The Miami Dolphins’ plans for the 2021 NFL Draft largely hinge on whether or not they’re able to trade for current Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. But for now, we’ll assume that they keep their picks and focus on top prospects the team could take with the No. 3 overall selection.
Despite finishing 10-6 in a five-game turnaround from 2019 to 2020, Miami secured the No. 3 overall pick in a trade that sent former Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills to Houston in exchange for a 2020 and 2021 first-round pick, a 2021 second-round pick, offensive tackle Julie’n Davenport and special teamsman Johnson Bademosi. After finishing 4-12, the Texans’ wound up third-worst in the league.
Dolphins’ Draft Board Should Begin With a Wide Receiver
The Dolphins’ big board should start with an area of need they have struggled with for many seasons now: wide receiver.
Ja’Marr Chase and Devonta Smith, two of the most dominant wide receivers coming out of college football will likely be available at the No. 3 pick.
Current Miami QB Tua Tagovailoa has something in common with one, but surely wouldn’t frown at the thought of throwing to the other.
Ja’Marr Chase, Wide Receiver, LSU
Insert Chase, the No. 1 weapon of former Heisman Trophy winner and 2020 No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow during Louisiana State University’s record-breaking offense in 2019. As a true sophomore, Chase dominated defensive backs all over the southeast to the tune of 84 receptions, 1,780 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns. Chase was unable to follow up his historic 2019 season after opting out before the season, but despite that, he is still the No. 1 WR in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Route-Running, Separation Highlight Chase’s Skillset
During the 2019 campaign, Chase’s route-running technique, hands, ball skills, yards-after-the-catch ability and blocking were on full display. He is consistently able to defeat press coverage with a combination of foot quickness and upper-body strength.
While he is not an absolute burner, Chase is able to find another gear while the ball is in the air to create that extra separation needed to consistently beat NFL-caliber defensive backs. As an overall route runner, he is very clean and doesn’t gear down through traffic or in and out of breaks.
Even though Chase will have the occasional drop there should be zero concerns about his hands moving forward. He routinely displays very strong hands through contact and consistently wins 50/50 balls. After the catch Chase is a violent runner who breaks tackles while also making defenders miss.
One-Year Wonder? Is the Sample Size Too Small?
Despite all of those positives, Chase does however come with some concerns.
His sample size is relatively small and it would’ve been ideal to see more career games from him to eliminate the questions about him being a one-year wonder.
In addition, while Chase has good size and athleticism, they aren’t elite traits that are typically found in WR prospects selected among the top 10 of the draft.
All things considered, Chase has the making of a legitimate No. 1 WR in the NFL and go-to target for Tagovailoa moving forward and the Dolphins should have no hesitations about selecting him No. 3 overall.
Chasing Chase? Set Your Sights on Smith Instead.
If the limited number of games or opt-out concerns Miami enough to pass on Chase it won’t have to look far to find another dominant WR that has the potential of becoming the No. 1 receiver in South Beach and Tagovailoa’s favorite target.
Devonta Smith out of the University of Alabama is that guy.
Smith is coming off of the best season ever by a WR in college football. Yes, even in a SHORTENED season due to COVID-19.
Smith hauled in 117 receptions, which is second all-time in the SEC for a single season, for 1,856 yards and 23 receiving TDs, both SEC single-season records. His ridiculous 2020 season earned him the:
- Heisman Trophy (First WR to win the award since 1991)
- Maxwell Award
- Walter Camp Award
- Biletnikoff Award
- Paul Hornung Award
- AP College Football Player of the Year
- Sporting News College Football Player of the Year
- A Unanimous All-American Selection
- SEC Offensive Player of the Year Award
- 1st Team All-SEC selection
Oh, and a national championship title paired with a national championship MVP award if anyone is really keeping track at home.
It was quite literally the greatest season ever by a WR in the best football conference in America.
Smith’s Small Frame Raises Eyebrows
While going through his successes and accolades, it’s impossible to talk about Smith without discussing his unusually small frame. Alabama listed him at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds. However, after not weighing in at the NFL combine, eyebrows have risen that the wideout is actually down closer to 160 pounds — a major red flag for anyone hoping to have a long career as a professional.
There is no proven track record of very thin, small-framed WR becoming highly successful in the NFL, especially as top draft picks.
Smith’s NFL WR Comparison: DeSean Jackson
The best example that comes to mind of a small-framed WR that is having a highly productive career is current free agent and former Philadelphia Eagles draftee DeSean Jackson.
However, he was the No. 49 overall pick, not a top-five, and the 175-pound wideout has only played a full 16-game season twice in his 13-year career.
Jackson’s blazing 4.3 speed is also something not expected from Smith, but it is yet to be seen if he could be an exception. But, once Miami drafts him, there’s no going back.
Smith: Acceleration, Leaping Work Into Strengths
That being said, Smith’s route running is a thing of beauty. He is a fairly long strider that allows him to eat yards and get on top of corners in an instant. He accelerates in and out of his breaks without any wasted movement allowing him to create a high degree of separation regularly — including against top competition.
Smith also possesses an arsenal of different releases to get by press coverage at the line of scrimmage. Something rookie WRs routinely struggle with due to the lack of press coverage many wideouts face in college, Smith comes with as sure of hands as any receiver in this class or any other recent class.
His leaping ability, length and elite body control allow him to play much larger than his frame would indicate, making tough contested catches and high pointing the football with ease.
Blocking Not Part of Game, But Not a Problem as it’s Made Up in Other Areas
Smith doesn’t offer much as a blocker due to his frame, but he will absolutely compete and fight in the run game, as seen on multiple college occurrences. In addition, reports out of Alabama said that coaches, staff, teammates and more all rave about his character, work ethic and professional maturity toward the game.
If the Dolphins choose to pass on Chase it’ll likely be for the high-volume weapon in Smith instead. Miami and its fans should be very happy either way and not be worried about the number aligned with the pick this player comes off the board with.
Editor’s Note: Ja’Marr Chase and Devonta Smith do not have a player profile on profootballreference.com, the site FPC Dolphins uses to highlight players. They have not yet been drafted to the NFL.