The Miami Dolphins had one of their best drafts in years in 2008, thanks mainly to the new Bill Parcells regime. It is a rarity for Parcells/Ireland to draft poorly.
Their 2006 draft, in particular, was almost a total failure, seeing as how number 1 pick Jason Allen, chosen as a safety, is a nickel back at best. He showed what he is capable of at Denver last year, intercepting Jay Cutler's very first pass--but on the other hand screwed up vs. Oakland on a pass interference call.
The 2007 draft of Ted Ginn, Jr., may turn out to be a wise pick yet at number one. Satele, good enough to make starter in his rookie year, is gone to Oakland, but, other than punter Brandon Fields, the rest of this draft was questionable.
The 2005 draft of Ronnie Brown, Channing Crowder, and Matt Roth was a bit more satisfactory, but nothing to go nuts about except for Brown, and the 2004 and 2003 drafts, aside from getting Ricky Williams in trade, Yeremiah Bell and Vernon Carey, were pretty awful.
Just like the 2004 to 2007 won-loss records!
As I said, it took Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland to straighten out the Dolphins draft acumen. Results? Perhaps the greatest single season turn around in NFL history, and one that should keep on keeping on if the regime keeps drafting the way it did in 2008: every single draft pick is still with the team and the at least half of them were starters at some point in 2008, with Henne being the quarterback of the future and guard Donald Thomas slated to start before a season ending injury.
Most analyses of Miami's draft needs state that what is needed the most are the positions of cornerback, wide receiver, and defensive/nose tackle (so that Jason Ferguson, who is 35, can be replaced perhaps this year).
Some analysts would also conclude they need more outside linebackers or guard-center combos, in case Jake Grove is incapable of playing a full season, and Justin Smiley doesn't quite recover from last year.
The following is what I think the Dolphins' biggest priorities should be, especially with their first four picks: 25, 44, 56, and 87. These picks ought to make part-time or full-time starters in 2009.
Priority One: Cornerback: For some reason, Dolphins management managed to let a fine CB, Andre Goodman, escape to Denver with another decent secondary member, Renaldo Hill. I think this was a mistake, but it's too late to do anything about it now. Thus, only Will Allen is proven-starter calibre at the cornerback position, so far. Since new acquisition Eric Green from the Cards has a history of injury, the jury is still out on him, though he might make a good nickel back. Nate Jones? Who knows?
As a matter of fact, what is shaping up to be a Class A secondary with Allen and safeties Yeremiah Bell and former Raider Gibril Wilson, could wind up just mediocre unless management gets a Class A draft pick to go with it.
Unfortunately, very few Class A corners exist in this year's draft, according to draft analysts, and one of them, Vontae Davis, is definitely not a Parcells guy: he's got character and work ethic issues. The only other supposed top-round corner pick, Malcolm Jenkins, will likely be gone by the time Miami selects.
This could mean the Fins will take either a wide receiver or a defensive/nose tackle for their 3-4 defense in the first round, to eventually replace aging Jason Ferguson, and take corner in round 2.
Priority Two: Wide Receiver: The Dolphins, who have pretty much given up on free-agent bust Ernest Wilford and his ridiculous salary, have only four wide receivers who will be expected to return in 2009: Ginn, Davone Bess (undrafted rookie find), Greg Camarillo (good hands but not ideally big and not fast, a "Howard Twilley" type--coming off injury), and Brandon London, who is big but did not see a whole lot of action last year.
Since Coach Sparano is wanting to transition into giving 2008 second-rounder Chad Henne the starting slot at some point in 2009 so that Henne can take over in 2010, at least one more playmaking receiver will be paramount, one that can shine with Henne's good arm strength. It sounds to me as if they are looking for a combination of fast (Ginn), tough (Bess), good hands(Camarillo), and big (London).
In other words, Anquan Boldin, without having to give up draft picks to get him. As much as Boldin might want to come back to South Florida, it doesn't look as though Parcells is going out on a limb to give up a number one pick to get him.
In looking at whom the Dolphins might be able to select with the 25th pick overall, the name Hakeem Nicks tends to surface the most often.
Priority Three: Defensive/Nose Tackle: Because Jason Ferguson still has a couple of good years left, it probably means the Fins will not pick this position in the first round, but I see them picking one no later than the third round (pick 87).
But a pick at some point is a must. Simply put, 2007 choice Paul Soliai is going nowhere, is too fat and too soft and has a poor work ethic, not to mention the fact that the Parcells regime doesn't like players who tend to get into trouble during their off-times.
So, in assuming Soliai probably will not make the 2009 team, this is a priority regardless of Ferguson's future ability to play. Starks, another good player, can also play tackle.
Priority Four: Linebacker, probably Outside: Frankly, I don't think a team can have too many linebackers. Just about every linebacker on the roster got chances to play last year, and, in Miami's 3-4 scheme, the outside guys tend to play alongside defensive ends.
Right now the probable starters for this year are Porter, Crowder, Ayodele, and Roth, with Roth, a fine run stuffer, coming out in pass situations, putting Merling in (although Merling is more suited to end), or Anderson.
However, since Cameron Wake, the CFL's top pass rusher, is now on the team, this may not even be a big priority. It remains to be seen if Wake can do in the NFL what he did in the CFL.
Another inside linebacker to spell Crowder wouldn't be a bad idea, either.
Priority Five: Guard-Center: Perhaps the biggest injury spot last year was at guard, losing first, rookie starter Donald Thomas, and then their best guard, Justin Smiley. Ike Ndukwe filled in nicely for Thomas, but when Smiley went down against the Patriots in week 12, the run game visibly suffered up the middle.
Although Samson Satele is one of the leagues better centers, the regime traded for big Jake Grove from the Raiders, and then traded Satele to the Raiders, because he simply didn't have enough push to take on the likes of the Pats' Wilfork and the Jets Jenkins twice a year, it was thought.
Yet, because Grove is somewhat injury prone, though the center vows to work hard and condition himself, the Fins should still take at least one center and one guard in the later rounds (picks, 108, 161, 181, 214, 237).
Low Priority: Running Back, Tight End, Safety, Quarterback, Fullback, Punter/kickers: The Dolphins have one of the best running back duos in the NFL in Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, plus Patrick Cobbs, who spells for them nicely and is their best return coverage man. Lou Polite is a good utility fullback in 4th and short situations and is a decent pass catcher.
Anthony Fasano was, in short, theft of the Dallas Cowboys! He had a great year and that TD against the Jets in week 17 is classic. This guy is no back up and should be Miami's best TE since Randy McMichael, perhaps even better. Dave Martin is another good TE. And rookie Joey Haynos, who caught his very first pass for a TD against the Niners, should also make the 2009 team.
At safety, despite the loss of Hill, I think Bell and Wilson (who played a fine game vs. Miami in week 11) could become a top tandem if they stay healthy. However, Miami might want to put in some depth back there in the 6th or 7th rounds, with Jason Allen being the only other viable safety.
I doubt that Miami will choose a QB with any pick; the name most often claimed is Pat White to run the Wild Cat offense. Why? Ronnie Brown did a heckuva job running it last year.
Fullback? Perhaps with a late round pick, depending on if Casey Cramer comes back in 2009 from an injury.
Finally, they have their punter in Fields and their kicker in Carpenter. But, looking back at week 17's Jet game and two fouled long snaps by Denney, they might chose to pick a long-snapper. One of Denney's bad snaps resulted in a Jets TD.