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Barry Jackson

Here’s what Dolphins fans need to be rooting for and the potential consequences


If you’ve joined the Tank Brigade, you’re likely rooting for the Dolphins to do whatever it takes to secure the top pick in April’s NFL Draft.

But even if you’re not a tanker, here are six draft things all Dolphins fans can agree to root for:

▪ Root for Pittsburgh - whose first-round pick is owned by the Dolphins - to lose the four remaining games where they will be clear underdogs (at Chargers on NBC Sunday night, Rams, at Cleveland and at Baltimore) and the games that could go either way (home to the Colts, Browns and Bills and at Arizona and at the Jets). The Steelers (1-4) likely be favored at Cincinnati and assuredly will be favored at home against Miami.

If Pittsburgh loses eight of those 11, Miami likely will have a top eight pick, and that would mean a shot at a few among Ohio State studs Chase Young (the defensive end and elite pass rusher) and Jeffrey Okudah (the top rated cornerback in the draft); LSU safety Grant Delpit, Alabama receiver Jerry Jeudy, Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb, left tackles Andrew Thomas (Georgia) and Tristan Wirfs (Iowa) and Clemson outside linebacker Isaiah Simmons.

Landing Young or Jeudy might require a top five pick; Pittsburgh would pick fifth if the season ended before Sunday’s games.

▪ Root for Houston - whose next two first-round picks are owned by the Dolphins - to lose the three games where they will probably be underdogs (at Kansas City on Sunday, at Baltimore, New England) and their toss-up games (two against both Indianapolis and Tennessee and at Tampa). If Houston (3-2) loses even five of those eight, it could miss the playoffs even if it beats Oakland and Denver at home and Jacksonville in London.

And if the Texans miss the playoffs, that could mean a selection in the mid-to-late teens, a range where options could include receivers Tee Higgins (Clemson) and Henry Ruggs III (Alabama) - both of them could go sooner - plus Colorado receiver Lavisha Shennault Jr., Iowa tight end A.J. Epenesa, Notre Dame defensive end Julian Okwara and one or two among cornerbacks CJ Henderson (UF), Kristian Fulton (LSU) and Paulson Adebayo (Stanford) and Trevon Diggs (Alabama). Fulton and Henderson could go in the top half of the first round.

The problem, though, is that the AFC is weakened and the Texans look like a playoff team, with DeShaun Watson playing brilliantly last Sunday and Laremy Tunsil strengthening their previously weak offensive line.

So the likely scenario is that the Texans pick falls in the 20 to 28 range, where options might include a few of the aforementioned and potentially the likes of Alabama outside linebacker Terrell Lewis, Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall, Penn State defensive end Yeter Gross Matos, Vanderbilt tight end Jared Pinckney, running backs Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin) and D’Andre Swift (Georgia), offensive tackles Prince Tega Wanogho (Auburn) and Trey Adams (Washington) and Boise State defensive end Curtis Weaver.

▪ Root for Denver right tackle Ja’Wuan James to get healthy and stay healthy. He’s already missed four games with a knee injury and is in jeopardy of missing Sunday’s game against Tennessee.

Nick Korte, an expert on compensatory picks, said the Dolphins’ projected third-round compensatory pick - the result of losing James - likely would fall to a fourth-round pick if James misses six games. Sunday would be a fifth if he cannot play; he’s listed as questionable but some Denver reporters suggest he’s unlikely to play. He hasn’t returned as quickly as the Broncos expected.

The NFL doesn’t reveal specifics about how compensatory picks are allocated, but does say they are determined “by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors.”

▪ Root for Tennessee defensive end Cam Wake to get healthy and not see his playing time further diminished.

Korte originally projected Miami will get a fifth-round compensatory pick for losing Wake in free agency to Tennessee. But that pick could fall to the sixth because Wake has been used just 73 snaps in four games -- by far the least playing time of his career. What’s more, he has been ruled out for a second consecutive game because of a hamstring injury.

“Wake is closer to the fifth/sixth cutoff than I thought,” Korte told me, even before he was ruled out for Sunday’s game. “I ran some snap count simulations just now, and the program is telling me that as long as Wake stays above around a quarter of the snaps, his contract will stay as a fifth.” But he’s at 23.1 percent now and that will drop further after Sunday.

▪ Root for Saints losses. Because Miami owns New Orleans’ 2020 second-round pick, that selection could end up anywhere from the low 50s to the low to mid 60s depending on how the Saints season plays out. And New Orleans, even without injured Drew Brees, is 4-1.

▪ Root for Jacksonville to lose as many games as possible. That’s because the better of Pittsburgh’s two 2020 fifth-round picks - its own or the Jaguars’ (via the trade involving quarterback Josh Dobbs) will go to the Dolphins as part of the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade, according to the Dolphins.

Similarly, Miami owns Dallas’ sixth-round from the Robert Quinn trade, so root against the Cowboys for good measure, too.

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