The Miami Dolphins were very active leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft. To recap, they traded the 3rd overall pick to the San Francisco 49ers, rising to 12, and acquired two future first-round picks in exchange (2022 and 2023). Soon after, the Dolphins traded their own 2022 1st-round draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles to move up from 12th to 6th, where they ultimately selected Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle.
Over the past two seasons, I’ve found myself rooting almost as strongly against Houston and Pittsburgh as I do against Miami, knowing that we have some of their draft capital through trades Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick. This season will be no different with San Francisco. Unfortunately, due to the talent, schedule and training of the 49ers, I can’t say we’ll see the same returns as with these teams.
Last season the 49ers caught the worst injury case I can remember. This is also true in the metrics. Football Outsiders keeps statistics on games missed due to injury, adjusted for player importance. According to their metrics, the Niners have missed a total of 166.6 games due to injury. It was 32 games more than the next highest team in 2020, and the second highest recorded in the past 20 seasons. The Niners’ biggest losses included Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Jimmy Garoppolo, Deebo Samuel, Richard Sherman, Dee Ford and Raheem Mostert. Injury issues were the main reason for their disappointing 6-10 record.
Regardless of who wins the quarterback position, the identity of the Niners begins and ends with the running game. The additions of Alex Mack (C), Trey Sermon (RB) and Aaron Banks (OG), coupled with top racing blocking tackles Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey, should see them return to the dominant racing formula that led them at Super Bowl LIV.
Perhaps San Francisco’s greatest asset is Kyle Shanahan. For all the shine Sean McVay gets in LA, I think Shanahan is just as good, if not better. Like McVay, he has a knack for play and design. The most conventional form of coordination is to isolate as many favorable individual confrontations on the pitch as possible and exploit them… like Travis Kelce in KC or DK Metcalf in Seattle. Shanahan has a slightly modified approach. He uses the system to create lags, thus relieving the players within the system.
Shanahan designs the San Francisco racing and game cups to look the same before the crash. In a twisted game of bait and swap, he manipulates the expectations of the defenses by calling up different wrinkles of the same pre-snap look that the offense just showed in one or more previous games. The result leaves defenses confused and creates running lanes for the running backs and an open field for the receivers.
Vegas Sportsbook has San Francisco’s over / under regular season win total set at 10.5 games. I predict they will end the regular season at 11-6 and narrowly lose the division to the Rams. However, they still make the playoffs as a wild card and go for a deep playoff run, losing to Tampa Bay in the NFC Championship. Of course, this is only a precise estimate of how the season will unfold. To cover it up a bit, I’ll just say that they make the playoffs and win at least one game. That loosely defines San Francisco’s (and therefore Miami’s) 2022 draft niche as between 25 and 32. If the pick falls within that range, there are a few perspectives I like that Miami can draft.
Perrion Winfrey (no connection to Oprah) is a defensive tackle who is screened by several fictitious draft sites to be available at the end of the 1st round. He came on the radar in the second half of last season for Oklahoma. Winfrey doesn’t fill out the stats sheet but he eats blockers and scrambles the A-gap. Running defense was an area of relative weakness for Miami in 2020. They gave up 4.5 yards per carry, tied for 13th in the league.
Raekwon Davis has had a promising rookie campaign for the Dolphins, while Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler fulfill their End-D roles fairly well. The defensive line shouldn’t be a dire need for the next offseason, as all three are under contract. until at least 2022. Winfrey’s draft would serve to stack depth on the roster and add a specialized racing stopper.
Another guy to watch is Texas linebacker DeMarvion Overshown. He is 6’4 “, 217 pounds and is a former safety. Overshown has compiled 8 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 7 defensive passes and 2 forced fumbles in 2020, his first season in LB. While Jerome Baker and Benardrick McKinney are locked under contract the next few seasons, Miami lacks depth behind them. Overshown has the great frame and cover instinct that Flores likes to have in linebackers. He could be a value in the 25-32 lineup where we’ve seen them. best linebacker prospects in recent years.
While we certainly hope for the best, I would be remiss if I did not consider the possibility that Tua does not play out this season. If so, Miami will likely be in the market to move up to select a QB. Fortunately, they have the capital to do so. 2022 is set to be another deep draft for the QB, featuring over 6 players with serious first-round potential.
Sam Howell and Spencer Rattler lead a group that also includes Carson Strong, Kedon Slovis and JT Daniels. Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder and Matt Corral are also scheming as a double threat QB. Not all of these players will become first-round darlings next season, but there is a larger base of high potential playmakers that we haven’t seen in some time. It’s possible that the Dolphins only need a few spots, if at all, to get a QB they want.
Hopefully Miami can build on the successes of last season, make a run to the playoffs and let Philly hold our weak 1st round pick. We will simultaneously keep an eye on San Francisco and look forward to another unusually low year from them. Much remains to be seen.