King Felix

By: TJ Hartnett

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Any professional sports team has to know that a projected roster is just about the furthest thing from a guarantee there is.

Whatever a general manager does, injuries, slumps or any number of other things can change what a roster looks like.

In baseball this is a rule with no exceptions, as a 162-game schedule that takes place over more than 6 months dictates that no 26-man roster will be consistent from Opening Day through the end of the season. It’s a safe bet that no teams will make it to the end of the season’s first month sporting one roster throughout.

But with roster turnover comes opportunity for those who weren’t expected to be on the team just yet (or at all). Sometimes those opportunities even present themselves before the first pitch of spring training.

The Braves’ newest member of the starting rotation – or should I say projected member – is Cole Hamels, who has a minor injury and is shut down for three weeks.

As a consequence of that, he won’t be on the roster come Opening Day. Now, barring injury, Mike Soroka, Max Fried, and Mike Foltynewicz are expected to be in the rotation when the regular season kicks off on March 26th.

Hamels was to be the fourth starter (his spot is still guaranteed upon his delayed return), and the fifth starter was to be determined during the exhibition games on Florida.

With Hamels out for the start of the year, the Braves are now needing to fill two spots in the rotation to begin the season and one might be filled by a very unexpected pitcher.

Erstwhile Seattle Mariners legend Felix Hernandez was inked to a minor league contract by the Braves last month.

That’s 6-time All-Star, Cy Young Award-winner King Felix, as he was affectionately known in the Pacific Northwest.

Once Hernandez was one of the best pitchers in the game of baseball. Hernandez has fallen enough that I had completely forgotten that the Braves had signed him until I turned on Atlanta’s first spring game and there he was on the mound.

His 1-8 injury-plagued season in 2019 contributed to his “forgotten man” place in both my mind and on the roster, though he hasn’t been the Felix Hernandez that made him famous since 2015.

That being said, Hernandez is only 33 years old. His best fastballs are behind him, but he was special enough for a long enough time that he must have developed enough pitching know-how to survive without the arm of a 22-year-old version of himself.

With an extra spot opening up in the rotation and one belonging to a veteran, no less – Hernandez’s two-inning stint on the mound to kick off Atlanta’s spring slate suddenly took on a lot more meaning and pressure and Hernandez delivered.

Hernandez allowed one walk and no hits with two strikeouts against the Baltimore Orioles. He looked comfortable, capable, and healthy on the mound. It’s a small sample size, but it could be the beginning of an impressive enough spring that pave the way to a rotation spot come the end of March.

A healthy Felix Hernandez, who is even half of what he was during his prime in Seattle, would be a MASSIVE feather in the cap of Alex Anthopoulos and the Braves.

This is a guy with 169 career wins (and would easily have over 200 if he’d played on better teams). He is also a guy who has never pitched in the postseason. That’s the kind of motivation that leads veterans to have career resurgences (Nick Markakis’ career year in 2018 could likely attest to that).

We’ll have to keep an eye on Hernandez as spring goes on and the competition becomes a little stiffer (he did after all face not just the awful Orioles on Saturday, but their early spring training road team).

But if he can seize the massive opportunity in front of him, everyone wins.

Donovan Delivered

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Former Florida coach Billy Donovan returned to the program he put on the college basketball map.

For the first time since 2015 we will see the man return to the O’Connell Center floor that was named after him. His signature was placed at both ends of the court between the 3-point line and the top the key.

Donovan is the current coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder. With the NBA All-Star Weekend, Donovan was honored at halftime of the Florida vs Vanderbilt contest.

Donovan became the coach at Florida in March of 1996 after Lon Kruger resigned to take the job at the University of Illinois.

The Gator basketball program had only fleeting success over its history. The Gators reached the Final Four under Kruger in 1994, but slipped back to mediocre levels the next season.

The 1998-1999 season the Gators went 22-9 earning 20 plus wins for only the fifth time in school history. They made their third NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance and became the second squad in school history to appear in the final top 25 polls (17 in ESPN and 23 in Associated Press).

While success in the regular season became a standard, post season the Gators consistently underperformed.

In the 2005-2006 season, Donovan’s sophomore led Gator team posted a school-best win streak to start the season reeling off 17 straight wins and reaching number 2 in the Associated Press poll. The Gators struggled during conference play, posting a 10-6 conference record heading into the SEC tournament.

Florida cruised through the SEC tournament and defeated South Carolina in the finals, earning the Gators second conference tournament title. In the 2006 NCAA tournament, The Gators were a three seed.

