2011 NFL Draft: Should the Miami Dolphins Trade Down or Stay Put?

Robert HoffmanCorrespondent IApril 18, 2011

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Quarterback Ryan Mallett #15 of the Arkansas Razorbacks looks to pass against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

There seems to be an overwhelming consensus among fans that the Miami Dolphins would be best served by trading down from the number 15 overall pick.

In exchange, the team would theoretically receive a lower pick in the first-round and recoup the second-round pick they are missing from this year's draft due to last year's deal for Brandon Marshall.

But, as ESPN's Lee Corso is so famous for saying, "Not so fast, my friend."

Let's examine several factors to determine if trading down is the right move for the Dolphins.

Recent historical precedent

With the Marshall deal, Miami traded away a second-rounder in both 2010 and 2011, so the team was in a similar predicament last draft. In order to recoup the absent draft choice, the Dolphins chose to trade down and selected defensive tackle/end Jared Odrick with the 28th overall pick and outside linebacker Koa Misi with the 40th pick overall.

Odrick had a whopping one tackle before breaking his leg in practice and missing the rest of the season. It's certainly not appropriate to call Odrick a bust, but it is fair to say the Dolphins didn't get anything out of their late first round draft pick in 2010.

Nawa'akoa Lisiate Foti Analeseanoa Misi, otherwise known as Koa Misi, and yes I just wanted you to try to pronounce his full name, had 41 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 2010. He clearly shows potential, but he is a long way away from being a finished product as a pass rusher, which is what Miami clearly needs him to be.

Before the trade, the Dolphins were to have selected a player at number 12, which the San Diego Chargers wound up using to draft running back Ryan Matthews. With Miami still having Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams under contract at the time, it would have been unlikely that they would have taken Matthews.

However, they might very well have selected safety Earl Thomas who went to the Seattle Seahawks at pick No. 14. In fairness, the Dolphins might have gone in a number of different directions, but had they selected Thomas, they would have gotten a player who had 76 tackles and five interceptions. More importantly, Thomas looks like a Pro Bowl player for years to come.

No offense to Misi and Odrick, but at this point I would rather have Thomas.

Certainly in the future, Odrick could develop into a fine player and Misi could emerge as a pass rushing threat that is worth more than what Thomas brings as a safety. Yes, there were other components in the deal with the Chargers, such as Tim Dobbins and a switching of draft picks, but the point is that a trade down isn't a guaranteed success, not even close.

A trade down doesn't ensure players the team or fans have targeted will be available

I had to chuckle the other day when a fan suggested that Miami's draft strategy is simple. You just trade down with Seattle and select Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph in the first-round and Ryan Mallet with the acquired pick in the second round.


Well, that scenario would work just fine, except that Seattle reportedly wants Mallett in the first-round and would likely be trading up to select him. Rudolph might be a late first-round pick, but more likely is an early second-rounder. In this case, Miami wouldn't likely be in a position to draft either player.

Fans just can't plug in names that they want late in the first round and especially late in the second round.

All the time, you hear a hypothetical question like, "Would you rather have Ryan Mallett at pick number 15 or Andy Dalton and Taiwan Jones with pick number 29 and 62 in a trade with Chicago?”

I hate these types of questions when people take them too seriously. Consider this example. Even if Mallett is available at 15, which is possible but no certainty, there is no way to know if Dalton and Jones will be available in those spots.

The Dolphins will only be making an educated guess as to what players might still be available at those picks.

Furthermore, when the Dolphins make a decision whether to trade down or not, they project multiple players into those slots with particular grades. So their decision might look more like this: Would we rather have Mallett, Mike Pouncey, Mark Ingram and Aldon Smith, or Gabe Carimi at 15 or a package that looks like Andy Dalton and Derek Sherrod, or Danny Watkins and a player such as Jones, D.J. Williams, Steve Wisnewski, or Daniel Thomas?

Personally, I would go for a package of Dalton and Jones over Pouncey. But, I can also tell you that I'd rather have Mallett over Watkins and Thomas.

Players are selected at the top of the draft for a reason

This might be the best reason not to consider a trade down. The reality is that the player who is selected in the top 15 picks is better on average than a player that is selected 10-15 spots lower and even more likely that the top-15 player is better than a selection in the next round.

No, it doesn't always turn out that way, but there is a reason that teams don't consistently trade away their first round picks away for a bunch of later picks.

Even in a relatively weak draft, the 15th pick overall should garner you at least a starter and just maybe an elite cornerstone player. That has to be a team's expectation when it selects at 15. At the bottom of the first round, you might be talking about a player who sees time, but it’s a reach to expect a starter and even more of one to expect a star.

Look, there are plenty of arguments to trade down as well. One of the best ones I consistently hear is that Miami is not one player away and they need a number of solid players to be a playoff contender.

I tend to agree, although I would argue that the Dolphins need some more stars too. Another argument is that the players available at 15 don't match Miami needs’ on offense.

This has some validity, but I have trouble with the theory that you take a less talented player to fill a need as opposed to a more talented player at a position of strength.

Furthermore, it's not like the Miami Dolphins are the '85 Bears on defense. There is plenty of room for improvement.

In summary, I'm not telling you that Miami should or shouldn't trade down. I am just telling you that the decision isn't as clear cut as you might think.