Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series examining where 2020 NFL Draft picks from Auburn landed last week and how those situations will affect their professional careers. The series will also look at how Auburn will try to replace each player.
With 11 selections in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins were able to fill a lot of needs ranging from quarterback with their first pick to long snapper in the seventh round.
With one of their three first-round selections, the Dolphins tabbed Auburn junior Noah Igbinoghene as the lone first-round pick they used on the defensive side of the ball.
Cornerback was clearly a huge emphasis for general manager Chris Grier and head coach Brian Flores this offseason with the signing former Cowboy Byron Jones to the largest cornerback contract in NFL history and then spending the draft capital to add Igbinoghene.
“That is something with Chris and I, we’ve always been on the same page as far as never having enough corners in this league,” Flores said during a virtual press conference on draft day posted to miamidolphins.com.
The Miami defense took major steps forward last season in Flores’ first season as a head coach after previously serving as the defensive coordinator for the Patriots.
Where he fits in:
The Dolphins are on the rebuild with Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa being the fifth overall pick in the draft. While Tagovailoa will be looked at to be the strength of the offense, the defense appears to be being built from the outside in.
Xavien Howard was the most talented player on Miami’s defense going into the offseason, and they built on that strength in free agency by giving Jones a five-year, $82.5 million contract to play on the opposite side of Howard.
With the outside spots spoken for, that likely leaves Igbinoghene to compete for snaps as the nickel. The nickel corner is a starting spot in today’s NFL, and Igbinoghene will have a good veteran to compete with for the spot with five-year veteran Bobby McClain.
McClain is also experienced at safety though, and if Igbinoghene can lock down the nickel spot his selection might improve the Dolphins in two places at once.
Although Miami’s record last year doesn’t show it, the Dolphins were a pleasant surprise as far as their improvement throughout the season last year. With a defensive-minded head coach and veterans surrounding him in the secondary, Igbinoghene may have landed himself in the ideal situation for his development.
What they say about him:
“The best player on the board for us,” Grier said during the virtual press conference. “We felt really good about Noah. We got to know him. This is a passing league as everyone says. You can never have enough corners.”
How Auburn replaces him:
With Javaris Davis, Daniel Thomas and Jeremiah Dinson all being seniors last year, Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele already had a lot to replace in the secondary next season. Igbinoghene’s early exit to the NFL just adds another hole.
At cornerback, Christian Tutt and Roger McCready return with the most experience. Tutt played out of the slot last season, so in order to keep him in that ‘Star’ role the Tigers will need to identify another cornerback to start opposite McCready.
Sophomore Nehemiah Pritchett and senior Devan Barnett were listed on the depth chart to end last season and cornerback reserves alongside McCready. Pritchett had four tackles against Samford last season. Barnett, a former running back, appeared in seven games a season ago.
Four-star JUCO signing Marco Domio from Blinn College also figures to be in the mix at cornerback.