Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist
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Trying to accurately
predict the NFL Draft is like predicting the weather. You think it is going to
be sunny and warm and, suddenly, it ends up being rainy and cold.
There have been too
many rainy and cold days for the Dolphins when it comes to the draft. It hasn’t
mattered who has called the shots, Don Shula included. The good guys haven’t
won a championship in 34 years mainly because they haven’t found enough winners
on draft day.
Even with the advent
of Plan B free agency and the salary cap, championships will continue to be
born in late April. In other words, success in April translates to success in
January and February.
So how do the
Dolphins go about having better success in April? Well, one approach is to
change the way decisions are made.
Einstein’s theory of Insanity, ‘continuing to do things the same way and
expecting a different result’? Whether or not Dolphin owner Wayne Huizenga truly
agrees is debatable, but give the guy credit for changing up the team’s power
structure with GM Randy Mueller and head coach Cam Cameron. Yes, Mueller makes
the final draft call but he vows that it will be a highly collaborative
Said Mueller, “If we
don’t agree, we’re going to go a different direction”.
Now the time has come
to find out if Mueller and Cameron can get the job done.
For those of us
tasked with giving you the reader a sense of what to expect, the challenge is in
predicting what Mueller and Cameron are thinking. As you all know, I loathe
predictions. If I had a dollar for every prediction I’ve ever made that has
gone south, I’d be in fat city.
As the venerable
Miami Herald communist Edwin Pope has so often reminded, there is only one way
to be right and thousand ways to be wrong. This is why my preferred approach to
the draft has always been to give you the lay of the land as I see it, rather
than a mock draft which would probably be obsolete within an hour.
Therefore, here are
five things to keep in mind on April 28:
1) The Lions are king of the draft jungle.
The Detroit Lions (#2
overall pick) hold the key to the top third of the draft, the key being the top
overall prospect (WR Calvin Johnson). Two other teams are vying to draft
Johnson: Oakland (#1) and Tampa Bay
According to reports,
the Raiders are trying to make a deal with the Lions for QB Josh McCown. If true,
this move would allow the Raiders to pass on QB JaMarcus Russell and take
If the Raiders cannot
make a deal with the Lions, the Raiders would be compelled to take Russell. The
Lions could then try to make a deal with the Bucs. This would still keep the
Lions in position to take the guy they reportedly covet, DE Gaines Adams, while
netting them an extra pick.
The key here for the
Bucs is in correctly judging the situation. If they believe that the Lions and
Browns will pass on Johnson, they’ll stay put and let Johnson fall to them.
While most draft watchers believe this will be the case, yours truly is not as certain.
As much as the Browns need a QB and a RB, prospects like Johnson are just too darn
rare to easily pass by.
Of course the Raiders
could simply draft Johnson #1 overall and risk completing a trade for McCown or
someone else afterwards. Only Al Davis knows for sure what the final approach
So how could all of this
influence what the Dolphins do?
If the Lions trade
McCown, the Raiders can pass on Russell and the Browns will likely take him at
#3. This allows QB Brady Quinn to fall closer to where the Dolphins pick (#9).
Regardless of what the Dolphins decide on Trent Green and Daunte Culpepper,
this would present an opportunity that Mueller would be likely to pursue.
If the Lions do not
trade McCown, Russell and Quinn could be off the board within the first three
picks. This would alter Miami’s
strategy in the first and second rounds.
2) The Deuce McAllister precedent.
While Mueller admittedly
has a bias towards need, all things being relatively equal, his general Day One
philosophy is to draft the best player available. This means that the Dolphins
could take a player at a low need position if, in fact, there is a distinct value
gap on the board.
RB Adrian Peterson
(consensus 3rd best overall prospect) is a perfect example of how this
could play out. He is an elite
offensive weapon. Should the Browns take Quinn, Peterson could fall all the way
to the Dolphins at #9. On the Dolphins’ board, he would likely carry a significantly
higher grade than anyone else remaining. If Mueller stays true to himself, as
he has many times in the past (e.g. drafting Deuce McAllister as Saints GM when
he had Ricky Williams), NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell could say, “With the 9th
pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins select Adrian Peterson, running
back, University of Oklahoma.”
3) The Dolphins have the ammo to trade up.
I am not saying the
Dolphins will definitely move up. Given their many pressing needs, they could
easily justify staying put or even trading down for more picks. Still, they
have the flexibility to possibly trade up as high as #4 if they wish. And, if
the right player can be had for the right price, we can expect the Dolphins to be
There are at least
two attractive suitors that the Dolphins might end up doing business with.
The first is Tampa Bay.
If Johnson is gone before they select, the Bucs might try to trade out of the
#4 spot. Their desire to bail out under the circumstances could favorably
influence the overall asking price. Using the NFL trade value chart for the sake
of discussion, the Dolphins could part with the second rounder they got from
the Patriots (60th overall), plus something more (a player and/or a second
Few would debate the
wisdom of this move if the target is Quinn or top left tackle prospect Joe
A second attractive
trade partner could be the Minnesota Vikings (#7) if Quinn falls to them. According
to the trade chart, it would likely cost the Dolphins a third or a fourth
rounder, depending on what is agreed.
4) Offense should be the focus early on.
On offense, only RB
and FB are settled. Quarterback, left tackle, #1 wide receiver, and guard are
areas of particular concern.
Depending on where
the Dolphins finally end up picking, it is probable that one of the following seven
players will be their first selection: Thomas, Quinn, Peterson, LT Levi Brown,
WR Ted Ginn Jr., TE Greg Olsen, or OT Joe Staley.
5) Don’t forget the defense.
With all the fuss
over the needs on offense, we tend to forget that there are holes on defense
that need attention. It is very possible that the highest rated offensive
players will be off the board when the Dolphins come to bat. In that situation,
the smart play would be to go with defense rather than reach for a need on
The two biggest needs
on defense would be quality depth on the defensive line and an upgrade at
safety. Fortunately for the Dolphins, these are the areas where highly graded
defensive prospects are likely to be available.
DT Amobi Okoye, DE
Jamaal Anderson, DT Alan Branch and perhaps DE Adam Carriker would be solid
adds to the defensive line rotation. S LaRon Landry, the top defensive back
prospect in the draft, would be a significant upgrade to the secondary.
CB Leon Hall would
merit strong consideration as well.