Extra picks in the first round of the NFL Draft can be a huge advantage for a franchise trying to build from the ground up so it’s even more important that a team hits on their early picks when they’re both drafting high in the first round and have multiple selections. For the Miami Dolphins, they did just this with their selection of Auburn cornerback Noah Igbinoghene. In fact, I think that he will offer the most immediate impact on their defense in 2020.
Looking at Noah Igbinoghene’s Relative Athletic Score (RAS)
The Dolphins took the requisite leap of faith to draft a new quarterback with their fifth overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, cementing “Tua Time” in the annals of Dolphins lore for years to come. They followed up that pick with a bit of a surprising selection of Austin Jackson, USC’s athletic blindside protector. But, it’s their third first-round selection that offers the most immediate impact for their defense. Auburn’s Noah Igbinoghene was an intriguing prospect, but his athletic tools make him a unique fit for Brian Flores’ defense.
An elite RAS helps Noah Igbinoghene make an early impact during the 2020 NFL season
From an overall athletic standpoint, Igbinoghene is operating in a position of strength. With decent size (but not great – more on that later) and good speed, he is built to run with a majority of receivers in the NFL.
A corner with great explosiveness has an edge in zone coverage as it is a trait best illustrated when a player explodes from their stance and quickly gets to top speed. It can also be seen in man coverage when a receiver tries to accelerate quickly and the corner counters with the same. A lack of elite agility can be a problem for corners asked to cover shiftier receivers as it can sometimes mean the corner is a bit stiff in transition.
These traits show up when watching Igbinoghene at Auburn. Though his forty-yard dash was very good, it’s a bit of a build-up speed with a long gait. You could see both the build-up and a devastatingly fast top speed during his 96-yard touchdown as a kick returner against Minnesota during the Outback Bowl in early 2020.
That sort of running style is pretty typical of players with better speed and explosion than agility. His explosiveness shows up constantly when playing inside, which coupled with strong technique, sees him closing on fast-breaking in routes and slants and making life difficult for offenses trying to gain chunk yardage over the middle.
Igbinoghene is a perfect fit for Brian Flores’ scheme
It takes more than track athletes to be NFL starters, but there’s plenty of reason to expect Igbinoghene to be the most immediately impactful Dolphins rookie first-rounder. Despite being the 30th overall pick as opposed to the 5th or 18th, Igbinoghene has both an immediately defined role in the scheme and no concerns over health.
What gives me the most reason to think Igbinoghene takes on an immediate role that impacts the 2020 defense is his similarities with other players that Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has coached.
Early in his coaching career, Flores coached both former and current Patriots Darius Butler and Devin McCourty. Both were under 5’11”, 200 pounds. Both displayed great explosiveness and good but not great timed drills (though excellent top-end speed). McCourty would play extremely well as a rookie before transitioning to safety a few years later.
Like Igbinoghene, part of why McCourty saw early success was how well defined his role on the defense would be. This, combined with top tier athleticism, should help Igbinoghene have the most immediate impact of all of the Miami Dolphins 2020 first-round picks, even if Tua Tagovailoa is likely to be the most important to the team’s long term success.