is beginning to become clearer. However, in all honesty, it is never a fair assessment of any player’s draft grade until after their second NFL season is completed. Yet, as fans, media, and journalists, there is still the rush to grade a player prior to or during his first NFL season.
So where do the Miami Dolphins fall into the grand scheme of things when it comes to making the correct draft pick? Let’s look with the 2021 NFL draft.
Every NFL football fan in the world probably already knew that the Jacksonville Jaguars were going to select Trevor Lawrence as their number one draft pick because they needed a reliable quarterback. By the time the Dolphins made their first round draft pick, sixth overall, they selected a wide receiver from Alabama, Jaylen Waddle.
Dolphins fans had mixed feelings. Some fans wanted it to be tight end Kyle Pitts (whom had already been taken by Atlanta), running back Najee Harris, offensive tackle Penei Sewell, or wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (whom had already been taken by Cincinnati).
Any NFL team that had a draft pick after Miami’s sixth overall selection can’t be faulted for making a selection not as good as Miami’s. But what about the teams that drafted before the Dolphins? It must first be understood that just because Miami selected a wide receiver, doesn’t mean that other teams with draft picks were necessarily bad because they chose a player that plays a different position. NFL teams draft players that fit their needs and where one team may need a quarterback another team may need a receiver.
In most 2021 NFL draft grades and draft models they had Ja’Marr Chase listed as the best wide receiver in the draft class. Then it was Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith listed as the second best receiver in the draft. But after Chase was selected, overlooking Smith, Dolphins GM Chris Grier selected Jaylen Waddle.
Many sports analysts had Chase listed as the top receiver because of his 2019 National Championship season. He led all of college football with 1,780 yards on the same college team as the 2020 1st round pick, Joe Burrow. He also had 140 yards and a touchdown, averaging over 23 yards against an Alabama Crimson Tide defense. So the question remained during the 2021 draft, was there a receiver better?
According to Chris Grier, he certainly thinks so. Sometimes, stats are unjustifiable and the eye test is much better. When only seeing highlights and listening to media hype about certain players, it can be easy to miss those diamonds in the rough. Chris Grier, Brian Flores, and the Miami Dolphins scout team discovered Jaylen Waddle while scouting Tua Tagovailoa.
Brian Flores said, “…we watched a lot of Tua…doing that, Waddle was somebody who definitely stood out.” Chris Grier praised Devonta Smith as a good player. But Grier said the reason they selected Waddle over Smith was because of his dynamic playmaking and return ability. If you have never seen any of Jaylen Waddle’s plays at Alabama you’ve missed out.
DOLPHINS WITH THE BEST FIRST ROUND PICK?
If you watch the Miami Dolphins this football season, you will be watching the most dynamic receiver that the Dolphins has probably ever had. And his off season camp highlights have certainly lived up to that hype.
In retrospect, Ja’Marr Chase has been having a struggling training camp. To be fair to Chase, he has not played football in over a year, opting out in 2020 due to Covid-19 protocols, and he should get better as he adjusts to the NFL level. But, if stats were a deciding factor for the Bengals pick, then the whole story was never considered. Jaylen Waddle never had a season at Alabama where he had 1,000 receiving yards.
That’s because of his limited targets. Those targets were limited simply because he came in behind players like Jerry Jeudy, Devonta Smith, and Henry Ruggs. When he was being targeted in the 2020 season, he was on a pace to have over 2,000 receiving yards. Unfortunately, a broken ankle ended his 2020 regular season, only to return for a few targets in the National Championship game.
Because the media hyped Chase and Heisman winner Devonta Smith, Waddle’s incredible college career was overlooked. Fortunately, the Miami Dolphins were able to see Waddle play at Alabama and knew what they were seeing.
Now, people are having second thoughts about why Mac Jones didn’t go so high in the draft after having two great pre-season performances. But NFL GMs often fall into the Alabama trap of thinking Alabama quarterbacks or offensive players won’t be good in the NFL since they played for one of the best offensive lines in college.
That thought process has been an argument ever since Derrick Henry was drafted. But Chris Grier isn’t limited to that thought process. Grier has been the Dolphins GM since 2016 and half of his number one draft picks have been from Alabama, with two being from the offensive side of the ball.
Grier knows what he sees and doesn’t necessarily rely on just the numbers nor a mock draft grade. He is looking for a certain player to fit the Brian Flores Dolphins coached scheme. If that player doesn’t fit, Grier won’t draft him no matter what sports analysts are saying about a player.
After listening to some interviews, it isn’t hard to figure out that Grier, Flores, and the Dolphins definitely go beyond the stats and take the time to watch full college games. Yes, all scouts do. That is their job. But what Grier has that other front office staff on other teams may not have is an eye for talent recognition.
Since Chris Grier has been a NFL general manager, he has gifted the NFL with his draft picks with players like Laremy Tunsil, Xavien Howard, Kenyan Drake, Jakeem Grant, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Mike Gesicki, Jason Sanders, Christian Wilkins, Myles Gaskin, Tua Tagovailoa, Raekwon Davis, Jaylen Waddle, and Jaelan Phillips. Those are only a few of the Chris Grier drafted players that Grier has brought into the league.
When it comes to draft picks, Grier doesn’t listen to the pundits, sports analysts, media, fans, and even players. He even goes beyond the stats. For Grier, when other teams may miss it, he does seem to have a knack for recognizing special talents.