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What Would It Cost the Dolphins to Regain the 8th Overall Pick?

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The Miami Dolphins entered the 2016 offseason holding the 8th overall pick. Now, since acquiring the 13th overall pick and moving back, the team’s situation has changed dramatically. If Miami is looking to trade back up to fill the void at running back, what would it cost for the team to go up and get Ezekiel Elliott?

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In the NFL, teams can operate with a two-word slogan during the months leading up to the annual draft:

Things change.

For the Miami Dolphins, this has held true in a strong way throughout 2016. The team kicked off their offseason by trading back in the draft in order to acquire Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso from the Eagles. This trade made sense at the time, as the team clearly needed more starters than they had money or picks with which to fill those holes.

Now, the team’s trade looks like a much less insightful decision. After unexpectedly losing out on Lamar Miller, the Dolphins made a run at Broncos’ running back C.J. Anderson. In an immensely surprising move, the Broncos matched the Dolphins’ very competitive offer sheet, retaining Anderson for 2016.

Neither of these moves were expected by fans or by those in the front office. When the team’s pursuit of Lamar Miller was nearing what they felt was the home stretch, many believed his return to Miami to be a foregone conclusion. After losing out on Miller, those within the building were also widely expecting C.J. Anderson to pass through the Broncos’ grasp and end up dawning aqua and orange next season.

Now, the team is left with a dire need at the running back position. Luckily, there is still one final option.

Ezekiel Elliott is one of the top prospects at the running back position that I have scouted in recent memory. In terms of prospect grades, I have Elliott just behind Todd Gurley, who was the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year in 2015.

The Miami Dolphins did not think that they would have a strong need for Ezekiel Elliott when they traded back to the 13th overall pick; they assumed they would be with either Lamar Miller or C.J. Anderson for 2016. It is also feasible that the team would not even have gotten a shot at Elliott with the 8th overall pick. However, trades and recent NFL news have vastly altered the landscape of the top 10.

The Rams and Eagles have both moved up to select quarterbacks, which pushes down the remaining prospects. In addition to this, the Cowboys have faced suspensions along the defensive line, making it even more likely that they select Joey Bosa and once again opt for a backfield by committee.

The Dolphins now see a window, thanks to the Cleveland Browns’ position at the 8th pick. The Browns will need a quarterback of the future, as prevailing wisdom seems to be that RGIII will be a stopgap option at best in Cleveland. So, the most logical fit becomes Paxton Lynch, Memphis’ lone top prospect in this year’s class.

The Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns clearly find each other in a win-win situation. The Browns know, with relative confidence, that Paxton Lynch will be available with the 13th overall selection and the Dolphins know that there is a good chance Ezekiel Elliott is not.

So, the two most important questions in determining whether or not this trade will actually happen are as follows.

First: Will Ezekiel Elliott be available?

Second: What would it cost?

In an attempt to answer the first question, here is how I see the first seven picks of the draft unfolding.

1. Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff (QB, Cal)

2. Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz (QB, NDSU)

3. San Diego Chargers: Jalen Ramsey (CB/S, FSU)

4. Dallas Cowboys: Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)

5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)

6. Baltimore Ravens: Laremy Tunsil (OL, Ole Miss)

7. San Francisco 49ers: DeForest Buckner (DL, Oregon)

This scenario is one in which the Dolphins and Browns would have a strong argument for making this trade. Cleveland’s main obstacle in acquiring Paxton Lynch is San Francisco (Chicago appears to be a dark horse to take a developmental QB, but this year’s draft is far too talented on the defensive line for them to pass at that position). If the Bears select Buckner, whom I believe is the best defensive lineman in the class, then Lynch should fall to the 13th overall pick.

Ezekiel Elliott would not make it past the New York Giants. It makes far too much sense for them to acquire a player who puts their offense over the edge. General manager Jerry Reese needs a strong draft class this year, as he knows his job is in jeopardy. Elliott is a very safe pick and would almost guarantee improvement for New York.

So, now it’s time to answer the next question. What would it cost for the Dolphins to move back to their original pick?

The Dolphins would not have much leverage in this trade. The Browns would know exactly who they are trying to get and see that there is no way they can afford to not make a deal if they really want Elliott. With that being said, Miami might have to overpay slightly.

In 2013, the Dolphins moved up from the 12th pick to the 3rd pick in exchange for a 2nd round selection that same season. So, for anyone who thinks it would cost the Dolphins a 2nd rounder to move up to the 8th overall pick this year, it won’t.

If the trade does not involve any players, I believe the Dolphins could send the Browns the following:

2016 4th round selection

2016 7th round selection (originally from Ravens, acquired for CB Will Davis)

2017 4th round selection

The main question mark will be the 2017 4th round pick. I could very easily see the team sending a 3rd round pick to the Browns in order to move up for Ezekiel Elliott. This would be forgivable considering the fact that the Dolphins should have a 3rd round compensatory pick coming in 2017, given Olivier Vernon’s departure. So, the team could trade their own 3rd round pick with the knowledge that they will in all likelihood have another on the way.

If the team completes this trade, their draft would have an interesting makeup in terms of gains and losses. They would essentially be gaining Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell, and Ezekiel Elliott in exchange for the draft picks mentioned above (since the trade with Philadelphia was a clean swap).

I know what you’re thinking: This seems like a lot of work considering the Dolphins already had the 8th overall selection. Yes, but as we went over 1,000 words ago, things change.

The Dolphins did not expect to lose out on two running backs in free agency and to have the landscape of the top 10 formulate in a way that allows them to almost surely find Ezekiel Elliott available with the 8th overall pick. If the Dolphins had known the future, they would’ve declined the Eagles’ trade offer on their way back from purchasing a few Powerball tickets.

In the end, Dolphins fans wouldn’t be able to complain much about this deal. The team’s defense looks to be in shambles ahead of 2016, with the offense being the only major hope. So, if you can’t get an instant difference maker at cornerback in the first round anyway, why not try to bring in a piece that would put the offense over the precipice and propel them to success?

While it is impossible to say what the team will do in this year’s draft, it seems certain that it will be a very interesting evening on April 28th in Chicago.