This article is part of a series that looks at each NFL team’s recent draft history with the hope of extracting information about the way they think and the players they value.
The analysis is limited to the past five drafts in the interest of relevance, and the first three rounds because that’s where most impact players are taken.
This entry will focus on the Miami Dolphins.
In the past five years, the Dolphins have taken the following players in the early rounds. Their positions and the rounds in which they were drafted are listed next to their names.
2006: Jason Allen, S (1)
Derek Hagan, WR (3)
2007: Ted Ginn, Jr., WR (1)
John Beck, QB (2)
Samson Satele, C (2)
Lorenzo Booker, RB (3)
2008: Jake Long, OT (1)
Phillip Merling, DE (2)
Chad Henne, QB (2)
Kendall Langford, DE (3)
2009: Vontae Davis, CB (1)
Pat White, QB (2)
Sean Smith, CB (2)
Patrick Turner, WR (3)
2010: Jared Odrick, DE (1)
Koa Misi, DE (2)
John Jerry, OT (3)
Breakdown by Position
Here is the number of players the Dolphins have drafted for each position:
Defensive end: 4
Wide receiver: 3
Offensive tackle: 2
Running back: 1
While he never panned out as a receiver, Ted Ginn was an outstanding kick returner for the Dolphins. Samson Satele was a respectable and durable center before being traded away to Oakland. Jake Long is one of the best left tackles in the league. Vontae Davis has developed into a legitimate No. 1 corner. Koa Misi had a very solid rookie campaign as an outside linebacker.
In 2008, their first year under the current administration, the Dolphins achieved a 10 game turnaround from the previous season, finishing 11-5 and winning the division. While the two subsequent seasons haven’t been as successful, there’s no doubt that they’re now in better hands under coach Tony Sparano, general manager Jeff Ireland and team consultant Bill Parcells.
The most striking feature of this team’s five year draft history is that they’ve drafted three quarterbacks. Obviously, this reflects the team’s correct evaluation that they need a long-term answer at the position, but none of the selected QBs have really worked out. Chad Henne has looked decent at times, but he’s very erratic. Pat White was a puzzling selection a year later, as he was basically taken to run a gimmick formation. While trick plays have their place—the Dolphins have used the Wildcat to great effect—they shouldn’t require the expenditure of high draft picks. It is worth noting that Miami took all three players in the second round.
They’ve also tried to help out their QBs by selecting three wideouts with early picks. Again, their scouting proved faulty, as only Ted Ginn contributed anything, and that was on special teams.
Miami’s most frequently drafted position is defensive end, though that includes Koa Misi, who was converted to outside linebacker. All four of these picks have come under the current administration—unsurprising, considering Bill Parcells’ history of emphasizing the front seven.
The team has largely neglected the offensive line, taking only two during the Parcells/Ireland years. Interestingly, one of them was Jake Long, who was without a doubt the best selection the team has made.
One last note is that when the Dolphins don’t see a player they love where they’re drafting, they’ve shown a willingness to trade down and recoup some later picks.
After their incredible turnaround in 2008, the Dolphins have hovered around .500 in the two following seasons. The defense was stout in 2010, but the offense continues to be erratic. At this point, Miami can’t have much faith in young QB Chad Henne, who can’t seem to stop throwing picks. The struggles of running backs Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown didn’t help, and with both slated to hit free agency, their tenures in Miami may be over. The Dolphins basically need to remake their offense.
The team has not been shy about trying to find solutions at quarterback. However, they’ve played it safe by taking their QBs in the second round, and have paid the price. If they try again with that strategy, there are solid options in Round 2. But at this point, they may have realized that they need a more proactive approach.
Should they decide to swing for the fences, they’ll probably be able to take either Jake Locker (Washington) or Ryan Mallett (Arkansas) in the first (and possibly trade down in the process). Locker is a project because of his accuracy issues, but Mallett could be a good fit for Miami. His biggest weakness on the field is his lack of mobility, but the Dolphins have an outstanding left tackle in Jake Long to protect him. If they’re not concerned about his much publicized character issues, they may pull the trigger here.
The other option in the first would be guard Mike Pouncey (Florida), who could step in immediately, bolster a shaky interior line and open up holes for whoever their running backs are. Interior linemen are typically not coveted early, and the Dolphins are no exception, but given their need and how good Pouncey is, they could take him anyway.
Speaking of running backs, there’s no guarantee that Ricky Williams or Ronnie Brown will return and Miami may be looking to move on from the veteran and the injury prone players. There’s an outside chance they could take Mark Ingram (Alabama) in the first, but given their other needs, they will probably wait.
Unfortunately, the team lacks a second-round pick (traded last year to Denver for WR Brandon Marshall), but with the RB position becoming gradually less valued, there will be plenty of good ones available in Round 3. Daniel Thomas (Kansas State), Shane Vereen (California), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma) and Jordan Todman (Connecticut) should provide good value there.