2020 Miami Dolphins Outlook
After a slow start (0-7) in his rookie season as a head coach, Brian Flores saved his job by winning five of his final nine games. The Miami Dolphins started the year by being outscored 162 to 26 over the first four contests.
Flores worked in New England's system for 15 years with a variety of jobs. Over the last eight seasons with the Patriots, he worked on the defensive side of the ball as a defensive assistant, safeties coach, and linebackers coach. Flores has been a part of four Super Bowl winnings teams and seven AFC Championships.
After retiring for three years, Miami coaxed Chan Gailey into taking over their offensive for 2020. He struggled over his five seasons as a head coach (34-46) while making the playoffs in 1998 and 1999 for the Cowboys. Gailey coached in the NFL for 26 seasons, with nine years coming as an offensive coordinator.
Last year Miami ranked 25th in points scored (306) and 27th in offensive yards, which was an improvement from 2018 (30th in points scored – 319 and 31st in offensive yards).
Josh Boyer takes over as the defensive coordinator after working last year as a cornerbacks coach while handling the defensive pass game responsibilities. He worked with Brian Flores in New England for 13 seasons.
The Dolphins allowed a league-high 494 points, which was 61 more than 2018. They also slipped a notch in yards allowed (30th).
Their big signing in the offseason was CB Byron Jones, who ranked highly in coverage over the past two seasons for the Cowboys. Jones picked up over $50 million in guaranteed money over a five-year deal.
The Dolphins added four players (LB Kyle Van Noy, LB Shaq Lawson, LB Elandon Roberts, and C Ted Karras) that played for division foes in 2019. Van Noy showed growth in his production over his three and a half seasons for New England. Lawson helped the Bills to a successful season on defense in 2020. He is a former first-round draft pick (2016) who showed improvement rushing the quarterback last year. Roberts saw his opportunity slide to a backup role in 2019 after playing at a league-average level this previous season.
Injuries on the offensive line in New England led to Karras earning a full time starting job for the first time in his career. He projects as a starter for Miami while needing to clean up his risk in pass protection.
They also signed G Ereck Flowers. His path to the Dolphins came via underwhelming seasons for the Giants, the Jaguars, and the Redskins. DE Emmanuel Ogbah made the jump for the penthouse (Chiefs) to the outhouse (Miami) in the offseason. He missed the second half of 2019 with a pectoral injury after being on pace to set a career-high in sacks.
Miami decided to invest in RB Jordan Howard to improve the power run game. They also acquired RB Matt Breida in a deal during the 2020 NFL Draft. Breida adds speed to the running back positions with some pass-catching value.
Over the last couple of years, the struggles for Miami led to them having five draft picks over the first two rounds in the 2020 NFL Draft.
They hopefully secured a franchise quarterback (Tua Tagovailoa) with the fifth overall selection. Miami did their best to help his pass protection by adding T Austin Jackson (1.18) and T Robert Hunt (2.7).
Tagovailoa shows much more upside as a runner if asked to do so. His pocket movements under duress have a kamikaze feel at times, which may lead to some bad hits at the next level. When given a clean pocket and length to his passing window, his feel, accuracy, and velocity look top-notch. Tagovailoa makes good reads with the arm to stick a ball into tight coverage. He'll be dangerous inside the ten-yard line with his legs while being expected to extend drives in the run game. Tagovailoa throws the ball well on the move.
Jackson should slide into the starting lineup at left tackle. His movements project well while needing to improve his hands and technique with his footwork. Jackson comes to the NFL with plenty of size (6'5" and 322 lbs.) with an athletic feel. He plays with power and quickness.
Hunt is a second big framed (6'5" and 323 lbs.) offensive lineman. Miami would like him to develop into the top option at right tackle. He projects well in the run game with the talent to be a beast once his footwork improves.
CB Noah Igbinoghene was the other choice in the first round. In your face type of cornerback, that continues to develop his craft. Igbinoghene is a former wide receiver with a short resume of experience at his position. He plays with strength and fight, but his hip flips and backpedal could get him trouble vs. top wide receivers in the deep passing game. His next step is developing his instincts rather than being a thinker, which can lead to a missed step and a losing play.
The Dolphins landed DT Raekwon Davis and S Brandon Jones in the second and third rounds.
Davis showed first-round talent early in his college career. He struggled to improve over the last two years, leading to questions about his motor and commitment to the game. Davis should be a pure run stopper with pass-rush traits if/when he develops his thought process attacking the quarterback and improve his first step of the line of scrimmage.
