The Miami Dolphins are off the clock.
Jake Long and the Fins agreed to a five-year, $57.75 million contract with $30 million guaranteed—making the offensive tackle the de facto first overall selection in this weekend's draft.
(He was also the first overall selection in NFL-Mock-Draft-Picks-1-16-200408">Bleacher Reports’ Official NFL Mock draft.)
Long may not be the best player on the draft board—but in Miami, he’s the best fit among the elite prospects.
The Dolphins don't believe Glenn Dorsey fits into their style of 3-4 defense. Team Parcells feels the same way about Chris Long, projecting him as an out-of-place outside linebacker.
Vernon Gholston is a better fit, but way too much of a reach at No. 1 overall. Plus, given the required financial commitment, an outside linebacker just isn’t cost effective.
Not that any college player is worth that kind of money, but let’s at least keep it in the power positions—left tackle, defensive lineman, quarterback, and running back.
The fact of the matter is, Jake Long solves more problems in Miami than any of the other projected top-five picks would have.
He can keep defenders off John Beck and open holes for Ronnie Brown. Assuming he’s as good as we think he is, he'll immediately solidify what has been an inferior offensive line—as Joe Thomas did for the Cleveland Browns last season.
If you can keep your quarterback upright and open holes for your running back, you’ve won half the offensive battle—a battle that the Dolphins had no chance of winning without Long.
All that said, the No. 1 pick is fraught with risk.
There were 16 players selected No. 1 overall between 1990 and 2005. Out of those sixteen, eight were complete busts (Jeff George, Steve Emtman, Ki-Jana Carter, Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, Michael Vick, David Carr, and Alex Smith), five fell somewhere between respectable and borderline-franchise player (Russell Maryland, Drew Bledsoe, Dan Wilkinson, Keyshawn Johnson, and Eli Manning), and three turned out to be franchise saving, no-doubt-about-it superstars (Orlando Pace, Peyton Manning, and Carson Palmer).
Even if you throw Eli Manning into the “franchise-saving superstar” group after his Super Bowl victory, that’s still a pathetic 25 percent success rate for No. 1 overall picks.
There are plenty of reasons for this, not least of which is the fact that the teams selecting No. 1 overall are usually doing so for a reason. But a mistake with the No. 1 overall pick can be absolutely devastating to an NFL franchise.
Just ask the 49ers.
If Alex Smith doesn’t remove himself from the bust category this season, San Francisco will have completely wasted three years and a good chunk of salary cap space. Unless the Niners get lucky with a late-round replacement or a cheap free agent acquisition, their rebuilding project will take years to recover—and the current administration probably won’t survive the mistake.
Instead, someone else will take over—and take their 25 percent chance at selecting the guy to save the franchise.
That, in a nutshell, is the reason why bad teams stay bad and the good teams stay good: Having the No. 1 overall pick in the draft ends up being detrimental 75 percent of the time.
That was the pressure facing the Miami Dolphins.
That’s the reason Bill Parcells was desperate to trade out of the No. 1 spot.
That's also the reason no other team was desperate to trade into the No. 1 spot.
For the Dolphins’ sake, Jake Long better be the next Orlando Pace or Joe Thomas—and not the next Robert Gallery.