Where will the Miami Dolphins draft when they are on the clock?

The Miami Dolphins are on the clock in the  2021 NFL Draft. It’s the time of year when armchair pundits ask ourselves who the Dolphins should draft in 2021.

Mock NFL drafts have the Miami Dolphins drafting a WR or an OT at #6.  What players and positions do you think the Dolphins should target in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft?

When I look at what the Dolphins should do, I like to look at the draft with a slightly different perspective.  I like math and in particular, I like statistics.

I like gauging the success of previous draft picks, the positions they played, and where they were drafted.  This helps me realize that the college player we think is the best at a particular position rarely is and thus I can better prioritize the players on my draft board.

In terms of what positions the Dolphins need and what they’ve gained by going from three to six, I’d say Grier and Flores are already doing a great job.  Year after year both Grier and Flores continue to earn my praise and respect.  Will it continue?

Let’s play pretend.  Let’s pretend that I am the Dolphins GM.  I would ask myself two questions prior to making my draft board for 2021.  What are the odds of me getting the draft pick right, no matter how right I think I am, and what positions are easier to rank in their proper order of talent?

I ask these questions because everyone wants the Dolphins to draft a receiver at 6.  But, receivers are notoriously hard to rank appropriately.

I researched some statistics regarding the NFL draft based on particular positions.  How much more successful was the first player drafted at a position than subsequent players at the same position?  In other words, how good is the NFL at assessing talent at a particular position and what does that mean for the Dolphins?

As we well know the Dolphins are in need of a receiver and have been widely mocked as picking one with the sixth overall pick.

As a matter of historical fact, the first receiver taken in the draft is rarely better than a subsequent receiver taken in the draft.  Odds are, no matter how right you think you are, you’re more likely to be way wrong when it comes to certain positions and by all accounts, the receiver is a difficult position to assess.

Samuel Teets wrote an article about the danger of drafting wide receivers.

2020 NFL Draft: How dangerous is taking a first-round wide receiver?  The article goes through several draft classes of receivers and how they faired relatively to draft status.  A sample paragraph is below.

“The pattern of mid-round receivers outproducing first-rounders continued in 2017. After Corey Davis, Mike Williams, and John Ross all went in the first ten overall picks, Curtis Samuel and JuJu Smith-Schuster went in the second round. The third round left an even bigger impression on the NFL, presenting Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, and Cooper Kupp.”

I contend that the same warnings apply to the Miami Dolphins and drafting a receiver for 2021.  On the other hand, offensive linemen and tight ends are easier to evaluate…. Aka Pitts or Sewell.

You can read more about a player’s position vs draft success in this article by Brad Gagnon.  Which Positions Are the Safest, Riskiest at the Top of the NFL Draft?

I trust Grier and Flores, but if it were me, I’d take Pitts or Sewell before Chase (caveat below).

The case for Pitts. Tight Ends are much easier to evaluate and an elite tight end is also much harder to find later in the draft.  Pitts is a match-up nightmare and is as good as any receiver in the draft.  I would pick Pitts before Chase.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – DECEMBER 30: Kyle Pitts #84 of the Florida Gators runs with the ball against the Virginia Cavaliers at the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on December 30, 2019 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Florida defeated Virginia 36-28. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The case for Sewell.  An average running back looks great behind a great offensive line (see Breida).  An average quarterback looks near-elite with more time to throw, play-action that works, and a running game the other teams fear (see Tannehill).  If adding Sewell can give Tua just .5 seconds more time to throw the ball, he makes Tua immeasurably better on day one.  I would pick Sewell before Chase.

If Chase were my only option at 6, I would probably trade back for more picks.  Uh Oh, I hear the yelling now.  For all you out there getting upset at my analysis, I’m not a scout nor am I privy to the Dolphins scouting report.

(Caveat) If the scouting report says that Chase will be the best receiver ever – then pick him.  Right now, I’m using statistical facts from previous drafts to shape my decisions at number 6:  I’m picking Pitts or Sewell or trading back.

I’ll use the same type of analysis to look at the Dolphins’ next three picks in my next article.