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The most important three days of the offseason begins tonight when the Dolphins are on the clock. Who will they pick? What moves will they make? How will Dennis Hickey respond in his first draft as general manager?
Sure, every draft is important. But this one carries special significance for the Dolphins. They have an offensive line to rebuild. They have some serious concerns on defense, especially stopping the run. They need more depth. They need more difference-makers.
How Hickey addresses those needs, whether he makes sensible, productive decisions, is imperative for this franchise. The Dolphins have some important pieces in place. You don’t take an 8-6 record into the final two games, as the Dolphins did last season, without some promising components. But you don’t lose the final two games, both against AFC East teams, without some serious concerns either.
This is where the Dolphins stand today. Close, but not there yet. Encouraged, but tempered by the reality that hit home in those season-ending losses to the Bills and Jets. The Dolphins have a real chance to take another step forward, a major step forward, in 2014. It started with some promising free agency moves. But it’s got to continue tonight. The Dolphins, plain and simple, need to win these three days.
There have been too many misses on draft day over the years, too many second and third round picks who simply didn’t justify that status. The Dolphins need to get it right. Hickey knows it. Joe Philbin knows it. The decisions will come from them together – a consensus of two minds – as has been the case in all the offseason moves. It is with that backdrop that they approach this pivotal moment.
I like what Hickey has done so far. I see a real vision in the moves he has made. I also see a man who is not intimidated by this stage and who has done his due diligence several times over heading into tonight’s draft. While all of that is important, the real trick is taking that information and making the right choices. Just as his players are expected to do, when the spotlight is on Hickey, he must produce.
I see four realistic first round options for Hickey tonight. Let’s explore each one:
1. Take the best player available, regardless of position. This would be a bold move, a real indication that Hickey is comfortable in his own skin. We’ve seen hints that Hickey might go in this direction. This is a draft loaded, for instance, with receivers. It is the deepest position for first-round talent. Would the Dolphins dare take a player in an area of only marginal need? I certainly wouldn’t put it past Hickey.
2. Draft a right tackle: This is the major need, the logical choice. The Dolphins have taken care of left tackle with the signing of veteran Brendon Albert. The starting right tackle spot is open. It is imperative they find one in the draft. Whether it occurs in the first round is a matter of speculation. There are those who think there is a significant drop-off after the first four or five tackles, all likely to go before the Dolphins. Does Hickey go for a right tackle anyway? Does he wait for a better value pick in the second or third round? This is probably the most intriguing unknown heading into this draft.
3. Go with a defensive player, preferably a linebacker capable of starting right away: This route makes plenty of sense. Here is the rationale: As stated earlier, the first-round caliber offensive tackles could be long gone by the time the Dolphins pick at 19. But some of the top defensive players will still be there and a lot of people have been pointing to someone like Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, the best inside linebacker in the draft, as the smartest alternative for a team that struggled stopping the run a season ago. I’m not certain Mosley will be there, but you know it is something Hickey would strongly consider if he is.
4. Get out of the 19th spot in the first round: I’m not sure the Dolphins have the ammunition to trade for a higher pick though that doesn’t mean they won’t try. More likely is a trade that gives up the 19th overall pick for perhaps a later pick in the first round and an extra pick either in the second or third round. This may be the way to go in a draft as deep as this one. Hickey has already publicly stated that he loves “more picks.” This could also afford the Dolphins the chance to take both an offensive tackle and a linebacker early on. It could also give them more alternatives later in the draft.
Which of these four options is the most likely? Hickey is a tough read. I’ve looked at his track record at Tampa Bay and there are no clear indicators of a pattern that developed. I know what the Dolphins need – you know what they need – we just don’t know how they’ll go about getting it. That’s the intrigue that accompanies this draft, a draft so important for this franchise and the people making the decisions.
AC in the AM will continue Friday morning with an analysis of the team’s first-round pick.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.