10 Biggest Draft-Day Mistakes in Miami Dolphins History
Sure they're not the New York Jets, who a few years ago saw a video compilation of their big draft mistakes go viral, but a similarly themed Miami Dolphins video made with draft picks during the Jeff Ireland-era alone could go viral just as quickly.
The Dolphins have had busts outside of the Ireland-era though, and in this list, we're going to highlight and rank some of those busts as well as the Ireland-era.
Keep in mind, this slideshow is for entertainment purposes only, and my apologies if I'm not as snarky as I would usually be for a piece like this. Seeing what Dennis Hickey has done this offseason so far, I'm feeling a lot more positive about this team than I was feeling a week ago, and as a fan, you should too.
Let's just have some fun looking at the past.
10. Drafting Pat White in Round 2 of the 2009 NFL Draft
Remember when the Dolphins traded Jason Taylor to Washington?
The trade seemed inevitable when it happened due to Bill Parcells wanting the team to get younger, and Taylor, despite his age at the time, was the most tradable asset Miami had. It wouldn't occur until July of 2008, when Washington would give up a second-round pick in 2009 and a sixth-round pick in 2010 in exchange for Taylor.
We know how the story goes from there: Taylor had an injury-plagued season in Washington, Miami went 11-5 and won the AFC East in 2008, Washington cuts Taylor, Miami signs him and Pat White is drafted and flames out with the Dolphins.
See, with the 44th pick in the 2009 NFL draft, a pick that originally would've belonged to Washington, the Dolphins drafted Pat White. Why did they draft Pat White? To run the Wildcat.
Did Miami need a quarterback at the time? Yes and no, depending on your philosophy. If you believe that a team should draft a quarterback every year until it finds "the one," then this pick shouldn't have bothered you too much when it happened.
The Dolphins didn't know what they had going forward. Yes, Chad Pennington was their starting quarterback and was coming off an 11-5 season, but we didn't know what he had with Chad Henne yet, so it made sense to bring in another arm.
Now here's where I say if you're going to do that, you don't use a gimmick as the basis to bring in said quarterback. What makes Colin Kaepernick work for the San Francisco 49ers is that he can do more than the read-option.
White really didn't have the pocket presence or accuracy to be any more than a Wildcat decoy, and after a devastating injury the last week of the 2009 season, he would leave Miami on a journey that would include attempting to play baseball, suing the NFL, then dropping said lawsuit to come back to the NFL to play for the Washington Redskins in 2013 before being released.
As for what Miami could've (and should've) done differently with that pick? Well, Miami needed a center but had decided to fill that need with free-agent center Jake Grove during the offseason.
Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but the Dolphins could've waited until the draft and filled that hole cheaply by going after Max Unger from Oregon. They could've also addressed guard by drafting Andy Levitre from Oregon State.
9. Drafting Sammie Smith in Round 1 in 1989
Mistakes, we all make them.
Even the best coach in NFL history is prone to the occasional brain fart.
Like drafting Sammie Smith.
Miami had two first-round picks in the 1989 NFL draft, No. 11 and No. 25. Miami did grab Louis Oliver at 25, which somewhat redeems its 1989 Sammie Smith bust, but one has to wonder what would've happened had Don Shula made the decision on draft day to package the 11th and 25th pick to Green Bay, owners of the second pick in the draft.
Why Green Bay, who chose Tony Mandarich, himself an infamous bust? Because Barry Sanders went third, and it was clear that Miami was looking for a running back to pair with Dan Marino.
Now if Miami wanted to be more conservative, it could've also simply drafted Steve Atwater (who would've solved the safety issue) at 11, then with its 25th pick, drafted Bobby Humphrey or Cleveland Gary.
Ironically, Humphrey was traded to Miami in 1992 in exchange for Sammie Smith, while Cleveland Gary would sign with the Dolphins in 1994. Neither player made an impact in Miami, but they did make an impact with the teams that originally drafted them in 1989.
Smith made no impact for Miami, aside from ruining some nice boy's eighth birthday by fumbling the ball in the end zone.
He had more fumbles than touchdowns while with the Dolphins; he's like Daniel Thomas but with bad hands.
8. Drafting Eddie Moore in Round 2 in 2003
While one Mr. Rick Spielman is busy wasting away Adrian Peterson's prime and Dave Wannstedt is meticulously trimming his Wann-stache, I hope they stumble upon this piece.
When they do, I hope they take their time watching this video of Anquan Boldin's highlights throughout his career.
Then after that, I hope they YouTube "Eddie Moore NFL Highlights."
Miami didn't even need a linebacker in the 2003 draft. It already had Zach Thomas and had just signed Junior Seau. It needed receivers badly, seeing as how Chris Chambers and Randy McMichael were Miami's receiving core in 2002.
Also, Eddie Moore was such a reach in the second round that he was surprised to go to the Dolphins.
