2013 NFL Draft: Miami Dolphins Draft Tendencies and History Under Jeff Ireland

A man with a plan...or so we hope - USA TODAY Sports

We take a break from your regularly scheduled mock draft overload to look back on previous Miami Dolphins drafts and make some predictions with 2 weeks to go till the draft

This article was originally going to compare Jeff Ireland's drafting record to the other 31 NFL teams, but Phinsider contributor Alex Parish (back then, known as BahamaDolfan) beat me to the punch with his own excellent article, Myth Or Reality: Are Perceptions of Jeff Ireland Accurate? That article compared Ireland's drafting quality to other GMs by judging draft "success" by whether drafted players remained on team's rosters, and his conclusion was that Ireland was roughly "average." Roster retention is an imperfect measure of draft quality since it treats all players who remain on a roster after being drafted as a "success," regardless of whether the player makes the roster as a third-string backup or an All-Pro starter. However, roster retention is the most objective measure of draft quality since any other form of "draft grading" requires a respected "grader" to rate players.

With that approach of analyzing previous drafts already covered, I decided to take a look at what positions Miami has prioritized in drafts since 2008 and how Miami opted to draft them. That gives us some insight to how the team - still being assembled by Ireland - may approach future drafts.

This recap is divided into two periods, the "Ireland/Parcells Era" (2008-2010) and the "Ireland Era" (2011-present), given the heavy influence Bill Parcells had over personnel decisions from 2008 until he abandoned the team in 2010. ProFootball Focus, a site used by the media and several NFL teams to provide advanced statistics on specific players, recently released their "grades" of all the 2008-2010 NFL draft picks, taking into account where the players were drafted, how they played, their contribution in terms of playing time, etc. Rather than use my own evaluations, I've included the PFF grades, with their scale of...

+2.0: You’ve just found Tom Brady in the 6th round

+1.5: Getting much more than you bargained for!

+1.0: The scouts nailed it!

+0.5: Never hurts to find a solid contributor

0.0: Nothing ventured, nothing gained (It could have been worse)

-0.5: That pick was not put to good use

-1.0: What a waste!

-1.5: The scouts/ coaches failed, big time!

-2.0: You just drafted the love child of JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf!

You can read the full draft grading article here for PFF's explanation on the quality of each pick, but let's do a quick review of what's happened since 2008.

Ireland/Parcells Era

The players drafted between 2008-2010 that are on the 2013 Miami Dolphins roster are listed in BOLD

2008:

Player Position Round (Draft Spot)
PFF Grade
Jake Long OT 1st (#1 overall) +0.5
Phillip Merling DE 2nd (#32 overall) -1.0
Chad Henne QB 2nd (#57 overall) -0.5
Kendall Langford DE/DT 3rd (#66 overall) +0.5
Shawn Murphy OT 4th (#110 overall) -0.5
Jalen Parmele RB 6th (#176 overall) 0.0
Donald Thomas OG 6th (#195 overall) +0.5
Lex Hilliard FB 6th (#204 overall) +0.5
Lionel Dotson DT 7th (#245 overall) 0.0


2009:

Player Position Round (Draft Spot)
PFF Grade
Vontae Davis
CB
1st (#25 overall)
+0.5
Pat White
QB
2nd (#44 overall) -1.5
Sean Smith
CB
2nd (#61 overall) +0.5
Patrick Turner
WR
3rd (#87 overall) -1.0
Brian Hartline
WR
4th (#108 overall) +1.0
John Nalbone
TE
5th (#161 overall) 0.0
Chris Clemons
S
5th (#165 overall) +0.5
Andrew Gardner
OT
6th (#181 overall) 0.0
J.D. Folsom
LB
7th (#214 overall) 0.0

2010:

Player Position Round (Draft Spot) PFF Grade
Jared Odrick DE/DT 1st (#28 overall) -0.5
Koa Misi OLB 2nd (#40 overall) +0.5
John Jerry OG 3rd (#73 overall) 0.0
A.J. Edds LB 4th (#119 overall) 0.0
Nolan Carroll CB 5th (#145 overall) +0.5
Reshad Jones S 5th (#163 overall) +1.0
Chris McCoy LB 7th (#212 overall) 0.0
Austin Spitler LB 7th (#252 overall) +0.5


Analysis

Here's a list of what positions we addressed in certain rounds

Rounds 1-3: OL (x2), QB (x2), WR, CB (x2), DL (x3), LB

Rounds 4-7: OL (x3), RB/HB (x2), WR, CB, DL, LB (x4), TE, S (x2),

PFF Grades by Position

Position Grades
OL x5 +0.5, -0.5, +0.5, 0.0, 0.0
QB x2 -0.5, -1.5
RB/HB x2 0.0, +0.5
WR x2 -1.0, +1.0
CB x3 +0.5, +0.5, +0.5
DL x4 -1.0, +0.5, 0.0, -0.5
LB x5 0.0, +0.5, 0.0, 0.0, +0.5
TE x1 0.0
S x2 +0.5, +1.0

More draft picks have gone towards Miami's defense than the offense, and unsurprisingly, the defense has consistently been deeper and more talented than the offense the past few years. However, outside of offensive line, Miami didn't devote many draft resources to the offense. Miami drafted as many QBs as WRs (2) during this time period, and even worse, both QBs (Henne and White) failed to become long-term solutions. Also during this time, the rest of the NFL began the move towards prioritizing athletic, pass-catching tight ends, with Dustin Keller, Fred Davis, Martellus Bennett, Jermichael Finley, Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski all being drafted in the first 3 rounds from 2008 to 2010. Miami's response to that trend was to trade for a blocking tight end (Anthony Fasano) and draft John Nalbone in the 5th round of 2009. Additionally, while the team invested 5 draft picks in building the offensive line, the only 2 picks rated highly (Jake Long and Donald Thomas) are currently scheduled to be playing for Rams and Colts in 2013, which helps explain why O-line has remained a persistent issue despite being regularly addressed.