2005-2006 Gator basketball team would come together and defeat UCLA 73-57 to capture the school’s first NCAA basketball title. As exciting as the championship game, during the post championship celebration, the entire starting five (Lee Humphrey, Taurean Green, Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Cory Brewer) announced they would return and attempt to win back to back championships.

The 2006-2007 Gators did not disappoint Gator Nation. They became the first team since the 1991 and 1992 Duke teams to win back to back NCAA Championships. The Gators defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 84-75 for the repeat championship.

With the Florida Gators football having won the 2007 BCS National Championship game (also over Ohio State). The University of Florida became the first school in NCAA history to hold both the football and basketball National Championships at the same time.

The Gators in the Donovan era were 467-186. The Gators won two national championships (2006 & 2007), four SEC tournaments championships (2005,2006,2007 & 2014) and six regular season conference titles (2000,2001,2007,2013 & 2014). Donovan’s Gators reached the Final Four 4 times with trips in 2000 and 2014 in addition to the national championship seasons.

Billy Donovan is the second coach in Division I history to notch 500 career wins before reaching his 50th birthday. The other was Hall of Famer Bobby Knight.

Billy Donovan thanked former players (30 plus in attendance), former assistants (8 in attendance), his former boss Jeremy Foley, his family and Gator Nation for helping him reach this career pinnacle.

Simply put, Billy Donovan made basketball matter at the football first school.

 

It’s Great To Be A Gator

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2020 recruiting classes are officially in the books. One team I want to examine is the Florida Gators. Their recruiting class is ranked eighth nationally, one spot behind Auburn. We can argue Florida’s class is better.

They have 1 five-star recruit, 17 four-star players and 6 three-star players. Auburn does not have a five-star player, 16 four-stars and 10 three-star players.

The highest rated player is five-star defensive tackle Gervon Dexter from Lake Wales, Florida. He’s 6’6 and 294 pounds so he has prototypical size for the position.

He was the top-rated player in the state of Florida and sixth nationally. Dexter runs a 4.88 forty so he also has great speed and athleticism.

He only started playing football two years ago for Lake Wales High but has made an elite impact ever since. In two seasons, Dexter recorded 27 sacks, 53 tackles for loss, 178 total tackles, 14 forced fumbles, and three batted passes – all in 23 games.

Several four-star D-linemen will join Dexter in the trenches. Weak side defensive end Antwaun Powell (Chesapeake, VA), d tackles Lamar Goods (Oakdale, CT), Johnnie Brown (Sebring, FL), Jalen Lee (Watson, LA) and strong side defensive end Princely Umanmielen.

Four-star cornerback Ethan Pouncey is ranked tenth best at the position in the 2020 recruiting class. The last name looks familiar because he’s the younger cousin of Maurkice and Mike.

Ethan is 6’1, 160 lbs. so he has to get to the training table and weight room. His older brother Jordan is a wide receiver, who was previously at Texas but he is transferring to UF.

There are three other four-star corners coming to Gainesville. Avery Helm (Missouri City, TX), Jahari Rogers (Arlington, TX) and Mordecai McDaniel (Washington, DC).

First, I want to point out it is impressive for the Gators to land top recruits from Texas.

All of these corners are at least 6’1 so they have great size to compete with tall receivers.

They have four-star safety Rashad Torrence II from Marietta, Ga. He was on the team that won the 7A GHSA state championship, so he knows what it takes to win.

As a senior, he had 111 tackles, 7 pass breakups and 1 interception. I think he might be one of the most underrated recruits and I expect him to be a star.

Four-star dual threat quarterback Anthony Richardson is from Gainesville. He attended Eastside High just a few miles from the campus. He is also on Season 4 of the Netflix documentary series “QB1: Beyond the Lights.”

Richardson is 6’4, 233 lbs. and the fifth ranked dual threat QB in the 2020 class. He only played in six games in 2019 before he suffered a season ending shoulder injury. In those games, he scored 15 total touchdowns and the team averaged 24.5 points per game.

There are also several talented playmakers joining the Gators. Wide receivers Xzavier Henderson (Miami, FL), Jaquavion Fraziars (Dunnellon, FL), Leonard Manuel (Fort Lauderdale, FL) and tight end Jonathan Odom (Tampa, FL).

Top Dawg

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Writing about sports, and really just writing in general, can be a fickle endeavor.

