I think we have all established that the NFL draft is somewhat of a crap shoot. I think it has also been established that if you can do well in the NFL draft you can set your organization up for success for future seasons to come. Blow the draft and you are climbing an uphill battle for quite some time. There are two things that give an organization a higher chance of success in the draft and that is a high number of draft picks and being able to get impact players in the draft.
I am going to focus on part two of the two successful things that you need to have and that is being able to draft impact players. Offensive linemen are the lifeblood of your football team at any level of football. However, they are not impact players. Offensive linemen protect the impact players of a football team. With that being said, routinely going out and using your top pick for offensive linemen is a recipe for disaster. Do that and you end up with a roster choc-full of average players at the impact spot. This leads to a team that has a hard time scoring, getting fans out of their seat and eventually getting fans to the stadium. That’s sort of the situation that the Dolphins are in right now. How did they get there?
There’s wide spread talk of the Dolphins taking Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff with their 8th pick in this year’s draft. This would be an unprecedented move by any franchise that has achieved dynasty type success in the NFL. With an offensive lineman pick int the 1st round, the Dolphins would have picked an offensive lineman with their first pick in four out of their last nine drafts. They would have picked six offensive linemen with their first pick in their last 12 NFL drafts. The Dolphins would have spent half of their last drafts in over a decade picking a player for a non-impact position with their first pick. They can not afford to continue to make this mistake. They are already losing their fan base and it comes largely through their inability to draft effectively. They can not win with a draft pick of Riley Reiff. He would have to have unprecedented success working in a position with little visibility for their fan base to swallow such a move. Running a franchise is one half winning championships and one half selling tickets.
About Chart Below: I have prepared a chart below of some of the most successful NFL franchises during different eras beginning with the 70’s. In the chart I list the number of offensive linemen drafted by that team during the decade in which they were dominant. ND stands for Not Dominant in that particular ERA so no data was collected or displayed. As you can see that out of 11 dominant teams in 18 dominant decades between them, only two teams have drafted an offensive lineman with their first pick more than twice during their dominant era. Notice that 10 teams drafted one or less with four them having not drafted an offensive lineman first at all during their dominant decade. I have included data from the Dolphins from each era. Notice that in their two best ERAs 70’s and 80’s they drafted only one and then two offensive linemen first in their draft. In the decades after (90’s and 00’s) they went with two and three respectively. Miami’s relevance in the NFL declined over those last two decades.
|Offensive Lineman Drafted with 1st Pick in Round 1 by Dominant Teams in ERAs|
Again, offensive linemen are the lifeblood of your football team but they are not first round picks unless they are slam dunk performers at the college level. I mean they really had to be dominant at the college level in terms of on field production for you to spend a first round pick on them. I am talking Jonathan Ogden type dominant. Bryant McKinnie type dominant. Definitely not a center or a guard in the first round. Great offensive linemen can be found in the second round on. They can also be picked up in free agency. The biggest thing for an offensive line is working together as a unit. They have longevity if they are good. Pay them handsomely once they have proven they work well in your system.
The order of importance in the game today is QB, RB, WR, DT, CB, LT. You can debate the LT appearance in that order. Depending on what team you are, that LT could move up. The Dolphins need to make it work with Jake Long and what is on the roster right now or find their answer in free agency or later in the draft. Miami over the last 20 years have not drafted a quarterback in the first round. I understand that Dan Marino’s longevity has a lot to do with that but it’s been a while since Marino has gone. Miami has not had a good history of drafting quality backs with their first pick. However, they got quality out of drafting Ronnie Brown in 2005. Did he reach his potential, probably not but it’s time to go that route again. It’s time for the Dolphins to find an impact wide receiver in the draft. Another offensive lineman is not the answer and the proof is in the numbers on the chart.
Drafting Riley Reiff or any other offensive lineman with the eighth pick in this year’s draft will mean that the Dolphins over the last 10 years (a decade) would have drafted four offensive linemen with their first pick in the first round of the NFL draft. No other dominant team on the chart I have displayed have done this. Again, only two teams have drafted as much as three during a dominant decade.
In 2004, Miami chose Vernon Carey first in the draft. That year, they passed on the opportunity to pick up RB Steven Jackson (Rams) and DT Vince Wolfork (Patriots). In 2008, they picked Jake Long, a pick I actually agree with but they did pass up on the opportunity to draft QB Matt Ryan (Atlanta), RB Jonathan Steward (Carolina), CB Dominic Rogers Cromartie (Philadelphia), DT Sean Ellis (Patriots) and RB Chris Johnson (Titans). In 2011, Miami opted for center Mike Pouncey and passed on an opportunity to get a quality running back like Mark Ingram from Alabama.
I am not saying that all of Miami’s problems can be traced back to drafting offensive linemen with their first pick but I am saying that it’s an indication of the mistakes they are making in a very important exercise as an organization and that is the draft. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The NFL is also a copy-cat league. It’s time for the Dolphins to copy the ways of some of the more successful franchises in the NFL with respect to how they attack the draft. If they don’t, they are looking at more mediocrity in a city that has a lights out NBA franchise and a baseball team that has just built what could be considered the best stadium in major league baseball right now.
Author: Chad Wilson
Chad Wilson is a college football recruiting expert and creator of the GridironStudsApp which allows high school football players to gain exposure to college football coaches and fans. Wilson is a former college football player for the University of Miami (92-94) and Long Beach St. (’90-’91) and played briefly for the Seattle Seahawks (’95). He is also a former youth and high school football coach for over 15 years. Wilson’s older son Quincy plays in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts and his younger son plays cornerback for the University of Florida. Email: email@example.com.