With preparation for the 2014 NFL Draft in full swing, there is a lot of speculation primarily surrounding the first round.
The Miami Dolphins are a bit late to the process due to their just hiring a new GM, Dennis Hickey.
Hickey was primarily in charge of scouting during his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Dolphins fans will be hoping that he turns around Miami's misfortune with player selection.
It's almost impossible to prepare past the first round other than grading players because so many unexpected things happen. There are essentially four options that every team has with their first-round pick.
Last year, the Dolphins chose to trade up in the first round and select Dion Jordan. Which option will they pursue this year?
Here are all four options and how they could play out, along with my own analysis on which would be the smartest move for Miami.
This is the option that Miami chose in last year's draft.
They ended up selecting Dion Jordan, who played pretty well but also played only roughly a quarter of the defensive snaps as a rookie.
They gave up a second-round pick while swapping first round selections, which doesn't seem like a huge price. But I'm usually not a fan of moving up, especially when the rookie you select makes a marginal impact as a rookie.
In the 2014 draft, there is a wealth of talent, but the tiers of prospects are not particularly defined. This is a deep class at a few key positions (wide receiver, offensive tackle, cornerback), and a number of quarterbacks could be taken in the top 10.
With a decent amount of parity in this draft, I'm not really sure that anyone would necessarily be worth trading up for, and I don't see any teams in a reasonable range who would be desperate to move down.
Hickey may want to come in and make a splash, which trading up can do, but I hope he also understands that initial excitement is worth nothing in the long-term.
If there was one potential scenario that I'd be in favor of moving up, it'd be if Greg Robinson is selected over Jake Matthews as the first offensive tackle. With multiple quarterbacks plus Jadeveon Clowney in the mix, Matthews would likely end up sliding out of the top five in that situation and be an absolute steal.
Staying put is the safest and most likely outcome for the Dolphins.
Although the trades grab the headlines, the majority of teams end up staying where they are slotted in the first round.
People talk about a team drafting for need, and it's definitely a viable strategy in some situations. A team simply knows what big gaps it has in its lineup and seeks to address those couple of positions early on, no matter what.
I don't like this approach that much because it's inflexible, and a team like Miami has many positions that could potentially be upgraded.
Trying to draft for need can be really tricky.
Teams at the top of this draft will face the Jadeveon Clowney dilemma. Do they go for the once-in-a-decade talent, or do they pass on him for Blake Bortles? Or Derek Carr?
Drafting for need always has that similar type of problem. Yes, Miami needs offensive linemen. But do they pass up on the top tight end or second-best cornerback for the fifth-best tackle?
It's a situation that could easily happen.
It would be okay, but it's not optimal. If they went after need, they would probably end up with a guy like Antonio Richardson or David Yankey.
Stacking up on talent is the way to go.
This would probably be my second-favorite move for Miami to make. It's really not an exciting one on draft day, but it can often end up being the most profitable.
I encourage you to read this article by Wharton professor Cade Massey and this one by Football Perspective's Chase Stuart, which both essentially contend that the draft mainly comes down to luck, and there's hardly any year-to-year correlation for teams' success in the draft.
Since that is the case, it would make most sense to stock up on picks, especially mid-round ones.
The 19th pick won't necessarily bring a huge return, but if they could add another second- and late-round selection while moving down to the end of the first, that's worth it.
There are a lot of great players in this class. The end of the first round would still allow them to get a great prospect, and the extra picks would give them a better chance of finding more talent.
San Francisco has been really successful at stockpiling picks in the last couple of years and are all the better for it.
In today's NFL, picks are power. This option would be second on my list of preferences.
Taking the best player available is my personal preference for almost every drafting scenario.
Quarterback is the one position that can really throw things out the window, but Miami is set (for now) there.
They also have a number of big holes and other positions that can use upgrading. Some people will clamor on and on about needing to take offensive linemen no matter what.
But say a linebacker falls to them that they really like. After the current linebacking corps' performance this season, nobody should argue with bringing in some competition. The same goes for wide receiver, tight end and safety.
Remember how I mentioned teams needing quarterbacks?
Those quarterbacks going early could end up really helping Miami. If four, or even just three are taken, that's essentially giving Miami the 15th or 16th selection in terms of choosing for position players.
The offensive line will obviously be a major consideration.
But there's also free agency, and offensive linemen often take some time to mature and develop into productive NFL players (2013 was a perfect example of that).
So if I were Dennis Hickey, I would take the best guy on the board. Optimally that’d be a guy like C.J. Mosley, Eric Ebron or Marqise Lee.