5. B.J. Raji (Packers 2009)
ALL Round 2 NTs currently playing
Of the NTs taken after round 2 in the draft there are:
Sione Pouha(Jets 2005–present) backup
Paul Soliai(2007–present) *backup*
Ron Fields (Bills 2001–2005, Chiefs 2006–present) starter
Aubrayo Franklin(Ravens 2003–2006) starter
Kelly Gregg Eagles 1999-2000, Ravens (2000-present) backup
Ahtyba Rubin (Browns 2008–present) backup
Jay Ratliff(Cowboys 2005–present) starter
The undrafted FA NTs were:
Ogemdi Nwagbuo(Chargers 2008–present) backup
If we draft a NT any later than round 2 it is a total crap shoot. Ferguson and Ratliff were both picked by Parcells, yes... but they are not the dominant players that the guys in round 1 and round 2 are. Do we really want to roll the dice on one of the key positions of a 3-4 defense? Simply put if we don't have a NT everything else we do on defense will fail.
Of the teams that have a NT that was chosen in round 1 of the draft there are the Patriots, Steelers, Packers, and Ravens(all fairly solid defenses). Of the teams that have a NT that was picked in round 2 are the Jets, Chargers and Browns. The teams that have a NT picked later than the 2nd round are the Cardinals Cowboys, Broncos, Chiefs, Dolphins, and 49ers(none of them have been known to have a solid defense year in and year out).
I have heard that Parcells can pick up a late round NT. True in
Jason Ferguson (7th round)
Bryan Robinson (undrafted FA)
1998 Supplemental Draft
Jamal Williams (2nd round)
Casey Hampton (Rd 1, pick 19)
Ryan Pickett (Rd 1, pick 29)
Kris Jenkins(Round 2, Pick 44)
Shaun Rogers (Rd 2, Pick 61)
Ron Edwards (Rd 3, Pick 76)
Aubrayo Franklin (Round 5, Pick 146)
Haloti Ngata (Rd 1, pick 12)
The point of all this is these types of players are rare finds. If we think we will just be able to find that one rare guy in the 7th round, we are fooling ourselves. We would be lucky if there is one in the draft next year at all. It also appears to me that we can solve this problem for years to come.
How about a little Dolphins history lesson. If we want we can go back to Miami's defense of the late 90s. At that time we had Tim Bowens and Daryl Gardener up front at DT(we played a 4-3 back then). They improved the play of an undersized linebacker/tackling machine that we picked up in the 5th round of 1996 named Zach Thomas. We didn't have to worry about teams running the ball on us. We shut down the run, forcing teams to throw the ball. We then teed off on them with the likes of Jason Taylor (3rd round 1997) and Trace Armstrong, forcing QBs to make bad throws to receivers being covered by our 2 lock-down corners Sam Madison(2nd round 1997) and Patrick Surtain(2nd round 1998).
It isn't as much that we need to get a FS with ball instincts as it is about forcing bad throws into tight coverage, a plan that still works. I might have mentioned this before, but our safeties were #1 and #2 in tackles last year. If we can let the FS stop worrying about coming up and making tackles and start worrying about figuring out where they can jump a route, we will automatically improve our FS.
So how did we wind up with these 2 guys? We drafted Tim Bowens in round 1 of the 1994 draft(pick 20). We later picked up Daryl Gardener in the 1st round of the 1996 draft (pick 20). In 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001, we made the playoffs. We lost Gardener in 2002 and later Bowens in 2004. From there the next time we made the playoffs was 2008 after picking up Jason Ferguson.
Granted it is a little simplified and a lot of other things were happening during those times. But you can not deny that they were an integral part in that defense that dominated for so long. While only Tim Bowens made the Pro Bowl both were a force to be reckoned with. We didn't worry about any team running against us. If we had been able to put together an offense for Dan Marino to work with during that time, we would have done more than just make the playoffs. We never at this point had any running game to mention, although we were desperatly trying.
While I would like to see us pick up a #1 receiver, I am not sure about any of the guys that will be available in round 1. I also think that this is a passing league and the last thing we need is more of a running game than we have. We kept 4 RBs last year and at no point did we have a problem running the ball. Once Ronnie Brown went down we still ran the ball though not as much even though we were getting 8-9 guys in the box because of our lack of a #1 receiver.
It is easy to find a 300+lb guy, and you can pick one up anywhere in the draft. It is much rarer to find a 300+lb guy that can be dominant as a NT. As rare as it is to find that rare guy that can be an impact NT is it not hard to spot one. Most of them will be gone if we pass on them with the 12th pick and hope to pick them up at 43. While we might be able to pick one up in round 2, all of them will be gone soon after that.