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Miami Dolphins Draft Strategy: To Trade Down, Or Not To Trade Down?

There is only less than two weeks left until the draft, and I am still 100% confused on who the Dolphins could pick on the first day of the draft. Sure, the popular pick is Alabama running back Mark Ingram, but I’m not sold on that pick. They have also been rumored to be looking at multiple quarterbacks, such as Cam Newton (who will most assuredly will be gone by the time we pick), Christian Ponder, Ryan Mallet, and Colin Kaepernick among others.

But the Dolphins have multiple holes on their team, and for them to fulfill their hopes at contending for an NFL title next year, they need to address the line first and foremost, and acquire more picks while they are at it as well.

The Dolphins have had a good (not great) history at drafting the past three years since the Trifecta of Jeff Ireland, Tony Sparano, and the now departed Bill Parcells came into town. Yes, there were some busts in the process such as Pat White, and Patrick Turner, but there were some big hits as well, with Jake Long, Koa Misi, Vontae Davis and Sean Smith coming to mind.

To continue the string of success for this franchise, the Dolphins will have to be active on all three days of the draft, and to be honest, I fully expect them to trade back into the first round, if not out of the first round all together, to garner future picks. The difficulty level though to do this is higher this year more than others. For one, there are not as many elite prospects this year that teams will be willing to leapfrog to acquire, or steal from other teams.

Last year the Dolphins catapulted down the draft boards from #12, to #27, trading picks with the San Diego Chargers to pick Jared Odrick. While the verdict is still out on Odrick as he went down with a season ending injury in Week 1, the Dolphins were able to acquire a 2nd round pick in which they used to snatch Koa Misi, who was one of most unsung rookies in the league.

This year the Dolphins are also without a 2nd round pick, which goes to the Denver Broncos in the Brandon Marshall trade last year. To gain more playmakers for their team, trading back and getting back a 2nd round pick is crucial at this point.

The possible prospects in the first round are there; Ingram , Florida G/C Mike Pouncey, and of course Ryan Mallet who has been rumored to be dropping out of first round status as the draft is approaching.

But with the Fins holding possession of the 15th overall pick, I do not think of any of those guys as the 15th best player in this draft, and certainly would not draft any of them with my 15th overall pick.

One of the Dolphins strengths is looking for hidden gems in the late rounds and through undrafted free agency. They found Reshad Jones, Nolan Carroll, Davone Bess, and Dan Carpenter this way. Running backs come at about a dime a dozen, so why spend such a high pick on someone who they are not 100% sure will be able to hold up for the next decade? Why draft a quarterback in the first round who they are not sure if they can be mature enough to lead the team deep into the playoffs year after year? Why draft a guard who simply is not the 15th best player in this draft? The point I’m trying to make clear here is why draft someone at 15, when you’re not in love with the guy, and there are multiple warts surrounding his NFL potential, such as durability and maturity issues, why draft him?

As I mentioned above, Ingram is the popular pick to come to Miami, but I’m not falling in love with him as much as other scouts or writers are. He may have been a former Heisman winner, but his breakaway speed and durability do not impress me. He has knee issues at the age of 22, and that is very concerning. The Dolphins have also been lacking in that home run threat type of back, and Ingram is most definitely not that type of player. To me, he is just a better inside runner with knee issues. He’s not explosive, and reminds me more of a Marshawn Lynch type of player than anything. If the Dolphins want a first round back so bad, why not trade back and select Illinois’ Mikel Leshoure, who is taller (6’0 compared to Ingram’s 5’9), and weighs more than Ingram (227 compared to Ingrams 215). Leshoure is also an inside runner, who is more of an imposing threat than Ingram at this point, and is coming off of career highs during his senior year in rushing (1,697), and touchdowns (17). The man was a red-zone magnet, and is an all-around player. No facet of his game should necessarily be called weak, and he will not require a high pick to get him on your team.

There also mid to late round backs that may prove to be worth taking a gamble on instead of that early round pick, such as Kendall Hunter, Derrick Locke, Taiwan Jones, Bilal Powell, and Da’Rell Scott.

