The Dolphins started the season being viewed as one of the worst teams in NFL history. They were conceding points for fun and couldn’t muster anything on offence with one of the worst turnover differentials in NFL history. They were a laughing stock.
It’s clear what they were aiming for, the first overall pick and drafting a franchise Quarterback after years of mediocrity with Ryan Tannehill. At first it was a case of Tanking for Tua but following his hip injury, the focus moved to Joe Burrow.
In the end though, they may have played themselves out of contention for the top college prospects, winning five of their last nine games to finish 5-11, good enough for the fifth overall pick. While the fifth pick is not bad a bad position to be in, it’s definitely not what the team were targeting in the offseason as they offloaded talented stars. While it was Miami’s worst season since 2007, they have had 6 or 7 wins seven times in the 12 seasons since. That’s hardly a big drop, although it does make a difference to draft position.
In fact, the Dolphins could easily have won in weeks 5 and 14 against Washington and the Jets. That would have given them the 11th overall pick, which is definitely in the range the Fins were trying to avoid. Given that a couple of points either way would have given them seven wins, having traded away their stars, you have to wonder if they were right to tank in the first place, instead of chasing a wildcard spot.
Co-conspirators against the grand plan
If Miami do end up losing out on their top target, they have three men to thank. Brian Flores did a great job making this team of practice squad members a dangerous underdog. Ryan Fitzpatrick had his second best season in terms of yards (3529) and joint-third most accurate season (62%). Meanwhile DeVante Parker had by far his most ever receptions with 72, earning 1200 yards, with the second best average of his career (16.7 yards).
There were some other notable contributions but these three are the main conspirators against the Dolphins tanking. Had they been dead set on the first overall pick, the Dolphins should have stuck with Josh Rosen at QB. And, while they traded Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick, they gave Parker a contract extension late in the season.
It’s obviously too soon to tell if Miami’s botched strategy will work long term. Even if they don’t have the first overall pick, trading star players yielded considerable fruit. The Dolphins have 15 picks in this year’s draft, seven in the top 100. They have three picks in the first round, one at five, one at 18 and one in the 20s from the Texans. Then they’ll have four picks in the first two rounds in 2021. Currently they have eight picks next season but you would assume that they will trade some of their 15 picks in 2020.
Will wins cost the Dolphins?
Miami’s season ended far better than expected, or planned. The front office now have a tougher offseason ahead. But they still have significant ammunition to move around the draft. There is an irony is though. While they probably won’t get the top QB in the draft, they may still get the best one. With Tua Tagovailoa currently rehabbing an injury, he should be available at 4, or even 18.
Either way, it is arguable that the Dolphins didn’t commit to their grand plan. And, after five wins, was the strategy necessary in the first place?
Even if Miami aren’t in their ideal situation, it is important to develop a winning culture. Had the Dolphins been any more aggressive in tanking, it could have had significant, long lasting effects on the franchise. Brian Flores did a great job getting players playing for him and reaching their potential.
The next stage does carry risk, they still need to pick the right talent. However, that would be the case whether their plan worked to perfection or not.
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