Chris Grier (Aug. 30, 2023) [608x342]
Chris Grier (Aug. 30, 2023) [608x342] (Credit: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

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MIAMI -- At long last, draft day.

Months of speculation, scouting and negotiating all culminate beginning Thursday. For the Miami Dolphins, that means, presumably, making their first pick in the first round since 2021.

Over the past two years, draft weekend has not been a particularly busy time for general manager Chris Grier; the Dolphins have made just eight combined picks in the past two drafts, three of them coming in the second and third rounds. This year, Miami owns selections in the first, second, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. With a roster that will only get more expensive in the coming years, it's critical Grier finds impact players in this draft.

Miami parted ways with several contributors from a season ago and, for the most part, addressed those areas in free agency. But some burning questions do remain as the 21st overall pick approaches.

What does "best player available" really mean for Miami in Round 1?

Grier said last week that the Dolphins are in position to take the best player available when their first selection arrives. That could be a player at a number of different positions; if recent mock drafts are to be believed, some of those positions align with Miami's team needs.

The most glaring hole on this roster is at right guard, where the Dolphins have not replaced Robert Hunt. Duke offensive lineman Graham Barton could slot in as a day one starter, but so could Illinois defensive tackle Jer'Zhan Newton.

The Dolphins have taken a strength in numbers approach to replacing Christian Wilkins, signing seven defensive tackles since the start of free agency. However, none of them project as a long-term option at the position. Miami's activity also isn't an indicator of its thoughts on this year's defensive tackle class.

"I think it was more just the availability and for us, people wanted to come play here," Grier said. "They know nothing has been promised to any of them, and that's the exciting part. They all know they're coming in to compete. I just think it was the opportunity to add guys that we thought are quality players that had good upsides."

Miami also has a looming need at offensive tackle, with this season expected to be Terron Armstead's last. Any tackle they select in the first round would not need to start right away, although considering Armstead's recent injury, the opportunity for playing time as a rookie seems likely. Washington's Troy Fautanu and Georgia's Amarius Mims would be potential options if Grier goes that route, although Barton did play tackle in college.

Then, there's the areas that might not be considered a glaring need but could certainly stand to improve. Dolphins edge rushers Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips suffered season-ending injuries in 2023, although both are expected to play this season. Depth behind them is thin, even after signing veteran Shaquil Barrett. If Florida State's Jared Verse is available, he is a tempting option.

Selecting a pass-rusher would mean the Dolphins invested three first-round picks on their pass-rushers, which will prove to be expensive once it's time to offer extensions. The same logic applies to the wide receiver position, where the Dolphins lack a reliable third option behind Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. This receiver class is deep, however, and taking one in the first round would be somewhat of a luxury.

So several positions make sense for Miami at No. 21 ... if they keep the pick.

To trade, or not to trade?

Miami owns the 21st and 55th overall selections in this draft, but it does not own any picks in the third or fourth rounds. Grier said his staff has not necessarily given 21 first-round grades to this class, and if the players they deem first-round worthy are gone by the time they are on the clock, trading down to recoup some draft capital is an option he will consider. Conversely, if multiple players they like are available at No. 21, trading down once again becomes a realistic path for the Dolphins.

Considering Miami's lack of draft capital, trading up in the first round does not seem likely. But Grier has a positive track record of finding talent in the middle rounds, and can address depth issues at safety, cornerback, offensive line and/or wide receiver if he decides to trade into the third and fourth rounds.

Will the Dolphins take a quarterback?

Tua Tagovailoa turned in a career-best season in 2023, playing all 17 regular season games for the first time in his career, and Miami's playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs. He was named a Pro Bowl starter for his efforts. He is also entering the final year of his rookie contract, although both sides are working toward getting an extension done.

Grier was blunt when asked in a pre-draft news conference if the Dolphins would draft a quarterback in the first round.

"Listen, we always look at every position. I would say that's not somewhere I'm looking at in the first round," he said. "It's not a position that we've even talked about. There are some good players, but we're very happy with Tua and where he is with us."

However, it's not completely off the board that Miami drafts a quarterback in the later rounds.

Mike White and Skylar Thompson currently back up Tagovailoa, but Grier shouldn't shy away from adding competition to the room if he believes he's getting good value.

"I wouldn't say we're not going to draft a quarterback at any point," Grier said. "We took Skylar here in the seventh round years ago. You always look at opportunities for where you can add depth in your roster, so I just think that goes across the board for any position."