The Miami Dolphins have spent over 175 million dollars on nine free agents either in-house or out. Jeff Ireland’s off-season thus far has been impressive. He has made his team faster and younger both at WR and LB. He entered free agency with over 30 million to spend and currently has between 8 and 9 left before another 10 million kicks in on June 1st.
While the free agent period has been solid, the draft is the next major building block facing Jeff Ireland and the question is simply, can he continue this impressive off-season?
We all have college favorites. Some fans are dying to see West Virginia WR Tavon Austin in the aqua come April 26th. Others may prefer Notre Dame TE Tyler Eiffert, still others want OT Lane Johnson. Regardless of who we want, Jeff Ireland assures us that he has a “plan” and is excited about this year draft.
Ireland has 11 picks to play with this year and of those 11, 7 come in the first four rounds of the draft with five on days one and two. With needs at offensive tackle, corner-back, and edge rushing defender, Ireland has the pics to make a huge impact but Ireland has a tendency to miss more often than not.
When I say “missed” I don’t mean the players he has drafted. I refer instead to the inability to forecast what the other 31 NFL teams are looking for. Last year WR was a major need for the team after trading Brandon Marshall, unfortunately Ireland failed to foresee the 2nd round run on the wide-0uts.
Ireland opted to use his 2nd round selection on tackle Jonathan Martin. A smart player who had projected as a first round pick. As the rumors go, Ireland expected the bulk of WR’s to be available in round three but that did not happen. It almost seemed as though he lost his board.
It’s hard to imagine Ireland had Michael Egnew rated as highly as he was taken. After the run on WR’s Ireland took Egnew in the third and the rest of the draft seem to become more or less players at positions he was expected to take earlier.
This year, Ireland is faced with needing an offensive tackle and the top three are expected to be gone prior to the Dolphins selection at 12. Rumors are beginning to surface that the Dolphins want to move up to draft one of the OT’s. The target area would be the five to seven spots. A trade up of course would cost the Dolphins anywhere from an extra second to an extra third. If not more.
So naturally you have to wonder how much in love is Ireland with replacing Jake Long in round one? Following the top three OT’s the drop off is considerable and the remaining second tier OT’s could go in rounds 2 or 3 depending on what the rest of the NFL views their value.
The same situation can be said about TE and CB as well. Ireland is going to need the vision to predict what the rest of the NFL will do and in order to do that, he needs to remain focused on either the players he wants to draft or the position as a whole. He has no room for error.
As an example, Ireland can ill afford to enter the draft with a personal understanding that he will draft this guy at this position in this round. That guy at that position in the next round and so on. He needs a broader spectrum of options. Entering the draft with a plan to draft “X,Y, and Z” player at number 12 regardless of position and then turn his focus towards the next round where he needs to plan in a somewhat more general option.
After round 1, the simplest way to plan is to list your positions of need in order of importance and then rank the players at each position overall. This way you may have a CB ranked higher than a TE and that TE rated higher than another CB and so on. When your pick is on the clock, you are prepared for unexpected changes in front of you. Simply take the highest rated player at any position of need and cross it off your board.
If Ireland focuses on a specific player he will likely fail because frankly, someone else may have them rated higher as well and thus that player is gone before the next pick. If Ireland’s first pick in round 2 comes up and the player he really wants is there, Ireland can’t assume that the player will slide to his second pick in that round. Take who you want not necessarily a player that you simply need.
This years draft is by far the most important draft of Ireland’s career and a mistake here could not only cost him his job come the end of the season but could potentially keep him from holding the position for another NFL team. Ireland’s job is not on the proverbial line, but it could be with glaring mistakes.