11 picks give Dolphins flexibility in draft

The Miami Dolphins go into the draft with enough picks to field

a team. Now the goal is to field a winning team.

After many months of patient maneuvering, the Dolphins

accumulated 11 picks, beginning with the 12th overall selection

Thursday. They have five of the first 82 selections, the most in

the NFL.

So they should come out of the weekend with a bounty of new

talent, a foundation for the future, and a new direction after four

consecutive losing seasons – the franchise’s longest such stretch

since the 1960s.

General manager Jeff Ireland, much-maligned for decisions in

previous drafts, swung several deals to put Miami in such a

favorable position. He knows the Dolphins can’t botch it.

”A lot of thinking and a lot of planning went into this,”

Ireland said. ”The fact that we do have 11 draft picks, and five

in the top three rounds, that’s important. It doesn’t come around

very often that you have that kind of clout in the draft. We need

to take advantage of it.”

The abundance of early picks affords the Dolphins considerable

leverage in trade talks. There has been speculation they’ll move up

in the first round, but with myriad needs, it’s also possible

they’ll trade the No. 12 selection for multiple lower choices.

”Obviously you have options – I like to use the word

`ammunition’ – to go up if you wanted to,” Ireland said.

”Certainly there are opportunities to do that, and there are also

opportunities to move back and move around.

”I’ve got enough ammunition to get to the first pick if I

wanted to,” Ireland said, smiling slightly. ”But I don’t see

myself doing that.”

Whatever the moves, they could prove pivotal for the Dolphins’

GM, a Bill Parcells protege preparing for his 15th draft and his

sixth in Miami. Fans mindful of so-so draft results in recent years

have clamored for Ireland’s firing.

Not one player remains with the team from Ireland’s first season

with Miami in 2008, and the 2011 draft netted only one starter –

center Mike Pouncey. Second- and third-round picks have been

especially disappointing.

”I am aware of it,” Ireland recently told reporters. ”You

guys keep me aware of it quite often.”

Now that second-year coach Joe Philbin and his staff have

settled into their jobs, they’ll likely have more input in the

Dolphins’ draft room this time around. But Ireland said his

approach remains the same.

”Obviously you are trying to upgrade the room and the dynamics

of the room,” he said. ”Certainly I haven’t changed too much in

regard to picking players. I have been doing it a long time


The biggest need is a replacement for left tackle Jake Long, who

departed to the Rams in free agency. Miami would likely need to

trade up to select Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M, Eric Fisher of

Central Michigan or Lane Johnson of Oklahoma, but D.J. Fluker of

Alabama is expected to be available at No. 12.

Fluker is a right tackle, which would mean moving Jonathan

Martin – a second-round pick last year – from the right side to

left tackle.

”It would be a great bet at right tackle if Jonathan Martin can

get it done at left tackle,” draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said.

”It will help your running game as the best running blocking right

tackle to come out in years.”

But will Ireland use such a high choice on a player perceived as

the fourth-best tackle available? And will he devote yet another

first-round pick to an offensive lineman?

Miami took Long as the first overall pick in 2008 and Pouncey as

the 15th overall choice last year.

”If I get another 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


But in the next breath he added, ”I’m not going to pigeonhole

myself just to take an offensive lineman. I think we have a couple

other positions that we might go after.”

A defensive back or defensive lineman are other possibilities

with the first pick. Less pressing needs include guard, running

back, outside linebacker and tight end.

Whatever the position, the Dolphins seek playmakers who can

change the course of a game in one snap. Miami ranked 27th in yards

in 2012, when the wideouts caught only three touchdown passes, and

the defense tied for fourth-worst in takeaways – statistics that

underscore the lack of a big-play capability.

With the team in the market for so many upgrades, perhaps Miami

will keep all 11 picks. Quantity is important to Philbin.

”Ideally we’d add 11 excellent football players to the roster,

and create an even more competitive atmosphere than we have right

now,” the coach said. ”We all know the draft, and free agency for

that matter, are not necessarily exact sciences. But I’d rather

have 11 than five. So I’m excited about it.”