by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist
Perhaps the most significant personnel decision the Miami Dolphins have made in 35 years will take place Saturday April 23, 2005, sometime between 12:10pm and 12:30pm Eastern Time.
That’s when the Dolphins will decide what to do with the #2 overall pick in 2005 NFL Draft, the highest the team has picked in the order since 1970.
That year, General Manager Joe Thomas elected to trade away the #3 overall pick in the draft to the Cleveland Browns for WR Paul Warfield. The Browns used the Dolphins’ pick to select Purdue QB Mike Phipps.
You don’t need to be a personnel guru to know which team got the better of that deal.
After snookering Warfield out from under the Browns, Thomas played the rest of the draft like a genius, making one masterful decision after another. In that draft he netted TE Jim Mandich (2), CB Tim Foley (3), CB Curtis Johnson (4), S Jake Scott (7), RB Hubert Ginn (9), and LB Mike Kolen (12). Almost all would play a major part two years later in the Undefeated Season and in winning two World Championships. Scott was named MVP of Super Bowl VII.
Once again the Dolphins sit near the top of an NFL Draft, facing many of the same decisions that Thomas faced 35 years ago. This time the honor falls on Dolphin Head Coach Nick Saban.
Can Saban pull off a spectacular draft the same way Thomas did 35 years ago?
The stakes are just as high now as they were then. Thomas already had a solid nucleus of good veteran players on the 1970 roster upon which to build. Likewise, Saban has a number of very talented players he can build around. He also has a valuable bargaining chip on the table in CB Patrick Surtain.
The team’s future over the next 3-5 years may very well come down to what Saban does April 23-24, 2005.
As always during the week of the draft, rumors are flying. Sorting fact from fiction is not an easy chore.
All we really have to go on is common sense, Saban’s stated philosophy, and the player evaluations of so-called draft gurus.
I am not a personnel guru nor will I pretend to be. I can’t tell you if Alex Smith or Aaron Rodgers is better, nor can I know what will actually happen when the Dolphins do go on the clock.
No one can, save Saban himself.
Still, that won’t stop me from tossing my two cents on the table in this matter. It is, after all, my job!
There are a number of possible avenues that the Dolphins can take, any one of which can lead them to the Promised Land. It is up to Saban to pick the right one, just as Thomas did that wonderful day 35 years ago.
SCENARIO #1: 49ers (or another team) take QB Aaron Rodgers, Dolphins trade down: To team watchers, this is believed to be the best possible scenario. The key here is that the 49ers take Rodgers, not Alex Smith. Just one month ago, a trade down seemed unlikely for the Dolphins as it was believed no player at the top of the draft was worth paying heavily to move up for. Now it seems the Dolphins have a chance to do it TWICE as we are hearing somewhat believable news that the Buccaneers (5), Titans (6), Vikings (7), and perhaps Browns (3) may be willing to move up. All are in top 10 in the draft order.
Best move: Dolphins trade spots with the Browns (who take Smith) and then trade down again with the team who will pay the most for the best remaining player in the draft, perhaps Michigan WR Braylon Edwards.
What the Dolphins get: A slew of high round draft picks plus a clear shot at one of the top three running backs in this year’s draft: Auburn’s Ronnie Brown, Auburn’s Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, and Texas talent Cedric Benson.
SCENARIO #2: 49ers (or another team) take QB Alex Smith, Dolphins trade down: Should the 49ers (or a trade partner) take Smith #1 overall, the Dolphins ability to trade down twice could be diminished as there does not seem to be as many teams interested in Rodgers to move up and get him. That’s not to say that a team like Tampa Bay, with a coach like Jon Gruden who just loves quarterbacks, wouldn’t make a play for Rodgers. Regardless, the Dolphins will be in position to broker a deal with another team for the right to draft the best overall player in the draft (assuming that player is not Smith). Again, the Buccaneers (5), Titans (6), and Vikings (7) have been mentioned as possible suitors.
Best move: Dolphins trade down once, maybe twice.
What the Dolphins get: At least an extra second and third round draft pick (maybe more) plus a clear shot at Brown, Williams, or Benson. However, it is unlikely that Edwards will get past the Dolphins if they trade down and he’s still on the board.
SCENARIO #3: 49ers (or another team) take WR Braylon Edwards, Dolphins trade down: With Edwards gone, the Dolphins’ alleged interest in Smith will have to be respected more than ever. However, the ability to broker another trade down could be more difficult if potential suitors were truly craving Edwards. Still, with teams like Cleveland and Tampa Bay supposedly interested in Smith, the Dolphins should have some offers to consider.
Best move: Dolphins trade spots with the Browns (who take Smith) and then trade down again with a team that badly wants another player on their board (other than Edwards or Smith).
What the Dolphins get: A slew of high round draft picks plus a clear shot at Brown, Williams, or Benson.
SCENARIO #4: 49ers (or another team) take QB Aaron Rodgers, Dolphins use their pick (#2 overall): In this somewhat disappointing scenario, the Dolphins are unable to compel any other team to move up for Alex Smith, Braylon Edwards, or any other prospect. Their options at #2, short of the failed trade down, would remain wide open.
Best move: Dolphins pick the best player on their draft board, almost certainly one of the following: Smith, Brown, C. Williams, Benson, Edwards, or perhaps Mike Williams.
What the Dolphins get: A much needed jolt of talent on a unit that was flat out pathetic last year. By picking Smith, the Dolphins have someone to battle incumbent A.J. Feeley as the anointed one. By taking a running back (Brown, Williams, or Benson), the Dolphins address their biggest “need” position with the top prospect available. However, the best players in this draft may be at the wide receiver position. Together with Chris Chambers, Marty Booker, and Randy McMichael, Braylon Edwards or Mike Williams would create very serious match-up problems for opposing defenses and give the Dolphins their best corps of receivers in 20 years.
SCENARIO #5: 49ers (or another team) take WR Braylon Edwards, Dolphins use their pick (#2 overall): In this disappointing scenario, the Dolphins are unable to compel any other team to move up for Alex Smith, Aaron Rodgers, or any other prospect. Their best options at #2, short of the failed trade down, are diminished with the loss of Edwards.
Best move: With Edwards gone, the Dolphins pick the best player remaining on their draft board (Smith, Brown, C. Williams, Benson, or perhaps M. Williams).
What the Dolphins get: Save the loss of Edwards, the Dolphins get their pick of the best offensive skill players in the draft.
SCENARIO #6: 49ers (or another team) take QB Alex Smith, Dolphins use their pick (#2 overall): This is probably the worst possible scenario for the Dolphins purely in terms of having options to work with. The Dolphins can’t trade down and their reported first (and maybe only) preference at QB, Smith, is gone. Their other options at WR and RB would remain whole.
Best move: The Dolphins are likely to pick the best player remaining on their draft board (Brown, C. Williams, Benson, Edwards, or perhaps M. Williams).
What the Dolphins get: A serious offensive weapon at either RB or WR.
>>>MY PREDICTION: The Dolphins will find at least one partner to trade down with and will receive an additional second and third rounder (maybe more). With Smith and Edwards likely gone by the time the Dolphins go on the clock, they will take the best available RB on their board. If they trade with the Browns and use that #3 selection, the pick will be Ronnie Brown. If the trade partner is Tampa Bay and the Dolphins exercise the #5 selection, the pick will be Carnell “Cadillac” Williams. If the Dolphins trade with either Tennessee (6) or Minnesota (7), the pick will be Cedric Benson.