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Five times before, Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland has gone through the drill inside the team’s draft room of green lighting a particular pick or a trade in hopes of finalizing the best possible roster for his coaching staff. This time he has by far the most at his disposal.
Thanks to some shrewd planning on the part of Ireland and Executive Vice President of Football Administration Dawn Aponte, the Dolphins have 11 draft picks to play with. They also still have money under the salary cap, even after spending on free agents like wide receivers
So the phones will be ringing tomorrow in the hours before the Kansas City Chiefs officially go on the clock and Ireland’s life will be anything but normal until Sunday morning rolls around. His days with the Dallas Cowboys working for owner and general manager Jerry Jones certainly helped Ireland prepare for this experience.
“Last year was pretty quiet. We didn’t have a lot of action early in the draft, but it can get chaotic,” said Ireland, referring to the relatively easy decision to select quarterback
“Sometimes the phone doesn’t ring until you are on the clock and you have to make a (snap) decision to trade back, or maybe another team is on the clock and you want that pick. So, I’m telling Brian (Gaine) to call and Dawn to call and Chris (Shea) and I’m calling, ‘you know did you make the trade? Did you call the league? Did they get the phone call from the league?’ A lot of things have to happen. ‘Did you turn the card in?’ So it can get pretty hectic. It’s fun, it’s an adrenaline rush no doubt about it.”
Being armed with as many picks as Ireland is armed with can impact not just his team, but every other team around the league as well. It’s quite different from two years ago, when as a result of trades he made the previous offseason and on draft day, Ireland wound up picking just six players.
Staying even-keeled and focused on the agreed upon draft strategy is paramount to a successful draft, and Ireland has managed to maintain one of the best poker faces during his time as a GM. As excited as he was to find himself in this current position with double-digit picks, he is staying the course.
“It really hasn’t changed too much of the preparation process,” Ireland said. “I don’t think I’m going to go into the draft with more guys on the board or anything like that. We’ll still attack it in the same process we’ve always done and obviously we’ve got to be more prepared to take more players. Obviously, you have options to, I like to use the word ‘ammunition’ to kind of go up if you wanted to and certainly there’s opportunities to do that and there’s also opportunities to move back and move around. So we’ve had a lot of opportunities to do that as well.”
Every draft has its own identity, with some having no suspense whatsoever at the top and others full of question marks and trade possibilities. Last year everyone knew the Indianapolis Colts were going to select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and the Washington Redskins, courtesy of the trade they made with the St. Louis Rams two months earlier, were going to take Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. Even the Cleveland Browns at No. 3 made it no secret that they were going with Alabama running back Trent Richardson.
None of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft class have been deemed certifiable top 10 picks, and other than Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel likely going first to the Chiefs, everyone else is a crapshoot. That opens the door for just about anything to happen on Thursday.
“I think last year was a little unique, but again, we’re all in a whole different timeframe at this point with the CBA and the contracts and all that,” Ireland said. “I think you can take any player, any position and there is no rhyme or reason why you do it. If there is a need and there is a conviction by the team to take any particular position, then you go up and get it. It’s not the loser’s curse anymore. I think it makes sense to do those things if you want the player. I think there is a lot more confidential information right now in the clubs. I don’t think anybody has just come out and said who they’re taking or anything like that. Nobody has shown their hand yet, which is good. That’s the way we all want it to be to be honest with you.”