Jeff Ireland Era

The only players drafted between 2011-2012 that are still on the team are listed in BOLD. No draft grades are available since PFF only graded drafts from 3+ seasons ago.


2011:

Player Position Round (Draft Spot)
Mike Pouncey C 1st (#15 overall)
Daniel Thomas RB 2nd (#62 overall)
Clyde Gates WR 4th (#111 overall)
Charles Clay FB/TE 6th (#174 overall)
Frank Kearse DT 7th (#231 overall)
Jimmy Wilson
CB
7th (#235 overall)

2012:

Player Position Round (Draft Spot)
Ryan Tannehill QB 1st (#8 overall)
Jonathan Martin OT 2nd (#42 overall)
Olivier Vernon DE 3rd (#72 overall)
Michael Egnew TE 3rd (#78 overall)
Lamar Miller RB 4th (#97 overall)
Josh Kaddu LB 5th (#155 overall)
B.J. Cunningham WR 6th (#183 overall)
Kheeston Randall DT 7th (#215 overall)
Rishard Matthews WR 7th (#227 overall)


Analysis

Here's a list of what positions we addressed in certain rounds

Rounds 1-3: OL (x2), QB, RB, TE, DL

Rounds 4-7: RB, WRx3, FB/TE, DL(x2), CB, LB,

The jury is still out on many of these picks, aside from Pouncey who has more or less clinched "elite" status, but there's been more effort recently to address skill positions on offense like WR, TE, and RB. Unfortunately, most of the picks at skill positions on offense have not established themselves as starters yet. Not coincidentally, both WR and TE were addressed in free agency this year despite 3 WRs and 2 TEs being drafted in the past 2 years. While the Ryan Tannehill pick will define the 2012 draft, the development of Martin, Miller, Egnew, Clay, Kaddu, and Vernon will go a long way in determining the eventual grade of these 2 drafts.

Draft Day Moves

Who Miami chooses is only half of the story on draft day. The other half is how Miami drafts players. Looking at draft-day trades mostly involving picks, the trend in both the Ireland/Parcells Era and Jeff Ireland Era has been to freely trade up and down in rounds 2-7. However, Ireland has never traded up in the 1st round, and he has only traded down once.

Trade Ups (5)

2010: 4th and 6th round picks in exchange for 4th round pick used to draft AJ Edds
2010: 6th and 7th round picks in exchange for 5th round pick used to draft Reshad Jones
2011: 3rd, 5th, and 7th round picks in exchange for 2nd round pick used to draft Daniel Thomas
2011: 6th and 7th round picks in exchange for 6th round pick used to get Charles Clay (trade up) and 7th round pick to get Frank Kearse (trade down)
2012: 4th, 6th, and future 6th round picks in exchange for 4th round pick used to draft Lamar Miller

Trade downs (5)

2008: 3rd round pick in exchange for 3rd round pick, used to get Kendall Langford, and 6th round pick, used to get Jalen Parmele
2009: 2nd round pick in exchange for 2nd round pick, used to get Sean Smith, and 5th round pick, used to get Chris Clemons
2010: 1st, 4th, and 6th round picks in exchange for 1st round pick, used to get Jared Odrick, 2nd round pick, used to get Koa Misi, and a 4th rounder, later traded away to get AJ Edds
2012: 3rd round pick in exchange for a 3rd round pick, used to get Michael Egnew, and a 6th round pick, used to get BJ Cunningham
2012: 5th round pick in exchange for a 5th round pick, used to get Josh Kaddu, and 7th round pick, used to get Rishard Matthews

Conclusions

A consistent theme of Ireland drafts, with and without Parcells, is a willingness to double-up when addressing needs. Ireland has picked at least two players at the same position in 4 of the past 5 drafts. While the Dolphins have recently begun addressing skill positions on offense earlier in the draft compared to 2008-2010, Ireland has continued select offensive linemen in the first 2 rounds of the draft even after Parcells left the team. Ireland in a recent press conference reiterated that he views offensive line as a need.

Ireland also stated he has 4-5 targets in mind in round 1 and is open to trading up or down. However, history suggests Ireland prefers to stay put in the first round. Ireland has never traded up in round 1, even when targeting a QB - he didn't trade up for either Tannehill in 2012 or Joe Flacco in 2008, despite both QBs being top draft targets. Ireland has also only traded down once in the first round. Instead, much of Ireland's past draft-day trades involved rounds 2-7. In 2013, Ireland will have 8 trade-able picks in those later rounds (compensatory picks cannot be traded), so I'd expect movement in those rounds.

My amateur prediction for the 2013 draft is balance between picks spent on offense and defense, with the team lacking glaring holes (aside from offensive tackle) due to a solid free agency period but still needing upgrades and depth in several areas. For the first round, I'd guess a defensive back, defensive lineman, or yes, an offensive lineman. Wide receiver and tight end were addressed recently in free agency and the draft, which is important since Ireland's "horizontal" draft approach takes into account need. Thus, I'd expect those positions to be addressed no earlier than round 2, with running back probably a mid-to-later round priority. Trades are possible in round 1 but are almost certain in rounds 2-7. With 11 picks, Ireland should be able to bolster the roster and put the team in great position to compete next season.

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