Originally, I sat down to write about what is sure to be Anthony Edwards’ single season in Athens, and whether or not it should be deemed a success or failure.

I thought it would be pretty simple since in most cases, when a highly recruited player spurns one of the more well-known programs for one with not as much caché behind it, the answer is usually fairly cut and dry.

Most of the time both the player and team underperform, leaving behind a season that is unforgettable to almost everyone involved. However, Edwards and Georgia is that rare case where the success of one has not translated into success for the other.

For all intents and purposes, Edwards has lived up to being the number one ranked player in his class. He’s basically a guarantee for SEC Freshman is the Year and there’s a good possibility he’ll receive that same recognition on the national level.

I’d be shocked if he isn’t a 1st team All-SEC player (possibly SEC Player of the Year) and is currently projected as a Top 3 pick in this year’s draft. When you look at what he’s accomplished this season, from his perspective, it’s really hard to look at his short-lived tenure in Athens as a bust.

Of course, the key phrase there is “from his perspective” because as good as he’s been- especially these last few weeks- Georgia’s season has been the exact opposite. If Edwards individual season has been “Parasite”, Georgia’s has been “CATS”.

No one with realistic expectations thought this was a Final Four team, but when you have arguably the second most talented player in your program’s history on campus, you at least hope to capitalize on their time there.

Normally, that includes some mixture of national exposure, either from upsets, an overachieving season, or at the very least an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

This way you’re not only proving to recruits that you can help propel them to the next level, but that people will actually know who they are when they get there.

Besides Edwards’ game against Michigan State back in November, where his highlights were all over the internet, has anyone outside of the SEC even watched him play?

Imagine the narrative surrounding the basketball team if instead of battling with Vanderbilt not to finish in last place, they were somewhere in the middle of the conference, battling for a tournament bid, with one or two upsets under the belt.

I also don’t think it’s too farfetched to say that Edwards would be getting some National Player of the Year whispers as well in this scenario, something that always plays well to future recruits.

Now, please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Edwards is perfect and this season’s disappointment falls on Tom Crean and the rest of the roster- neither of those statements are true. That just happens to be a different column for another day.

Jaguars Need To Sharpen Claws On Offense

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Jacksonville Jaguars finished with a 6-10 record in 2019, missed the playoffs for the second straight season, and were a boring team to watch especially on offense for the better part of the season.

I’m getting straight to the rat killing here. This team needs more playmakers at WR and with the #9 pick they need to draft one of the two Alabama receivers below:

 

Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Height: 6-1. Weight: 192.

40 Time: 4.45.

Projected Round: Top-20.

 

Jeudy totaled 77 receptions for 1,163 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2019. He played well for Alabama, showing his skills to be a dynamic receiver and a source for big plays while also serving as a good blocker for his teammates.

Jeudy has big-play speed and is a fantastic route-runner. He can blow the top off of a defense. If Jeudy is there at #9 this in a no-brainer for Jacksonville. I predict Jeudy to be a Pro-Bowl WR in the NFL.

 

Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

Height: 6-0. Weight: 190.

40 Time: 4.40.

Projected Round: 1.

 

Ruggs had 40 catches for 746 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2019. Of the special group of receivers at Alabama, Ruggs is the fastest.

His production was held back by Alabama spreading the ball around to that talented receiving group. If Jeudy is gone then the Jags could go Ruggs here. If this kid runs a sub 4.4 at the combine then he could fly up the draft boards.

If Jeudy and Ruggs are gone before the #9 selection then the Jags should look at addressing the WR position in the second round and the studs below could be still on the board:

 

Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

Height: 6-4. Weight: 200.

40 Time: 4.55.

Projected Round: 1-2.

 

Higgins had 59 catches for 1,167 yards with 13 touchdowns in 2019. He is a tall, long receiver who is a red-zone weapon.

Higgins is projected as a late first round or second round pick. Could he still be there at Pick #42 if the Jags have a brain fart and go defense at #9?

 

Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

Height: 6-3. Weight: 192.

40 Time: 4.50.

Projected Round: 1-2.

 

Jefferson was a nightmare for opposing defenses in 2019, recording 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Jefferson has length to go with speed. He was a steady big-play producer for Joe Burrow and LSU in 2019. This kid is a playmaking machine and can high point the ball over opposing defensive backs.

The Jaguars ranked 20th in total offense in the NFL in 2019. 16th in passing offense and 17th in rushing offense.

