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Miami Dolphins NFL draft picks 2021: Analysis for every selection

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Jaylen Waddle's NFL potential shines through in his Alabama mixtape (1:49)

Check out highlights from Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle ahead of the 2021 NFL draft. (1:49)

The 2021 NFL draft was held April 29 through May 1 and every Miami Dolphins draft pick has been analyzed here.

After last season's virtual draft, Cleveland played host to festivities this year with a handful of potential draft picks present and socially distanced because of COVID-19.

Here's a pick-by-pick look at how each player Miami has selected will fit.

Analysis of every NFL pick | Updated NFL depth charts


Round 1, No. 6 overall: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

My take: The Dolphins were smart to add an elite wide receiver prospect in Waddle to build around and help quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Speed and electric playmaking ability were the Dolphins' top offensive deficiencies in 2020, and if those don't describe Waddle perfectly then nothing does. He should immediately become of the NFL's most explosive returners and slot receivers with the potential to be more. My big question here is if DeVonta Smith was a slightly better option than Waddle. Smith, the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner, was far more productive in college and he's more polished as a route runner. In full transparency, I preferred Smith, but the Dolphins are clearly betting on the upside, projection and speed of Waddle to transition into a better NFL receiver.

The lingering takeaway is the Dolphins had one of the NFL's slowest and worst separating offenses in the NFL last season. Then they signed one of the NFL's best threats in William Fuller V and drafted Waddle. They attacked a need and it should help Tagovailoa tremendously.

Tide family reunion: It's a family reunion bringing Waddle together with former Tide teammate Tagovailoa -- instant chemistry. It's another clear sign the Dolphins are building around Tagovailoa, getting him playmakers that fit his skill set and players he already knows. This is the third Alabama player selected in the past two drafts and fifth in the past six drafts for Miami. They love their Tide players. The big thing to track is if the Dolphins picked the better receiver between Smith and Waddle, but the Dolphins don't seem to have much doubt and are happy they landed the one they've targeted for a while.

Was the big trade worth it?: The Dolphins' trade out of No. 3 made them miss out on drafting Florida tight end Kyle Pitts or LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, who went No. 4 and No. 5, respectively. Will there be any buyers' remorse? The Dolphins will say they have no regrets and they'll have a 2023 first-round pick as a product of the trade, but if Pitts and/or Chase become All Pro players and Waddle doesn't, this decision will be revisited. Also, the Dolphins could have stayed at No. 12 and kept their 2022 first-round pick while possibly landing Smith. Was securing Waddle worth giving up that extra first? Things to watch in the years to come, but Miami is betting on coming out on the strong side on both of these lingering questions.


Round 1, No. 18 overall: Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami

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Jaelan Phillips' NFL draft profile

Check out the best plays from Miami DE Jaelan Phillip's college career.

My take: The Dolphins, as expected, drafted an offensive playmaker at No. 6 and a defensive edge rusher at No. 18. There might be some disappointment that this pick isn't running back Najee Harris, but pass-rusher is a more valuable position and arguably an even bigger need. Phillips is a high-risk, high-reward pick. He was seen by many as the draft's top edge rusher by many scouts because of his physical attributes, production in 2020 at Miami and his upside. The concern was his medical, given he was forced to medically retire at UCLA because of concussions. There were a couple other edge-rusher options available in Michigan's Kwity Paye and Georgia's Azeez Ojulari, but taking Phillips here is a sign Miami is comfortable with any medical concerns.

Going back to Miami: Phillips is from California, but he says Miami, where he played college ball, saved him and he was beyond ecstatic to be going back to South Florida. The Dolphins saw him up close at Miami's pro day and used their close contacts to feel comfortable with him. This is the first time since 2012 the Dolphins have taken a Miami Hurricane (both Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller were drafted in 2012), and it's also the first time the Dolphins have selected a Hurricane defensive player in Round 1.

Sacks without blitzing: Over the past two seasons under coach Brian Flores, the Dolphins ranked 31st in pass rush win rate according to NFL Next Gen Stats, defeating their blocks within 2.5 seconds just 35% of the time. Only the Lions were worse. Adding Phillips should big a boost to that rate, and pairing him with Emmanuel Ogbah gives the Dolphins a duo that offenses have to worry about every week. The Dolphins blitzed 39% of the time last season, third most in the NFL, but with Phillips they might not have to send that much extra pressure to get home.

What's next: The Dolphins head into Day 2 with picks at No. 36, No. 50 and No. 81 giving them flexibility, but the biggest remaining need is running back with all eyes on North Carolina's Javonte Williams. Miami could also use upgrades on the offensive line with potential options available including Oklahoma State offensive tackle Teven Jenkins, Alabama center Landon Dickerson, Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey, North Dakota State center Dillon Radunz and Wisconsin-Whitewater center Quinn Meinerz.