Pouncey can most likely be had a couple spots back, around the 20-25 range. But a center may not be the #1 priority on the line at the moment with Richie Incognito looking to take the responsibilities away from the uninspiring Joe Berger. So with Incognito moving over from the left guard spot, the Dolphins should be looking for that elite pulling guard that can complement their line, and running game enough to get it back up and running. Last year the Dolphins running game took a massive dip in offensive effectiveness, and was a big reason in why Miami ‘s offense struggled to score so many times. Instead of drafting a running back to get the ground game going again, why not secure the line, and pick up one of the drafts elite guards?

Pouncey may only be moving a couple miles south of his former Florida campus to play for the Miami Dolphins.

Pouncey can play both center and guard, and is the top player at both positions, but trading down a couple more spots and selecting someone such as John Moffit, who is considered a mid-round steal, could be a better decision.

The Dolphins need a puller on their line to help hold down the left side of the line with Jake Long. Moffit and Pouncey are both adept at run blocking and pulling. Another option could be Danny Watkins out of Baylor as well, if the Fins can manage to trade back deeper into the first round.

Perhaps the biggest debate among Dol-Fans though is at the quarterback position, and whether or not to select one in the draft. There are certainly a lot of recognizable names to even the slightest college football fan, but just not enough elite prospects at the position to make the Dolphins choice a little easier for them. We’ve all heard the possible names; Ryan Mallet, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick,  and even Jake Locker. The Dolphins have all been rumored to have held workouts with those guys, or interviews. Out of those five guys, my top three have been narrowed down to (in this order), Ponder, Mallet, Kaepernick.

All have their pros, and all have their cons. For instance, Ponder is highly accurate in all of his throws, but has a weaker arm that some of the other quarterbacks in the draft, and his balls tend to float on deep routes. The perfect comparison for Ponder would be Chad Pennington, which leads me to believe that the Dolphins would be more interested in trading back and scooping up the Florida State grad to groom for the future.

Mallet has the best physical tools in the draft among all quarterbacks, but his character and maturity questions may be too large for the Dolphins to even think about touching him in the first round.

Kaepernick has all of the physical tools necessary as well, but his experience in running a pro-style offense is weak compared to the other two. While some have him graded out as a late first round prospect, I see him more of second round guy. He’s mobile, has the arm and accuracy, but needs to learn to adapt to the speed of the NFL and the pro-style offense, which could hinder his development.

Out of all of the above prospects, not one sticks out to me as dynamic. In fact, except for Pouncey, almost all would be second round picks in any other draft. But it just so turns out that the Dolphins may be looking to solidify their offensive line and quarterback position in the early rounds. Playmakers can come later as speed can be found easier in the later rounds.  

The Dolphins are in a predicament here, a big one. Trading down in the draft this year won’t be easy, especially with the lack in elite prospects outside of the top ten. The key to success this year for the Dolphins will be to have a solid draft, with the majority of their selections being able to come in and contribute at positions of need, to set up an explosive free agency.

The Dolphins place in the draft just isn’t high enough to garner a top prospect, so us fans, as much as we want that homerun pick, may have to settle with some safer picks. This may mean trading down. This may mean picking an offensive lineman in the first round. This may mean drafting Ponder in the second round if possible. And it also may mean that we don’t make as many gambles as a team should looking for a top prospect. But if we can acquire good players and get more picks by trading down, I’m in favor of it. The lack of elite prospects that seperate themselves from the rest of the pack this year may be disappointing, but it may be a blessing in disguise for the Dolphins. They need to solidify their line to be able to run the ball and protect their quarterback. Plain and simple.

General manager Jeff Ireland’s job will not be easy over the next couple of weeks trying to position himself to get those extra picks. You just know that’s what is on every man in the front office’s mind these days: trading back in the draft. But as much as I like to think it, the option of potentially trading back into the first round may not be available, and if not, the Fins may end up settling for the safe pick of Pouncey, or the popular pick of Ingram.

But if the Dolphins aren’t/can’t  trade back on draftday, expect one of those two names to be announced. And then expect the Dolphins to heavily pursue some of the top playmakers in free agency once the lockout ends.


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