Dolphins 5-year draft review: Depth added, though few starters

The Miami Dolphins selected offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James (pictured) with the 19th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

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Whomever the Miami Dolphins select in the 2015 NFL Draft, all decisions will undoubtedly be the result of a collaborative effort as executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum and general manager Dennis Hickey share the war room for the first time.

Tannenbaum, who oversaw seven drafts as general manager of the New York Jets from 2006-2012, can best be described as an enigmatic drafter as he’s previously selected Pro Bowlers such as Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson, but also gambled and lost on players like Mark Sanchez.

Hickey, meanwhile, got off to a good start in his first season as GM of the Dolphins, piecing together one of the organization’s best drafts in recent years. His top two picks were tackle Ja’Wuan James, who started every game, and receiver Jarvis Landry, who caught a team-high 84 passes for 758 yards and five touchdowns.

While Tannenbaum adamantly insists that Hickey will have the final say on all draft picks, it’s unclear exactly how this arrangement will play out when the Dolphins find themselves on the clock.

"We have a great debate, we look at the board, we let the board dictate things in terms of trying to make trades and things like that, but the final decision rests with Dennis," Tannenbaum said at last week’s pre-draft press conference.

Last year was a step in the right direction, but Miami’s braintrust will need to come away with several more solid draft classes if they hope to distance themselves from the draft-day mistakes of former GM Jeff Ireland.

FIRST-ROUND GRADES

2014: OT Ja’Wuan James, 19th overall (B) — The Dolphins heard far more jeers than cheers when they selected James far sooner than most NFL pundits predicted he would go in the draft. That initial criticism, however, would later be silenced as the 22-year-old started all 16 games during his rookie season. Hickey’s first draft pick as Miami’s general manager, James was selected to the selected to the 2014 All-Rookie Team.

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2012: QB Ryan Tannehill, eighth overall (B+) — He may not be a top-10 quarterback just yet, but Tannehill has certainly done enough to earn the "franchise" label in his three seasons with the Dolphins. Playing behind a battered and bruised offensive line for the majority of last season, the 26-year-old signal caller still managed to set career highs in yards (4,045), touchdown passes (27) and passer rating (92.8). He has started 48 consecutive games since being drafted and is expected to sign a long-term extension in the near future.

2011: C Mike Pouncey, 15th overall (A) — The Dolphins made Pouncey the highest-paid center in the NFL when they signed the former University of Florida standout to a five-year, $52.15 million extension on April 13. Pouncey, who played 12 games at guard out of necessity, earned his second consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl despite missing four games due to a hip injury. Entering his fifth season with the Dolphins, the 25-year-old is expected to move back to center in order to anchor Miami’s improving offensive line.

2010: DE/DT Jared Odrick, 28th overall (B) — The Dolphins traded down (with San Diego) from the 12th overall pick and selected Odrick at the tail end of the first round. In four seasons with the Dolphins, the versatile 27-year-old played both as a 3-4 defensive end and a 4-3 defensive tackle. Now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Odrick recorded 16.5 sacks to go along with 104 tackles in 65 games (41 starts) with the Dolphins.

BUSTS

2013: DE Dion Jordan, first round, third overall — He’s a man without a position that could soon be out of work entirely. Jordan, who had already been suspended six combined games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse and performance-enhancing policies, will reportedly miss the entire 2015 season following his third infraction in two years. While Jordan did not fail a drug test, according to reports, it was determined that his sample had been diluted in an attempt to hide whatever was in his system. What happened to a player that was once considered the top-defensive prospect in the 2013 draft? It’s hard to say. But with the news of this most recent suspension, his time in Miami could very well be over. What a waste of talent.

2012: T Jonathan Martin, second round, 42nd overall — Once expected to be Jake Long’s replacement on the offensive line, Martin’s time with the Dolphins is instead remembered for the infamous "bullygate" scandal. Following that highly-publicized ordeal in Miami, Martin was dealt to the San Francisco 49ers for a conditional seventh-round pick last offseason. The 25-year-old started nine games for the 49ers before being waived in March.

2012: TE Michael Egnew, third round, 78th overall — A John Mackey Award finalist while at the University of Missouri, Egnew’s exceptional athleticism failed to transfer to the NFL. In two seasons with the Dolphins, the 25-year-old caught only seven passes for 69 yards and was released during last season’s training camp. After spending time on both the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squads, he signed a reserve/future contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers in January.

2011: RB Daniel Thomas, second round, 62nd overall — Thomas was supposed to be an every-down back and then he was supposed to be a short-yardage back, but after four seasons with the Dolphins it doesn’t look as if the former Kansas State standout has much of a future in Miami. Last season, the 27-year-old rushed for 168 yards and two touchdowns while serving primarily as Lamar Miller’s backup. In four seasons with the Dolphins, Thomas has rushed for just 1,480 yards and 10 touchdowns as he slowly tumbled down the depth chart.

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LATE-ROUND SUCCESS STORIES

2012: RB Lamar Miller, fourth round, 97th overall — Following a season-ending injury to Knowshon Moreno, Miller ascended to a starting role with the Dolphins and never looked back. The 24-year-old finished with a career-high 1,099 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in 2014. In Miami’s regular-season finale against the New York Jets, he broke off a 97-yard touchdown run to set a new franchise mark. In three seasons with the Dolphins, he has rushed for 2,058 yards and 11 touchdowns.

2012: WR Rishard Matthews, seventh round, 227th overall — The Dolphins traded down (with Tennessee) on draft day and selected the relatively unknown receiver out of the University of Nevada. Following a solid sophomore campaign in which he caught 41 passes for 448 yards and two touchdowns, Matthews was held to just 12 receptions and a career-low 135 receiving yards last season. Still, the 25-year-old receiver has played beyond the expectations of his draft stock as he enters the final year of his rookie deal.

2011: TE Charles Clay, sixth round, 174th overall — Miami traded up (with Green Bay) to select Clay, who earned a starting job with the Dolphins during the 2013 season. Following a breakout 2014 season in which he caught 69 passes for 759 yards and six touchdowns, the 26-year-old reeled in just 58 receptions for 605 yards and three touchdowns last year as knee and hamstring injuries limited his production. Still, a dip in his numbers didn’t stop the Buffalo Bills from offering him a five-year, $38 million contract that Miami inevitably chose not to match.

2010: S Reshad Jones, fifth round, 163rd overall — Miami traded up (with Washington) to select Jones, who continues to prove that he’s worth every penny of the four-year, $29.285 million extension he signed in 2013. Following a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy, the 27-year-old had one of his best seasons as a Dolphin to date last season. He registered 80 tackles, three interceptions and one sack to solidify himself as one of Miami’s top-defensive players. In five seasons with the Dolphins, he has registered 284 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 10 interceptions and one touchdown.

FINAL ANALYSIS

With Ndamukong Suh’s massive contract eating up a large amount of cap space in the coming seasons, the Dolphins can no longer afford to swing and miss on cost-effective draft picks as they look to fill out their roster.

Since 2010, Miami has selected 11 players in the second and third rounds. Only three — wide receiver Jarvis Landry, linebacker Koa Misi and defensive end Olivier Vernon — were considered starters last season.

If they hope to build a perennial contender, the Dolphins will not only need to do a better job of finding starters in the middle rounds, but may also even need to get lucky and unearth at least one future star.

Here’s Miami’s draft breakdown by year:

 

You can follow Jameson Olive on Twitter @JamesonCoop or email him at JamesonOlive@gmail.com.