For most of the offseason, the thought has been that “the draft starts at No. 3.” What people mean is that it’s very likely Trevor Lawrence is going to go No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Zach Wilson is going No. 2 to the New York Jets. So with no mystery in the first two picks, the uncertainty of the draft really began at No. 3, where the Miami Dolphins were slated to start the offseason.
This wasn’t the first season where the Dolphins had been a focal point of a draft cycle. Since general manager Chris Grier has been in the decision-making chair, the Dolphins have often been a trending topic in late April. The reason is due to Grier’s approach: treating draft picks like investments instead of just prizes.
It started in Grier’s first draft as general manager, as he was the one who took the chance on the sliding Laremy Tunsil in 2016. But the Dolphins didn’t always sit at pick No. 13 where they selected him. They previously traded down from No. 8 to No. 13 to make that happen. They also drafted cornerback Xavien Howard in the second round. 2017 was not a great draft, as the Dolphins came away with Charles Harris, Raekwon McMillan, and Cordrea Tankersley with their first three picks. However, the following year, Grier made big splashes with Minkah Fitzpatrick, Mike Gesicki, and Jerome Baker.
But 2019 is when things really started to heat up for Grier and his staff. The Dolphins made just one pick in the top 75 that cycle and it was Christian Wilkins in the first round. But later that year, in September to be exact, Grier traded Tunsil to the Houston Texans for a 2020 first-round pick, a 2021 first-round pick, a 2021 second-round pick, cornerback Johnson Bademosi, and offensive tackle Julien Davenport. Two weeks later, Grier traded Fitzpatrick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for another 2020 first-round pick. That has allowed the Dolphins to keep their foot on the gas pedal when it comes to draft day moves.
In 2020, they used their three first-round picks on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, offensive tackle Austin Jackson, and cornerback Noah Igbinoghene. But they were able to move a bit for that last one, as they traded from No. 26 to No. 30 for an extra fourth-round pick—a job well done on an impactful first-round haul. They also had an extra second-round pick that year after trading down in the second round the year before with the New Orleans Saints—another vintage Grier move.
Fast forward to this year and Grier has continued the trend of treating his draft picks not just as prizes but as investments. With the No. 3 overall pick this year (that belonged to Houston originally, but then Miami due to the Tunsil trade), Grier was able to turn that one first-round pick into three by trading down with the San Francisco 49ers to No. 12, picking up extra first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 and an extra third-round pick in 2022. They made quick work of that deal, as they used one of those extra picks shortly after to move from No. 12 to No. 6 in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. All in all, the Dolphins moved down three spots and gained an extra first-round pick in 2023, an extra third-round pick in 2022, and an extra fifth-round pick in 2021.
Grier’s fearlessness to move around in the draft is the gift that keeps on giving. Did he get lucky with the Texans being as bad as they were? Sure, he did. But we all need a little luck to get to the places we want to go. As of right now, no general manager as of late has done more with the investments of draft picks than Grier. As we’ve seen before, these are the types of general managers who have a chance to really put their team in a good position to open a winning window and keep it open for an extended period of time.