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Jeff Ireland's Draft Strategy: Best Player Available?

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With the Dolphins being major players in free agency, will Jeff Ireland target the best player available in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft?


Jeff Ireland has always maintained the belief that he should target the best player available (BPA) when it comes to draft day. He's not alone in that thinking. Many General Manager's (GM's) from around the league believe in this philosophy, too. It's how teams build winning franchises.

Indeed, when Jeff Ireland was asked the question at the NFL Combine in February, he replied:

that's obviously the first goal, you'd like to take the best player available. But it depends on what you do in free agency, it depends on some of your needs, and depends on what's there when you take the pick.

Since the NFL Combine, Miami has signed eight players that will more than likely become starters for 2013 NFL season. Those that have been re-signed include Randy Starks, Brian Hartline, and safety Chris Clemons, while Miami also signed five players from other teams, including Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson, Dustin Keller, and linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler. With a reported $15 million left to spend in free agency, the Dolphins could potentially add a tackle, guard, and cornerback. With this in mind, Miami could really be set up to draft the best player in the first round.

However, as of right now, the Dolphins need to fix the secondary. The free agent market is still flush with some quality starting tackles. Eric Winston, Andre Smith, and Sebastian Vollmer could make the most sense. This makes it more likely that Ireland pursues at least one cornerback in the draft. But with the twelfth pick, would Xavier Rhodes or Desmond Trufant make sense? With Miami expected to play more zone coverage next year, does Rhodes fit? Moreover, will Trufant be the BPA if prospects like Werner or Chance Warmack fall, for example?

Don't rule out the Dolphins moving out of the twelfth position in the draft, either. If Philbin and the front office believe that the players likely to be available with their first pick don't fit the team's scheme and philosophy, don't discount them from trading up or down. If Ireland trades up, players including Lane Johnson or Dee Milliner could be in play, while Tyler Eifert, DJ Fluker, and possibly Tavon Austin and Desmond Trufant may be available if the team decides to trade down.

And lastly, but certainly not least, BPA for Ireland may not be BPA for the ‘experts', fans or other GM's. Last year, there were those that criticized the Dolphins for reaching on Ryan Tannehill. A year later, and Ireland seems to have quietened those critics for now. This team will not be afraid to trust their own judgment when it comes to deciding on the BPA. With that in mind, it's possible the Dolphins could take a long hard look at Tavon Austin. Sure, he may not be the BPA for some, but he could have a big impact on this offense.