DAVIE — The Dolphins got skunked on the top quarterbacks in the draft, watching the last of them go one pick ahead of them at No. 10, then turned down a chance to grab one from the next tier in the third round.
Leading up to the NFL Draft, it seemed unlikely Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph would still be around when Miami’s spot came up in the third round, but there he was at No. 73. The team had arguably the fifth- or sixth-best quarterback sitting there for them to take, but opted for Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker.
“It was a consideration,” general manager Chris Grier said of taking a quarterback. “But for us, Baker was a guy at that spot who was just too good for us to pass up.”
The Dolphins didn’t feel that way about Rudolph, who didn’t overwhelm them with his personality and playing style, and he went three picks later to Pittsburgh.
He’s a 6-foot-5 pocket passer who proved himself as an accurate thrower on deep balls and was proficient running the kind of up-tempo offense Adam Gase has wanted to implement.
Rudolph piled up 12,765 yards and 86 touchdowns while completing 63.6 percent of his passes in three years as a collegiate starter. He had decent mobility as well, which is a must for Miami.
Once the Dolphins lost out on the first four quarterbacks, especially Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen, it set them up with the daunting task of trying to find an undervalued quarterback they believed to be someone they could develop as a challenger to Ryan Tannehill.
However, they had to balance it with addressing major needs at tight end and linebacker. Miami wasn’t necessarily out to grab a safety at No. 11 overall, but they were thrilled to see a potential top-five pick fall to them in Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick is believed to be an incredible talent with the potential to vie for a starting spot this year, but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world for the Dolphins to go into the season with Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald.
Had they gone with a linebacker at No. 11, like Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, they still could have taken tight end Mike Gesicki in the second round and maintained the flexibility to pounce on Rudolph in the third.
Instead, he goes to the Steelers and will get at least one year to learn behind Ben Roethlisberger. When he is ready, he’ll step in as the quarterback of an exceptionally stable organization with many good pieces in place offensively.
That’s good a spot for Rudolph.
In Miami, he would’ve been expected to beat out David Fales and Brock Osweiler for the backup job this year. And that’s a particularly high-pressure spot considering there are no guarantees when it comes to Ryan Tannehill’s health.
At this point, any quarterback the Dolphins get will be more of a long-term developmental prospect. They have two picks in the fourth round — Nos. 123 and 131 — to go for someone like Kyle Lauletta from Richmond or Luke Falk of Washington State if one of them hangs around long enough.
The chances of hitting jackpot decrease as the draft goes on, and there’s a reason most of the analysts and teams had Rudolph ranked decisively ahead of the rest of the class. The Dolphins didn’t think he would be a franchise-changer in the long run, and now it’s possible they’ll be in the same situation at quarterback a year from now. Unless they strike gold in the late rounds or Tannehill puts up a monster comeback season — they’re betting big on the latter — the next young quarterback could be a year away.
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