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Dolphins Preparing To Use Immense Draft Capital

"The guys who are really good at the draft, if [they're] hitting on 60 percent of their first-round picks; that's pretty good, and then it's dropping as you go through the rounds. The more chances you get, the more tickets to the lottery you get, the better you should be doing."

Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman, the architect of the 2017 Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, is a big believer in analytics. More specifically, the accumulation of draft picks beyond the NFL's allotment of one per team, per round.

Miami owns the most draft picks in 2020 and is tied for the most picks in 2021. Additionally, the Dolphins' 11 combined picks in the first three rounds over the next two drafts is far-and-away the most premium capital in the league. 

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross proclaimed his desire for a consistent contender that avoids the flash in the pan, and sustains success year-to-year.

The Eagles' plan materialized with a Lombardi Trophy, and has continued success with three consecutive postseason trips. The usual suspects for January football achieved that level of sustained winning through similar avenues – controlling the draft.

Philadelphia's first Super Bowl parade came at the conclusion of the 2017 season. The year prior, Roseman made a blockbuster trade to secure the second overall pick and quarterback Carson Wentz. The Eagles entered that draft with 11 selections and participated in a combined six trades involving picks with the 2016 and 2015 drafts.

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On the other side of the country, the Seahawks won the Super Bowl after the 2013 season, and came within one yard of a repeat the following year. Upon Pete Carroll's arrival in 2010, the Seahawks had nine draft picks. From that year on, through the second Super Bowl appearance in 2014, Seattle never made fewer than nine picks, averaging 9.6 picks per year.

With that draft capital, Seattle developed an identity that produced four consecutive league-leading scoring defenses. Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner and Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith were all added to the roster during that stretch of draft hauls.

Baltimore and Pittsburgh are two of the league's most consistent contenders. The Ravens averaged 9.4 draft picks the last five years and 8.9 since 2010. The Steelers averaged 8.3 draft picks over the last decade.

Then, of course, there's the Patriots. Pro Football Focus provided a statistic that tracks expected resources in a given offseason compared the actual capital acquired and spent. New England, with 12-straight division titles, is used to picking towards the back end of Round 1. But creative draft day maneuvering put the Pats far above the team's expected draft capital.

The middle of the pack distinction for the Patriots displays their ability to gather more draft capital than the NFL's mandated allotment. Whether it's through player trades, compensatory picks or draft day swaps, New England maximizes its value. The Seahawks are well-known for accumulating draft capital, but it's typically done through trading down the board and placing a value on quantity over quality. While Seattle are gathering more picks, the net gain is not as significant since they are acquiring multiple picks in lieu of premium picks.

The late 90's-early 2000's Dolphins provide even further historical evidence of acquired draft capital producing a winning product.

Miami made 36 selections over a three-year period from 1996-98. Like any draft class, a portion of those picks were solid contributors and some did not work out. But with so many bites at the apple, the Dolphins were able to establish an identity and produce a core that led to seven consecutive winning seasons and five playoff berths.

Jason Taylor was a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection. Zach Thomas made the list of Hall of Fame finalists this past season, while cornerbacks Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison combined for seven Pro Bowls and three first-team All-Pro selections in Miami.

The next part of the numbers game, now that it's been established that having the most capital is a distinct advantage, is all about getting the picks right.

Grier has been with the Dolphins since 2003. He was the director of college scouting starting in 2007, before his 2016 promotion to general manager.

Quantifying draft success is hardly black-and-white. Pro Bowls and second contracts are effective measures of early-round picks, but for players selected on the third day (Rounds 4-7), the expectation is less significant. Rotational players and special teamers are crucial for deep playoff runs. Playing half of the offensive or defensive snaps typically symbolizes a player's impact on that given year. Using a 1,000-snap baseline, a 500-snap player is to be considered a significant contributor. 

Removing the 2019 class for lack of sample size and going back five years takes us to the 2014 draft class.

Using Pro Bowls as the top distinction, the above table only accounts for each player one time. So if the player was selected to the Pro Bowl, a second contract guy and a 500-plus snap-count player, he will only appear in the table under the Pro Bowl category. Earning a Pro Bowl nod or second contract with another team was included in the exercise.

This gives the Dolphins a hit-rate of 20-out-of-38 – a batting average of .526 spanning the 2014-18 drafts.

Granted, Grier will always deflect praise for his work. This collaboration will include Brian Flores, Marvin Allen, Reggie McKenzie and the entirety of the Dolphins' college scouting staff and coaching staff.

But based on the five-year snapshot, and Miami's bevy of draft picks, the odds of adding multiple cornerstone players and significant contributors to the roster this April are among the league's best.

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