MDD Staff Writer: Chad Pullen
With the Dolphins off this week sitting at a painful 0-4 record and facing a very difficult test on the road vs the Jets next Monday night, some rumblings have already began in Dolphin land about the 2012 NFL Draft in April.
The popular phrase these days is Suck4Luck, in reference to wonder kid quarterback Andrew Luck of Stanford, quite possibly the highest touted prospect to enter the draft since another Stanford QB, John Elway in 1983.
If the Dolphins can’t secure the #1 pick, perhaps Bail4Barkley, Lose4Landry, or Fail4Foles would work just as well as QB Matt Barkley of USC, QB Landry Jones of Oklahoma and QB Nick Foles of Arizona should also be entering the NFL Draft and would equally give hope to a franchise that has not selected a quarterback in the first round since, ironically enough, 1983.
However, before anyone builds their hopes up too high, perhaps we should delve into the history of the Miami Dolphins and see how they have handled the draft previously.
I should warn you, if you have a weak stomach, this may not be the read you’re looking for. Starting from 1995, Don Shula’s final year, let’s examine how the Dolphins have fared and the multitude of mistakes that have been made.
1995 Selecting offensive lineman Billy Milner ahead of LB Derrick Brooks.
1996 Selecting DT Daryl Gardener ahead of MLB Ray Lewis, trading away their second round pick, a round that produced WR Eric Moulds, FB Mike Alstott, Safety Lawyer Milloy, WR Amani Toomer, and Safety Brian Dawkins.
1997 Selecting WR Yatil Green ahead of QB Jake Plummer or RB Tiki Barber.
1998 Jimmy Johnson had his eye on a player at 19, but thought there was no way that player would drop that far, so when Green Bay called and asked to trade up, Jimmy said yes so he could add an extra pick or two. Then as pick number 19 came and went, that player was still sitting there. Randy Moss was that player. He would do well selecting Patrick Surtain in round 2, in round 3 however, he would miss again, this time passing on QB Brian Griese or WR Hines Ward in favor of LB Brad Jackson.
1999 Miami had no first round pick in a LOADED draft that produced 5 QB’s (though most of them failed) RB Edgerrin James, Ricky Williams, WR Tory Holt, CB Champ Bailey, and DE Javon Kearse.
2000 Maybe the cruelest of all ironies, the Dolphins had the #1 pick in the sixth round, the next selection was QB Marc Bulger, and toward the end of the round, pick #199, Tom Brady.
2001 Taking Jamar Fletcher ahead of WR Reggie Wayne and having no #2 pick in a round that had QB Drew Brees, and WR Chad Johnson. Now, in fairness they would have had no shot at Brees as he was the first pick of the round, I’m merely lamenting the fact of the franchise not having a pick in the second round, a round that continually produces talent to help teams win games each year. This will turn into an ugly pattern as the years go by.
2002 The first pick moved in the Ricky Williams deal, had they waited, they could have selected RB Clinton Portis, from Miami, who had just won the National Championship. Taking Seth McKinney in the 3rd round just 1 pick before RB Brian Westbrook only made it worse, either would have been great running backs to have as well as other picks they would not have been forced to give up.
2003 The Ricky Williams deal takes this #1 pick as well, with running backs Willis McGahee and Larry Johnson being picked late in the round as well as TE Dallas Clark and CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Taking OLB Eddie Moore over WR Anquan Boldin, DE Osi Umenyiora, or TE Jason Witten. CB Asante Samuel is taken 1 pick after the Dolphins traded pick in round 4.
2004 Selecting guard Vernon Carey ahead of DT Vince Wilfork, or RB Steven Jackson, and this pick was made with no second or third round pick for depth. QB Matt Schaub goes in round 3, as does DT Darnell Dockett.
2005 At #2, the Dolphins choose Ronnie Brown over Aaron Rodgers, also passing on Demarcus Ware, with Matt Roth being selected ahead of WR Vincent Jackson or RB Frank Gore in round three. The fact that the Dolphins could have chosen Rodgers at 2, and Gore in round 3 will haunt me for eternity.
2006 Safety Jason Allen, another SEC alum that Saban liked, over CB Antonio Cromartie, WR Santonio Holmes, RB DeAngelo Williams, or Center Nick Mangold. The 2nd round pick was moved for QB Daunte Culpepper and cost them a shot at Greg Jennings. In the 4th round, the Dolphins take OT Joe Toledo, and 5 picks later WR Brandon Marshall is selected, DE Elvis Dumerville a few picks after that. The Denver Broncos had a better 4th round of the draft than Miami has had almost the entire decade up to this point. All in the name of Joe Toledo.
2007 Sitting at #9, the Dolphins take WR Ted Ginn Jr, picks number 11, and 14 are Patrick Willis and Darrelle Revis respectively. In the second round, the Phins take QB John Beck.
2008 Jake Long was taken before another franchise QB in Matt Ryan, with the second round even more puzzling, DE Phil Merling being taken ahead of RB Matt Forte, RB Ray Rice, RB Shonn Greene, or WR DeSean Jackson. In round three Kendall Langford is selected ahead of RB Jamaal Charles or TE Jermichael Finley. QB Chad Henne is also selected with an extra second rounder.
2009 CB Vontae Davis is selected just one pick ahead of LB Clay Mathews, with WR’s Hakeem Nicks and Kenny Britt right after. All of which would have fit in on Miami’s roster. In the second round they take QB Pat White ahead of RB LeSean McCoy. Those of you scoring at home, that’s four consecutive years the Dolphins have used a second round pick on a QB.
