Miami has a lot of choices to make. Each choice they have made is like a piece of thread in a larger fabric, and the strategy can be revealed if you just know how to put the information together. Let’s interpret their moves so far, and then take apart the positional needs of the Miami Dolphins to see where they are likely to allocate their resources. This includes my own interpretation, so take this with grains of salt.
Lack of Signing Matt Flynn - Offering only 4 million per year and being willing to let him go to Seattle illustrates either faith in Matt Moore, a fear of risk, or a belief that Flynn is not a franchise quarterback. I believe the answer is all three.
Lack of Trading for RGIII - Cost was too high. Miami would have had to pay more than Washington, most likely 4 1st round picks and this year’s 2nd as well.
Failure to Resign Will Allen - Gives the younger CBs a shot to step up, and increases the athleticism of the nickel corner position.
Signing of Richard Marshall - Marshall is the new starting CB opposite Vontae Davis. Sean Smith wasn’t getting it done and this was evidenced by the increasing number of targets he saw over the year and Miami’s poor pass defense last year. Sean Smith is still a starting caliber player (borderline) but his lack of agility to match up with WRs, combined with comments by Tyrell Johnson, implies he will be used primarily as the extra defensive back in the quarters defense, which will be used on most third down and longs, as well as against spread offenses.
Release of Yeremiah Bell - Cost, lack of playmaking skills, and defensive fit. Bell has great pluses in the leadership and tackling department but he is primarily an in the box safety and lacks the speed and range required for Kevin Coyle’s secondary. Bell is a great tackler but lacks ball skills and playmaking skills.
Signing of David Gerard - In Ireland’s philosophy you balance long term development with attempting to win right now. This signing is the focus of ‘Win Now’. If Matt Moore goes down do we want a rookie QB to start? No. What if Matt Moore doesn’t show promise for the West Coast Offense? This competition is to create the best opportunity for Miami to win games this year and see if one has what it takes to be the QB for a couple years while a QB develops.
Signing of Jeremy Westerman - Experience, great measurables as a 3-4 OLB and capable as a 4-3 DE, he was a victim of the Jets cap cutting.
Signing of Tyrell Johnson - Johnson is a mature player and has a similar skill set to Yeremiah Bell, only younger, a little faster, and saves the team 3 million in cap room.
Signing of Gary Guyton - Gary Guyton was not the problem for New England’s defense last year. It was their poor secondary. To choose Guyton, an undrafted free agent, over Quentin Groves shows the teams standing true to its principles of unselfish, high effort players who are mature, intelligent, and flexible in their roles. Guyton and Misi can both play inside or outside and are flexible to the 3-4 or 4-3 fronts. I would call this pickup ‘Misi Insurance’.
Trade of Brandon Marshall - Team chemistry and offensive scheme fit. None of Green Bay’s WRs are divas, and Philbin wants to build a ‘team’ and ‘family’ mentality with his players. In other words, Marshall was a risk to possibly cause clubhouse tension at any time. They were attempting to trade him for several months and received 2 3rd round picks. That was the best they were going to get. Also, his hands and route running were not a good fit for the West Coast Offense.
1. Eliminate the defense’s 2 most glaring weaknesses from last year. Not sacks, but a lack of turnovers and a lack of athleticism, range, and coverage in the secondary.
2. The new priorities of playing good defense are to create turnovers and generate pressure. Bell and Smith were not showing the ability to be playmakers.
3. The Dolphins have no idea how the draft is going to go, so it is to their advantage to make low risk, high reward moves and to increase their flexibility to take the Best Player available.
4. The Dolphins are of the belief that most players who are free agents are not likely to be good players. Teams wouldn’t let them go if they were. Instead, they target guys who are good players but who had to leave the team for reasons other than skill. Marshall - Arizona’s cap room. Westerman - Jet’s cap room. Johnson - injured most of last year. Guyton - Didn’t fit in with New England’s defensive plans.
