This is where it starts. It is time for questions to become answers, time for the Miami Dolphins to hand that selection card to the commissioner and begin the challenging task of finding more long-term solutions in their quest for sustained success.
We've seen over the past few months this new mindset taking hold. We've seen veterans traded and veterans released. We've seen a sense of fiscal sanity emerge, a team ridding itself of some bloated contracts that simply no longer made sense given the new direction of this franchise.
But now it's time to resume the building process. Now it's time to add instead of subtract, to carefully continue the reconstruction of a roster that has been mired in mediocrity for far too long. Now it's time to begin the healing process.
The three-day NFL draft is finally here. Today. Tomorrow. Saturday. Right now the Dolphins have seven selections beginning with the No. 13th pick in the first round. But who knows how things will evolve? Who knows how active or bold or creative General Manager Chris Grier will choose to be?
That's the suspense of these three days. The Dolphins have all sorts of paths they can travel. Truth is they may not know which path they'll take until the very last moment when teams become somewhat desperate, unexpected names become available and opportunities arise that nobody really saw coming.
Any way they go, the importance of making the correct move and the most prudent long-term decisions are undeniable. I get it that every draft is important. But this draft for this team at this precise moment in their roster re-build is about as important as they come. The seeds have been planted over the past two or three drafts for future success. Now more seeds are needed. More talent. More depth. More players to comprise the nucleus of this team.
Grier has an enormous responsibility. He has been handed the keys to this football operation by Owner Stephen Ross and, though he has been the chief decision maker in the past three drafts, this time the buck falls directly in his lap. Granted, it will be a collaborate effort. That's the way Grier does things. But at the end of the day, when the Dolphins are on the clock, it is his voice that will always speak the loudest.
Yes, quarterback is the No. 1 need. Always will be until they find one. But you can't just pick one; you've got to pick the right one. That's where Grier comes in. He has reiterated over the past few weeks that he will not force this decision. Maybe the answer isn't in this group. Maybe there's a name he has in mind as more of a second or third day pick. Maybe the right guy is still a year away. Or maybe there is someone whose name he has circled, someone he'll do just about anything to get. We'll learn a lot more over these next three days.
With all of that in mind, let's explore the three different strategies the Dolphins could employ in the first round. All three, as you'll see, have their advantages.
Stay put at No. 13
If this happens the Dolphins will face some enticing alternatives. They can probably get the third or fourth best quarterback on the board or they can land one of the top two or three offensive or defensive linemen. This is certainly an attractive option given the level of talent in the first 15 or 20 picks of this draft.
My take: If they stay at 13, I'd be surprised if they didn't take a lineman because the need is great and, with the right selection, the position could be solidified for the next decade or so. Either side of the ball would work just fine, though a right tackle would probably make the most sense on offense given the loss of Ja'Wuan James to free agency while on defense you can make an equal case for either an interior lineman or an outside pass rusher. Then there's the surprise factor at 13. Who will slip? Someone always does. Remember offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil in the 2016 draft? You can't find a mock draft that linked Tunsil to the Dolphins. Turned out to be a first round steal that nobody saw coming.
Move up in the first round
This would seem like the least likely alternative simply because the Dolphins don't appear to have enough assets to make a trade of this magnitude work. However many spots you move up, the price of doing business is steep and could include a second or third round pick this year as well as a future draft choice.
My take: The Dolphins have been in the business these days of collecting more draft picks, not reducing the number. Having said this, you never know what conclusions Grier and his staff have formed and if there's a player – my guess it would probably have to be a quarterback – who they believe can help escalate the turnaround of this franchise, then they'd be remiss not to at least make the attempt. With only seven draft picks currently at their disposal, the most sensible route to make a trade of this magnitude work would probably have to include one of their current core players. But I just don't see that happening.
Trade down for more picks
We've seen the New England Patriots do this for years with great success, compiling picks with one trade after another, ultimately setting themselves up well, certainly in drafts as deep as this one. With so many former New England coaches now on this staff, it makes sense that the Dolphins will at least give this serious consideration.
My take: Why not? The Dolphins need to re-stock this roster. They currently have 67 players and they are allowed to go into training camp with as many as 90. No doubt upgrading the talent is essential. But so is creating more competition and you need a full roster to do that. I look at this as the most likely scenario because of the overall quality of this draft, certainly in the first two or three rounds. Trading down later into the first round could reap the benefit of another second or third round pick either this year of next. Do it again and you get more picks. Before long, you've got enough assets to turn seven picks into 10 or 11. Given where the Dolphins are and where they need to go, there could very well be strength in numbers.
We'll find out tonight which path the Dolphins choose. We can only hope it is the right one.