Considering that this was Miami's first pick of the 2003 draft (its first-round pick went to New Orleans in exchange for Ricky Williams), this was nearly franchise-crippling. Moore finished with 38 tackles and no sacks in 18 games with Miami, where he was mainly used in special teams.
7. Trading Up in 2011 to Draft Daniel Thomas
Let's do the play-by-play on this deal.
With both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams as free agents (and during the NFL lockout, which meant we would have no idea that Reggie Bush would be available), Miami needed a running back.
In the second round, there was a run on running backs that saw the Patriots pick Shane Vereen, followed by the Lions picking Mikel Leshoure. Ireland panicked and traded Miami's third- and fifth-round picks to Washington in exchange for the 62nd pick.
I don't mind the trade as much as the pick. I really didn't like Daniel Thomas at that time; if anything he grew on me more as a Dolphin. I just didn't see the instinct of a good running back. I saw a quarterback trying to play running back.
Here's where I'd say I wanted the Dolphins to draft DeMarco Murray at the time. Not really, I wanted a new quarterback and was hoping they'd have moved up to draft Ryan Mallett.
Ireland was correct in thinking that a run on running backs had started, as Murray would go early in the third round at pick No. 71 to the Cowboys, while Stevan Ridley would go to the Patriots at pick 73. None of those players would've been available when Miami's original third-round pick, who was traded to Washington, was given up (the Redskins would draft Leonard Hankerson).
Unfortunately for Ireland, as right as he was, he chose the wrong back.
6. Dolphins Lose out on Randy Moss to Trade Down to Draft John Avery
If Jimmy Johnson stumbles across this...wait what am I saying, he's busy fishing on his boat right now, he'll never see this and will probably agree with me on this point.
Miami had the chance to potentially extend Dan Marino's career for at least two seasons without giving up any assets while still taking a need. All the Dolphins had to do was remain at the 19th pick, then write the name Randy Moss on a card and have said card presented to then NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
Did they? No, they would instead trade down to 29th, leaving the Green Bay Packers to pick future Dolphin Vonnie Holiday with the 19th pick.
Moss would go 21st to Minnesota, and Miami would choose John Avery, further compounding its issues as Avery became the leading rusher in 2001—in the XFL.
Here are some honorable mentions before we reach our Top 5.
As I pointed out in my Jonathan Martin slide, Miami needed receivers, not a tight end who was never going to see the field. I thought that as the pick was made, then saw T.Y. Hilton drop to the Colts.
Think about this: The Dolphins (who again, had a decent offensive line), could've had Alshon Jeffery and T.Y. Hilton as their receivers growing with Ryan Tannehill. This means no need last season to sign Mike Wallace, meaning more cap room to rebuild and retool the offensive line.
Nick Saban should've traded down instead of draft a safety to play at cornerback. Or if he needed a cornerback, he should've drafted Antonio Cromartie.
5. The Miami Dolphins 2010 Draft
A whole draft goes up there.
How could I do such a thing when the draft netted two starters at key positions for the Dolphins who are still going strong in 2014?
Easy: This could have easily been the greatest draft in Miami Dolphins history. It could have capped off what would've been the greatest offseason in Miami Dolphins history.
When I started compiling this list, I noticed that this draft had two strikeouts: John Jerry over Jimmy Graham in Round 3 and A.J. Edds over Geno Atkins later on in that round.
Both Graham and Atkins were at positions of need for the Dolphins, who needed a seam tight end as well as a defensive tackle to groom since Paul Soliai was set to become a free agent after the 2010 season (one who the Dolphins would put the franchise tag on in 2011).
You know what? Even Koa Misi can be looked at as the wrong pick. He was chosen over Rob Gronkowski, but the Dolphins also needed a linebacker. Too bad they could've had Daryl Washington or Brandon Spikes.
Man, one day with this draft I am going to have to do a revisit to Miami's draft. It's not that it did so many things wrong, it's that I even saw the mistakes as mistakes as they were happening.
That's the real reason the whole 2010 draft is on the list, with all due respect to Jared Odrick, who was the right call.
4. Drafting Phillip Merling in Round 2
Earlier in this slideshow we talked about the Jason Taylor trade and how it gave Miami the 44th draft pick in the 2009 NFL draft to blow on Pat White.
Here's why the trade was made: Miami selected Phillip Merling with the first pick in the second round of the draft.
The pick at the time made sense. Miami had its left tackle, and now it was time to add a pass-rusher. Merling had tons of upside even though his college statistics seemed to be lacking, as in three seasons at Clemson he had 11 sacks and two forced fumbles.
From a second-round defensive end, I wanted more. I wanted an explosive defensive end who drew double-teams while amassing 18 sacks in college despite the fact that he was on some atrocious teams.
I wanted Calais Campbell back in 2008, and be honest, you did too.