Position by Position Draft Notes:
QB: Miami is going to take what the draft gives them. If Tannehill is there at 8, they take him. Philbin’s history with Rodgers and comments about how high scoring offenses illustrate that they prefer to develop a QB over years, and that the QB mastering the system is the key, not that the QB is some magical, once in a million player. Philbin’s argument makes sense consider how much everybody loves Aaron Rodgers now, but consider that there wasn’t the same opinion of him when Favre made it to the NFC championship game with Minnesota and Green Bay lost the division to them. What happened? With his intelligence and accuracy he took another year or two to master the offense and gel with his receivers.
There is a caveat to this idea of taking Tannehill. There are 6 elite players in this draft: Luck, Griffin, Kalil, Claiborne, Richardson, and Blackmon. If one of those are there at number 8 then the Miami Dolphins will take him over Tannehill. This is Ireland’s philosophy of value. This correlates with Philbin’s comments recently about how he and Ireland had discussed many scenarios for the draft and come to the conclusion that the best way to succeed is to stick with your draft board. If this happens and Miami misses out on Tannehill, I believe they will consider only two other options: Brandon Weeden in the second round (No tradeup), or Ryan Lindley in the 3rd/4th. They have shown a lot of interest in him lately, and he has everything that Tannehill has except a little less ideal measurables.
RB: Miami has learned from the Daniel Thomas disaster last year. Do not overvalue RBs. They have such a short shelf life and are very prone to injury. Consider the injuries last year to Mikel Leshoure, Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson, Demarco Murray, Felix Jones, and many others. It is better to have two good ones than one great one. And with the success of Arian Foster and many other late round RBs it is one of the easiest ways to find value in the late rounds of the draft. Consider the value of getting Robert Turbin, Michael Smith, or Chris Rainey in the 5th round vs. spending a 2nd or 3rd on the higher rated RBs instead of a starting OLB or OT. I fully expect Miami to draft a RB in round 5-7 this year because of Reggie Bush essentially becoming a starting WR, as Philbin mentioned several weeks ago. If he is primarily playing as a WR in the WCO formation are we satisfied with the idea of Daniel Thomas and Steve Slayton splitting 300 carries this year? Bush will still likely get 150+ rushes this year, but should also see 60-75 receptions.
Draft Options: Robert Turbin, Michael Smith, LaMichael James, Chris Rainey, Travaris Cadet, Edwin Baker.
TE: Many people consider TE a need position for the Miami Dolphins. It is not for a couple of reasons. Fasano, Clay, and Yeatman are all worthy of being on the 53 man roster. If you draft a tight end you have to keep 4 on the roster. Also, Miami has so many other needs that the TE position can wait. Miami has a year to keep a couple on the practice squad and develop them. The only way Miami takes a TE this year is if one drops and is the BPA on their board. This is not likely due to the weakness of the position. The only way I could see this happening is if Fleener drops to Miami’s 2nd round pick, Dwayne Allen drops to the 3rd, or Orson Charles / Ladarius Green drop to the 4th. If they target one in the draft it will be one who was the measurables (Green, Egnew, Hanna, Adrien Robinson, DeAngelo Peterson), drops enough to be a value, and is there in the later rounds since it is not high on the list of needs.
Draft Options: Fleener, Allen, Charles, Green, Egnew, Robinson, Ford, Hanna, Taylor Thompson, Kyle Fedorwiez.
WR: Miami needs 2 WCO WRs. There is too much uncertainty whether Bess, Hartline, Gates, Moore, and Wallace have the skills for the offensive scheme. Also, WRs are so much of a crapshoot in the NFL draft that it is almost best to take two mid round fliers than a top round uncertainty. 2nd-4th round is the ideal place to have value in the draft for the WR position. West Coast Offense WRs need great hands, body control, route running ability, separation skills, adequate blocking ability, and position flexibility. Height and speed are not as important in the WCO skillset. There are a whole range of guys that fit this mold this year. Miami will likely go by value, again, Best Player Available. If Reuben Randle is there in the second, they take him. If Toon or Givens are there in the 3rd, take them. There are a lot of late round options too, and a lot of late round WRs do work out. It is insurance against an early round bust. I don’t think the Miami dolphins would have an issue at all with taking 2 WRs in the third round if they were the BPA.