Jones plays the game hard with an attacking mentality, but his overall traits can't make up for his shortcomings in physical skills. His feel for play development puts him a tick behind his responsibilities at times, and he lacks the speed to make up for his mistakes in coverage. The short field should be his friend while being challenged when asked to face top receivers in the deep passing game. I expect him to a better player when moving toward the line of scrimmage than away from it.
Miami shifted back to the offensive line in the fourth round (G Solomon Kindley). The theme for the Dolphins and their o-line in this draft is power and size. Kindley checks in at 6'3" and 337 pounds. His game is all about the fight over his small area of the field. He can't overcome his lack of quickness if tested outside his body. Kindley needs to improve his drop and drive to gain better leverage at the point of contact.
With their final four addition over the fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds, the Dolphins took a swing on DE Jason Strowbridge, LB Curtis Weaver, LS Blake Ferguson, and WR Malcolm Perry.
Strowbridge offers a physical presence with flashes of pass-rushing ability. His downfall tends to be his quickness, which trails his plan and hands. Sometimes his decision making after the snap puts him out of position to finish as play. More of a rotational player with his best of seeing the field coming in the pass rush.
Weaver looks to be a pass down rusher while being a tweener in size (6'2' and 265 lbs.). He plans to win off the snap and his eyes looking to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Weaver can get stymied vs. physical offensive lineman, and his game takes a hit when asked to retreat for his initial plan.
Perry lacks size (5'9" and 186 lbs.), speed (4.6 forty), and strength (ten reps in the bench press at the NFL combined), but he plays hard with intelligence and fight to his game. His best chance at playing time will come in the return game or out of the slot.
Miami ranked last in the NFL in rushing attempts (349) in 2019, leading to the 32nd ranking in rushing yards (1,156) with ten rushing TDs. Their offensive line allowed 58 sacks and 147 QB hits. Somehow, the Dolphins climbed to 12th in passing yards (3,804) with 22 TDs and 18 Ints.
LT Austin Jackson
Last year Miami had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL with disaster downside at each position. Jackson should be an instant upgrade at left tackle. He has to be an upgrade in run blocking, and his game projects well in pass protection. Jackson will make mistakes, but he should improve over time.
LG Ereck Flowers
The Giants drafted Flowers in the first round in 2015, but he failed to make an impact over three-plus seasons while playing left tackle. Washington shifted him to left guard last year, which led to better play in pass protection. His run blocking has been an issue over the previous three seasons. Flowers should be a slight upgrade after the position switch last season.
C Ted Karras
In his first season as a starter for the Patriots, Karras gave up pressure to the quarterback up the middle. He did minimize the damage in sacks, which helped Tom Brady get the ball out quickly on most plays. Overall, his run blocker came in at about the league average.
RG Michael Deiter
Last year Deiter didn't play well in his rookie season after getting drafted in the third round in 2019. The addition of Ereck Flowers should push him to right guard. His game has risk vs. power defenders in pass protection. It's almost like his value takes a step back when the bully gets bullied. Deiter works hard, but his upside is limited. His experience with multiple positions helps his playable value in his second year in the league. Deiter has a lot to prove in 2020 if he wants to be in the starting lineup every day.
RT Robert Hunt
Just like Austin Jackson, Hunt should replace a weak link in the starting lineup at right tackles. He'll have his growing pains, but his game should improve over time. Hunt looks more advanced in run blocking at this point of his career.
This offensive line of full of wild cards, but they have a low bar to replace the losing production in 2019. Even with a slow start, the Dolphins' talent on their offensive line should be much better this year with the best play coming over the second half of the season.
QB Tua Tagovailoa, MIA - Gamble (high risk)
Last year Tagovailoa was on a higher path after nine games (2,840 passing yards with 33 TDs and three Ints) than Joe Burrow, but his season ended in mid-November with a significant hip injury and a broken nose. In Week 8 of the season, he passed for 418 yards with four TDs and one Int against LSU, but Burrow (393/3) won the game 46-41.
Tagovailoa had an exceptional TD: INT ratio (87:11) in college with strength in his completion rate (70.0) over his last 24 games.
Last year Miami climbed to 12th in passing yards despite gaining only 6.7 yards per pass attempt. The Dolphins decided to improve their offensive line rather than investing in more offensive talent with the other draft picks over the first two rounds in this year's draft.
