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Miami Dolphins (Last Year: 1-15)

Roger Goodell to the stage … “With the first pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins select …”

Who will it be? Mike Mayock and Todd McShay say the favorite is Boston College QB Matt Ryan as they need a “franchise QB.” Others think they will take Jake Long as a big left tackle to solidify their pass protection.

I’m not afraid to say it. I think Chris Long is a lock to hear his name called first by Goodell. Let’s go through all the options and I’ll tell you why they won’t happen.

Glenn Dorsey/Sedrick Ellis: You don’t draft a run stuffer with the first pick in the draft. They simply don’t make a lot of plays and you can find a solid zero technique later on. Both of these players’ forte is to rush the passer; not stand their ground, get double teamed, and be a wall. They can do that from time to time but there just isn’t enough value here to take a run stuffer No. 1. Also, my golden rule is you don’t take a player No. 1 in the draft unless he can be an elite player at his position. I don’t see Dorsey or Ellis as elite nose tackles in a 3-4.

Matt Ryan: David Carr. Alex Smith. Tim Couch. Jeff George. Joey Harrington. Akili Smith. Ryan Leaf. Trent Dilfer.

All of these quarterbacks were top 10 picks and they all busted. Were they overrated as prospects? Some were and some just didn’t work out. I’m not saying Matt Ryan will bust in the NFL, though he, like any other prospect has the potential to do so, but you don’t draft a quarterback this high in the draft (who isn’t the prototype) and put him in a losing situation. Miami doesn’t have an offensive line and it will take a while to develop it.

Another reason why they won’t take Ryan No. 1 is because I don’t feel like he is good enough. I have seen a lot of sour game tape, and then some brilliant game tape. Consistency is lacking to be a top-five pick in my eyes.

This team also has the need of quarterback filled with Josh McCown and John Beck. Now, will one of these guys lead them into the playoffs? Likely not, but they can play the position and quite frankly Miami won’t be a playoff team for at least two years. You lose value in trading Beck, and Miami doesn’t have to win right now. I think people look at a bad team and immediately say “franchise quarterback” if they don’t have a stud at the position. Miami needs to take the best player available at a position of great need. Quarterback is not a position of great need, and Ryan is far from the best player available.

Jake Long: When I think of a tackle that should be taken with the first pick in the draft, I point to the prototypes. Athletically, Joe Thomas was amazing. Orlando Pace was amazing. Long will not be an elite left tackle in the NFL. He simply lacks the great quickness and fluid hips to play the position. Thomas ran a 4.92 at the combine. Long ran a 5.17. His feet weren’t as quick in drills as Thomas’ (which I consider to be the prototype athletically for the position) and while he has an outstanding wingspan and strength, it simply takes more than that to be an elite left tackle. You don’t draft a player No. 1 unless he can be an elite player at the position. Long can be an elite right tackle, but his athletic ability is lacking to be taken No. 1.

Vernon Gholston: If by some shocking decision the Dolphins didn’t go with Chris Long, I’d say they would go with Gholston. They need a pass rusher off the edge in their 3-4, and Gholston has the outstanding triangle numbers and production to be considered to be an elite hybrid linebacker in the NFL. Why do I think he isn’t as good as Chris Long? I think he lacks some natural instinct and his motor isn’t as consistent. Technique-wise, I feel like he can improve his hand usage.

Chris Long: My lock for the No. 1 pick. Long has elite intangibles and never takes a play off. Great character, so no Lawrence Phillips issues here. Outstanding athletic ability – he ran a 4.71 at 271 pounds at the combine, and notched a 34-inch vertical. Long will play the hybrid linebacker position in the 3-4 defense. He can rush the passer, get off blocks, and has the desire to be great. Bill Parcells drafted Bobby Carpenter in the 2006 NFL Draft partially because his father (Rob) played under him for the Giants. Being the son of Howie Long has to count for something. I’d say Peyton and Eli’s genes have helped them out.

Long is going to be a cornerstone on the Miami defense for years to come.

So what other directions will the Dolphins go with their remaining picks?

The top of Round 2 is a position where a lot of trades are made. It is less expensive making trades there than in the first round obviously, and teams are still targeting players. Six trades in the first 10 picks of the second round happened where teams traded up to get their guy. I don’t understand why everyone says Miami should get out of the No. 1 selection. First of all, it won’t happen; the pick is simply worth too much. Secondly, I think they can get an extra draft choice or two if they wish by trading down lower into the second round.

Which players will they target?

Obviously if they draft Chris Long with their first pick they should target their offensive line if they decide to keep the No. 32 selection. All the left tackles (Jake Long, Ryan Clady, Chris Williams) will be gone by now so they will look to upgrade the right tackle position. Carl Nicks, Jeff Otah, and Gosder Cherilus will all be solid options here. They are all great run blockers and they all have big bodies. Nicks also has the athletic ability if they wanted him to play on the left side.

I think another position Miami will consider is cornerback. Will Allen is solid, but Travis Daniels’ play is inconsistent, while Mike Lehan just doesn’t knock your socks off.

Tracy Porter, Antoine Cason, Brandon Flowers Patrick Lee, and Terrell Thomas could all be considered to be taken in the second round with either one of Miami’s picks.

While Parcells traded for nose tackle Jason Ferguson, he might be looking for a future guy at the position. One player whom I think he would fall in love with is Ahtyba Rubin from Iowa State. Possessing a Wide and strong body, he holds up great against the run. Prototypical nose tackle.

The Fins also don’t have many options at tight end. Parcells prefers balanced tight ends who can block. John Carlson, Craig Stevens, Brad Cottam, and Tom Santi are all solid run blockers, and this is what Parcells seems to like. These prospects all have mid- to late-round range and are inexpensive (Cottam might be a surprise on this list, but he might fall in the draft because of his durability issues).

Another position that the Dolphins will consider is inside linebacker. I have no way of knowing what Parcells and Jeff Ireland think of Channing Crowder at the position. They might replace him in this draft, or they might see how he performs in the 2008 season and not address it. Round 2 inside linebacker options for the 3-4 would be Dan Connor and Curtis Lofton. For a cheaper pick, they can get Jonathan Goff, Jameel McClain, Beau Bell, Spencer Larsen, Jeremy Leman, and Marc Magro would all be good fits in the mid to late rounds.

If you have any comments, questions, or general feedback please give me an e-mail. I will be a special guest on “The Dolphins Make Me Cry” radio show on the Fins Radio Network Saturday, March 15 at 8:00 ET.

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