Miami Dolphins Draft Strategy Leaked?

Did a member of his staff truly reveal his strategy, or is it all a smoke screen? - Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Either this is an intentional smokescreen designed to give other teams a false impression of the Dolphins' draft day intentions, or the Dolphins draft strategy has been leaked weeks before the draft. Andrew Abramson of Palm Beach post has specifics about round-by-round targets.

Pretend you're standing in line in a bakery, and you're 19th in line, and you really want a milk chocolate hazelnut cookie. Ahead of you are 18 customers each forming their own opinions about which baked goods to buy, and behind you are 13 customers who got there after you.

If there is only 1 milk chocolate hazelnut cookie left, the worst thing you could do in that situation would be to loudly mention to fellow customers that you think the milk chocolate hazelnut cookie is one of the best items being sold, and you're 100% guaranteed to buy it if it's available when it's your turn to pick. That's because one of two things can happen - either a customer in front of you who is unsure about what to get might decide to choose that cookie based on your public endorsement, or a customer behind you who desperately wants that cookie and now knows you intend to buy it could decide to give money to someone ahead of you to buy it for themselves.

If you really want that milk chocolate hazelnut cookie, the smarter strategy could be to lie and loudly mention how you and your friends all think those cookies are terrible and wouldn't buy that cookie unless it were free. That increases the chances that nobody buys the cookie before it's your turn.

That bakery analogy explains why this is potentially a big story. In the NFL draft, there's only one Jadaveon Clowney, only one Jake Matthews, and only one Sammy Watkins - just like that final milk chocolate hazelnut cookie. Because of that, teams generally keep their draft day intentions close to the vest because revealing their intentions could hurt them in two ways. First, if another team is undecided about a prospect like Cyrus Kouandjio, a team leaking its intention to draft him could make teams picking earlier become more inclined to rate the prospect highly and take him. Second, if another team picking later in the draft is deadset on drafting that prospect, a team leaking its intention to draft that prospect could spur the other team to trade up and take the prospect. However, for the same reasons, teams spread misinformation ("smokescreens") to make it difficult for their competitors to guess their draft day intentions.

Keeping all that in mind, Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post is reporting highly specific draft strategy leaks from "a knowledgeable source" within the Dolphins organization. Some highlights:

  • The Dolphins are set on drafting a right tackle in round 1. They rate Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, and Taylor Lewan highly. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported on the Dolphins' interest in Lewan last week, so this is a second report saying that despite "character issues," the Dolphins are willing to draft Lewan at #19.
  • After those 3, the Dolphins' rankings of OTs gets interesting. Cyrus Kouandjio apparently has a first round grade from the Dolphins and is rated ahead of Zach Martin, whom the Dolphins see as a guard, and Morgan Moses, who played under new Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor when Lazor coached the University of Virginia football team a couple of years ago. If true, this means the Dolphins are not one of the teams whose physicians reportedly failed Kouandijo after his physical at the NFL combine. For what it's worth, renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews recently wrote a letter insisting Kouandijo's knees were fine. The Dolphins reportedly have concerns about Moses' "work ethic," which Lazor would know a lot about after being Moses' head coach.
  • The Dolphins have no intention of drafting a starting linebacker, and they instead intend to move Koa Misi to middle linebacker, Dannell Ellerbe to weakside linebacker, and Phillip Wheeler to strongside linebacker. It's been reported before by the Miami Herald that the Dolphins have been pondering playing "musical chairs" at the linebacker spot with players switching positions (click here for an explanation for the different linebacker spots), so this counts as a second report backing that up. However, despite trying to sign D'Qwell Jackson in free agency, the Dolphins are allegedly not interested in drafting a starting linebacker in the draft and would rather see if position switches improve production.
  • The Dolphins plan on drafting an offensive guard in round 2, unless a wide receiver like Kelvin Benjamin or Brandin Cooks fell to round 2. Otherwise, they want to address wide receiver and running back in the mid-to-later rounds. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald has reported before that the Dolphins see running back as a mid-to-later round need, but this is the first report of the Dolphins wanting to address WR in rounds 2 or 3 of the draft.
  • Here's an exact quote that will make ct1361 dance on his desk at home: "If Miami gets a receiver as high as the second round, it could mean the end for receiver Brian Hartline after the 2014 season, the source said." Hartline's salary in 2014 is guaranteed, but he becomes a viable cap casualty after the 2014 season.
  • Brandon Gibson is reportedly safe as the Dolphins' WR3, likely because his current contract is so reasonable (paying him 1/2 as much as Hartline and 1/4 as much as Mike Wallace per year). However, if the Dolphins draft a later round WR, the rookie would compete with Rishard Matthews because the Dolphins have had discussions about replacing Matthews and receiver Armon Binns.
  • The Dolphins intend to go offense-heavy early in the draft, but they're looking at cornerback and safety as later round needs.  They apparently also like Alabama defensive end Ed Stinson who is projected as a mid-round draft pick.

I'm a little skeptical about some of those points. Cyrus Kouandijo, even without the medical red flags, is somewhat shaky value at #19. It's also curious that our front office would try to recruit D'Qwell Jackson as a free agent middle linebacker but then rule out drafting a linebacker. The only reasoning to explain that would be if they felt the veteran Jackson could win the starting job immediately, but they had doubts that CJ Mosely or any other middle linebacker could win a training camp competition as a rookie.  Otherwise, the rest of the alleged leaks are plausible...though I wonder if the comments about Moses could be a smokescreen designed to hurt his stock, and I wonder why the source would so willingly give up all these specifics weeks before the draft...

The Dolphins would consider a receiver as high as the second round if FSU’s Kelvin Benjamin or Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks is available, two players Miami likes. Both players are projected to go higher than No. 50 overall when Miami makes its second round draft choice.

If Miami gets a receiver as high as the second round, it could mean the end for receiver Brian Hartline after the 2014 season, the source said. If the Dolphins take a receiver in a later round he will be expected to compete with Rishard Matthews. Brandon Gibson is solidified as the No. 3 receiver but the Dolphins have had discussions about replacing Matthews and receiver Armon Binns, the source said.

- See more at: http://blogs.palmbeachpost.com/thedailydolphin/2014/04/18/source-dolphins-like-kouandjio-in-first-round-plan-to-move-misi-to-inside-linebacker/#sthash.tEbR3VB0.dpuf

The Dolphins would consider a receiver as high as the second round if FSU’s Kelvin Benjamin or Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks is available, two players Miami likes. Both players are projected to go higher than No. 50 overall when Miami makes its second round draft choice.

If Miami gets a receiver as high as the second round, it could mean the end for receiver Brian Hartline after the 2014 season, the source said. If the Dolphins take a receiver in a later round he will be expected to compete with Rishard Matthews. Brandon Gibson is solidified as the No. 3 receiver but the Dolphins have had discussions about replacing Matthews and receiver Armon Binns, the source said.

- See more at: http://blogs.palmbeachpost.com/thedailydolphin/2014/04/18/source-dolphins-like-kouandjio-in-first-round-plan-to-move-misi-to-inside-linebacker/#sthash.tEbR3VB0.dpuf

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