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I always go into these pre-draft press conferences, like the one the Dolphins had on Wednesday, trying to read minds, search for clues or simply come up with a morsel of evidence to uncover the mystery of who this team will select in the first round.
And then, just when you think you might have things figured out, just when you’re ready to proclaim a genuine feel for the direction this team is heading, someone like
It is with this dose of reality that I approached Wednesday’s press conference. Sitting in the front of the room were Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum General Manager Chris Grier and. These are two highly intelligent football minds who had so much to do with last season’s 10-6 turnaround and who are certainly smart enough to know that not even after hours of homework, research and interviews do they know for sure what alternatives will be in front of them with the 22nd pick of the first round.
Common sense tells us the Dolphins will select the best defensive player. That’s the priority. That’s been the mindset through free agency. But after the way the Dolphins positioned themselves in free agency, taking care of so many obvious areas of need, they now sit in a very flexible and comfortable position.
See, what you’ve got to keep in mind is that these are no longer yesterday’s Dolphins, looking for a quick fix or a big splash. There is a sense of stability that has permeated this organization and that stability certainly carries over to the decisions that will be made a week from tonight and through the three-day draft.
I know the Dolphins were fortunate to get Tunsil a year ago. I know that if not for a video that was leaked online, he probably would have never been there. But the fact the Dolphins were ready to pounce, the fact that they had done extensive homework on a player who supposed to be gone in the opening moments of the draft, the fact that left tackle wasn’t considered the team’s most pressing priority, says plenty about the big picture mindset that has been embraced by the brain trust of this team.
Which brings us to The Big Board on the second floor of the Dolphins’ training facility. That’s the board that ranks each draft-eligible player based on months of research by the team’s scouting department. As of Wednesday, there were about 140 names on that board.
“You get in trouble when you start drafting for need,” said Grier. “At the end of the day, we’ll always listen to our board.”
In light of that, I requested an interview with The Board. Actually asked Tannenbaum about it on his way out of the press conference. All I got was a big smile and a soft-spoken “don’t think so.”
Had to try, but Tannenbaum’s reluctance was expected. The board is sacred territory, a Fort Knox of names and rankings that will dictate who the Dolphins select and when. Got a feeling it might just be under protective custody.
A year ago I’m told that board had Tunsil right near the top. Who knew he would still be there at No. 13? “An easy decision for us,” Tannenbaum said.
Having said all of this, it is still difficult for me to envision the Dolphins going anywhere other than defense, certainly at the top of the draft. This is a deep defensive draft. Grier singled out safeties and edge rushers, along with running backs, as perhaps the three strongest areas.
Yes, the Dolphins helped fortify their defense during free agency, certainly helped their rushing defense in particular with the signings of defensive end
A pass-rushing defensive end? A playmaking linebacker? More help in the secondary? “This is our next opportunity to get better,” Tannenbaum said.
Even trading up or down in the first round remains a possibility. “Sometimes you get a trade offer it’s hard to say no to,” added Tannenbaum.
Get the idea? One week before the draft and nobody is quite sure what’s going to happen which is understandable when you consider that a year ago at this same press conference, Laremy Tunsil’s name wasn’t even mentioned. And that right there probably tells you everything you need to know.