The National Hockey League welcomed a new team to their league last week, the Seattle Kraken. With their entrance to the league came an expansion draft, and it generated a lot of buzz in the NFL media world. While the NFL isn’t expanding and has its own rules for an expansion draft, it did pose an interesting question: Which 11 players would the Miami Dolphins protect in an NHL-style expansion draft?
If you’re unfamiliar with the format of an NHL-style expansion, I can’t blame you!
The NHL has expanded twice since 2010, the Kraken’s entrance has introduced many to the strange, albeit fun, idea of “protecting” players from being poached by the new team.
Whenever an expansion draft happens, each team needs to “protect” 11 players from the draft. Players entering their first or second season in the league were exempt from the process. There’s more nuance, but that’s the basic premise.
That stipulation certainly plays in the Dolphins’ favor, as Miami is an extremely young team. That said, it would leave Miami with a lot of interesting questions with regard to who they protect and who they’d risk losing. To make it a bit easier, we’re going to split it up into five offensive players, five defensive players, and one special teamer. Let’s take a look!
Miami Dolphins Protected Players – Offense
- Mike Gesicki
- Michael Dieter
- Jesse Davis
- Devante Parker
- Myles Gaskin
Miami Dolphins Protected Players – Defense
- Benardrick McKinney
- Byron Jones
- Jerome Baker
- Xavien Howard
- Andrew Van Ginkel
Miami Dolphins Protected Players – Special Teams
- Jason Sanders
Why these 11 players?
Let’s start with the obvious: Special teams. Of all the players we’ve chosen to protect in this hypothetical NHL-style expansion draft, Jason Sanders seems like the easiest choice. He’s easily one of the best kickers in the NFL. If you have to protect a special teamer, you’re going to protect your kicker unless you have a Matthew Slater-type player, which Miami doesn’t.
The offense is where things get really tricky. It feels weird for us to be protecting both Michael Dieter and Jesse Davis.
Through projections, both Dieter and Davis might not start the season in 2021. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if one of them isn’t with the club when the regular season starts. That said, with how young the offense is and how many players are exempt, there aren’t many options. Both Dieter and Davis offer position flexibility, which Coach Flores values heavily.
In terms of skill position players, Miami’s cornerstone of the franchise Tua Tagovailoa and current 2021 first round draft pick Jaylen Waddle are already protected considering they are second and first year players.
That leaves us with Mike Gesicki, Devante Parker, and Myles Gaskin as our only real options. Preston Williams has the injury bug lately, making the chance of him being stolenby another team may be slim to none. No one else in the WR corps plays a big enough role in the offense to warrant consideration.
Gesicki’s contract expires at the end of this upcoming season; however, he is not the type of player who warrants protection, but options are limited and I expect Miami will extend him before his contract expires.
Over on the defensive side of things, the Dolphins have a bit more options with regards to who to protect. The defense isn’t quite as young as the offense, and there are some important players over here who could certainly get poached. We start with the newly acquired Benardrick McKinney. Miami gave up assets to get him, and he’s going to play an important role in Coach Flores’ defense. He’s an elite run defender, and if he’s back to his old self, can be a Pro Bowl-caliber linebacker for the Dolphins.
McKinney isn’t the only linebacker the Dolphins are protecting in this hypothetical scenario. Fellow backers Jerome Baker and Andrew Van Ginkel also make the cut. Both Baker and Van Ginkel are athletic pieces that the Dolphins can’t afford to lose with the current composition of the defense. Baker has yet to live up to his full potential, but the athleticism is unquestioned. Van Ginkel is just scratching the surface of the pass-rushing threat he can be from the linebacker group.
In the secondary, we’re going to be protecting both Byron Jones and Xavien Howard. Both Jones and Howard are two of the top guys at their position, and both would make cornerstone pieces for a hypothetical new team. Howard’s contract dispute may hamper a team from poaching him, but it’s a risk the Dolphins wouldn’t take. Protecting both Jones and Howard means risking guys like Christian Wilkins, but that’s a chance I think they’d be willing to take.
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