Dolphins' tanking strategy hits a snag with 2-game winning streak

A day after Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa put on an electric show in a high-stakes affair with implications for the top of the NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins saw their chances of drafting their choice of an elite quarterback prospect take a hit.

The Dolphins, largely assumed to be in full-on tank mode with eyes on a potential franchise quarterback, put together an unlikely two-game win streak with a 16-12 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Two weeks ago, the Dolphins were in control of their path to the No. 1 pick and looked like a potential 0-16 candidate.

Bengals, not Dolphins in line for top pick

Now they’re 2-7 and have ceded control of the No. 1 pick to the 0-9 Cincinnati Bengals, with the 1-8 Washington Redskins, 2-7 Atlanta Falcons and 2-7 New York Jets all threatening to gain higher draft picks

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The Dolphins picked up another notch in the win column not through exceptional play Sunday, but with the assistance of another mishap from Adam Viantieri and a brutal outing from Colts backup quarterback Brian Hoyer.

The Dolphins have ceded control of the choice for Joe Burrow or Tua Tagovailoa to the Cincinnati Bengals. (AP Photos/File)

Colts’ mistake-filled day

Vinatieri missed a late extra point that left the Colts with 12 points instead of 13 and forced Indianapolis to go for a first down from the Dolphins 16 on fourth down instead of attempting a tying field goal.

Hoyer’s pass to tight end Eric Ebron fell incomplete on Indianapolis’ final play, essentially ending the game with 40 seconds remaining.

Hoyer’s pass that was short of the line of gain regardless capped a performance that saw him complete 18-of-39 passes for 204 yards, a single touchdown and three interceptions.

So it’s safe to say that the Dolphins didn’t so much win this one as the Colts lost it. But a win is a win in the standings, and that’s what matters when it comes to draft positioning.

What now for Dolphins?

What looked like a good bet just two weeks ago is suddenly in peril for a team whose personnel decisions have clearly pointed to a “Tank for Tua” or “Bomb for Burrow” strategy.

The Bengals will most certainly look to draft a quarterback after moving on from the perpetual mediocrity of the Andy Dalton era and are squarely in line for the first choice.

Tagovailoa looked like the consensus top prospect prior to the start of the college football season, but Burrow’s ascendance capped by LSU’s 46-41 win over Tagovailoa and Alabama has him at the front of the Heisman Trophy line and potentially sitting as the No. 1 pick.

Oregon’s Justin Herbert also figures to land in the top-10 conversation.

The problem for the Dolphins here is that if they covet one of the top prospects over the others, they’re not in position to guarantee they get their guy.

Not every bad team needs a QB

The good news for Miami if the Dolphins like multiple quarterbacks and end up choosing behind the Bengals is that the Redskins, Jets and Falcons are all unlikely to look for a quarterback.

The Redskins and Jets have young first-round quarterbacks in Dwayne Haskins and Sam Darnold that they’re not likely ready to give up on, while it’s too early for the Falcons to start looking for Matt Ryan’s successor.

But what looked like an iron-clad strategy to gain the No. 1 pick is very much in peril as the Bengals, not the Dolphins, are in line for the top selection.

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