One of the most interesting aspects of the upcoming Philadelphia Eagles season doesn’t even have anything to do with their games.
That’s not meant as a slight to the Birds, to be clear. Rather, it’s about the intrigue that comes with the high picks they’re owed in the 2022 NFL Draft. We all know the Birds could potentially have three first-round selections next year.
We already spend plenty of time concerning ourselves with the Eagles’ outlook. Why not also forecast how the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts might fare this season? You know, to get a sense of where those picks owned by the Eagles might land.
We’ll start today with the Fish before moving on for a closer look at Carson Wentz’s new team.
EARLY 2021 POINT SPREADS
Week 1 - Dolphins at Patriots (-2.5)
Week 2 - Bills (-3.5) at Dolphins
Week 3 - Dolphins (PICK) at Raiders
Week 4 - Colts (-1.5) at Dolphins
Week 5 - Dolphins at Buccaneers (-7.5)
Week 6 - Dolphins (-1.5) at Jaguars
Week 7 - Falcons at Dolphins (-3.5)
Week 8 - Dolphins at Bills (-7)
Week 9 - Texans at Dolphins (-7.5)
Week 10 - Ravens (-3) at Dolphins
Week 11 - Dolphins (-3) at Jets
Week 12 - Panthers at Dolphins (-4.5)
Week 13 - Giants at Dolphins (-3.5)
Week 14 - BYE
Week 15 - Jets at Dolphins (-6.5)
Week 16 - Dolphins at Saints (-3.5)
Week 17 - Dolphins at Titans (-3)
Week 18 - Patriots at Dolphins (-2.5)
Going through a quick win-loss prediction, I see the Dolphins finishing around 9-8 or 10-7.
Miami finished the 2020 season with a defense that ranked ninth overall by weighted DVOA. There’s reason to believe Brian Flores will have that unit playing well once again in 2021. The Dolphins head coach has generally maximized his talent thus far. The secondary looks strong on paper with Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Jevon Holland, and old friend Eric Rowe starting there. The Dolphins drafted boom-or-bust edge defender Jaelen Phillips to potentially give them some more pass-rushing juice.
The bigger question is what happens with the offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick is gone. Tua Tagovailoa is now the starting quarterback and there’s a decent amount of skepticism about his outlook. Pro Football Focus recently ranked him 29th (just two spots ahead of former Alabama teammate Jalen Hurts) out of 32 starters:
It’s hard to adjust to the speed of the game as a rookie, especially when you don’t know when you’re going to be pulled for a savvy veteran. Tua has an opportunity this year to take control of the offense and show he belongs. The Dolphins continue to make solid roster moves through trades, free agency and the draft to surround their young QB with weapons. Tua was exceptionally conservative last year, with only seven big-time throws all season. That’s not the worst thing, but he also had 13 turnover-worthy plays.
I can’t say I was impressed with what I saw out of Tua last year. In fairness to him, he was coming off injury and didn’t have a normal offseason. He also didn’t have Jaylen Waddle and WIll Fuller, who the Dolphins added this offseason, to work with.
Still, he could’ve reasonably shown more potential. Look at what Justin Herbert did last year. Things were hardly easy for him playing behind one of the NFL’s worst pass-blocking offensive lines. Unlike Tua, Herbert had to make his NFL debut on very shorter notice. And yet he thrived in the face of adversity.
It’s possible things come together for Tua in Year 2 but I don’t know about him suddenly evolving into a top 10 player at his position. I’m still expecting to see a below-average starter until he proves himself otherwise. I think there’s a realistic scenario where Tua totally flops and this team finishes with a losing record. Flores and the defense should prevent something as catastrophic as a bottom-five finish, though.
I’m going to guess the most likely range for the Dolphins’ 2022 first-round pick is between 11 and 21. What say you?