The race for the first-overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft ended with a bang Sunday.
Fans across all 32 fanbases watched in awe as each of the top-four teams in the draft order entering Week 16 were simultaneously deadlocked in overtime while playing against each other. And as both the New York Giants/Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins/Cincinnati Bengals wrangled for leverage on the field and in the draft, a final resolution emerged.
The Bengals will own the No. 1 pick come April and, with that pick, Zac Taylor will presumably acquire his new franchise quarterback in LSU's Joe Burrow. The rest of the field? The Giants "won" in overtime, leaving the Redskins to "win" the greatest of all consolation prizes — the chance to draft Ohio State defensive end Chase Young with the second-overall pick. The silver lining for the Giants is they drafted their quarterback in 2019. Rookie QB Daniel Jones had arguably his best game as a pro, launching five touchdown passes on his way to a much needed stat-padding performance.
The silver lining for the Dolphins? There is plenty to pick from, especially for a team that some suggested would go down as the worst in NFL history in mid-September. But none of those silver linings are going to appease the hand wringing and fear-mongering Dolphins fans endure on a daily basis.
"This season was a failure," the skeptics will proclaim. "The entire point of this season was to draft the best quarterback in the NFL draft and he's going to Cincinnati!"
Well, not exactly.
Two months ago, the "do-or-die" prospect for the Dolphins was actually Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. And although his forecast has shifted in the aftermath of a brutal hip injury suffered in November, the Dolphins are still positioned to draft the player staunch "tankers" were ready to go 0-16 for if necessary. But now there's gloom and doom Miami won't draft Burrow, instead.
Here's the dirty little secret of drafting QBs: their situation is equally as important to their forecast as a player. And the Dolphins, despite what their current roster is constructed as, have one of the better situations among bottom dwellers in the NFL. This is why those losing sleep over Miami's ability to draft Burrow or bust aren't seeing the big picture.
Think about all of the best quarterbacks drafted in the first round over the last five years. The top tier is some combination of Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson. Carson Wentz and Jared Goff are in the next tier. Josh Allen appears to be the best of the third tier for now, although he can still be maddeningly streaky and inconsistent from quarter to quarter.
We have two years of film on Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield — both are viable starters but there have been some bumps playing under new coaches. Kyler Murray also appears to be a suitable starting quarterback but we need more time to determine where he's going to fall on the spectrum.
The book is still out on Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins, things aren't looking very good for Josh Rosen, Mitchell Trubisky has regressed to a scary degree in Year 3 and the pick of Paxton Lynch by the Denver Broncos is officially a bust.
Think about the top few tiers of recent first-round quarterbacks and where they were drafted.
- Kansas City drafted Mahomes at No. 10 after trading up from 27
- Houston drafted Watson at No. 12 after trading up from 25
- Baltimore drafted Jackson at No. 32 after trading up from 52 … after passing on Jackson earlier in the round
- Philadelphia drafted Wentz at No. 2 after trading twice to move up from 13
- Los Angeles drafted Goff at No. 1 after trading up from 15
- Buffalo drafted Allen at No. 7 after trading twice to move up from 21
The best young QBs don't automatically come by going to teams that stunk into oblivion to acquire them. The best young quarterbacks come by targeting talented passers who are able to step into a support system that's able to nurture and empower them.
That's what makes the Dolphins' proposition so intriguing because the roster isn't good. But that’s because they hit the reset button, not because they're inept or handled by poor coaching. Quite the contrary.
Miami, after starting the season 0-7, is 4-4 in its last eight games with unquestionably the least talented roster in football. Yet coaching continues to provide the team opportunities to stay competitive and has put players like DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, Nik Needham, Jerome Baker, Vince Biegel, Eric Rowe and others in positions to succeed.
The Dolphins’ coaching should be celebrated after the departure from the overly conservative approach of Tony Sparano, the bumbling incompetence of Joe Philbin and the blind arrogance of Adam Gase. In a perfect world, they would have lost to the Bengals and gone on to magically acquire the first-overall pick. Burrow would be a phenomenal fit for this team. He seems to check many of the same intangible boxes that Ryan Fitzpatrick has as a charismatic leader in 2019, but Burrow has the advantage of youth, more athleticism and better decision making at his disposal. However, the world isn't perfect. It's gritty and tough and keeps on swinging — just like the Dolphins.
As Miami's season comes to the finish line, an assessment of its as an organization will reveal it does indeed have every ingredient for a turnaround. No, the Dolphins don't have a magic elixir at quarterback. They don't have an easy button. But they've got a clear vision, they've got a foundation of players established thanks to the 2019 season, they have a boatload of draft capital, they will have their choice of QBs not named Burrow and more importantly they have the culture and coaching necessary to provide a young quarterback with the needed environment to be successful.
As recent history has shown us, that's more important than where you're picking anyway.