So what happened? Campbell was drafted by Arizona, where he's still an integral part of its pass rush, which I should mention is one of the better pass rushes in the NFL.
As for Phillip Merling? He was charged with felony battery against his then-pregnant girlfriend, although the charges were later dropped. Then he was cut by the Dolphins in 2011 and has since bounced around with the Packers in 2012 and Redskins in 2013.
3. Ted Ginn and the Family
In defense of this pick: Brady Quinn was a bust too.
End of the defense with Miami drafting Ted Ginn and the Ginn family, a punchline with the Dolphins. Ginn has since been to the postseason the last three years with the 49ers and Panthers.
Also it's worth mentioning that if he didn't get hurt during the 2011 NFC Championship Game, the 49ers would've gone to that Super Bowl instead of the Giants.
So, he's redeemed himself, right? Kind of, except he shouldn't have been a first-round pick to begin with.
The 2007 Miami Dolphins had a lot of needs. Nick Saban pretty much traded four 2006 draft picks for two mediocre quarterbacks, which left the team devoid of talent.
Yes, quarterback should've been the way to go, and yes, we were wrong to ask for Brady Quinn (myself included).
We should've asked for Darrelle Revis. The Dolphins needed a cornerback in that draft too, and Revis was the best one on the board. We also could've asked for Dwayne Bowe since Miami needed a receiver anyway.
Just anything but a specialist. Had Ginn been a third-round pick, his career would be properly rated, and we'd see that he's a decent football player.
Thanks to Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller's stupidity, the poor guy is still a joke, at least in Miami.
Once again, I'd like to remind you all that him getting hurt kept his team out of the Super Bowl.
2. Drafting Jonathan Martin in the 2nd Round in 2012
I mean it. I hope he gets past his issues and is able to fit into the 49ers locker room. For now is the time we should all move past this horrible chapter in Dolphins' history.
Now I'll admit this bullygate scandal might shade this mistake a bit too high in the rankings. In reality, was drafting Jonathan Martin any worse than Ted Ginn, Phillip Merling, Moore over Boldin or losing out on Randy Moss? Not really from a football perspective.
The pick was actually defensible at the time. Miami needed an offensive tackle in 2012 with Jake Long's free agency approaching in 2013 and needed someone who could come in and play right tackle right away.
This CBS Sports draft profile actually has Martin as a first-round talent. Considering that Miami got him in the middle of the second round, the fanbase probably felt good about picking him.
So this pick is defensible at the time, which I can't say about Moore over Boldin or some of the other picks on this list.
At the same time, here's your football reason to not like this pick. Miami still had a decent offensive line at the time. What it didn't have was a wide receiver. I wanted Alshon Jeffery, as did many of you. (I know because you told me in the comments sections.)
Miami also needed a guard. Could Martin play guard? We never found out in Miami, but we know Jeff Allen can.
I might have to revisit this spot in a few years once I look back at everything since it is a bit too fresh for me. However, for right now, Jonathan Martin is the second-biggest draft mistake in Miami Dolphins history.
1. Jamar Fletcher over Drew Brees
What was it with Dave Wannstedt and Rick Spielman being redundant?
We already talked about 2003 when they went with Eddie Moore, despite having a Hall of Fame linebacking unit, over Anquan Boldin, fixing a dreadful receiving unit.
That wasn't the first time the Dolphins did something like this.
In 2001 Miami had Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain. They were one of the top cornerback duos in the NFL, and they were young, as entering that season Surtain was 25, and Madison was 27.
Meanwhile at quarterback, Miami did have Jay Fiedler. He was good enough to lead them to an 11-5 season (followed by another 11-5 season in 2001, he'd finish his career with the Dolphins 36-23), but he was already getting up there in age (he was 30) and was limited in terms of skills.
Really the Dolphins only had a few holes going into the 2001 draft: wide receiver (solved by Chris Chambers) and a quarterback for the future.
Drew Brees was available late in Round 1, and here's the thing: The Dolphins had the luxury of taking the best player available. How did they think that Jamar Fletcher was better than Drew Brees?
This isn't a hindsight argument either, as I had gone to school the Monday after the draft (I was a junior in high school at the time) wondering why they would do something that stupid. I wasn't alone in thinking that either.
We talk about passing up on Drew Brees in 2006 as a free agent as a mistake. This one was probably the bigger mistake. Imagine Drew Brees in Miami for a decade. He probably wouldn't have played at all in 2001, but in 2002 Jay Fiedler got hurt and missed six games that year (Miami went 2-4 in those games) to finish the season at 9-7 out of the playoff race.
Drew Brees wins one of those games. In San Diego he started all 16 games and did well up until LaDainian Tomlinson got hurt, something that didn't happen to Ricky Williams.
This pick set the Dolphins back a decade, which is why I have it ranked first overall in terms of the worst mistake Miami has ever made on draft day.