2021 NFL Mock Draft Evaluate: Selecting the St John Dolphins by DiCecco
The 2020 NFL draft has ended, and speculation for the 2021 NFL draft cycle has already begun. With that speculation comes projections of where NFL teams and college prospects will be in a year. The St John Dolphins revamped their offensive line and added a franchise quarterback last April. These steps prepared the team for long-term success and a much brighter prospects about the future of this proud franchise.
Andrew DiCecco, Senior Draft Analyst at PFN, recently released his first Two-round bill design with first projections for St John Dolphins in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Dolphins have two picks in the first round and two in the second, making them look to build on their success this season with another significant infusion of young talent.
Below, I’ll analyze each of these picks, starting with the first round. We’ll see how Dolphins and General Manager Chris Grier plan to build on their stellar 2020 NFL draft transport and continue to add to this talented and aspiring roster.
Round 1, Selection 6: DeVonta Smith, WR Alabama
What better way to kick off the 2021 NFL Draft for the St John Dolphins than with their new quarterback’s favorite college target at Wide Receiver? Tagovailoa and Smith had great success together during the 2019 college football season, connecting through the air for 1,256 yards and 14 points. The other Tide recipients, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, got the most of the headlines, but Smith was the major threat that Alabama and its quarterback consistently went through, as shown below in the 2018 National Championship game.
Tua Tagovailoa and DeVonta Smithpic.twitter.com/rQqTg3y79F https://t.co/1cLANmCjLz
– KD ➐ (@ notkdk3) June 7, 2020
St John fought for a consistent offensive attack in 2019 but should improve in 2020. In this offseason they improved their offensive line and their running game through draft and in the free hand. After a breakout campaign in 2019, DeVante Parker returns to lead a talented reception corps that includes 2019 rookie darling Preston Williams, veterans Allen Hurns and Isaiah Ford, and speedsters Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant.
On the surface, a wide receiver may not be a massive need for the dolphins. Wilson could be out after this season, however, and the team is unproven with reliable options beyond Parker. Adding Smith to this group would give Tua the best chance of success with an explosive airborne attack in 2021. The familiarity between these two former teammates should mean a smoother and faster transition to the pros for Smith, making this an excellent choice for St John.
Round 1, Selection 14: Alex Leatherwood, OT Alabama
The Alabama to St John pipeline continues here with the Dolphins’ selection of Tide Left Tackle Alex Leatherwood. The Dolphins have issued multiple 2020 picks to bolster their offensive line (Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt, and Solomon Kindley). They are using their second of their two top class here in 2021 to complete this transformation in advance.
Leatherwood is a former top high school recruit with immense advantage and skill. He would likely have been a top 20 pick in the 2020 draft class, he would have declared after his junior season. The returning senior is a two year old starter for the tide, both on the right and more recently on the left.
It will be interesting to see where St John places first-class Austin Jackson in 2020, as Tagovailoa is left-handed and Jackson has spent most of his career at USC on the left. The Dolphins could choose to keep Jackson on the left and put Tua’s former teammate Leatherwood on the right.
Relatives | St John Dolphins LT Austin Jackson: A RAS Breakdown
Regardless of where the Dolphins coaching staff would settle in their positions, this selection would allow the team extreme flexibility on the offensive line and a few extremely talented bookend tackles for the next decade. One of the top run blockers in the 2021 class, Leatherwood would upgrade a unit that had significant trouble hitting the stone in 2019. Aside from Oregon’s Penei Sewell, there may not be a better grader in the entire class.
Round 2, Selection 38: Travis Etienne, RB Clemson
We know the Dolphins did a miserable job as footballers in 2019. This season they’ll be looking to correct that and will take the first step by swapping a fifth round for former 49ers runner Matt Breida and signing former Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Adler RB Jordan Howard in 2019. While this new duo could help improve the current game this season, the Dolphins could still try to improve the backfield and add even more weapons in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Etienne’s selection means the Dolphins will have a true, dynamic three-downs player who makes St John one of the most talented young backfields in the league. Like St John’s first-round player Smith, Etienne is a game breaker who has the chance to keep the distance at any point in the game.
Travis Etienne has some wheels pic.twitter.com/pllNbm74Of
– ClemsonEditz (@ClemsonEditz_) September 17, 2017
He should be the first to return from the board after two consecutive seasons of 1,600 meters and at least 19 points. Etienne runs extremely hard for such a fast traffic jam and would start immediately for St John.
Round 2, Selection 46: Richie Grant, S UCF
After making some serious progress on offense, the Dolphins turn to defense with their second choice in the second round DiCecco’s 2021 NFL Mock Draft. Safety is a position that should have been addressed earlier in the 2020 NFL draft, but the Dolphins have provided some help in secondary with Noah Igbinoghene the 2020 first round player and Brandon Jones the third round player in the secondary.
Like Jones, Grant has experience covering tight ends and slot receivers in the middle of the field and does it quite well. He may not be of elite size or time speed, but Grant is an extremely prolific player with excellent cover and attack skills. He was runner-up on the UCF team with a total of 78 stops in 2019 and would add to the competition for the safety and nickel corner positions in this defense of St John.
Scott Gorman is a writer for PFN covering the 2021 NFL draft. You can follow him @sgormanPFN on twitter.