WR Draft Options: Reuben Randle, Nick Toon, Muhammed Sanu, Chris Givens, Joe Adams, Juron Criner, Marvin McNutt, Marvin Jones, Greg Childs, T.Y. Hilton.
Offensive Line: The offensive line is a greater need than I think anyone realizes. This doesn’t mean it will be addressed in the draft, ironically enough. Many veteran players will be released before the season, and RG is one of the easiest options to find in free agency. Miami will take a G/T in the draft if the right one falls to them, but otherwise will stick with what they have and target a roster cut before the season. These are some of the only positions that somebody could come in within a couple weeks of the season and be ready to start in a scheme. The reason this is such a weakness is because the WCO relies on the offensive line heavily for both the running game and passing game to be successful. Also, there is so much uncertainty. Long and Murtha appear to be injury risks. Jerry is too heavy for the WCO. Garner, Feinga, and Cook may not be starting caliber Guards. Long, Murtha, and Incognito are in the final year of their contracts. Miami needs a starting level player who is capable as both a guard and a tackle. If you look at who Green Bay has drafted in the past they targeted players who could do both. This is all about who drops to them. I don’t think OL is a target for them in the 1st or 2nd round, but I believe they will target values who drop, such as Shwartz, Silatolu, Osumele, or Brooks in the 3rd, or Mosely, Kelemete, Sanders, or McCants in the 4th. If they happen not to get a guard or tackle, look for them to sign Jake Scott or target the OL in free agency after the round of cuts before the season.
OL Draft Options: Decastro if trade down, Brandon Brooks, Silatolu, Mosely, Osumele, McCants, Beachum, Levy Adcock, Nate Potter, Reynolds, Kelemete, and many other options in the mid-late rounds.
DL: Is defensive line a need for Miami? Yes. Is it as big of a need as people think? No. Consider that the main reason people think of it as a need is the loss of Langford at DE and the need for a greater pass rush. However, Miami was 6th in rush defense last year, lost McDaniel for much of the season, and Langford didn’t generate any pass rush at all. McDaniel is back, Randy Starks is back, Soliai is back, and Odrick goes from being a part time player with 6 sacks to a full time player. If Miami drafts Coples in the first, who do you bench? Is a player drafted who will only play 20-30 snaps a game worth a first round pick? Look for Miami to pick a player in the 4th to 6th round who offers the strength to anchor against the run, Ireland’s measurables, and a greater pass rush ability than Langford had. The only other DL option is if the BPA on their board falls to them, say, for example, Kendall Reyes in the 2nd.
Miami’s Draft options: Kendall Reyes, Derek Wolfe, Tyrone Crawford, Olivier Vernon, Jake Bequette, Akiem Hicks, Armond Armstead.
OLB: This, aside from a franchise QB is Miami’s greatest need. Wake is a great player, but he is relatively undersized, going to be 30 years old this year, and needs help. Green Bay has Clay Matthews, the New York Giants have Jason Pierre-Paul, the San Francisco 49ers have Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, and Ahmad Brooks. Pass rushers are almost impossible to be found after the 3rd round. This is Miami’s second round pick, and maybe a 3rd as well. Koa Misi and Gary Guyton are ok outside, but have great flexibility. Miami needs 2 potential starters who can get double sigit sacks AND cover TEs if they have to. I could see Miami targeting the following with their first 5 picks: QB, OLB, WR, OLB, WR. Then G, DE and CB. This will all depend on who the BPA is at their pick.
Draft Options: Nick Perry, Andre Branch, Chandler Jones, Vinny Curry, Shea McLellin, Nigel Fordham, Bruce Irvin, Cam Johnson. There is not much left at this position after the mid 4th round.
