I was asked in the comment section of a recent article whether I could defend Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland.
I never thought I'd see the day when a Dolphins fan would ask me to do that, but I could see the reader's logic in wanting to consider Ireland's success in hitting on a string of first-round picks and landing promising sleepers late in the draft.
However there has been one major area where the Jeff Ireland-era Dolphins have been lacking: Rounds 2 and 3 of the NFL draft.
Miami's failure in those rounds are part of the reason why they have been a bit short-handed this season. And because of that failure, positional needs that could've been filled by picks in this section of the draft have had to be addressed through free agency—a much more expensive approach which has been fairly hit or miss for Miami.
In both 2012 and 2013, Miami went into Day 2 of the draft with at least one second-round pick, and two third-round picks. The misuse of these assets have only magnified the problem.
Going into the 2012 draft, the Dolphins had one second-round pick (the 42nd overall in the draft) and two third-rounders (the 73rd and 78th overall).
Miami used their second-rounder on Jonathan Martin, which is already causing many of you to groan about what a mistake it was. However, I can forgive this pick simply because at the time, Martin was graded as a first-round pick by a few draft analysts (CBSSports.com had him going as high as 11th overall) who played a position of need for the Dolphins.
That's a pick I could see the Dolphins making all over again if they had to make based off of the information known at the time.
Their first third-round pick looks like a success, as Olivier Vernon currently has 10 sacks on the year and looks poised to be a part of a great defensive end rotation in the future.
Then there's the Michael Egnew pick. I questioned this one when it happened, and after a 2012 season in which the tight end was rarely active, followed by a 2013 where he's played in spots, my concerns appear to have been valid.
Egnew's career numbers look like this: five catches for 44 yards.
Was the Egnew pick even needed at the time? The Dolphins already had tight end Anthony Fasano in the final year of his contract, and Charles Clay was coming off of a rookie season in which he had 16 catches for 233 yards and three touchdowns.
It's debatable that tight end was a position of need for the Dolphins: what wasn't debatable was the need they had at wide receiver, especially since the draft pick used on Michael Egnew was acquired from the Chicago Bears in return for wideout Brandon Marshall.
There was a wide receiver available at the time, as many Dolphins fans will note, a receiver by the name of T.Y. Hilton out of Florida International.
Since the Indianapolis Colts picked him up with the 92nd pick in the draft, Hilton has become an integral part of the Colts' offense, catching 106 passes for 1,652 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The 5'10" Hilton is a speedy wide receiver threat, someone who the Dolphins likely avoided due to his diminutive size and because of a perception that he's a one-trick pony.
Had he been two inches taller, the Dolphins likely sign him to a $60 million contract.
All joking aside, Hilton could've provided the Dolphins with everything Mike Wallace is providing them with, only less expensive, younger and one year earlier.
That's an extra year he would've had on Wallace in terms of getting down his chemistry with Ryan Tannehill (and an extra year of possibly seeing Mike Sherman not know how to use Hilton).
This could've saved the Dolphins a considerable amount of money since Hilton would have eliminated the need for Wallace—money that could've been used to keep Jake Long and Reggie Bush if they wanted to.
But one can't gripe too much over 2012's second- and third-rounders, as Ireland actually did make the right pick with Martin and hit big on Olivier Vernon.
The following year was a different story. Miami came into the most recent draft with five picks in the first three rounds.
I approve of Ireland trading up for Dion Jordan, who's a force on defense when he's actually on the field (I pin Jordan's limited snaps on the coaches, not Ireland). It's what Ireland did with the second-rounder he kept and the two third-round picks that will frustrate the Dolphins for the rest of the season.
Now keep this in mind: the 2013 draft grades are still incomplete, but that's mainly because of the fact that the three players Miami selected in Rounds 2 and 3 have barely seen the field.
Jamar Taylor was selected with the 54th overall pick. While he has the potential, his body hasn't exactly cooperated with him, as he's missed five games due to various injuries. At first it was a sports hernia, for which he underwent surgery for in May (per ProFootballTalk.com).
More recently, Taylor injured his hamstring (per James Walker of ESPN.com), but Taylor isn't the only player in the secondary whom Miami drafted on Day 2 back in April, as they also drafted Will Davis, who himself has only appeared in three games all season.
But those two players at least have seen some playing time this season, and luckily for the Dolphins, their absence hasn't hurt Miami too much as the secondary has been one of Miami's bright spots this season.
The offensive line on the other hand hasn't been a bright spot. In fact, the better term for it has been "makeshift", since that's exactly what they have been thanks to a bullying scandal and injuries.
When you lose a starting tackle and a starting guard but then draft a player in the third round who can play either position, that player should at least crack the offensive line rotation.
Not Dallas Thomas, though. Miami selected him with the 77th overall pick in the third round.
But Thomas has been MIA since draft day, often showing up as inactive for the game.
There's a theme here for the Dolphins: selecting developmental players in the second and third rounds. This is unacceptable. Thomas, Taylor and Davis may very well turn out to be very good players next season (as Vernon has been this season). But for 2013, they've been there but have contributed little.
Teams need for their Day 2 picks to contribute right away, but Miami has failed to select players who have done that. Because of that, they're not as deep as they should be, and it's part of the reason they aren't nearly as successful as they should be either.
It's also been more expensive on the Dolphins since holes normally filled on the second day of the draft have been filled in free agency.
This trend will have to change in the 2014 NFL draft, regardless of whom Miami has in charge.
All statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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