AC In The AM: Dolphins At Center Of Strangest Of Drafts

Finally, it is here.

Finally, we are about to get answers.

Finally, the suspense surrounding perhaps the most anticipated draft in Dolphins' history will play out for real. No more mocks. No more expert predictions. No more mind-bending lists, detailed charts and video breakdowns. Just General Manager Chris Grier sitting at his South Florida home, electronically hooked up to the NFL world, his closest advisors eerily miles away, all of them together making decisions that could very well re-chart the course of this franchise.

Can it get any stranger than this? A stay-at-home draft? The most important three days of the NFL offseason being played out in such a bizarre and unfortunate way?

This is the reality of where we are today and one of the many truths of this reality is that we have probably never needed an NFL draft more than we need this one.

Probably never will again. Because if we ever required a diversion, this is it. If ever we needed a chance to smile, a chance, even for a few minutes, to move on from the frustration and the fright and the uncertainty, this is it. No, the NFL draft won't cure anything. But it's undoubtedly a dose of medicine that couldn't have come along at a better time. For me. For you. For all of us.

An unforgiving virus has turned what was supposed to be the grandest of spectacles into the most sobering of times. The plan, before our world changed, was for the draft to be at the Bellagio Hotel on the Las Vegas strip, each drafted player in tonight's first round taken to the podium to meet Commissioner Roger Goodell in the most glamorous of ways, on a boat across a man-made lake with music and a water show and thousands of fans cheering.

It was supposed to be an NFL draft celebration unlike anything we have witnessed before. Instead what we will see unfold beginning tonight is a three-day binge of Home Alone.

Which brings us back to Grier, facing some of the most important decisions of his professional life, armed with a team-record three first-round picks and 14 overall, and with so many ways this can play out. This would be an imposing challenge in normal circumstances. But in this environment? With technology never more critical? With so many voices to hear and so little time to listen?

"It's going to be unusual," Grier said. "But I know we are ready."

I've tried to read between the lines with Grier and that truthfully never works. I've tried to absorb everything the draftniks have said, but truth be known there are so many experts these days it's hard to identify the real ones. So many people think they know what the Dolphins are going to do, what Grier is going to do.

But none of them really know. You can't know. I'm not sure Grier will know until the pieces of the first round begin falling into place, until he fields enough calls from other teams to know whether a trade is feasible or logical. There are always surprises. Who, for instance, expected Laremy Tunsil to be sitting there at the 13th pick of the 2016 draft? How Grier adjusts to those surprises could very well help define the bottom line of this Dolphins' draft.

So now we wait together, and isn't it nice to have something to look forward to tonight, something as important as this, something actually unfolding in real time.

I wish I could scoop the pro football world and tell you who the Dolphins are taking with the No. 5, No. 18 and No. 26 overall picks or whatever combination they have depending on what deals, if any, are consummated. What I can tell you are what I believe are the five most glaring areas of needs, the five positions that require long-term solutions and will have so much to do with how this draft is remembered.

  • Quarterback: It always should start with this. Find the correct quarterback and, in truth, everything else is gravy. Find the wrong quarterback and does anything else really matter? That's the hard truth of this league. With rare exceptions, history has taught us that. The Dolphins have been waiting for a long-term, top-tier franchise quarterback since Dan Marino retired more than two long decades ago. They now have the ammunition to get one. The minutes are going to pass like hours waiting today for this to unfold.
  • Offensive tackle: When the Dolphins traded Tunsil to the Texans this automatically became a major priority. The Dolphins signed a center and a guard in free agency. There are some enticing tackle prospects both projected in the first round and the second where the Dolphins have a combined five picks. It wouldn't shock me if they took two tackles in those first five picks.
  • Running back: The Dolphins signed veteran Jordan Howard in free agency and he will be a major contributor, probably more as a power runner, certainly in short- yardage situations. What they need now is a coast-to-coast threat both as a runner and receiver. This draft has five or six intriguing options from which to choose. Depending on where the Dolphins decide to get him, they could have the pick of the group.
  • Defensive tackle: The Dolphins appear in pretty good shape with veteran Davon Godchaux and second-year player Christian Wilkins. But this is a position where quality depth is essential and where you often see three players sharing equal time. The Dolphins could use that third player. They've done a nice job so far upgrading the outside pass rush. It's time to work on the middle.
  • Safety: Some nice options came to the forefront last season, but what the Dolphins could use in the deep end of the secondary is one of those specially gifted players, capable of stuffing the run near the line or staying with some of the league's elite deep threats. Put simply, they need a difference-maker, someone who can help solidify the entire secondary.

So those are the needs. Now, at long last, we're going to find out who's going to fill them.

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