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  Getting a Feel for this Draft
    | Home | News Wire | Roster | Depth Chart | Schedule |  

by 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.


Remember Albert 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 process.


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 (#4).


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 Johnson.


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 will be.


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 aggressive.


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 day pick).


Few would debate the wisdom of this move if the target is Quinn or top left tackle prospect Joe Thomas.


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 offense.


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.




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