With the draft only a day away, this is the part of the process where teams' true intentions start to be revealed after months of confusing leaks/smokescreens.
For example, it was around 24 hours before last year's draft that reports began to surface of then-GM Jeff Ireland's interest in trading up, and also of the Dolphins' high interest in Dion Jordan, and we all know how the 2013 draft ended up. Today, the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero is reporting that the Dolphins have been active in discussing both trade up and trade down opportunities.
Specifically, Salguero reports that the Dolphins are talking with Philadelphia (No. 22), Cleveland (No. 26), New Orleans (No. 27), and San Francisco (30) about trading down. Meanwhile, Salguero doesn't mention any specific teams the Dolphins are talking to about a trade up, but he says that he's heard Hickey had made a couple of calls to gauge the cost of moving up. So let's explore the ideas further:
The case for staying put
Unlike last year, the Dolphins don't have a ton of draft picks in this year's draft. Trading away next year's draft picks is always a popular idea, but it's only smart if you think the Dolphins are more likely to be a 10+ win team next year than a 6 win team. Otherwise, a year from now, there's a chance you'll be angrily muttering about a wasted opportunity when some other team uses our top-10 pick in either the first or second round in the 2015 draft.
The Dolphins have 7 picks and could use every one of them to help add depth to our OL, TE, WR, RB, LB, CB, and S corps. Meanwhile, the Dolphins absolutely need to get get a first round rookie who can contribute this year if the Dolphins hope to win more than 8 games this year against the projected 12th hardest schedule in the NFL.
The Dolphins should balance both of those priorities - getting the best talent available while keeping as many picks as possible to add depth without mortgaging the future - by staying put and hoping an elite talent falls to #19.
The case for trading up
We can all hope that an elite talent falls to #19, but we've all seen the mocks. It's looking like maybe just 1 QB goes in the top-15, and that's a problem for the Dolphins, since every early round team that doesn't reach for a QB is a team that will instead pick a prospect at one of the positions the Dolphins hope to address.
Top-4 OTs? Likely gone at #19.
The top TE (Ebron) and DT (Donald)? Likely gone.
Top-2 WRs? Almost certainly gone, and maybe a 3rd is gone too.
In terms of rookies likely available at #19 who have a chance at starting as rookies, the choice likely will be a 4-3 LB of "maybe Mosely" and "probably Shazier" (though growing buzz about Shazier due to his ridiculous workout numbers make a scenario in which both Mosely and Shazier are gone by #19 possible), the top OG (Xavier Sua-Filo), and a tier-2 offensive tackle.
Those are all good prospects, but why settle for good if you can make a play for potentially great? If we're going to address OL in round 1, why not trade up a few spots to get a guy who projects as an elite guard like Zack Martin or a guy who projects to be a potential franchise left tackle down the line like Taylor Lewan or Jake Matthews? If we're going to address receiver in round 1, why not trade up for an elite player like Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans? In 2011, the top 4 WRs drafted were AJ Green, Julio Jones, Jonathan Baldwin, and Titus Young. The first 2 are game changing, Pro Bowl WRs, and the last 2 are draft busts. Sometimes, there really is an enormous dropoff from consensus top-2 to 3rd/4th best at a position.
We need franchise cornerstone players given that most of our current/former Pro Bowlers are over age 30 (Wake, Grimes, Finnegan, Starks). Our list of players under age 30 who have made a Pro Bowl is:
1. Mike Wallace
2. Mike Pouncey
End of list. Again, that's not an under-25 list. That's an under-30 list.
The Dolphins do have elite talent, but the majority are in the part of their careers when they're more likely to get worse each year than get better. Dolphins need young, elite players to act as franchise cornerstones. This is a team that had a lot of factors going against it in the 2013 season and yet went 4-1 in games against AFC playoff teams including the Chargers, Patriots, Colts (back when they had Reggie Wayne), and Bengals. What the Dolphins lacked was consistency, and consistent teams have elite players they can count on to play well week after week.
The case for trading down
Are we really 1 or 2 elite players away from being a consistent winner? The Dolphins more than held their own against AFC playoff teams, but they put in a poor showing against NFC playoff teams, going 0-2 against the Saints and Panthers, not to mention an embarrassing Monday Night Football loss to the lowly Bucs who ended up firing their head coach due to incompetence. A near elite team probably doesn't lose by a combined 32 to the Bills and Jets to finish the season. The Dolphins have some good players, but not nearly enough of them, and the deficit is more than a trade up or 2 can fix. What the Dolphins need is patience. We're not a right tackle away, or a tight end away, or even a wide receiver away from being a Super Bowl contender.
Some economists looked at draft data from the past 2 decades and found that trading down is usually the smartest long term strategy because while you get worse talent after a trade down, the talent comes at lower cost and with an extra draft pick to hedge against picking a bust. Meanwhile, this is a draft that most feels will have talent in round 2 roughly comparable to the talent available late in round 1, especially at positions of need like offensive tackle, so if there's ever a draft to trade down and try to get an extra second/third round pick, it's this one. Last but not least, a lot of people are predicting that the annual run on QBs will be in the 20's this year rather than in the top-10 like in years past. The top QBs all have glaring flaws, while there are a number of highly regarded late round 1/early round 2 prospects. In addition, drafting a QB in late round 1 versus in late round 2, due to the rules of the CBA, gives teams the luxury of a "fifth year option" built into rookie contracts. Given how much free agent quarterbacks are getting paid these days, having 1 extra year of a potential starting QB under his rookie deal could translate to millions of dollars in savings down the line for that extra year. A QB run in the 20's means that if the Dolphins trade down from #19 to even as late as #27, it's possible that half of those prospects taken in the meantime are QBs the Dolphins weren't going to draft anyway, so the Dolphins get an extra pick without losing out on more than a couple of players they might have drafted.
Now your turn to vote.