Dolphins understand evolving draft realities might lead them to an unexpected QB selection

Armando Salguero

It’s still early but at this point the Miami Dolphins believe only one quarterback likely available in the 2020 NFL draft will be worthy of a top 2-3 selection: Louisiana State’s Joe Burrow.

The problem is the Dolphins might not have a top 2-3 selection. In fact, the Dolphins are already fourth in the projected draft order.

That also can change but the team has two winnable games the next two outings against the New York Giants on Sunday and the Cincinnati Bengals next week so the change could just as likely be Miami picking lower as higher.

That means the Dolphins, eager to add quarterback talent next offseason, already understand they may have to draft a quarterback beyond the top tier of the first round.

They might use their picks later in the first round -- the ones acquired from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans -- to pick that quarterback. Or they might use either or both of their second-round picks (combined in a trade up, if necessary) to select that quarterback.

The Dolphins, in short, are considering quarterback options beyond their highest draft pick. And they’re not dismissing any of them if the quarterback they most value, their man, isn’t necessarily slotted to their most premium pick.

That points us to a couple of obvious options: Two former Alabama quarterbacks.

Tua Tagovailoa.

Jalen Hurts.

Hurts is currently the more tangible prospect. He’s a senior so he will be in April’s draft. And he does not wear the uncertainty of health issues that currently cover Tagovailoa from head to toe.

Hurts, who finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, was asked Friday what makes him appealing to prospective NFL teams. And although he asked the questioner (me) to “hold your horses” about the next level, he did give an answer that will be appealing to the only NFL team playing south of Deerfield, Florida.

“I think all great quarterbacks share similar characteristics and one of those is leadership,” Hurts said. “Everybody leads in a different type of way but I think there’s a tremendous respect for all of them.

“...You talk about the success I had at Alabama, starting young and playing as a freshman. It’s having those unique experiences I can call on. And moving to another top tier university, these guys accepted me as their leader. That was earned.

“Nothing was given to me. We had a mutual respect for each other and they accepted me and named me their captain. So it’s things like that that mean so much to me. I don’t go in there and try to control anything, I just go and be myself and lead by example all the time.”

Leadership from the quarterback position, and not just the kind that points the way for players but also lifts them to a higher level, is what Dolphins coach Brian Flores has talked about valuing multiple times. Talk to Oklahoma and Alabama people and they rave Hurts has that trait.

That’s what makes him a possible Dolphins target, perhaps late in the first round or more likely in the second.

Hurts transferred to Oklahoma this season because the quarterback job in Alabama belonged to Tagovailoa.

But with Tagovailoa dislocating and fracturing a hip that ended his season -- not to mention the multiple ankle injuries and surgeries he’s had the past two years -- the long medical report has possibly knocked the player from the top of the draft, chiefly because of durability issues.

That also is fluid depending on Tagovailoa’s recovery. But it’s clear there are questions about size, mobility and durability that can make a team wary.

The Dolphins could obviously overcome those concerns picking Tagovailoa later in the first round or perhaps in the second round, if he’s available.

But the ironic thing is that today, right now, the player who left Alabama to get out of the Tagovailoa shadow, might be a better NFL prospect.

Hurts this year completed 71.8 percent of his passes for 3,634 yards with 32 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Against top 25 teams Hurts completed 69.1 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and three interceptions.

Against top 25 competition, Tagovailoa completed 56.8 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and two interceptions.

That comparison speaks well of Hurts, who admittedly questioned himself when he lost the Alabama starting job to Tagovailoa.

“I think it’s natural for someone to begin to question themselves but you have to keep faith and keep moving forward,” he said. “You have to put the work in. I better myself every day of the week. It will always be that way. It’s just who I am. Regardless of the circumstances, regardless of what ‘they’ may think. ‘They’ don’t really matter. It’s about what I think and how I feel, where my head is and how I can approach it.

“God blessed me with great people around me. And he blessed me with some unique abilities. I try to know right from wrong. I handle my business like a professional, handle it the right way. Things [at Alabama] headed that way, but I just kept faith that I could do more.”

And he did.