If the Dolphins’ plan this offseason is to build around quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (and I think it is), drafting an #elite talent like Kyle Pitts with the sixth overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft seems like a no brainer.
But why stop there?
Sure, a defensive-minded head coach like Brian Flores may pound the table for a pass-rusher or defensive back at No. 18. And I’m sure there will be a bunch of viable candidates when Chris Grier and Brian Flores are on the clock. But this isn’t about Grier and Flores. Kevin Nogle calls the shots in this mock draft.
And he has the Dolphins making a pick that would surprise no one.
With the 18th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins select…
Najee Harris, Running Back, Alabama
Weight: 230 pounds
Hometown: Martinez, California
2020 Stats: 251 carries, 1,466 yards, 26 touchdowns. 43 receptions, 425 yards, 4 touchdowns.
I really considered looking linebacker or edge rusher here, and that could very easily be the move Miami makes. In most of my projections, I have the Dolphins looking toward Javonte Williams as their running back pick later in the draft, but I feel like, the way this board has fallen, Harris makes sense here.
Miami now has added weapons both in the passing game with Kyle Pitts at pick No. 6 and in the backfield here with Harris. If Miami can add a top-end running game to a passing attack that should be pretty good with DeVante Parker, Will Fuller, Preston Williams, Jakeem Grant, Mike Gesicki, and Pitts, they will have all the pieces in place for Tua Tagovailoa to succeed.
I would be looking for edge and offensive line picks in the second round for the Dolphins. Do not be surprised if Miami double-dips on receiving options though, with a slot receiver still a possibility (I’m looking at you Kadarius Toney, should you fall).
Selecting Kyle Pitts at No. 6 was much easier than figuring out what Kevin Nogle and the Miami Dolphins should do at No. 18. After all, the team could go in several different directions, on both sides of the football.
Defensively, Miami could use a dominant EDGE rusher like Kwity Paye or a versatile linebacker like Zaven Collins. Both players could be defined as the missing piece in Brian Flores’ defense.
On offense, Kevin could choose to solidify Miami’s offensive line by adding Tevin Jenkins or another dominant big man upfront. And depending on how the board falls, would it be crazy to think the Dolphins could draft a wide receiver—if the right player were to come available? Never say never.
But when all is done and the dust settles, I look back at last year’s mishap of the running back position and agree with Kevin’s decision to no longer leave things up to chance. The top running back in this year’s class has a history with Tua Tagovailoa, and his skill set matches everything the Dolphins are looking for at the position.
Harris returned to school in 2020 not because he had to, but because he wanted to prove to the world that he was much more than a one-dimensional running back. He wanted to prove he could make his presence felt in the passing game—not only as a pass catcher but a suitable pass protector as well. He did just that.
The last time the Miami Dolphins used a first-round draft pick on a running back was 2005, when the team selected Ronnie Brown with the second-overall pick. This came after veteran running back Ricky Williams retired from the sport.
Speaking of Ricky Williams, there’s no need to sugarcoat things. Najee Harris would be the most talented running back the Dolphins have had since the dreaded one himself. And adding him to a backfield that consists of Myles Gaskin (who averaged over 4 yards per carry in 2020), Salvin Ahmed, Malcolm Brown, and the rest of Miami’s backfield—the fanbase may finally get the backfield they desire.
There will be plenty of talent available when the Dolphins are on the clock at No. 18. But no one would be upset if Miami got their game-changing running back at No. 18.
Run, Najee Harris, run.
Top five remaining players
- Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia
- Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
- Tevin Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
- Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
- Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota