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All Signs Pointing To DL In First Round

Miami Dolphins Introduce Brian Flores Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

It’s April, and if you’re a football fan, that means draft season is now officially underway. Although the Miami Dolphins are picking probably seven to nine spots lower than they should be, relative to the twelve teams picking ahead of them -- and this was true before the roster purge of the past month -- as it stands right now, they’ll be on the clock sometime around 10:00 PM Eastern on the night of the 25th, to turn in the card for their first round draft choice, thirteenth overall.

This, of course, assumes that they don’t make a trade with some other team, to move up or down, which remains a distinct possibility. I’d like to remind everyone that at this time of year, ninety percent of NFL fans want their favorite team to trade down in the first round, and pick up extra picks. The other ten percent who don’t are fans whose team either has one of the top two or three picks or needs a quarterback. So, if you’re fervently hoping that Miami moves down a bit, you are by no means alone; almost every fan wants that. Go over to Gang Green Nation or Buffalo Rumblings and I guarantee you they’re saying the same thing, “Trade down, trade down!” The compensation for doing so often isn’t that great, as we saw in 2013. Putting aside the players chosen with the respective picks, neither one of whom has been overly successful in the NFL, the Oakland Raiders only received the 42nd pick (10th overall in round two) in exchange for moving down nine spots in round one, from third to twelfth. Of course, if there is a quarterback involved, the asking price for a high pick can go up exponentially, as we saw in 2012, when the Rams nearly bled the Redskins dry for the rights to Robert Griffin III. Picking thirteenth, the Dolphins are prohibitively unlikely to reap anything even remotely close to that this year.

So, assuming the Dolphins stay where they are, who might they select in round one? My crystal ball is in the shop for repairs, but right now, I’d say it appears more likely than not that they’ll take a defensive lineman. Why? There are several reasons. First of all, when I say defensive lineman, I mean a 3-4 NT or DE, not an outside linebacker/edge rusher type player. That the Dolphins will eventually evolve into a base 3-4 alignment, rather than the 4-3 set they’ve employed for most of the past decade is a virtual certainty. Since both their starting 4-3 ends are no longer with the team, they have little to speak of, in terms of interior defensive linemen and they have an abundance of mediocre linebackers who could improve as ILB’s in a base 3-4, there would seem to be no time like the present. The Dolphins also haven’t been able to stop the run for years, and if you can’t stop the run, you can’t stop anything. Unfortunately, just as drafting players for a 3-4 is considerably more difficult than it is for a 4-3, which has always been my argument for a 4-3 defense, it’s also more challenging to try and project who a team might draft, since a lot of guys who were successful in college will now have the dual hurdles of having to make it in the NFL while also having to make it as 3-4, front seven defenders. I’m not going to try and give you a run down on which defensive players might be good choices in the first round for the Dolphins, other than Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence. He’s the only guy who makes sense to me in the middle of round one, in terms of defensive linemen. There are probably other DL guys who will be available at that spot who might make sense for Miami, but I’ll leave that to the draftniks on here, who keep up with that kind of stuff a lot better than me.

Of course, the Dolphins have a lot of other needs besides the defensive line, but that would seem to be the best place to start right now, and I’ll tell you why. New Dolphins head coach Brian Flores can stand at the podium every day and vehemently tell us that Miami isn’t tanking this season, and from purely a coaching standpoint, I believe him, really I do. However, team owner Stephen Ross and GM Chris Grier aren’t stupid; they both know that if the Dolphins win more than four or five games this season, they’re probably screwed, in terms of landing one of the top two quarterbacks next year. That is, unless they want to pony up a boatload of draft picks like the Redskins did for RGIII. The one way they could win six or seven games would be if they went all in on offensive linemen in the early rounds. You can be sure that both Ross and Grier remember what happened in 2011, when for much of the season, Miami was in line to get the first pick in the draft, and then won a bunch of meaningless games late in the year, to miss out on the top two QBs a few months later. They already have a deep, talented group of receivers and new Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick throws for 400 yards more often than Ryan Tannehill threw for 250. Even with Frank Gore’s departure, they still have a good stable of running backs they can count on. What’s missing from the offensive equation, besides a young QB of the future? Their offensive line is a mess, with more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. The one thing that could hurt us badly in our quest to land a top flight signal caller next year would be if the Dolphins brain trust decides to go with OL, say Washington State’s Andre Dillard or Florida’s Jawaan Taylor, in the first round this year. As long as they don’t do that, they should be on track to lose more games than any other team in the league, and guys like SuperFreakingMario, and myself, this year, won’t be infuriated.

The Dolphins could also pull a first round surprise and take a quarterback with their first pick this year. If they do that, the only guy I’m interested in is Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins. To my admittedly untrained eye, he appears to be the most natural quarterback in this draft; I like the way he surveys the field and he’s got a sweet stroke when he throws the ball. I don’t necessarily believe they’ll take him, or that he’ll even be available at thirteen, and we all know damn well that if he drops out of the top ten picks, teams will be lining up to trade ahead of the Dolphins, the way they did for Josh Rosen a year ago. If they do take a QB high this year, however, he’s really the only guy I would want them to choose in the first two rounds. We’ve got three weeks to go, folks, and this year’s draft promises to be an exciting one for Dolphin fans. Have a great week, everybody.