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
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
”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
”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.”