This is the first part of a three part series that will center on the three most likely scenarios for the Miami Dolphins when the 2011 NFL Draft kicks off in New York in less than a month. The three likely scenarios I'll touch on will be trading up into the top ten, trading down in the bottom half of round round, and keeping the 15th overall pick and making a selection.
Today we start with the most basic scenario for Jeff Ireland and the Dolphins, which is to simply make a selection when the team is on the clock at pick fifteen in round one.
Stay put at 15 and make a selection
Like most everyone else, I believe the Dolphins will try to trade down in round one to recoup the second round pick they lost in the Brandon Marshall trade last year. They were successful in doing so during last year's draft. And there's no reason to think they will not be able to do so this year.
However, we can't just assume the Dolphins will find a trading partner and reach a deal to move out of the 15th overall pick. And if the Dolphins absolutely have to make a selection at 15, they're going to have a very interesting decision on their hands.
There are a number of directions that the Dolphins could go. For the sake of discussion, though, allow me to break these possible draft picks down into four categories:
The Reaches: Jeff Ireland and company could decide to reach for a "speed receiver" here, filling an obvious need on the offensive side of the ball. That pick would likely be Maryland's Torrey Smith, who has route-running concerns and isn't exactly the owner of a reliable pair of hands. They could also reach for an interior lineman. Florida's Mike Pouncey will be the guy in that situation. Why is Pouncey a reach? Because he's not nearly as talented as his brother but is seeing his stock benefit from his brother's success as a rookie with the Steelers. In general, I don't like taking an interior offensive lineman until late in round one - and that's assuming the kid is a certified stud. Pouncey is far from a certified stud.
The Bold Reaches: The Dolphins could shock many people and make a daring decision to select one of the quarterbacks likely to still be on the board at 15. And I'm not opposed to this idea if the front office and coaching staff all have a strong conviction about one of the quarterbacks not named Gabbert or Newton (because both will be gone by 15). The guys that fall into this category include Ryan Mallett, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick, and Jake Locker. Picking any of these guys would be a reach at 15. But it would also show some "testicular fortitude" out of a front office and coaching staff that is on the hot seat.
The Safe Picks: The obvious name that comes to mind here would be Alabama RB Mark Ingram. Let's face it - he's the best back in the draft and would fill an obvious need. He might also be the top player remaining on the board when the Dolphins are on the clock. So it's obviously easy to see why so many think Ingram will be the pick at 15. Other guys I'd put into this category would be any of the top offensive tackles available, including Gabe Carimi, Nate Solder, and Anthony Castonzo. An OT wouldn't necessarily fill a need...yet. But Vernon Carey is aging quickly and coming off of a rough season that ended with surgery - meaning this pick would make some sense.
Defensive Value: The Dolphins are a team that place an emphasis on getting good value in the draft. And if they decide to strictly draft under the "best player available" philosophy, then some of the draft's elite defensive talent needs to be considered at 15. For example, if Robert Quinn was to fall to the 15th pick, I could easily see the Dolphins pulling the trigger. Same goes for Aldon Smith or any of the possible 3-4 edge rushers.
If the Dolphins stay at 15, the obvious result would be fewer opportunities to fill the many holes this roster has. And with free agency not set to begin anytime soon, the Dolphins have to fill as many holes as possible in the draft. If the Dolphins are unable to trade down, they will likely have just one of the top 75 picks. And it will make it very difficult for this regime to address the many obvious holes on the roster - running back, interior OL, and tight end to name a few.