A little more than weeks from now, the Miami Dolphins will be attacking the 2021 NFL draft in the hopes of landing more quality players to add to their roster and finding the best possible value for each of their selection.
Like every team, the Dolphins have had their share of hits and misses over the past 10 years and since we earlier chronicled their biggest misses, it’s only fair that we also highlight their biggest hits.
So let us offer our top 10 picks of the past 10 years.
Before we start, let’s clarify that the selections don’t necessarily mean the best players but rather the best value for the draft position. And since players need some time to develop, it also shouldn’t be a surprise that no 2020 pick is on the list.
The one draft that’s most represented is the one from 2016 when the Dolphins got three key pieces that would help them earn a playoff spot that very season.
So away we go:
1. CB Xavien Howard, Round 2, 2016
The Dolphins had enough of a conviction on this pick that they surrendered a fourth-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens to move up from 42nd to 38th overall. And, yes, the move has paid off big time. Howard emerged in the middle of his second season, made the Pro Bowl in 2018, and after a dip in an injury-shortened 2019 season was the best cornerback in the NFL in 2020.
2. DB Bobby McCain, Round 5, 2015
The Dolphins have had a lot of success in the fifth round through the years, and this was just another example. McCain was taken with one of two fifth-round picks the Dolphins from Philadelphia to move down from 47th to 52nd in the second round (the other was Tony Lippett). And McCain has become a multi-year starter and solid player in the secondary.
3. T Laremy Tunsil, Round 1, 2016
If you want to talk about getting great value, just look at what the Dolphins got out of Tunsil after he slipped to 13th in the first round likely as a result of the infamous draft-night video. Before they got the great return in the trade with Houston, the Dolphins got three solid seasons from Tunsil, who probably should have been selected to the Pro Bowl in his last year in Miami in 2018.
4. WR Jarvis Landry, Round 2, 2014
One could argue that Landry should be higher on this list considering he set the rookie franchise record for catches, then set the overall single-season record, then broke it when he led the entire NFL in receptions in 2017. The only reason we put him at 4 was his relatively yards-per-reception average and his modest receiving touchdown total (22 in four years).
5. C Mike Pouncey, Round 1, 2011
Taking a center in the first round always is risky because there’s usually little difference between prospects at the position and the impact they can make in the NFL is more limited than any other spots on the O-line. That said, Pouncey did make the Pro Bowl three times, including one year at guard. That would qualify as a successful first-round pick.
6. RB Lamar Miller, Round 4, 2012
Miller is a very good argument against taking a running back in Round 1 based on where the Dolphins selected him before he became a three-year starter. Miller was a solid starter at that, with 2014 being his signature season when he rushed for 1,099 yards, including a team-record 97-yard touchdown against the Jets in the finale.
7. TE Charles Clay, Round 6, 2011
Clay was an all-purpose player at Tulsa and the Dolphins made him into a tight end, and he ended up becoming one of the top receivers at that position the team has ever had. Clay had 127 catches his final two seasons in Miami before the team let him go to Buffalo after declining to match an offer sheet as a restricted free agent.
8. WR/KR Jakeem Grant, Round 6, 2016
Grant arguably is the greatest returner in franchise history after only five seasons with the team, and that’s a pretty strong statement for a sixth-round pick.
9. DE Olivier Vernon, Round 3, 2012
The Dolphins took a lot of flak for the failed selection of tight end Michael Egnew in the third round of the 2012 draft, but that came after they hit big with Vernon earlier in that round. Vernon had 25.5 sacks in his three years as a starter and the decision to rescind a transition tag in 2016 is one the Dolphins might have wanted a do-over on given what he’s gone on to do since leaving.
10. K Jason Sanders, Round 7, 2018
Using a draft pick on a kicker can be a dicey proposition and the Dolphins found out the hard way in 2013 when they wasted a fifth-round pick on Caleb Sturgis, but man did it work out when they spent a seventh-rounder on Jason Sanders. He wasn’t even among the four kickers invited to the combine, and there he was as the best kicker in the NFL in 2020.
RB Jay Ajayi, Round 5, 2015; DT Davon Godchaux, Round 5, 2017; TE Mike Gesicki, Round 2, 2018; LB Jerome Baker, Round 3, 2018; LB Andrew Van Ginkel, Round 5, 2019; RB Myles Gaskin, Round 7, 2019