DJ Chark was a 1,000-yard receiver for the Jags in 2019, but in an offensive league like the NFL you have to stock up on playmakers. Did you watch the Kansas City offensive explosion during the 4th quarter of Super Bowl 54?

Since taking Blake Bortles in the first round in 2014, who turned out to be a bust the Jags have used their first-round pick on defense in 4 of the past 5 drafts.

It is time to shake off the Bortles hangover and start assembling some pieces on the offensive side of the ball to compete with these high-powered offenses in the AFC.

The dream scenario would be the commissioner saying with the 9th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Jacksonville Jaguars select WR Jerry Jeudy from Alabama then trade for QB Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions to make this team a serious player in the AFC.

 

Spring Hope

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Opening day is still over a month away, but the first members of the 2020 Atlanta Braves have officially arrived at Spring Training in Kissimmee, Fla.

For those who live for baseball, the date, which sees pitchers and catchers report, may as well be the first day of spring, even if there is currently snow on your front lawn.

Teams that came up a bit short of their expectations last season will use the next week to remind themselves that hope springs eternal, dreaming of what could be with plenty of new faces and infinite possibilities laying ahead in the 162 game schedule.

The Braves may well have some of those feelings. After all, it’s impossible not to hope – and want – more after consecutive heartbreaking exits from the divisional round of the playoffs.

Then again, the team’s title of two-time defending National League East champions also allows the Braves to storm into 2020 with some hard-earned bravado.

Despite plenty of notable moves being made by teams throughout the division this offseason – and even with the defending World Series champs residing in Washington – it’s hard to keep from thinking of Atlanta as the favorite to win the East yet again.

While Atlanta bid farewell to Josh Donaldson and his resurgent 2019 season, the Braves continue to boast a young team that still has everyday players coming into their primes, to say nothing of a minor league system that remains one of the deeper and more talented farms in the game.

The starting pitching additions of Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez would have been much more impressive about five years ago, but Hamels is still very effective and the Braves are risking next to nothing on what amounts to a lottery ticket that could always produce a few games of Hernandez in his old form.

Simply put, there will never be another 14-year run of division titles – for the Braves or any other team. Baseball rosters just don’t work like that anymore and Atlanta was never going to be able to keep everyone from the 2018 or 2019 squads in hopes of matching and building on success.

But the Braves can take solace in the fact that they currently possess the sort of blueprint that is leading to playoff success. Atlanta has a solid starting rotation – although they still lack a shutdown ace. The Braves completely overhauled their bullpen at the end of 2019 and should have a solid back end again this year.

Most importantly, the Braves have a potent mix of young, cheap and improving talent in Ronald Acuna, Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley. Throw in the veteran MVP-level talent and leadership of Freddie Freeman and this season’s hired help in Marcel Ozuna and you’ve got a lineup that is going to be a tough out all season long.

For two seasons, the Braves have had to end a season with the promise of “Wait ‘til next year.”

As Spring Training gets underway, Braves fans have every reason to think that next year is finally here.

 

Seminole Cry

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Florida State football’s recruiting class came into National Signing Day with a National ranking of 20th by 247sports.com composite rankings. At the end of the day, Florida State fell two spots to number 22.

As far as the ACC (ALL CLEMSON CONFERENCE) goes, the Seminole were 4th behind Clemson, Miami and North Carolina.

This is Florida State’s lowest ranking in the history of 247sports.com. Also, the first time Florida State did not sign a single five-star player.

Florida State suffered through two straight losing seasons and a coaching change did not help them on the recruiting trail.

The past few seasons have made it clear that Florida State needs to rebuild the program from the ground up. A big part of building that foundation is making sure needs are met and there is adequate depth at every position.

Florida State coach Mike Norvell and his staff salvaged the Seminole 2020 recruiting class. Norvell, who was hired on December 8, acknowledged the difficulties of getting a late start in recruiting.

Norvell stated, “This class is critical. This class is the foundation of where we’re going.”

The Seminole staff worked very hard over the past two months in a class that features 25 signees and three scholarship transfers.

Florida State finished with 8 four stars and 16 three stars.

Norvell was able to do something Willie Taggart wasn’t able to do in two recruiting cycles, and that’s sign a quarterback. Norvell signed two signal callers in Tate Rodemaker, the 25th ranked nationally and Chubba Purdy the 7th ranked nationally.

Unofficially, Florida State has 84 players on scholarship. Given that this is a new staff and spring practice has yet to begin, that number may drop after the Spring semester. There’s still a chance that the Seminoles may add one or more players via the transfer portal.

