The Miami Dolphins essentially control the NFL Draft. After a year in which Ryan Fitzpatrick led the team in rushing yards, the Dolphins now have three first-round picks along with a plethora of picks in the later rounds. While the running game could definitely use improvement, the Dolphins shouldn’t use any on their early-round picks to draft a running back. Quite frankly, Miami has too many holes on the roster to justify using a high pick on a luxury position.
Miami Dolphins Should Not Draft A Running Back Early
Running backs, more than any other position in football, are entirely dependent upon their situation. You can have the NFL’s most talented runner, but it won’t matter if the offensive line is bad. Look at what happened with Todd Gurley in 2016. Stuck with an outdated coach in Jeff Fisher and a poor offensive line, Gurley only averaged 3.2 yards-per-attempt. In 2017, Sean McVay took over and completely overhauled the offensive line. Now with adequate blocking in front of him, Gurley recorded a combined 2,556 yards and 30 touchdowns over the next two seasons.
The Dolphins offensive line is easily the worst in the league, and they won’t be able to fix it overnight. Literally every position needs to be upgraded, and no running back will have above-average production behind that offensive line. Investing a top pick in a player doomed to fail is just poor business.
Running backs are a bit of a catch-22 in today’s NFL, because it’s never smart to heavily invest in the position. If the blocking is poor, the running back can’t succeed. However, if the blocking is good, there are enough running backs capable of putting up starting-caliber production.
Going back to Gurley, the former first-round pick missed the final two games of the 2018 season and only played a complementary role in their postseason run. In his place, C.J. Anderson came in and basically matched Gurley’s production. Nobody would argue that Anderson and Gurley are equally talented, but Anderson was able to match Gurley’s production because rushing success has a lot more to do with situation and blocking than it does the actual running back.
This situation isn’t an outlier, as data around the league shows that running backs just don’t move the needle in today’s NFL. Running backs have a negligible effect on the actual success of a running play, and you don’t need to establish the run to set up play action.
Obviously, nobody wants to start Patrick Laird or Kalen Ballage for a full 16-game season, but the Dolphins have too many other important positions to upgrade. Staying in the AFC East, the New England Patriots selected running back Sony Michel in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. While that selection was questionable at best, one could justify it by pointing out that the Patriots had a championship-caliber roster and could afford to waste a top pick on a luxury position.
The same cannot be said for the Miami Dolphins. Even though they didn’t finish with the worst record in the league, they probably have the NFL’s least talented roster. Outside of maybe wide receiver, every position needs to be upgraded. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the long-term answer under center, the offensive line is a mess, the secondary is in shambles, and nobody can get to the quarterback. Even wide receiver is something of a question mark, as DeVante Parker’s breakout season could be a one-year fluke and Preston Williams might not be the same coming off a torn ACL.
All of these positions matter considerably more than the running back, and all of them need to be upgraded. The Dolphins have tons of cap space and draft picks, but just as many needs. The NFL is a passing league now, and the Dolphins should do everything they can to upgrade their passing attack and compete in an AFC East that might not have Tom Brady in it anymore. Instead of reaching for a guy like Jonathan Taylor in the first, the Dolphins should just wait to grab someone like A.J. Dillon in the fourth.
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