The Dolphins owned the most picks entering the 2020 NFL Draft and had 14 opportunities to add a player of significance to their roster.
General manager Chris Grier and head coach Brian Flores entered a pivotal moment in the team’s rebuild, and all eyes were on the three first-round picks. Miami came out of Day 1 with Tua Tagovailoa, Austin Jackson and Noah Igbinoghene.
In this new series, I will analyze quotes that stuck out the most from executives’ pre- and post-draft press conferences. When recapping the Dolphins’ 2020 draft class, Grier had plenty of interesting comments to share.
Question: What was it about Tagovailoa that really set him apart and made him the right selection for this franchise at No. 5?
Grier: “We’ve always talked about going through the process. Brian [Flores], myself, the coaching staff and scouts — watching him for a couple of years and finally getting — meeting him at the [NFL Scouting] Combine and getting to know him and find out what type of person he really is, which we all heard great things. You really get to sit down and talk to people and you don’t really truly know; I think for us, it was going through our process. There were a lot of talented players and we really liked [Tagovailoa] and we felt very comfortable at the end of the day that he would be a fit here and bringing him here.”
Analysis: The anticipated marriage between the Dolphins and Tagovailoa was one of the worst kept secrets during the pre-draft process. The "Tank For Tua" campaign caught steam during the lead up to the 2019 season. Miami was in need of a franchise player on offense.
There were many smokescreens leading up to the draft. The Dolphins even went as far as to say they were split between Justin Herbert and Tagovailoa. But in the end, Miami stuck with Tagovailoa.
Question: How did you guys navigate maybe the reports and smokescreen season so to speak? It seemed like every single day there was something new coming out. How did you guys handle that in your decision to stick at No. 5 and believe Tagovailoa would be there?
Grier: “For us, we always talked about going through our process and doing it. Brian and I had a few laughs [about] a lot of stuff that came out. At the end of the day, you block it out. We go through our process. I know we keep talking about it, but it is and that’s what it is. It starts with their play on the field and the postseason all-star games, the combine, interviews and workouts — all that stuff. For us, it’s just noise on the outside. We kind of work through it and we just kind of go through our process.”
Analysis: It's very rare to hear a general manager actually address some of the rumors that surfaced during the pre-draft process. Grier laughing at some of them is interesting because it means that they actually paid attention to the outside noise surrounding their possible moves.
Question: I want to ask you about that last pick there at No. 30 with Igbinoghene. What made you guys want to go with a cornerback there? Obviously, you guys got two pretty good ones on your team already.
Grier: “[He was the] best player on the board for us. We felt really good about Noah. We got to know him. This is a passing league as everyone says. You can never have enough corners. Brian came from a really good defensive team when we hired him and they had a lot of corners. At the end of the day, the way this league is offensively, it’s a premium position and the more you have, the better. It breeds competition. [He’s a] competitive kid that we really liked in the process.”
Analysis: Cornerback was one of the last positions that anyone expected the Dolphins to address, but hearing Grier mention Igbinoghene was the best player available circles back to that common philosophy — taking the best player on the board — opposed to reaching for a need in order to fill a spot. Igbinoghene was the highest-rated player on Miami’s board, but he played a position it already had over $150 million in salary tied into to.
It was a risky proposition, but the Dolphins were correct thinking they can't have too many defensive backs. The NFL executes more 11 personnel sets, and passes from it, and having three reliable cornerbacks at the top of the depth chart has become a necessity. Byron Jones and Xavien Howard are two well-proven players at the position; if Igbinoghene's development can come along earlier than expected, it could give Miami one of the best young groups across the league.
For more “General Manager Speak,” see Cincinnati's executives discuss its 2020 draft class.