Florida State is one of the greatest brands and tradition-rich football programs in all of college football. Kids grow up wanting to play for the Seminoles.

Recruiting is the lifeblood for any college football program. Coach Norvell was able to salvage a top 25 class and address some critical needs at quarterback, running back, offensive line and linebacker. Not bad for a guy who was late to the party.

I won’t lie to you; I was severely underwhelmed with Florida State’s recruiting class. Yes, the class meets some needs with a number of players, but the quality is below Seminole standards.

Recruits know you can win big at Florida State, just look at its history and the fact they have won a national championship in the last decade.

The Seminoles had the opportunity to get over the hump with its 2020 recruiting class but failed.

Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher were great football coaches and also great recruiters.

To bring Florida State back to Elite status Mike Norvell must do a better job recruiting. Maybe next year.

Rebuilding The Rebuild

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Jacksonville Jaguars played in the AFC Championship game in 2017. They held a second half lead at New England before losing, 24 – 20. They went into the 2018 season as a legit Super Bowl contender and finished 5 -11.

The Jags had a good running back in Leonard Fournette and an elite defense. Quarterback was considered the weak link so they finally got rid of Blake Bortles.

In March of 2019, they signed Super Bowl LII MVP quarterback Nick Foles to a four-year contract worth $88 million. $50.1 million is guaranteed and could pay up to $102 million with incentives.

That generated excitement for the fan base but he was injured in Week 1 against Kansas City in the first quarter. He suffered a broken left clavicle and had surgery the next day. He did not return until Week 11 and rookie Gardner Minshew started in his place.

Foles only had four starts and threw three touchdowns with two interceptions. The team finished the year 6 -10.

The good news is they earned the No. 9 pick. The Jaguars’ pick will be their 18th time in the top 10 since the franchise came into existence in 1995, the most of any team. The Cardinals, who will be making their 15th top-10 pick since 1995, are second.

They also acquired the 20th pick when they traded Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams.

The good news is they have nine draft picks in the upcoming 2020 draft. The bad news is there are now several holes in Jacksonville’s roster. The offensive and defensive efficiency rankings are both 26th.

They rank 24th in total defense and 20th in total offense. Let’s take a look and see what impact players the Jags might select in the first round.

With the ninth pick, the Jags can go in several different directions. The offensive line needs a solid left tackle and Louisville’s Mekhi Becton would be a good fit. He’s 6’7, 369 pounds but he’s very athletic. He has good footwork, balance and strength. He would fit nicely with 2019 second-round right tackle Jawaan Taylor.

The other option could be a play-making wide receiver. Receiver CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma) could provide speed and explosive plays. Second-year receiver D.J. Chark Jr. had a breakout 2019 campaign (75/1,008/8), but the team needs more weapons for Gardner Minshew (or Nick Foles).

Lamb had 62 catches, 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2019. He averaged 21.4 yards per reception.

The last option with this pick is on the defensive side of the ball. I think the top three prospects; cornerback Jeffrey Okudah, defensive tackle Derrick Brown and linebacker Isiah Simmons should be off the board before this pick. South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw would be the best player available and he could help shore up the interior.

With the 20th pick, I think CB Trevon Diggs (Alabama) would be a good fit. They need a corner to replace Ramsey. Diggs has good physical traits standing at 6’2, 207 pounds. He had 37 total tackles, 3 interceptions and 8 pass deflections last season. If runs in the 4.4 range at the combine they have to take him.

If they don’t select them, I expect them to take another corner, C.J. Henderson (Florida). The biggest knock on him is his tackling but he has the height (6’1) and speed to be an elite cover corner.

Jacksonville has a chance to turn the franchise around with this draft.

A New Ocean?

By: TJ Hartnett

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Going into any offseason, there’s also tons of focus on big-name free agents and stars that might available for trade.

This year there was Gerritt Cole, Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, and a host of other players available on the market, as well as potential trade targets like Mookie.

In the past few years there have been several big names that held out for months; sometimes into the next season itself, before inking with a new team. This year, as Spring Training is here, that didn’t really happen. The players at the top of the free agent list have signed and know to whose camp they need to report to.

But there is one player, a guy who has managed to go relatively overlooked until suddenly he became the lone holdout of the offseason, who is still looking for his next contract: Yasiel Puig.

Puig is a former All-Star for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who finished up a very good year split between the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians.

