First, some words rarely written about the Miami Dolphins in recent years: They got something right.
They picked Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa fifth overall. It was the smart pick. It was the right pick. It was, multiple team sources insist, the pick Miami was always going to make once Tagovailoa’s physical health proved unproblematic.
When stories began to circulate in the media that the Dolphins might not select the Alabama quarterback, “no one believed it was anyone other than Tua,” one general manager explained.
But more important for Miami’s future, some team executives think that when we look back at this draft, it won’t be the first overall pick, Joe Burrow, who will be viewed as the best passer. Or Justin Herbert, who was picked sixth by the Chargers.
It’ll be Tagovailoa.
“Not only that,” an NFC general manager says, “he might end up being the best player from this draft. Not just quarterback.”
Indeed, lost amid the talk of Tagovailoa’s injuries was just how much teams liked him as a player. For many franchises, his injuries, which included a dislocated hip, weren’t as much of a concern, especially when weighed against his talent.
The Dolphins, like other teams, looked at his overall production while he was at Alabama and didn’t think his injuries would necessarily follow him into the pros.
Taking Tua wasn’t the only smart thing the Dolphins did on the first night of the NFL draft. Their second pick, USC offensive lineman Austin Jackson, while raw, may have the most physical upside of any tackle in the draft.
The Dolphins then traded out of the 26th spot, swapping with Green Bay and getting the Packers’ pick at 30th overall, where they took Auburn cornerback Noah Igbinoghene.
That may seem like an odd pick considering the Dolphins already have two highly paid and talented corners in Byron Jones and Xavien Howard. But coach Brian Flores likes to play a lot of press coverage, and to guys like him, you can’t have enough good corners. If Igbinoghene can prove effective playing the slot for Miami, the Fins have the making of a devastating backfield.
It’s only one night, but it sure seems like the Dolphins made a lot of smart moves, and that isn’t something we’ve been able to say about them in a long time.
Dallas joins the “in” crowd
Alonzo Adams/Associated Press
Several teams were extremely complimentary of the Cowboys’ pick of wide receiver CeeDee Lamb at No. 17 overall.
Don’t forget, the Cowboys already have the excellent Amari Cooper and the emerging Michael Gallup. Adding Lamb, who had 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns with Oklahoma last year, means they are joining the likes of the Chiefs and the Saints in loading up their offense with numerous uber-talented pass-catchers.
Credit Dallas for understanding that this is what teams need to do now to compete: overload on wideouts. To some teams, you can’t have enough, and it looks like Jerry Jones knows it.
Yes, the intrigue came later, but Joe Burrow’s selection at No. 1 by the Bengals made sense to everyone in the league. As an NFC coach told B/R about his meeting with Burrow at the Indianapolis combine: “One of the things that struck me was how he didn’t talk a lot about what he could do well; he talked about what he wanted to improve. He was very self-aware and self-critical. It was genuine. He was really impressive.”
Hurts could cause pain
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Though he was not selected Thursday, one player to keep your eyes on this weekend is Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, who some teams believe could be a huge star in the league in the next few years.
Hurts has impressed with some of the best pure abilities of any quarterback in the draft, but those talents are also thought to need some time to develop.
As for Hurts himself, this week he told me that his workouts were continuing as normal despite the coronavirus pandemic. How?
“I’ve had a weight room in my garage my whole life,” said Hurts, who was made available by Gillette. “I go on the street and run and do sprints. I’m good.”
While plenty of teams apparently like him, that didn’t stop one from trying to trip him up with an odd question.
“One representative of one team asked me: If my mom had anything bad to say about me, what would it be?” he said.
Leave the moms out of this, NFL.
On to next season
Elise Amendola/Associated Press
I was curious about how teams think the Patriots will fare in a post-Tom Brady world. Most believe they will be far better than people assume.
One assistant coach told me that during a recent conversation with Belichick, he relayed his personal belief to the Patriots coach that he and the New England organization weren’t getting enough respect post-Brady.
The coach remembered Belichick’s response was roughly: “Whatever … I have more important things to worry about.”
That sounds about right.
Waiting and watching
Ben Margot/Associated Press
Despite the three quarterbacks selected in Round 1 and the names still to be called this weekend, there’s strong interest in some corners of the league in Cam Newton and Jameis Winston, two general managers said on Thursday night.
So why aren’t they signed?
Right now, there’s no urgency, these team officials said. But they expect that to change fairly soon.
Neither official B/R spoke to would be surprised if both were signed sometime soon after the draft.
While the draft offered a small step toward NFL normalcy, the coronavirus shutdown across the league promises to make for a potentially ugly start to the regular season, whenever that is.
Coaches say the offseason programs, which have been suspended, are far more valuable than most people outside of the sport understand. It’s not the conditioning part of it—most players are extremely disciplined about staying in shape—but the timing part, particularly on offense.
Without those OTAs, training camps will have to pull double duty, leaving some teams likely still working on their timing when the season starts. And that could be a bit rough around the edges.
Let’s hope we at least get there.
Home sweet home
One of the coolest things about the draft was seeing inside some of the homes and offices of players and coaches. Most were laid-back, typical suburban dwellings. Or nice NFL offices.
Then there was Kliff Kingsbury’s.
Is that house from the future? And can I have a party there?
Finally, in taking in the first night of the draft, the league and the broadcast networks deserve a lot of credit for a nice job under difficult circumstances and on the fly.
There were some hiccups. Including the live shot of a dude on the toilet at the house of Mike Vrabel. That is a true story.
Still, overall, despite the glitches, it was actually impressive, which had to come as a relief to the NFL. In speaking to people in the league office over the past few weeks, they were (understandably) extremely nervous.
But it worked out. They adapted. It’s something the NFL isn’t actually good at. This time, however, it was.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.
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