Maybe the Miami Dolphins don’t really value running backs. Maybe they think they can trade for one, or land one in the back end of free agency, or develop one found in a later round — all moves they’ve attempted in the recent past.
But for whatever reason, the Dolphins haven’t invested in a running back early in the draft despite an obvious need and failed to do so again Friday evening.
And after passing on players such as Jonathan Taylor and J.K Dobbins, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and D’Andre Swift last year, this year’s whiff on a potential starter is more than frustrating.
It’s beginning to feel like an organizational blind spot.
The Dolphins had two picks in the second round, another in the third round, and a need in the backfield. But the rounds came and went and general manager Chris Grier could not score a starting running back and finished the night sounding as if he doesn’t need running back help at all.
“We’re very excited with the players we added,” Grier said. “We spent a lot of time going over the board, the draft studying it and where players would fall. And the players we got we’re very excited to have and we have good runners on our roster.
“We feel good about our guys. We added Malcolm Brown to the group in free agency. So we upgraded our roster. We feel good where we are as a team. We’ve always said we’ll keep looking and running through every position and looking for upgrade potential at every position all the way up to the season like we’ve always done.”
The Denver Broncos didn’t need a starting running back. They have Melvin Gordon III.
But the Broncos saw an opportunity and traded up to the No. 35 overall pick to snatch North Carolina bowling ball Javonte Williams for their backfield. And there was a method to Denver’s madness in moving to No. 35 overall.
Because the Dolphins, with Williams on their draft board, were scheduled to select at No. 36
This hurts, folks.
No matter how the Dolphins spin it. No matter what happens the rest of this draft on Saturday, this stings because the three top backs in this draft — Travis Etienne, Najee Harris, and Williams — were all within Miami’s near grasp.
And the Dolphins didn’t reach for any of them.
And now we’re left talking about guys such as Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard or Memphis running back Kenneth Gainwell, or Ohio State’s Trey Sermon, or Missouri’s Larry Rountree in a coming round to fill Miami’s need.
The problem with those players is they simply aren’t rated as highly by any team as Etienne, Harris or Williams.
That’s a fact.
So the starting running backs are gone but the Dolphins will predictably say they’re quite happy not getting one. Because they did get Oregon safety Jevon Holland and Notre Dame offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg and Boston College tight end Hunter Long.
Holland is a good prospect who might blossom into a good NFL player.
He comes with notable credentials: He is the first Oregon player to lead the team in interceptions two consecutive seasons since perennial Pro Bowl player Jairus Byrd did it in 2006 and 2007.
Holland’s nine interceptions in 2018-2019 were tied for the third most in the FBS.
But read what Miami is saying with this pick. Because in picking Holland the Dolphins are still trying to find a replacement for Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The team converted Bobby McCain from a slot cornerback to safety. It moved cornerback Eric Rowe from cornerback to safety and last year drafted safety Brandon Jones in the third round.
Now Holland joins that group — assuming all those players remain on the team, which is no small assumption because McCain and Rowe both offer cap relief if the team releases or trades them.
(Miami could save $5 million by moving on from Rowe or $5.6 million by moving on from McCain.)
Holland, meanwhile, was described as a poor man’s Fitzpatrick to me by an NFL personnel man. This is good except, I remind you, the team had the actual Minkah Fitzpatrick and traded him because coach Brian Flores and he couldn’t agree on how he should be used.
Holland will offer no such push-back on where he plays.
“Honestly, whatever the coaches want me to play, I’m expecting to fill that job for them,” Holland said enthusiastically. “I say it a lot, but I’m here to help the team win in any way, shape or form.”
Holland comes with great versatility and willingness to adapt and that was a theme for this Dolphins second round. Because Eichenberg also articulated his willingness to play wherever coaches want.
“I’ll play anywhere they need me,” Eichenberg said. “For me it’s about helping the team win.”
Eichenberg was a left tackle for the Fighting Irish but the Dolphins might think him better suited for left guard or right tackle.
Wherever he lands, Eichenberg is going to have to compete because Austin Jackson is the incumbent left tackle, Solomon Kindley is the incumbent left guard, and the competition at right tackle could include Jesse Davis and D.J. Fluker.
But the Dolphins obviously have high expectations for Eichenberg because they didn’t just draft him, but also traded up for the right to do so.
The Dolphins gave up the No. 50 overall selection plus their own third-round pick in 2022 to the New York Giants for pick No. 42.
So the Dolphins spent a 2021 second- and 2022 third-round pick on Eichenberg.
Yeah, he better be starter good and win whatever competition he joins.
And just wondering: Can he carry the football, too?