Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland plans to spend the upcoming NFL Draft horizontally.
No, that’s not to say he’ll be making selections from the war room couch.
“We don’t draft vertically, we draft more horizontally,” Ireland said recently. “I don’t go through the board and say, ‘This guy over this guy over this guy over this guy over this guy.’ I don’t do that. I have the draft more horizontally by position (and) by round.
“So if you’re in a position where you have a guy at guard and you have a need at guard, he’s up there. You may have two or three other players that have the same value as that player, but it marries the need. The value marries the need.”
Ireland’s approach will be used beginning Thursday night, when the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft is held in New York City. The second and third rounds will be held Friday, with rounds four-seven on Saturday.
The Dolphins enter this year’s draft owning 11 total picks, including one in the first round (12th overall) and two each in the second (42nd and 54th overall) and third rounds (77th and 82nd overall).
As is often the case, much attention will be paid on the top pick. In his first five years as Dolphins general manager, Ireland used his first-round picks to select T Jake Long (2008), CB Vontae Davis (2009), DE Jared Odrick (2010), C Mike Pouncey (2011) and QB Ryan Tannehill (2012).
The jury’s still out on Tannehill, thought the rookie showed promise last season.
Davis struggled and was traded to Indianapolis in August. Odrick, selected to play end in a 3-4 defense, is trying to find a place in the 4-3 under coach Joe Philbin.
Long and Pouncey have been solid picks, though the former signed as a free agent with St. Louis last month.
Long’s departure means the Dolphins need offensive line help. Would Ireland actually make it three offensive linemen among his six first-round picks as Dolphins GM?
“If I get another (Mike) Pouncey and another Jake Long, I would do it every draft,” Ireland said. “Those kinds of guys are pretty darn good. I wish I had a whole team full of Mike Pounceys and Jake Longs, to be honest with you.”
Ireland said 11 draft picks give him “ammunition” to make deals if he so chooses. There are several talented players who might cause Miami to consider moving up.
Texas A&M T Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan T Eric Fisher and Oklahoma T Lane Johnson all are widely projected to go in the first seven picks. North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper and Alabama’s Chance Warmack generally are rated the best guards and could be gone before Miami’s first pick.
There also have been reports the Dolphins are talking to the Kansas City Chiefs about T Branden Albert for a second-round pick.
Miami’s other top need positions include cornerback, a pass-rushing defensive end and, with Reggie Bush’s exit via free agency, running back.
Alabama’s Dee Milliner and Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes, the draft’s two top corners, could be gone by the No. 12 pick.
One interesting possibility for Miami could be Utah defensive tackle Utah’s Star Lotulelei, who didn’t work out at the combine after the discovery of a heart ailment. Once considered a potential No. 1 overall pick, Lotulelei reportedly was the victim of a virus and has been given a clean bill of health.
Whenever the Dolphins prepare to make a selection, Ireland will look at his horizontal board and see what value marries a team need.
“I’m still going to go into it trying to get really good football players that have a high upside that we can develop that are our kind of guys,” Ireland said, ”and I think, if you go into that way, then I think you’re going to come out the best way.”