CB / S: Opening statement: Miami doesn’t need to take player in the secondary this year. Why? They have enough depth and quality at the positions to be better than last year, and enough young players to develop to increase the playmaking ability. If they draft any one it will be a player who is the BPA on their board who is a great playmaker. They want interceptions and forced fumbles. They also want positional flexibility. For example, Trumaine Johnson could start at either safety or corner. Brandon Boykin could be a starting CB or a nickel CB and a returner. Justin Bethel, George Illoka, and Robert Golden could be both CB or S. If Boykin or Johnson fall to the 3rd, Miami takes one. George Illoka or Bethel in the 5th, Miami takes one.
Draft Options: Kirkpatrick, Gilmore, Boykin, Johnson, Hayward, Jackson, Bethel, Golden, Greenwood, Black, Illoka.
Notes: Miami’s signings show a trend: Johnson at S and Brown at TE have potential, and are the two weakest positions in the draft. Why draft a player at a position in the draft which is weak unless he drops? That is not Ireland’s philosophy of value.
What does Miami do if the elite 6 players are off the board at #8, AND someone has traded up with Jacksonville to get Tannehill? Trade down like heck. Coples and Floyd don’t fit Philbin’s teammate mentality, Ingram doesn’t fit Ireland’s physical metrics, Cox is not at a position of greatest need (OLB or QB), and it is too high for Perry, Branch, McLellin, Fleener, or Decastro.
My man-crush list in this draft: Ryan Tannehill, Kendall Reyes, Shea McLellin, Brandon Boykin, Chris Givens, Joe Adams, Brandon Brooks, Brandon Mosely, Junior Hemingway, Asa Jackson, Robert Golden, Juron Criner, Trumaine Johnson, Nigel Fordham, Armond Armstead, Akiem Hicks, Olivier Vernon, Nick Toon, Jake Bequette, Kelcy McCray, Chris Greenwood, Conroy Black.
Ireland’s draft strategy for the mid to late rounds is this: you select players who are capable of producing at a 1st or 2nd round level, but drop due to injury, lack of opportunity, or personal issues which can be overcome (Jimmy Wilson). If no such players are available, select players who fit roles on your team, such as a 3rd down situational pass-rusher, a nickel corner, or a 3rd down RB specialist.
Miami’s Draft Priorities:
1a. Franchise Quarterback
1b. Starting OLB
2. WCO Starting WR
3. OG/OT Flex Starter
4. Developmental OLB (Who backs up Wake or OLB pick?)
5. Nickel Corner or CB / S Value Player
6. WCO Developmental WR
7. Developmental DE
9. OG/OT Developmental Player
10. Developmental TE
Possible Mock Drafts:
1. Ryan Tannehill
2. Andre Branch
3. Chris Givens
3. Nick Toon
4. Bruce Irvin
5. Matt Reynolds
6. Armond Armstead
7. Top G available
1. Ryan Tannehill
2. Kendall Reyes
3. Dwayne Allen
3. Nigel Fordham
4. Matt Mosely
5. Asa Jackson
6. Danny Coale
7. Lavon Brazil
1. Fletcher Cox
2. Vinny Curry
3. Nick Toon
3. Brandon Brooks
4. Ryan Lindley
5. Matt Reynolds
6. Chris Greenwood
7. Lavon Brazil
1. Ryan Tannehill
2. Trumaine Johnson
3. Chris Givens
3. Cam Johnson
4. Joe Adams
6. Akiem Hicks
7. Conroy Black
My personal favorite: depicting a trade back for an additional 2nd and 4th round pick
1. Brandon Weeden
2. Shea McLellin or Andre Branch
2. Trumaine Johnson
3. Chris Givens
3. Nigel Fordham or Olivier Vernon
4. Joe Adams
4. Brandon Washington or Matt Mosely
5. Robert Turbin
6. Armond Armstead
7. Adrien Robinson
Doing these drafts you realize the need to go with Best player Available. We can’t fix everything. There aren’t enough picks. but, Miami should take the best player available and fill in the gaps later.