Nov 11, 2012; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin during a game against the Tennessee Titans at Sun Life Stadium. The Titans defeated the Dolphins 37-3. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Dolphins Draft History All About Playmakers

The Miami Dolphins have a history of bad drafts.  Dating back to the days of Dave Wannstedt.  The missed opportunities in the draft have put the Dolphins on a rebuilding schedule that they simply can’t get out of.  From coach to coach and GM to GM the Dolphins have made the wrong choices at the wrong times.  It’s all about the playmaker’s and the Dolphins, they haven’t drafted any.

This is not about the drafting of Jeff Ireland as the problem has been around long before he arrived.  It was here before Bill Parcells began the task of putting his thumbprint on the picture.  It goes back before Nick Saban.  This also isn’t about Dave Wannstedt and his inability to make smart draft selections.  None of the coaches since have done much better.

The problem lies in the teams ability to land impact play-making players.

The Dolphins have been rebuilding this team for so long that they have put away the “draft the best player available” philosophy for the “draft the best player in the area of need” philosophy.  The latter is a great way to draft players, in rounds 4-7.  Not in the first three where those players should become impact players.  Instead the Dolphins have drafted for need.

Nick Saban came into Miami saddled with salary cap issues and a bad football team.  He began the rebuild process but opted for Ronnie Brown instead of an impact defensive player.  Brown was adequate but was never close to elite.  In regards to Brown however, it could be argued that he was the biggest play-maker the Dolphins have drafted since Dave Wannstedt left Miami.  Saban followed that up with a surprising cornerback selection in his second season with Jason Allen.

We can do this all day.  Ted Ginn, Chad Henne, Patrick Turner, the list of players goes on and on and on.  The question really is how could so many players enter the NFL draft and the Miami Dolphins miss on so many of them?  The answer is a lot more subjective.  It’s not a matter of pointing your finger at Saban, Cameron, Parcells, and Ireland and saying you all “suck”.  It’s more than that.  It’s turnover.

When a team rebuilds they have two choices.  Overturn the roster and build the team through the draft or draft the best players available and get playmakers on your team.  The first is the route that most teams go.  You build your team through the draft and that means passing sometimes on a position you don’t need, to take someone who fills a need.  Other teams simply take the best player and call it a day.  Plug them in and let them roll.

The Detroit Lions are a good team to look at when you start with “BPA”.  Calvin Johnson, Ndumakong Suh, Matthew Stafford, but where is rest of the team?  They have gone to free agency, they have taken players later in the draft that fill the needs they have the most but with talent that is far less capable of turning around a bad team.

The Dolphins are the opposite of that.  They drafted the BPA at positions of need.  Perhaps that philosophy would work if a team was going to work in that direction every year.  The Atlanta Falcons hired a new GM and HC the same year that the Dolphins hired Bill Parcells.  They had only slightly better personnel on their roster and took the same approach as the Dolphins.  Build with the best at the biggest position of need.  Yet they have had far more success.

The Falcons have balanced free agency and the draft very well.  The Dolphins have not.  Unlike the Falcons, the Dolphins have gone through three rebuilds in that time.

Under Bill Parcells, the team was gutted after the carryover from Cam Cameron.  His drafts have been the point of much contention as it appeared that he was going to rebuild the team from the inside out.  Somewhere along the line he simply gave up and saddled GM Jeff Ireland with a lot of dead weight.  Ireland began taking some of that down but in the meantime, his HC was on his way out.

A year later, enter Joe Philbin and a complete rebuild once again.  Last year the Dolphins used the draft for the BPA at a position of need…Ryan Tannehill.  BPA on their boards with Jonathan Martin and the rest of the draft was similar.  The problem in Miami is from year to year there is not enough veterans on the roster who have been here through it all.

Consider this.  Jimmy Johnson come on and changes the system.  He leaves and Wannstedt rebuilds the offense.  Wannstedt leaves and Saban rebuilds.  Saban leaves and Cameron rebuilds.  Saban leaves and Parcells rebuilds.  Parcells leaves and Ireland re-tools.  Sparano leaves and Philbin and Ireland start to rebuild.  The problem with this team is there is no continuity from season to season.  No set plan to get things moving.  You don’t draft every single year for BPA at a position of need.  You have to find the “Play Makers”.

For the Dolphins however, every other year has practically been a rebuild for one reason or another and in the first year or two you draft for BPA at need.  And that tends to leave you on the outside looking in for an actual playmaker.

There is some good news though.  Looking at the make-up of this team, the Dolphins have some good base players who are developing into better than average players.  Reshad Jones, Paul Soliai, Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, and Koa Misi.  With the base set it’s time for the Dolphins to turn to the best players available.  The play making players.

When they can do that, they will turn this corner and become the team they used to be.

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  • Ripp

    I disagree with your theory of drafting the best player available. Not saying it is the wrong way to go, just that back in 2008 we went with Long because he was the safest pick. Even though LT was a need, QB was even a bigger need and if it was which position was the bigger hole we would have gone with Matt Ryan. 2009 we went with need which was CB and got Davis, 2010 we traded down and went back to the BPA with Ordrick even though we were already pretty solid on the defensive front. 2011 we got Pouncy which was a need pick and 2012 of course was a need pick as well. You could also go back to Wannstedt and look at those drafts and see that they were pretty much BPA from the front office perspective at least. If Wannstedt drafted off of need we would have had a lot more offensive players drafted and Brees probably would have been a Dolphin.

    • Txmedic5

      first saying Wannstedt and BPA makes me laugh…:) As for the article, I was trying to point out that when you are “rebuilding” you tend not to find playmakers. You find people that fit into that system. There is a higher risk of failure because if the system fails and the players can’t play in a different system they are busts. Most teams that rebuild don’t draft BPA they draft BPA for their team need specifically. QB is a different breed and honestly we could make the argument all day long about Long vs Ryan. Same thing with just about any player but those two more so given the Dolpins inability to find a QB for so long.

      What makes that draft worse is Ryan looks to be headed to a SB and Long looks to be heading to free agency.



    • Txmedic5

      You may want to breath a little bit. The Dolphins just came off a game that most predicted would be a 45 point blowout and came within a few minutes and a few errors from beating the Patriots. I would say it was one of the best losses we have had. They could have folded up early but they didn’t, in fact they got better and the game moved on. Just started a little late.

  • Miami Jules

    I have never considered myself a draft expert because, barring a couple of Florida teams, I haven’t been a college football fan. To illustrate, I was calling out for O-line help this last draft. I also wanted Russel Wilson, and T Y Hilton… who would’ve ended up with a better team I ask… Ireland or yours truly? Mmm… The point you are making is a valid one Brian, but the point of my excerise is to perhaps focus on the luck factor and how much of a part it plays, having said that, based on the article itself and ensuing contrasting comments, I’d say go with the BPA approach.