We now know the first 18 picks of the 2021 NFL draft, and the big winners are the Miami Dolphins.
Missing the postseason hits hard now for Brian Flores and Co., but when the Dolphins start making their draft plans, they might be able to dream pretty big.
Thanks to the Laremy Tunsil trade with the Houston Texans, who lost Sunday to fall to 4-12, the Dolphins have been gifted the third overall selection. The trade also netted them the third of their three first-rounders last year after they took QB Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5 overall) and OT Austin Jackson (No. 18).
Miami also has its own first-rounder in 2021, which is locked in at No. 18 overall, plus Houston’s second-rounder (No. 36) from the trade.
Former Texans head coach Bill O’Brien just needed a left tackle, you see. Miami was happy to oblige to the deal 16 months ago, even if it signaled a full-scale rebuild.
Now, after winning 10 games and having just missed the playoffs, the Dolphins could waltz into draft weekend holding five of the top 82 picks. Dolphins general manager Chris Grier should send the unemployed O’Brien something nice.
Tagovailoa struggled Sunday, and it wasn’t the first time. Flores benched Tagovailoa twice in his rookie season, and some will wonder whether there’s buyer’s remorse, especially with No. 6 overall pick Justin Herbert having set rookie records in a brilliant first season.
Don’t be shocked if there’s speculation about Miami considering the top quarterback prospects in what could be an unusually talented 2021 crop. Trevor Lawrence is almost certainly going to be the first pick, and the rival New York Jets could consider a quarterback at No. 2 overall.
Would QB3 in this class, presumably BYU’s Zach Wilson or Ohio State’s Justin Fields, be more appealing to the Dolphins than Tagovailoa? That could be the bottom line before Miami makes any decisions about the pick.
It wouldn’t be too dissimilar to the Arizona Cardinals punting on Josh Rosen one year after trading up to take him at No. 10 overall to draft Kyler Murray, which turned out to be a seismic trade in how it shifted draft philosophy.
The Washington Football Team released its former No. 15 overall pick from the 2019 draft, Dwayne Haskins, and the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts in Round 2 less than a year after signing Carson Wentz to a monster contract extension.
Quarterback timetables aren’t what they used to be.
If Tagovailoa remains in the Dolphins’ plans, he could use some help. Perhaps Oregon OT Penei Sewell would make sense up front. Or perhaps a receiver — either Tua’s former target at Alabama, DeVonta Smith, or LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase?
The Dolphins also could be on the hunt for talent on the other side of the ball, too, even if there might not be a Chase Young-caliber defender in this class.
Trading down also is an option, even if Miami is already flush with picks. Grier moved down from No. 26 to 30 in Round 1 a year ago, picking up the Green Bay Packers’ fourth-rounder.
And whatever the decision is at No. 3, it’s sure to shape the immediate and long-term future of the Dolphins.
The rest of the 2021 NFL draft order we know
We’ve known the owners and order of the first two picks — Jacksonville Jaguars at 1, Jets at 2 — since last week.
And Nos. 4 (Atlanta Falcons) and 5 (Cincinnati Bengals) did not change based on those two teams’ Week 17 losses.
Here’s the rest of the top 18 picks (the playoff results will determine the order of picks No. 19 through 32 in Round 1):
1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15)
2. New York Jets (2-14)
3. Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans, 4-12)
4. Atlanta Falcons (4-12)
5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1)
6. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1)
7. Detroit Lions (5-11)
8. Carolina Panthers (5-11)
9. Denver Broncos (5-11)
10. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)
11. New York Giants (6-10)
12. San Francisco 49ers (6-10)
13. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9)
14. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)
15. New England Patriots (7-9)
16. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
17. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8)
18. Dolphins (10-6)
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