Round 2, No. 36 overall: Jevon Holland, S, Oregon

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Jevon Holland's NFL draft profile

Check out the best highlights from Oregon safety Jevon Holland's college career.

My take: First let's get it out of the way, the Dolphins missed out on the top tier of running backs for the second consecutive year which has to be considered a disappointment. Javonte Williams went at No.35 to the Broncos right before Miami's pick and it's worth wondering if Miami did enough to secure one of them.

But beyond that, Holland is a perfect fit in Flores' defense. He has that special buzz word -- versatility -- and can play deep safety and man-to-man out of the slot. In fact, Holland played 64% of his coverage snaps in the slot at Oregon. Holland is a playmaker with nine interceptions over two seasons, which should help the Dolphins be better covering sideline-to-sideline and tackling speedy receivers. Miami allowed 6.2 yards after catch per reception last season, easily the worst in the NFL (next-closest were the Chiefs at 5.8).

The lingering impact of this pick could impact veteran Bobby McCain, who has a $6.4 million non-guaranteed salary. Holland could be his replacement if he's ready to start from Week 1.


Round 2, No. 42 overall: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame

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Liam Eichenberg's NFL draft profile

Check out highlights from Notre Dame OL Liam Eichenberg's college career.

My take: The Dolphins were a near-lock to take an offensive lineman on Day 2, and the theme of positional versatility continued with Eichenberg. He played mostly left tackle at Notre Dame, but seems like an ideal fit as a Day 1 starter for Miami at right tackle with 2020 second-round pick Rob Hunt likely to move to right guard. Eichenberg says he's willing to play all five positions if asked, though he's never played center. His game isn't sexy -- he's not overwhelmingly fast or strong -- but since the start of 2019, he has allowed a pressure on 1.1% of pass blocks, fourth best among 90 players with at least 400 pass blocks at left tackle.

The hesitation in this move is the Dolphins gave up a 2022 third-round pick to move up eight spots from No. 50 to No. 42 when many NFL executives view next year's picks as very valuable given there will be more certainty in the scouting process. But if the Dolphins found a long-term starting offensive lineman, then nobody will worry about the cost.

Miami continues to prioritize building around Tagovailoa with a speedy playmaker in Jaylen Waddle in the first round and now a consistent NFL-ready offensive lineman in Eichenberg in the second round. It's a smart process.


Round 3, No. 81 overall: Hunter Long, TE, Boston College

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Hunter Long's NFL draft profile

Check out the highlights from Boston College TE Hunter Long's college career.

My take: This is the first true surprise pick because outside of Kyle Pitts there didn't seem to be a reason for the Dolphins to select a tight end with four others essentially locked into a roster spot this season. It seems clear this move was made to provide insurance for if Mike Gesicki and/or Durham Smythe leave for free agency next year.

Long is a good player who led the FBS in catches, played for Dolphins' roster at the Senior Bowl and played at Boston College -- Flores' alma mater. But it's worth wondering if the Dolphins could have got more value taking available players such as center Quinn Meinerz, running backs Michael Carter or Trey Sermon, or linebackers Baron Browning, Jabril Cox or Ronnie Perkins.

What Long does provide is yet another playmaker for Tagovailoa, who will have no shortage of pass-catchers to target.


Round 7, No. 231 overall: Larnel Coleman, OT, UMass

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Cincy's Doaks 72-yard rush sets up his 2-yard TD

Gerrid Doaks enjoys the open field for 72 yards before being tackled within reach of the goal line, then he caps off the run with the short rushing touchdown.

My take: The Dolphins believe you can never have too many offensive linemen so hard to argue with them taking a developmental tackle here with the second-largest wingspan in the draft. Coleman is very athletic with experience playing both left and right tackle.

Seventh round picks are always a long shot to be significant contributors but Coleman's skillset indicates he could develop to becoming a swing tackle for the Dolphins even if he needs to spend 2021 on the practice squad.


Round 7, No. 244 overall: Gerrid Doaks, RB, Cincinnati

My take: The Dolphins drafted a running back! This position was by far the biggest gripe of Dolphins' fans who were hoping for a new lead back in 2021. Doaks likely won't fill that role, but he can find himself a spot on Miami's roster. Doaks is a power back with NFL size (5-foot-11, 228 pounds) who brings his best every time he plays.

Myles Gaskin appears to one of the biggest winners of draft weekend as he still holds the Dolphins lead back role with Salvon Ahmed and veteran signing Malcolm Brown forming a steady three-headed backfield. Receiving back Patrick Laird and Doaks will compete for the final spot in the running back room with special teams likely playing a role for the winner.