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  Dolphins Locked in on Defense with Top Pick
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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Bill Parcells and Friends have narrowed it down. They always do by the end of March. They now know who is on their very short list (five names or less) of prospects that they will choose from with their top pick.


The first task, which is stacking the board, is complete. The Parcells-era Dolphins do this horizontally by position, not vertically as other teams do. No more than 150 players overall are on it. They’ve all been graded and debated at least twice, some thrice. As players come off the board, the list is reduced. When the Dolphins go on the clock, they’ll look across the board at top rated players at each position and sort out the ones with the highest grade overall. Then they’ll use ‘need’ as a criteria to break ties amongst the group to determine the final choice.


The second task, running through their mock draft scenarios, continues. This process has already gone through several iterations and will be ongoing as new competitive intelligence flows in, superior to anything the public sees on a consistent basis. Yes, the Dolphins do look at the opinions of the more reputable draft gurus, just to digest another point of view, but rely more on their own inside information from people they trust. The outcome of this is an “if-then” decision tree to take guesswork out of making the top picks.


Meanwhile, rumors abound. Some of what’s out there is probably true, but most of it is false. Where it concerns the Dolphins, this is by design. The only things that leak out of Davie is the stuff that Parcells wants out there. Bank on that.


The latest draft buzz includes a rumor that the Dolphins are interested in Clemson’s C.J. Spiller. Spiller is a very talented and versatile running back. Objectively, he would be an upgrade over any RB on the Dolphin roster today. The rumor is that the Dolphins would dangle Ronnie Brown in a trade to move up and nab Spiller, or in a separate arrangement to net more draft picks while taking Spiller with their 12th overall selection.


It is plausible? Sure. That’s the beauty of the stuff Parcells leaks out there. He wants people to be distracted by it so that his true intentions aren’t spoiled by the nosy media hordes.


As I’ve suggested many times in the past, the best thing for us outsiders to do during the lying season is to stick to the facts as we know them.


We know the Dolphins still need upgrades at Nose Tackle, Free Safety, Outside Linebacker, and Wide Receiver. Of these, Nose Tackle and Free Safety are probably the most urgent. In my opinion, Nose Tackle is the most pressing given its criticality to the overall effectiveness of the 3-4 defense. Remember, Jason Ferguson has been suspended for the first half of the season and Paul Soliai is probably not a true NT.


If the draft gurus are to be believed, the best two-gap NT available would be Tennessee’s Dan Williams. Assuming this to be true, it is logical to expect that the Dolphins will draft Williams first overall if he is available.


As for free safety, they do not need the second coming of Dick Anderson to fill the need. What they do need is someone with the physical size, ability, and intelligence to diagnose and prevent the big play, someone versatile enough to guard physical tight ends, run with a wide receiver, and support the run. Do they need a first round talent to solve this? Personally, I don’t think so. But they need a highly graded guy.


Defensively, this leaves us with the outside linebacker position, a need the Dolphins could very well solve with their top pick if Parcells is convinced that the next DeMarcus Ware is out there. Interestingly, Ware was taken by Parcells with the 11th overall pick in the 2005 draft, just one spot ahead of where the Dolphins are drafting this year. If not, one Jason Taylor is available and ready to return to his weakside position for another season.


As for you Wide Receiver proponents, perhaps stirred up by local talk radio wags, I feel your pain. But I just don’t see how the Dolphins can justify spending their top pick on a guy like Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant when they have already made a first, third, and fourth round investment in the position over the past three seasons. All of those investments (Ted Ginn, Patrick Turner, and Brian Hartline, respectively) are still on the upswing, development-wise. GM Jeff Ireland is on record as having stated that he likes Ginn “very much”, a sentiment recently echoed by Steelers and fellow Ohio State WR Santonio Holmes.


“The Dolphins aren’t gonna let him go,” Holmes said. “He’s definitely too valuable. At Ohio State, whether it was wide receiver, kick return, punt return, he made things happen on the field. Now, learning the whole thing where you’ve got to be a primary wide receiver, that takes time. I’m sure he’ll grow into it.”


The Dolphins think so, too. It doesn’t mean they won’t invest more in the position, just not a top draft pick.


So for now keep thinking “defense, defense, defense”, as rabid Dolfans like to say on game day.


As for Spiller, I’ll believe it when I see it.


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