His big personality and reported troubles in the clubhouse have continued to follow him around, overshadowing the .267 batting average, 30 doubles, 24 homeruns, 19 stolen bases, and .785 OPS that he managed in 2019, not to mention that his batting average and OBS improved down the stretch after the trade (his slugging percentage did take a .475 to .423 dip).

These are the kind of offensive numbers that any team would be delighted to have roaming around in their outfield. However, he hasn’t gotten much love through the offseason until now.

People are starting to wonder if he might not find himself in Tampa Bay.

At first glance that seems unlikely: The Rays are notably crowded in the outfield, with plenty of players fighting for at-bats and innings as it is. Plus, there’d be no guarantee of 500+ plate appearances even for a player with Puig’s pedigree. So, what would be the appeal for Puig?

Well, the big money, multi-year deal he was certainly hoping for has not panned out, so he may be looking for somewhere to sign a short-term contract and try again after the 2020 season has ended.

Platooning wouldn’t be a logical choice, but the appeal of playing in Tampa would bring two other things: championship opportunity and image rehab.

The Rays, as we seem to have to learn year after year after year, can never be counted out in the AL East.

Despite the New York Yankees going full Yankee and signing Cole to a contract they’ll likely regret and putting themselves even further in front of the division (on paper), the Rays are talented enough, savvy enough, and have enough of a proven track record that they may very well challenge for that title. If nothing else, at least continue to battle for an AL Wild Card spot.

A team that might give him a one-year contract to play full-time in the outfield might not be contending for a playoff spot and while he could pad his numbers in a place like Kanas City or back in Cincy, surely, he’d like to fight for the postseason?

Plus, it benefits to Puig’s image. If he goes to a team where he willingly accepts a smaller role in order to help the team win it can erase whatever’s left of teams’ hesitancy to bring him into their clubhouse in the future.

It remains to be seen if these rumors will turn into factual reporting (and I’d be curious to see what kind of monetary value Puig and the Rays could meet in the middle with) but Puig to Tampa is a real possibility – and a very interesting prospect.

Out Of The Shallows

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

With the Super Bowl in the rear view, the Miami Dolphins can officially start executing their off-season draft plans. The Miami Dolphins have 14 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft.

The Dolphins will be a key contender in the 2020 draft, as they currently hold three first round picks and two second round selections.

The speculation is in full swing when it comes to trying to predict what the Dolphins will do with those three first round picks, with more guessing and predictions sure to come.

According to Spotrac, the Dolphins are set to own the most cap space in the NFL next year for a cool 90 to 115 million dollars in cap space.

Needless to say, the Dolphins are going to have a ton of money to convince a handful of top talented free agents to come play in South Beach.

It is going to be a lot of fun for Dolphin fans to see how Chris Grier (Miami’s General Manager) maneuvers free agency and the draft to rebuild this story franchise.

As the Dolphins transition into buyers instead of sellers, they are going to need to do their due diligence to maximize their cap space.

Miami’s wheeling and dealing netted it two additional first round draft picks, at 18 and 26, in addition to their own selection at 5. So, the Dolphins choose wisely, they can set their rebuilding plan in motion in a big way.

One thing is obvious in building a NFL team, you must possess a gifted quarterback to obtain sustained winning and championships. In a pass happy NFL, teams must have a top tier quarterback to win Super Bowls.

The Dolphins rebuild has always been centered around drafting a franchise quarterback.  The football gods have been cruel to Alabama quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, as he saw his season cut short by injury.

The Dolphins have had their eyes on Tua for quite some time and if the medical report on Tua’s hip looks good the Dolphins shouldn’t pass on him. Tua is a super talented passer with elite accuracy; a requirement for a potential franchise quarterback.

I realize that the Dolphins have a lot of holes on both sides of the ball, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will this Dolphin’s team. With the current draft choices and cap space, it is safe to say this is a good foundation to start the rebuild.

The Dolphins almost never make bold moves at the draft and if they want this franchise to be relevant again, they must roll the dice and move up to assure you get the quarterback to build around.

Watching Pat Mahomes this year reminded me of that feeling I used to get when Dan Marino was quarterback. The feeling of hope; by hope I mean the feeling that the Dolphins were never out of a game, the feeling that the Dolphins could overcome any deficit, the feeling the Dolphins can contend for the playoffs and Super Bowl.

Dolphins fans I’ll leave with a quote from Jimmy Johnson “Do you want to be safe and good or do you want to take a chance and be great?”

That is what this off-season is all about for the Miami Dolphins, that is if you’re talking about the Super Bowl.

1 2 3 90