The Miami Dolphins’ draft may be remembered for the players who went elsewhere.
The Dolphins initially held the No. 3 overall pick, meaning they could have selected Florida tight end Kyle Pitts or LSU receiver Ja'Marr Chase as a tantalizing target for Tua Tagovailoa. They didn't.
Even after two trades left the Dolphins with the sixth overall choice, they could have taken Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, the star of last season's national championship game. They didn't.
They had four of the top 50 selections, leaving them well positioned to land a top-tier running back. They didn’t.
“We’d love to draft every position, every player, every year if we could,” general manager Chris Grier. "But the players we added were at the right spots for us, and we feel good about it.”
The future of the regime led by Grier and coach Brian Flores hinges on whether those good feelings can be validated in the games to come.
The Dolphins did acquire the fastest receiver, the first edge rusher and the first safety in the draft. They upgraded the offense for Tagovailoa, and added two potential starters to a defense that was the NFL's stingiest for much of last season.
The Dolphins used their top pick to select speedy receiver Jaylen Waddle rather than his Alabama teammate, Smith. With the 18th overall choice they took Miami Hurricanes edge rusher Jaelan Phillips.
In the second round the Dolphins drafted Oregon safety Jevon Holland and Notre Dame tackle Liam Eichenberg. Their third-round pick was Boston College tight end Hunter Long.
The Dolphins haven't used a draft pick higher than 131st on a running back since 2016, and it shows. That's the previous time they had a 750-yard rusher.
In 2020, Miami's ball-carriers ranked last in the NFL in yards after contact, and fourth-worst in yards per attempt.
None of the team's five veteran running backs was drafted higher than the fifth round. That includes Malcolm Brown, a free agent acquisition with two starts in six NFL seasons.
“We have good runners on the roster,” Grier said. “We feel good about our guys.”
The 23-year-old Tagovailoa may soon be second in seniority among starting quarterbacks in the division, behind only Buffalo's Josh Allen.
The Jets drafted Zach Wilson with the second overall pick, and the Patriots took Mac Jones with the 15th choice.
“The Jets and New England got two very good players," Flores said. “I’m sure they’re excited about adding those pieces.”
The Dolphins traded up to select Eichenberg, a three-year starter at left tackle for the Fighting Irish, even though they have three offensive linemen who started as rookies last year.
“You can never have enough offensive linemen,” Grier said.
The Dolphins took Long despite already having three veterans at tight end. Two of them, Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe, are heading into the final year of their contracts.
Three of Miami's top five picks played in the Atlantic Coast Conference last year. Phillips is the first player from the University of Miami selected by the Dolphins since 2012.