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The NFL Draft Crush Who Got Away

Every person here has one--a draft man-crush who wound up playing in a city other than Miami; a player who captivated you with remarkable play in college and breathtaking numbers at the NFL Combine, and convinced you that no other prospect would do for the Dolphins. And then on draft day, you watched as said prospect hoisted the jersey of another team with the league commissioner. Maybe the Dolphins passed on your man-crush for a player who turned out to be great in their own right, as was the case when Miami selected Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long over Virginia defensive end Chris Long, Arkansas running back Darren McFadden and, yes, Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan. Maybe the Dolphins passed on your guy in favor of a player who turned out to be total garbage (like when the Dolphins skipped over Thurman Thomas in 1988, Drew Brees in 2001, and Darrelle Revis and Patrick Willis in 2007).

So, who's your guy? Was there a particular draft prospect who captivated you in college but ultimately eluded the Dolphins' grasp? For me, one prospect stands out from all the other draft crushes I've had since I started watching football in the early 1990s.

My "draft crush in vain" story takes place in 2009, but it's a bit difficult to explain. The previous fall, I read about a University of Illinois cornerback who, at the time, was ranked the fifth-best draft prospect in the country. The Dolphins were looking good that season (2008), and I remember thinking, Man, how great would it be if that cornerback dropped all the way to the Dolphins next spring?

That cornerback, as you probably know, was Vontae Davis--the talented-yet-unpredictable defensive back who wore No.1 for the Fighting Illini and put on an absolute tackling clinic (13 in total) against the USC Trojans in the Rose Bowl, New Year's Day, 2008.

But Davis wasn't the only draft man-crush I had in 2009. As someone who lives in Big Ten country, grew up playing linebacker and idolizing the NFL greats at that position, I spent three solid years watching an Ohio State player who was a tackling machine during his time playing for the Buckeyes (whom I thoroughly despise, mind you). When this guy made the decision in January 2008 to return for his senior season, I knew the Dolphins would be a potential suitor for this player if the team was interested in taking a linebacker early in the 2009 draft.

That linebacker was James Laurinaitis, and when he slid into the second round of the draft, I was screaming for the Dolphins to move up and get him. Miami had two selections in the round--44 and 56--but I didn't believe Laurinaitis would last another 11 picks before the Dolphins were back on the clock. I mean, Miami now had the cornerback (Davis) they sorely needed; why not beef up an underwhelming linebacker corps with an instinctive, sure-tackling prospect? Since there were no knockout nose tackle prospects (the Dolphins other big defensive need in 2009) available at that point in the draft, it made perfect sense for the Dolphins to move up and find their next Zach Thomas.

It was never to be, as Laurinaitis lasted just two picks into the second round, going at No.35 overall to the St. Louis Rams. He's been a do-everything mike linebacker in the Gateway City ever since then, and I still can't help but wonder what would've been if the Dolphins had moved up for Laurinaitis instead of using the 44th pick on West Virginia quarterback Pat White.

So ... does anyone here have a "draft crush who got away" story they want to share?