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  Dolphins Likely Targeting QB with Top Pick
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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There are years when intentions heading into the NFL Draft are tough for me to read.


This isn’t one of those years.


It is my fervent belief that the Miami Dolphins are targeting a quarterback with the team’s top pick (15th overall), either directly or through a trade up the draft order. Nothing else comes close to making sense given the team’s dire situation, driven by the recent events during and immediately after the season.


Say what you will about GM Jeff Ireland and coach Tony Sparano, but they are first and foremost pragmatists. The fallout from last year’s performance hit them like a ton of bricks, and they appear resolved to avoid a repeat of that unhappy episode.


They know they must fix the team’s long standing QB issue to contend for a championship and to extend their tenure in Miami. They know that another second round (or second hand) investment won’t do. They also know that they are unlikely to solve the problem with a high priced, mediocre retread like Kevin Kolb or the troubled but talented Vince Young.


Every vibe, every action we’ve seen, leads me to conclude that they are going to fix the QB problem the right way this time around, the way their predecessors and they themselves haven’t in 20 seasons. I firmly believe they mean to use their top pick to solve this issue.


Here’s the latest: Last month, Ireland and Sparano finished stacking the draft board. They’ve now identified the five players they want to draft in the first round. These are facts. And, at the top of that list, is the QB they have targeted.


Let me say it again: they have identified their guy and are currently planning out what they must do to get him.


This fits in nicely with their normal routine in March of running endless mock draft scenarios, sifting through reams of intelligence superior to anything we see publicly, and making final tweaks from pro day feedback and other wrap up activities.


I don’t pretend to know which QB their target. I found it interesting that the NFL Network’s Jason LaCanfora is reporting that Cam Newton has been scheduled for a private workout by the team. This means nothing, of course, other than the fact that they think highly of him. This is the lying season, after all. But it is yet another indication of what I believe are Ireland’s and Sparano’s primary intentions on Thursday, April 28.


They are going to be aggressive, they are going to be bold, and they have the collateral to do it. Aside from the mid-order draft picks (minus the 2nd rounder they traded for Brandon Marshall), they have an abundance of quality defensive linemen. With the emergence of Paul Soliai and the $12 million contract he just signed, could the Dolphins afford to dangle, say, Pro Bowler Randy Starks in a bid to move up?


There’s recent precedent for this. Just look at what the New England Patriots did in trading Pro Bowler Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders for a first rounder.


Of course it’s fair to ask what all of this means to incumbent Chad Henne. The reality as I see it is that they’ve probably given up on him, privately anyway. Yet there’s really very little to lose by continuing to work with Henne, which is what new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has been doing. Like so many others, there’s always the chance that the third year could be the charm for Henne. At a minimum Henne’s an insurance policy as the odds on a rookie QB being ready on Day One are long indeed.


One thing’s for sure; they can no longer afford to put all of their proverbial eggs in Henne’s basket. Not after what happened last year. Not with Chad Pennington likely at the end of his playing career. Not with the inconsistent Tyler Thigpen as the only other option.


There’s also the challenge of marketing this team and energizing the fan base to be considered. QB is a team’s marquee position, and nowhere is that more the case than with the Miami Dolphins. Continuing with Henne won’t play well with the faithful, or the pundits I fear, and could prove fatal to Ireland’s and Sparano’s career if he goes bust again without a “next” on the roster.


Now I realize that other draft gurus see the Dolphins going with a running back or an offensive lineman. Could the Dolphins use Alabama RB Mark Ingram? Yes. Could they use a top ranked offensive lineman, like Florida’s Mike Pouncey? Absolutely.


But the Dolphins can solve those needs in other ways, ways that won’t suffice in fixing the QB issue. In other words, they don’t HAVE to take Ingram…they could re-sign Ronnie Brown and/or Ricky Williams, or draft someone later. They don’t HAVE to take Pouncey…they just re-signed Richie Incognito as their starting center and tendered Nate Garner. But they DON’T HAVE a viable option for fixing their QB issue without making a bold play in the first round.


Just remember, the Miami Dolphins are going nowhere next season without improved QB play (or the hope of it in the future). Nothing, personnel-wise, dominates Ireland’s and Sparano’s thoughts more that this salient issue and you can bet this will be the case on April 28.


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