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  Closing Arguments
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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We’ve got to tip our collective caps to Dolphin domo Bill Parcells. Here we are, less than a week before D-Day (Draft Day, that is) and we still haven’t the foggiest clue as to what the Miami Dolphins are going to do with their first overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.


Oh sure, you can make whatever predictions you’d like but the fact remains that this tight-lipped regime hasn’t really tipped a single card. Forget the “Freudian slip” that GM Jeff Ireland made in his recent press conference; his ‘pillar of the defense’ remark could so very easily have been premeditated for effect that we must discount it completely.


Still, we are not wandering in the wilderness.


We know that the Dolphins would like to trade down, but the economics of the first overall pick coupled with the lack of a super elite prospect make this a very difficult sale.


We know that the Dolphins are going to do everything they can to get a contract in place before April 26, one that exemplifies some measure of sanity against a ludicrous rookie pay scale. The prospect who is willing to give the Dolphins that contract will have the inside track on being selected first overall.


It has been reported that the Dolphins and Tom Condon, the agent for top offensive tackle prospect Jake Long, have entered into discussions in advance of the draft. The storyline is that the Dolphins hope to get the aforementioned contract from Condon, who also happens to represent top QB prospect Matt Ryan. Keep in mind that Condon doesn’t want to be perceived as the agent who sets a precedent that could affect every other player in the first round. If the report is true, expect these talks to be difficult; creativity will be the key.


Including Jake Long, we have a pretty good idea that there are no fewer than six prospects that could be drafted first overall. Any one of them would be worthy of the top overall pick, depending on a given team’s needs. One of them figures to be a Dolphin by mid-afternoon on April 26th.


Here are the arguments, pro and con, for each one (in alphabetical order):


1) Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU

Why the Dolphins could draft him: Dorsey is the dominant defensive lineman in this draft, perhaps the best player overall. He competed against top talent in the SEC conference, regularly drawing and defeating double teams in a vain effort to neutralize him. Good size and great ability against the run, with excellent toughness; he played at a high level with injuries that would slow most other players. Dorsey compares favorably to DT Warren Sapp when he came out of the University of Miami.

Why the Dolphins could pass on him: Dorsey has some durability concerns, with injuries dogging him the past two seasons. If injury prone, Dorsey will begin to miss time as he gets older. At LSU, Dorsey lined up in a 4-3 scheme which utilized his one-gap skills very nicely. If Jimmy Johnson was the decision-maker, Dorsey would be a lock. However, given Parcells’ desire to transition to a 3-4 at some point, there may be a concern that Dorsey would struggle in a two-gap scheme as a NT.


2) Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State

Why the Dolphins could draft him: Outstanding workout numbers and an impact defender in the tough Big 10 conference who came up big in the biggest games, roughly compared by Scouts Inc. to Dwight Freeney. Good size and speed to play DE or OLB in a 3-4. Could be receptive to the contract terms the Dolphins are looking for given that he is not projected to be a top five pick.

Why the Dolphins could pass on him: Considered a reach with the first overall pick. Some concerns about consistency in his game. Not the highest priority need if Jason Taylor isn’t traded and doesn’t decide to retire.


3) Chris Long, DE, Virginia

Why the Dolphins could draft him: A dominant DE that faced top caliber talent in the ACC. He has good size and speed, giving him versatility as a DE or OLB in a 3-4 scheme. Possesses excellent intangibles, not the least of which is his pedigree (he’s the son of Hall of Fame DE Howie Long). Chris Long is probably the safest of all top prospects to invest a mega-contract in, a real consideration given the risk the Dolphins are dealing with.

Why the Dolphins could pass on him: There’s some debate as to how good Long will be. If he projects to be the second coming of his father, the Dolphins would do well to take him. If he projects to be a next tier talent like Patrick Kerney, good but not spectacular, the Dolphins should go in a different direction. Not the highest priority need if Jason Taylor isn’t traded and doesn’t decide to retire.


4) Jake Long, OT, Michigan

Why the Dolphins could draft him: He has prototypical size and strength; an especially dominant run blocker. Long could stabilize the left tackle position for the next decade and give the Dolphins one of the best offensive lines in the game; this would be a tremendous asset for a young quarterback and would play to the strength of the offense (running back).

Why the Dolphins could pass on him: Outrageous contract demands from Condon could scare the Dolphins off. There’s also solid depth at tackle in this draft, giving the Dolphins the option of starting off with another position of need and then coming back to address the need at tackle. The Dolphins have flexibility in this regard given Vernon Carey’s ability to play left or right tackle.


5) Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas

Why the Dolphins could draft him: A Heisman Trophy finalist, McFadden may be the best overall player in this draft. Simply put, he’s an explosive playmaker with 4.3 40 speed who could make the same impact that Adrian Peterson did for the Vikings. If the Dolphins’ philosophy is to take the best player available, McFadden could be their guy. McFadden would also give the Dolphins improved marketing appeal and allow them to trade Ronnie Brown.

Why the Dolphins could pass on him: The Dolphins have excellent depth at RB with Brown, Ricky Williams, and Lorenzo Booker. McFadden also has some lingering character questions that create additional risk in signing him to a premium contract.


6) Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College

Why the Dolphins could draft him: Rebuilding starts with a winning QB and the Dolphins do not have one. While 2007 second rounder John Beck remains a work in process, there is some real uncertainty as to how he will turn out. Ryan possesses excellent size and ability, with a track record of winning in the tough ACC conference (2007 ACC Player of the Year); some consider him to be on par with Eli Manning. Condon might be willing to give the Dolphins the contract they desire for Ryan, who would certainly earn less if taken by the Falcons at #3 or, worst case, the Ravens at #8.

Why the Dolphins could pass on him: Drafting a QB first overall is one of the riskiest propositions in all of sports. If the Dolphins do not see a big difference between Ryan and Beck, or Ryan and a next tier talent like Michigan’s Chad Henne, it would make little sense to go with Ryan. There is also some concern with the high number of interceptions (19) that Ryan threw his senior season. The recent retirement of QB Steve McNair raises Ryan’s stock somewhat; it could encourage the Ravens to trade up with the Dolphins for Ryan if they think the Dolphins, Falcons, Chiefs, or Jets will draft him.

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