The Miami Dolphins filled a bunch of holes in NFL free agency but finding a long-term quarterback remains a top priority headed into the 2020 NFL draft. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is the beloved incumbent quarterback, and the 37-year-old is comfortable being a bridge starter and mentor for whoever Miami brings in as the quarterback of the future.
Since 1979, the Dolphins have drafted two quarterbacks in the first round -- Dan Marino (1983) and Ryan Tannehill (2012). Since Tannehill was selected No. 8 overall in 2012, the Dolphins haven't drafted a quarterback before the seventh round. That lack of quarterback investment helped land them in this situation, but that should change during April's draft during which Miami is expected to secure its franchise quarterback in the first round.
In his latest mock draft, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has the Dolphins selecting Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth overall selection. Tagovailoa is projected as the second quarterback off the board -- behind Joe Burrow to Cincinnati -- and a pick that certainly would make a lot of Dolphins fans very happy.
Tagovailoa is a perfect fit for the Dolphins and the city of Miami. It's a win for the franchise to land him without having to trade up. Tagovailoa, during three seasons under coach Nick Saban, displayed a propensity to rise in the biggest moments, an elite accuracy and field vision that makes him seem near ready for the NFL, and an innate leadership that would make him a great figure to build an ascending franchise around. Simply put, Tagovailoa has "it" on and off the field.
It's not a pick without risk, as Tagovailoa's injury history, most notably his dislocated right hip and posterior wall fracture suffered in November, presents a valid concern -- particularly in a year when predraft visits, pro days and medical evaluations have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The Dolphins will have to feel confident that Tagovailoa will return to his previous playing ability. But the benefit here is that the Dolphins don't have to rush Tagovailoa on the field in 2020, and he learn the NFL and work on his rehab while sitting behind Fitzpatrick for a season.
The Dolphins have two more first-round picks -- assuming those aren't used to trade up for Tagovailoa -- and Kiper addresses two of Miami's biggest needs with them in his mock, projecting Georgia running back D'Andre Swift (No. 18) and Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones (No. 26) to Miami. The Dolphins finished tied for worst in sacks allowed (58) and last in rushing (72.3 yards per game) in 2019, so the additions of Swift and Jones would help Miami close out Round 1 on a strong offensive note.