PLAYING THE NUMBERS GAME
The Miami Dolphins are now just days away from what could be a draft for the ages that will shape the team for a decade. Over the years there have been hits and misses as plucking players from the college ranks is not an exact science, you never quite know what type of player you are getting until the pads go on and the live action starts. We have gone back through the Dolphins draft history, back to the last time there was a monumental change in the team’s fortunes during the draft, all the way back to 1983.
We were just wondering if there is a science to this lottery. In this two-part breakdown we start with the offensive side of the ball. We delved back through the draft and called out players that made a contribution to the team. For this exercise it meant they started almost every game from day one and played at least four years for the team. There are a few exceptions, either the player should never have been traded away or that they are still young but we feel will go on to be contributors. Opposite is a breakdown of each position, the player and the round they were selected together with how many times the position has been called on since 83.
There is one position that jumps out straight away, either Miami is really good at selecting tackles, or drafting a tackle on day one is almost a sure-fire way of unearthing a contributor. Twenty-seven tackles drafted and only seven met the criteria (with the exception of Tunsil) and of those seven, five were in round one. This screams out that Miami needs to ideally draft a left tackle at number five or eighteen or possibly a right tackle at twenty-six if they want some immediate help.
Quarterback hasn’t been kind to the Dolphins, but you could argue for a chunk of that time having Dan Marino under center meant QB was down the bottom of the shopping list come draft day. Since then it has been a baron wasteland and is why the team has been mediocre at best. Players have rolled through like tumbleweed offering hope but delivering so little. Finding a signal caller is a risky pastime, it is like playing Russian roulette, get it wrong and you can kill a team off for years and wave goodbye to your job. This year is no different in truth, outside of Joe Burrow they all have a question mark against them, be it injury, arm strength, leadership, the list goes on.
Moving onto center and surprisingly the Dolphins have only ever drafted nine true centers since 83. We guess this number is low for two reasons, guards convert to center and there is only one on the field at any one time. The teams sample size doesn’t really tell much but if you look league wide, if you want a stud you should be looking at rounds 1-3, anything beyond that and you could be waiting a while for a player to crack the line-up, there are always going to be exceptions to this rule but of late that hasn’t been the case.
Next up is guard, which seems to be a position that Miami hasn’t drafted well over the years. Since 1983 they have selected twenty-two players, yet only four have carved out some semblance of a career with the team. We all know that guard is even less sexy than drafting a tackle but if you want to be successful then a solid offenive line is a must. Even with the small sample it shows that you can discover serviceable guards from any round, but as with tackle the higher the round the better chance they have of being of pro-bowl calibre.
After offensive line and quarterback you have the skill positions of wide receiver, running back and tight end. With wide receiver it seems hard to find a player of merit in the first instance, thirty-four attempts and only six impact players, most coming from the early rounds, the rest have played bit parts or moved on. Maybe they should look to use their third pick in a deep wide receiver class but with Parker and the potential of Preston Williams they may leave it till later on in the draft.
Drafting a running back has never really yielded a star player, Ronnie Brown is probably the one that came the closest, but they have never drafted an Adrian Peterson or Barry Sanders, it wasn’t for the want of trying. In the modern era the value of a running back has been diminished and as such good backs can be found outside of the first round so the team may want to hold off using their 26th pick on a running back and see what is available on day two.
Rounding out the offensive side of the team is tight end, as with running back they have never really drafted a game changing player, they have certainly tried over the years. Maybe if they had tried drafting one in the first round they would have had success, but bizarrely they have never selected one in the first round, not in their entire history. They aren’t alone but they are in a minority as there are only four other teams that have never called a tight ends number on day one.
Before the draft we will look over the defensive side of the ball to get an idea of how the team has faired through the years.