Tagovailoa is a high ceiling player that needs to shine for Miami to become a powerhouse again in the AFC East. His upgrades at wide receiver should come over the next couple of drafts or via free agency.
The Dolphins don't have enough talent in the passing game for Tagovailoa to hit the ground running. I gave him 93 percent of the quarterback snaps in the first run of the projections, but that number could be lower if Ryan Fitzpatrick gets in the way early in the year. For now, Tagovailoa is projected for 3,908 combined yards with 21 touchdowns.
His early ADP is 184 in the high-stakes market as the 28th quarterback off the table.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, --- - Gamble (high risk)
Over his last 23 games, Fitzpatrick has shined multiple times for the Bucs and the Dolphins while delivering elite value to some of his WRs. Last year he stole the starting job from Josh Rosen with his best play coming over the final five games (326 passing yards per game with 11 TDs). The Dolphins drafted QB Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick, which points to Fitzpatrick returning to a bench role this year. This best part of his game last year was unlocking the keys to DeVante Parker (72/1202/9). Possible short-term matchup play if Fitzpatrick earns the starting gig for a couple of games in September.
RB Matt Breida, NYG - Sleeper (undervalued)
The RB situation in San Fran was messy, heading into last year. Breida had midteen touches (12.6 per game) over the first nine games with success on early downs in two contests (12/121 and 11/114/1). After missing three games with an ankle issue, his opportunity was lost to RB Raheem Mostert down the stretch and in the playoffs. Breida still has a lot to prove as a pass-catcher, but the Dolphins trade ensures he'll be in the RB2 in 2020 with rotational value on early downs. I like his upside while also understanding his past injury risk.
His ADP (111) is just behind RB Jordan Howard in the early draft season as fantasy owners wait for some coach-speak to determine each player's role. His projections (775 combined yards with three TDs and 33 catches on 150 touches) ranks him 40th out of the gate in fantasy scoring in PPR leagues.
RB Myles Gaskin, MIA - Deep-league Only
Based on experience running the ball, a fantasy owner won't find a player in the 2019 NFL Draft with a better resume. Over four seasons at Washington as a starter, Gaskin average over 250 touches per year leading 5,888 combined yards with 62 TDs and 65 catches. Myles checked in at 5'9" and 205 lbs. at last year's NFL combine. His strength (24 reps in the bench press) graded will while coming up a bit short in speed (4.58 40 yards dash) and quickness compared to the top RBs in the NFL. Gaskin sees the field well with the first step to get through tight holes. His short legs don't match his frame, but his quick steps help him weave his way through traffic. Myles didn't get many chances in the passing game while showing pass-catching hands. More than a change of pace back. Gaskin needs to prove himself in pass protection.
In his rookie season, Gaskins only saw the field for 125 plays, which led 184 combined yards with one TD and seven catches on 43 chances. Only a low-level handcuff in deep leagues.
RB Kalen Ballage, --- - Low Potential
Ballage gained only 4.4 yards per rush in his college career. He's a power type runner with some pass-catching ability. His lack of a full-time job in college sets a lower bar in the NFL. In his 12 games of limited action in 2018, Ballege looked explosive at times. He gained 5.3 yards per rush, but 75 of his 191 yards came on one play. Over his other 35 runs, Ballage gained only 3.3 yards per carry. Last year he gained only 1.8 yards per rush with none of his 74 runs gaining over 20 yards—a bottom-tier player who may play his way off the team by the start of the regular season.
RB Jordan Howard, --- - Quality Backup
Howard held off RB Miles Sanders for the first nine games, but he failed to rush for over 100 yards in any week. From Week 4 to Week 9, Howard gained 476 combined yards with six TDs and seven catches highlighted by one explosive game (115 combined yards with three TDs and three catches). His season ended with a shoulder issue, costing him the final seven weeks.
Over his first three seasons in the NFL, Howard gained 3,938 combined yards with 25 TDs and 72 catches over 47 games. He averaged 283 touches per year with most of his big-play ability coming in his rookie season (14 gains of 20 yards or more).
Miami brought him in to upgrade their dismal success on early downs (297/962/7 – 3.2 yards per rush). The Dolphins also traded for RB Matt Breida on draft day, which points to him being a change of pace player and any higher upside in the passing game.
Howard has an early ADP of 110 as the 39th running back drafted. I have him ranked 33rd in my initial ranking while being projected for 958 combined yards with about five TDs and 22 catches on 215 touches. I expect his value to rise this summer, and Howard may end up with a floor of 240 chances in 2020.