Dolphins loaded with picks for upcoming draft
DAVIE, Fla. — Jeff Ireland agrees with fans and media types who insist this year’s draft is an important one for the Miami Dolphins.
While most of the outside forces point to this being a make-or-break sixth draft under Ireland, the Dolphins general manager cites another reason for the draft’s significance.
“We have 11 picks, that’s why it’s important,” Ireland said Thursday. “To have the cap space and the draft picks in the same year, a lot of thinking, a lot of planning went into this.
“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 first round of the 2013 NFL Draft will be held Thursday night, April 25. The second round will follow on Friday, April 26, with rounds four-seven on Saturday, April 27.
Miami’s early round picks include a first-round selection (No. 12 overall), two picks in the second round (Nos. 4, 11) and two in the third round (Nos. 15, 20).
“I have enough ammunition to get to the first pick if I wanted to, but I don’t see myself doing that,” Ireland said during his pre-draft media conference at the team’s training complex.
“(When it comes to moving up,) it depends on what’s there. We haven’t gone through the process in talking to other teams at this point and seeing where we would go up or back. Right now, we’re trying to get the board right and grinding through the process.”
A year ago, Ireland was pretty certain the Dolphins’ first-round pick would be used on Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill, who became Miami’s starting quarterback as rookie.
This year, Ireland says he’s not focused on one player for the team’s top pick. In saying there still would be much pre-draft discussion with coach Joe Philbin and the Dolphins staff, the general manager added, “I have a pretty good idea of three or four guys that I’m looking at.”
Ireland said the Dolphins would spend the next six days finalizing the draft board as they see it, leaving the remaining pre-draft time to investigate moving up or down.
“You have to play out all the options. That’s what we’re in the business to do is look at your contingencies,” Ireland said. “I could certainly say we’re going to have three players out of the five (early round picks). I could certainly say I’m going to have six players out of the five.
“I think there’s certain levels of the draft that are really attractive to me. So, I think all options are open, absolutely.”
Ireland was asked about two positions more than others — offensive linemen and cornerbacks.
Miami must fill the hole left by losing left tackle Jake Long to free agency. Last year’s second-round pick Jonathan Martin is a possibility.
“I’m going to let my coaching staff decide, at the end of this process, where Jonathan Martin plays,” Ireland said. “I think what we do have is a flexible, versatile player that can play left or right. I think his development has been good. I think he’s got a long way to go to play right or left.
“There’s still free agents on the street, there’s still guys available in the trade market and then we have the draft. I think we’ll be active in one of those pieces and maybe more.”
As for cornerback, Ireland said he didn’t feel pressure to select a player at that position during the first few rounds. The team did sign free agent Brent Grimes, who’s recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon injury.
“I think corners can be selected and have an active role at just about anywhere in the draft. That’s one position where they develop differently,” Ireland said. “Like Brent Grimes, you can find them in free agency, you can find them in the fourth, fifth or sixth round. I don’t particularly think that’s a position we have to take high.”
Ireland touched on a few other topics during his 26-minute media conference.
-- On his second draft with Philbin as Dolphins head coach:
“One of the things I liked about Joe in the interview process is that he and I see players pretty much the same. Schematically is where maybe it’s changed. Character, makeup … those things we see very much eye to eye on.”
-- On Miami’s wide receivers (who include re-signed Brian Hartline and free-agent acquisitions Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson):
“I like the unit that we have. I think we have some complementary skill sets that make us a lot better than where we were last year.”
-- On today’s NFL tight ends:
“You kind of mirror what the college game is doing now, and the college game is spreading out. So you’re getting guys the college game is playing with. There’s not many traditional wide, big-blocking tight ends.”
-- On Notre Dame linebacker Manti T’eo being among Miami’s permitted draft visits:
“I think he’s a good football player that’s going to be drafted. In that particular case, I wanted to spend some time with him to get to know a little but more about the whole process he’s been through (following his fake girlfriend controversy) and how he’s handled it and how he’s moving forward with it.”
Charlie McCarthy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mccarthy_chas