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At this point of the season, it is already known what direction the Miami Dolphins are going in.
Then again, you could make the case the Dolphins were going in this direction before the season even started.
Linebacker Kiko Alonso, left tackle Laremy Tunsil, wide receiver Kenny Stills: All traded before the NFL regular season kicked off. And, of course, the trade of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Pittsburgh Steelers at the end of week two.
The process is underway. The Miami Dolphins are building for the future and stashing up on as many draft picks as possible.
The question arises, though. What should be done with them?
Before this, one should keep score of what the Dolphins have to work with. With the trade of Tunsil and Stills to the Houston Texans, the Dolphins received a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, along with a first-round and second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. In the Fitzpatrick trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dolphins received another first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Together, this gives the Dolphins three first-round picks in the 2020 Draft and two first-round picks in the 2021 Draft as it stands right now. And this is not even discussing the plethora of other picks they received in smaller-tier trades over the past year.
To put it simply, the Dolphins are hoarding draft picks. They have a surplus of them.
Let’s get back to the main question and the reason for this article. What should be done with them? What direction should the Dolphins go in?
Not Alabama-phenom Tua Tagovailoa. But Trevor Lawrence. The long-haired Clemson superstar.
One might be saying the obvious elephant in the room at this point: Lawrence is not eligible for the NFL Draft until 2021, whereas Tagovailoa is eligible in the upcoming draft.
Do the Dolphins need a quarterback? Of course. And they will get one.
Who, though? It should be Lawrence. The quarterback many are saying is the most sure-fire, electric and dynamic quarterback in college football since Andrew Luck at Stanford.
Let’s start with how the Dolphins are built right now. Better yet, the lack thereof. After all of their trades, one could see the Dolphins now as an empty plot of land needing to be built from the ground up into a steady, sturdy and comfortable house that will become stable for years to come.
To do this, the architect and corresponding construction workers do not start by putting the planks down and start building the house right away. Steps must be taken beforehand to make sure the material for the house stays upright and does not collapse into rubble. The foundation-laying of the land and cementing of the plot are ways to do this.
In football terms, the quarterback is the material of the house. The cementing and foundation-laying? The offensive line.
The Miami Dolphins should prioritize the offensive line in the upcoming draft over a quarterback such as Tagovailoa, and then go after Lawrence the year after.
With the trade of Tunsil, the Dolphins offensive line has been the worst in the entire league. They have allowed the most quarterback hits in the NFL with 23, while also being tied for first in sacks allowed with ten. Need I remind you that it is only week three of the 2019 NFL season.
The good news for Miami is that the offensive line in the upcoming draft is deep, led by the likes of Andrew Thomas from Georgia, Trey Adams from Washington, Calvin Throckmorton from Oregon, Walker Little from Stanford, and Tyler Biadasz from Wisconsin, among many others. Whether looking at it from a guard, tackle or center perspective, the 2020 NFL Draft will have it.
The Miami Dolphins have a golden opportunity that, in the annals of NFL history, does not come along often, if at all. With their overabundance of draft picks, they have the opportunity to completely transform their offensive line from a weakness to a sure-fire strength in one draft.
When looking at the elite offensive lines in the league today, such as the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles or New England Patriots, they were not made elite in one draft. It took several drafts. Why? They did not have as many picks in a single draft as the Dolphins do right now.
Back to the house-building analogy. The cementing and leveling of the land are essential to the house staying upright and stable for years to come. Not doing so from the beginning can lead to catastrophic results and attempting to catch up and fix the area after everything is laid down could be too little too late.
An example? Andrew Luck.
Luck retired at age 29 due to the significant amount of injuries he had to deal with from being one of the most pressured and hit quarterbacks in the league during his time playing. The reason? The lack of a stable offensive line. Even younger quarterbacks in the league, such as Deshaun Watson and Kyler Murray have seen and will continue to see constant pressure. Enough of it could eventually lead to injuries to the point of not being as effective as they could be.
Building around and making a priority of getting a quarterback first, and then the offensive line second is risky.
The Dolphins, with the trade of young players in Tunsil and Fitzpatrick, look to be undergoing a rebuild that will take not one, but perhaps two or three years. With this direction they seem to be going in, it makes sense to be patient and to not pull the trigger too early on netting a quarterback, even one of Tagovailoa’s caliber. Building other areas up first would make sense.
It is the right play. Being patient in the rebuilding process makes sure the team does not attempt to do too much right out of the gate. Not rushing the process, so to speak.
Being patient in the Dolphins case also makes sure they build a stable team that can challenge their division rivals.
In particular, the New England Patriots.
In two years, Tom Brady will be 44 years old. Building up the offensive line in the upcoming draft, and then getting Lawrence the draft after, gives the Dolphins a firm foundation to permanently give the Patriots a run for their money. Having an offensive line and Lawrence has a much better chance of unhinging Brady and the Patriots than Tagovailoa and an offensive line that could still be patchwork.
It has a better chance of being able to win shootouts versus the Patriots and other AFC teams. The Chiefs. The Steelers. The Chargers. The Browns. AFC teams the Dolphins could be facing should they make the postseason.
Now, there are risks to gambling on going after Lawrence two drafts from now, and there is a valid reason the Dolphins should get Tagovailoa in the upcoming draft. To start, other rebuilding teams could end up being worse than the Dolphins to the point of poaching Lawrence before they have a chance to snag him. The Dolphins could also get Tagovailoa and use their remaining draft picks to get offensive linemen after him, while also supplementing the offensive line in free agency with the cap space they have.
Perfectly valid reasons.
But to permanently be a force in the NFL, to be able to consistently go to Super Bowls and win them, and to become a dynasty, risks have to be taken.
For general manager Chris Grier, the architect of the house needing to be built, that is the next Dolphins playoff and Super Bowl team, risks will have to be taken. To become the best house in the neighborhood, decisions will have to be made. Grier’s legacy, and job, will depend on it.
What direction Miami goes in has yet to be seen.
But that firm foundation, and that shiny new house sitting on top of it, should be Trevor Lawrence.