2010 The Dolphins do something wise for a change, trading down a few spots, adding a second rounder since they had traded theirs away already for WR Brandon Marshall, and with the pick select LB Koa Misi, 2 pick ahead of Rob Gronkowski, TE for the Patriots. If they didn’t like Gronkowski, they could have at least taken TE Aaron Hernandez, who was also scooped up by the Patriots. The Dolphins held the 12th pick and could simply have selected the younger, equally as talented Dez Bryant instead of trading a 2 second rounders away for Marshall.
The names in bold have all played in a Super Bowl with their respective teams, the names not in bold have at least gone on to have pro bowl caliber careers. These are players who COULD have been Dolphins, and in some cases should have been. Now, I understand that hindsight is 20/20 and by no means do I mean to say that the Dolphins could have ALL of these players. Certainly there was no need to draft Jake Plummer, Marc Bulger, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Schaub, Aaron Rodgers, or Matt Ryan year after year.
If they would have had the vision to select ONE of these quarterbacks, it would have spared Dolphin fans the cruel reality of rooting for Joey Harrington, Cleo Lemon, John Beck, Pat White, Chad Henne, Tyler Thigpen, Matt Moore as quarterbacks these past few years. No fanbase deserves that. And while we’re here, Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Clay Mathews, and Jermichael Finley, all passed up by Miami, all end up on Green Bay, who just won the Super Bowl. I feel like the Dolphins should at least get a thank you card or some flowers or something from the Packers, right?
Of course, the Dolphins did have a decent run of draft picks in the mid 90’s under Jimmy Johnson mixed in amongst some of his mistakes. He was able to find CB Sam Madison in round 2 in 97, and DE Jason Taylor in round 3 the same year, perhaps his best find was MLB Zach Thomas in round 5 in 96, and he solidified the Dolphins defense by nabbing CB Patrick Surtain in round 2 in 98. A fantastic run of defensive stalwarts, with little to no success on offense.
For some reason the Dolphins have also had a measure of success in locating diamonds in the rough, or undrafted free agents. WR Wes Welker was found after being cut from the Chargers roster after only 1 game. He would go on to have 2 very solid years in Miami before they traded him within the division to the Patriots for a 2nd round pick, and a 7th round pick. Soon after trading Welker, the Dolphins replaced him with an almost exact replica in WR Devon Bess. Bess has been one of the few bright spots the past 3 years in Miami. From the reaches of the CFL, the Dolphins discovered OLB Cameron Wake who has blossomed into a pass rush specialist the last 2 years.
Had the Dolphins been able to draft well, these free agent findings mixed into the roster would create a truly talented team and one that would certainly never be 0-4. What I truly do not understand is, the Dolphins have a built in NFL pipeline of talent running right through their own backyard. The Miami Hurricanes have done nothing short of stock the NFL full of talent the last dozen years, do the Dolphins not read the papers? Are there no windows in their offices?
How can the Dolphins go into each and every draft and pass over guys like Ray Lewis, Reggie Wayne, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore, Antrel Rolle, Greg Olsen, Brandon Meriweather, or Jimmy Graham? These are players they merely need to cross the street to scout and not one of them has been selected. Heck, they could have even had Nevin Shapiro continue paying their contracts and now it would have been legal!
The lone Hurricane currently on the roster is an Offensive Lineman, Vernon Carey. Even if they did not wish to select former Hurricanes, Florida State and Florida have also sent several top prospects into the pro game, and you’d be hard pressed to find many of them selected by the Dolphins either, Channing Crowder from Florida and Mike Pouncey this past year being exceptions. Three elite level colleges pumping players into the NFL all from the same state, and you have 2 lineman and a linebacker already out of the NFL to show for it? How does that work?
So before everyone starts packing it in and looking ahead to April to solve this team’s problems, don’t get too excited just yet. The franchise needs a Mel Kiper clone or someone of the ilk to come in and start making moves properly. No more trading away first round picks, or giving away 2nd and 3rd rounders.
I’m fully convinced a lot of the problems the Dolphins face today stems from them having only one first round pick in a five year stretch from 1999-2003. That one first rounder was a complete bust, effectively giving away 5 years of drafts.
The 98 and 2004 first round produced RB John Avery, and the previously mentioned Carey. Add that all up, and in 7 years, they had ONE first round pick make the team for more than 3 years. That’s pitiful, and it’s costing this team right now. You need the draft to build and strengthen your team.
This past April, the Cleveland Browns sat in the #6 spot, with many holes to fill, and packaged that pick for FIVE draft choices, 2 of them first rounders. With those picks, if used properly, they should be able to grab a lot of young talent, and stock that team which gives them at least a chance at success in the future. If you do not draft well, you have no chance, which is where the Dolphins currently sit.
That is what the Dolphins must learn. If they completely fail the rest of this year and earn the #1 pick, the choice will be clear. If they do not get the first selection, and the picks are less clearly, and given the Dolphins track record, I see no reason to have faith that the correct choice will be made. With the advent of the new rookie salary wage scale implemented from the collective bargaining agreement this past summer, there is a chance that more teams will be willing to move up to the top of the draft with a package of draft picks since it will no longer cost teams 50-60 million dollars in guaranteed money to whichever players they take. Perhaps that would be best for this franchise.
If they aren’t “Lucky” enough to get the #1 pick, they should think in terms of trading down and maximizing the amount of picks they get in return. They need to rebuild the talent pool in Miami. One player, even as great as Andrew Luck is, may not be able to save this franchise with their history of underwhelming draft choices. There is strength in numbers however, and if the right deal comes along, that is what Dolphin fans should be hoping for. Call it, Tank4Trade, if you will.