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On Porpoise #1-96: The Draft...
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Well, NFL the draft is almost upon us and with all the prognostication, prediction and premeditation on the draft, it seems almost pointless for me to make any guesses about it's outcome. I mean, how can I, with my relative lack of football knowledge, match wits with the likes of such NFL greats as Mel Kiper?


I'm sorry - I thought I could say that with a straight face.

Nevertheless, everyone and her brother has a prediction about who the Dolphins (and every other team in the league) will be taking on draft day. It is the current rage in sports circles - predicting the NFL draft. It seems to be getting more attention in the news than Madonna's pregnancy....

But I've never wanted to be like everyone else.

I mean, let's be reasonable here. We all know that it's impossible to predict what Jimmy Johnson will do on any given day, especially when that day is draft day. About the only thing that we can be certain of is that Jimmy will be a-wheelin' and a-dealin' in an attempt to get the best players that he can.

The Dolphins have 8 picks on draft day, including the 20th pick in the first round. Personally, I see three possible scenarios playing themselves out for the Dolphins on draft day, listed here in order of likelihood:

1. The Dolphins trade their #20 pick for two lower picks, such as the #25 pick and an extra second or third round pick. They then use this pick to get a linebacker, such as Ray Lewis.

2. The Dolphins trade up to get one of the premier running backs in the draft - Lawrence Phillips, Tim Biakabutuka, or Eddie George.

3. The Dolphins keep their #20 pick and use it to take the best player available at that time - probably a linebacker, although it will depend on who's still on the board at cornerback.

Now, the media have been flooded with various rumors about who Jimmy will take with the #20 pick, but I very much doubt that the Dolphins will sit on that pick. I believe that there will not be a player available at that point that will be worth a #20 pick to Jimmy Johnson and that, in order to get more draft choices, Jimmy will trade down to #25 or lower - perhaps even into the second round.

Jimmy has said that there are good players available in every round - all you have to do is find them. That's why I believe that the most likely scenario is that Jimmy will trade down to get an extra pick and then use that first pick to take a linebacker, which is the Dolphins' biggest area of need right now.

The next possibility that I've listed is that Jimmy will trade up to pick up a running back. I do not believe that this is very likely, but it could happen. The Dolphins have reportedly looked closely at Lawrence Phillips, Tim Biakabutuka, Eddie George and Leeland McElroy. For trade bait, the rumors have mentioned both Terry Kirby and Richmond Webb.

The problem with this scenario is the trade bait available. Terry Kirby and a #20 pick don't really make up for a top 5 pick. Kirby, Webb and a #20 pick might make up for it, but I doubt that Jimmy would trade one of his best offensive linemen in an attempt to get a running back. It doesn't make sense to decimate your offensive line to try and establish a running game.

If the Dolphins do trade up, I think they'll try and take Phillips or Biakabutuka. McElroy doesn't seem to me to be Jimmy's type of back. But I wouldn't count on it happening.

Failing the first two possibilities, the Dolphins will keep their #20 pick and use it to take the best player available. Mel Kiper's latest picks have the Dolphins taking Eddie George at the #20 pick. Now, as unlikely as it seems that Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George would fall to the #20 spot, it does seem that his stock has been slipping a little in the past few months.

If the Dolphins can't trade up or down and get stuck with the #20 pick, and Eddie George is still on the board, he may very well end up a Dolphin. George is big (6'3", 230+lbs) for a tailback and is best running out of the I formation - which Jimmy wants the Dolphins to use next season. He also catches the ball well, which most of the other top backs don't do. Jimmy may not be able to resist him.

However, I don't really see the Dolphins keeping the #20 pick - I expect that they will most likely trade down to get an extra pick. Then, they'll take a linebacker with that first pick, most likely Ray Lewis of the Hurricanes.

After the first round, I expect that the Dolphins will take as many defensive players as they can lay their hands on. I've seen some people who predict that the Dolphins will take 2,3,4 or even as many as 5 offensive players. Well, to that I just have one thing to say...

It ain't gonna happen.

The old adage that offense wins games but defense wins championships might have been written by Jimmy Johnson. As a former defensive coordinator and the man who is rebuilding the defense in his image, Jimmy will want to take as many of his kind of defensive player as he can get his hands on.

And what kind of players are those? Well, they'll be fast for one thing. That's why Aubrey Beavers may finally get to start next year and why I believe that Jimmy will spend at least 3 or 4 picks on linebackers. Most of the current crop of Miami linebackers are slow and big, designed to take on offensive linemen directly. Jimmy would rather have his linebackers run around the offensive linemen.

The most likely linebackers that will be available to Miami are Ray Lewis, John Mobley and Reggie Brown. Lewis is probably the most likely first pick, especially if the Dolphins trade down.

After linebackers, the next need is in the defensive backfield, where the loss of Troy Vincent has left a gaping hole. You can probably expect Jimmy to pick up 2 or 3 defensive backs - fast defensive backs who aren't afraid to cover or tackle. I would expect the second pick of the draft to be a defensive back.

And that leaves us at the defensive line. With the signing of Stubbs and Jones and the re-signing of Steve Emtman, the defensive line has plenty of ends. However, they could use a good defensive tackle to go alongside Tim Bowens and the name that intrigues me the most in this regard is Daryl Gardener, a defensive end/tackle from Baylor. Gardener is 6'6", 320 lbs and runs a 4.9 in the 40. Imagine a defensive line anchored in the center by Bowens and Gardener.

However, Gardener will be long gone by the time that the Dolphins feel that they can afford to spend a pick on a defensive tackle. Still, I would expect that the Dolphins will take 1 or 2 defensive linemen in this draft.

I would be very surprised if the Dolphins took more than 1 offensive player in this draft, even if they draft up to take a running back. There just aren't that many holes on the offense to fill, especially when you compare them to the defense.

So the bottom line is this: I believe that on draft day, the Dolphins will most likely trade down and take the best linebacker available with their first pick. After that, I would look to see the Dolphins take a series of defensive players - linebackers, defensive backs and defensive linemen.

But, they could trade up and take Lawrence Phillips, Tim Biakabutuka, or Eddie George. I don't think it's likely, but it is possible.

Nevertheless, you can bet that, whatever they do, they will have done it.....

...On Porpoise.


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Curt Fennell
DOLFAN in New England