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Big NFL Winners In First Round

May 22, 2021
There were many teams that did well on the first night of the 2021 NFL Draft, but possibly the best among them was the Miami Dolphins.


The Dolphins were the only team (so far) to net two players ranked No. 1 among draft prospects at their respective positions in The SIS Football Rookie Handbook. They added wide receiver Jaylen Waddle with the No. 6 pick and edge rusher Jaelan Phillips with the No. 18 pick to a team that won 10 games and just missed the playoffs last season.

Waddle caught 28 of 29 catchable targets and averaged more than 21 yards per reception for Alabama in 2020 despite missing seven games with a fractured ankle.

Nathan Cooper, who produced Waddle’s scouting report in the Handbook wrote "Waddle is a dynamic playmaker in all facets of the game who has the speed, savvy, and route running ability to consistently separate and then win with the ball in his hands … Waddle projects as a future No. 1 receiver at the next level who can work on the outside or inside."

Waddle’s acquisition was the product of three trades by the Dolphins, which resulted in them obtaining what turned out to be the No. 3 overall pick in this draft from the Texans in 2019, trading down with the 49ers for the No. 12 pick, then trading up with the Eagles for the No. 6 pick.

Phillips also dealt with injuries, these to his wrist, both ankles, and multiple concussions at UCLA before transferring to Miami, where he started all 10 games he played in during 2020. He ranked third among edge rusher prospects in Total Points Per Game (4.5), which measures a player’s value based on all aspects of his play (more on the stat here). He also ranked No. 1 in Total Points Per Game in run defense (2.1).

"Phillips is the prototypical SDE (strong-side defensive end) with good length, strength, and the ability to rush the passer and has the upside to be a high-level pass rusher if he can add moves to his toolbox," wrote Ben Hrkach in Phillips’ Handbook scouting report.

Wide receiver was one of the Dolphins’ biggest offseason needs, so Waddle and new acquisition Will Fuller are great fits. Their wide receivers ranked 29th in the NFL in Total Points last season. Phillips joins an edge rusher group that led the NFL in Total Points in 2020 but has lost two players, Shaq Lawson and Kyle Van Noy, from that team.

One of the other big winners in the first round was the Bears, who traded up with the Giants to select Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields No. 11. John Dewan commented on the Bears’ quarterback situation in our March 25 Stat of the Week, pointing out that Andy Dalton was barely an upgrade over Mitchell Trubisky.

Fields has the potential to be a significant upgrade over both. He ranked second to Mac Jones among quarterback prospects in Total Points Per Game (13.4). More specifically, he was the No. 4 quarterback in Passing Total Points Per Game (10.6) and No. 1 in Rushing Total Points Per Game (2.8). Among traditional stats, he ranked third in completion percentage (70%) and third in total touchdowns per game (3.4).

"Fields has very good physical traits across the board with a history of high-level production, and if he can refine his decision-making and develop consistent accuracy, he will be a top-tier player in the NFL," wrote Matt Manocherian in his Handbook scouting report on Fields.

If Fields lives up to that billing, he may make 10 general managers regret that they passed on him.

QB Drafted in First Round - 2021 NFL Draft
Listed In Order of Selection

Name Team Grade*
1. Trevor Lawrence Jaguars Blue Chip
2. Zach Wilson Jets Strong Starter
3. Trey Lance 49ers Situational Starter
11. Justin Fields Bears Strong Starter
15. Mac Jones Patriots Situational Starter
* Final grades according to Football Rookie Handbook

COMMENTS (3 Comments, most recent shown first)

Too bad for Miami they'll have to win whatever games they can out on the field. They beat 1 team with a winning record (Rams) who frankly weren't that good. With a tougher schedule I doubt they'll be over .500.
9:03 AM May 26th
There is no way to know who had a good draft until you have some perspective (I would guess two years.) My guess is that if you compared team draft classes after gathering that perspective and compared it to grades that most draft experts give right after the draft, people like Mel Kiper, Jr. would make a lot less money.

8:12 PM May 24th
The grades indicate that my 49ers ought to have chosen Fields instead of Lance at #3. I sure hope they're wrong. I know Fields was a beast every time I saw him play last year.
8:40 AM May 24th
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