[This is the first of a series of articles analyzing Miami's drafts and personnel acquisitions. The series will run through the end of the week. Next: Grading Jeff Ireland and Bill Parcells.]
During the hard times, which I guess was anytime after 1995 and before 2008, much was written about how the Dolphins got little or no help from their drafts.
Remember the sobering statistics about the 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 drafts? The Dolphins have a grand total of one player -- Yeremiah Bell -- from those drafts helping the cause now. Those drafts, in part, were blamed for the franchise's steep decline prior to this season.
One could not really measure or rate the 2004, 2005 and 2006 drafts because, to be fair, the results don't come in fully on a draft until each class has at least three seasons to prove itself. Well, three seasons or more have passed for the 2004-2006 classes as well. And outside of 2005, the results are not good.
Today the Dolphins have one player on the roster drafted in 2004. In other words, of the class that saw Vince Wilfork, Steven Jackson, Chris Snee, and Bob Sanders picked after Miami selected in the first round, there remains one player on the Miami roster -- first round pick Vernon Carey.
And Carey is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next month unless he signs a new contract.
So the 2004 draft class that included such memorable acquisitions as Tony Bua and shrewd moves such as the trading away of a fourth-round pick to Minnesota to move up one spot in the first round, the Dolphins got one player with lasting value.
No wonder Miami had a new coach and a new personnel administration by 2005. And that new coach and general manager, Nick Saban, had his finest hour in 2005. He won more games (9) in 2005 than in his other season (6). And his 2005 draft was successful.
The Dolphins plucked three starters with lasting value, including one Pro Bowl player, out of the 2005 draft. Pro Bowl running back Ronnie Brown was picked in the first round, starting outside linebacker Matt Roth was picked in the second round, and starting inside linebacker Channing Crowder was picked in the third round. The Dolphins even got a little mileage out of fourth-round selection Travis Daniels.
In rating the 2005 draft a success, one must also remember Saban salvaged a pretty bad situation. He wasn't supposed to have a second-round pick because previous GM Rick Spielman had traded to Philadelphia for A.J. Feeley. But Saban got a second-rounder back when he traded away Patrick Surtain. Saban also didn't have Miami's own third-round pick based on the Lamar Gordon
panic move trade from the year before, and didn't have a sixth-round pick in the David Boston fiasco trade -- again, left to him by Dave Wannstedt and Spielman.
So one must say Saban did well in his 2005 draft, considering what he had to work with.
2006? Not so much.
The players drafted in 2006 have now finished their third NFL season. And they are now proven to be unspectacular in most cases, and labeled as busts in other cases.
The 2006 draft brought Miami Joe Toledo in the fourth round. The guy was cut by Miami last January, picked up by San Francisco, and true to form, did not play in a regular-season game. The second round pick was forfeited to Minnesota in the trade for Daunte Culpepper. You know how that worked out.
Miami had no fifth-round selection because it invested that pick during the supplemental draft on one Manny Wright. Wright's best game in Miami was his crying game, which you can see below in the video. Anyway, three years and six tackles later, Wright was out of the league in 2008.
Fred Evans, picked with the first of three seventh-round selections, showed promise but was cut when he threw up in a Miami Beach taxi cab and was arrested for public intoxication and allegedly assaulting the driver. Seriously, I don't have the imagination to make this stuff up. Evans played this season as a backup with the Minnesota Vikings.
And that brings us to the two remaining players still on the Miami roster from that 2006 draft: First-rounder Jason Allen and 7b pick Rodrique Wright.
Wright has been something of a non-factor. He started nine games in 2007 when injuries devastated the team. He didn't play in any regular-season games this season, as he was inactive every weekend.
But the guy was a seventh-round pick -- the second of Miami's three seventh-rounders. It's understandable when someone picked that late doesn't contribute. At least the guy has shown enough promise to be on the roster so the coaches can work with him.
Jason Allen is another story. After this, his third season in the league, he is officially a bust.
Allen is an enigma to me. He has size (6-1, 200 pounds). He is fast and quick enough to play. He always seems to be around the football, as evidenced by his three interceptions in 2007 when he started nine games.
But something just fails to click every time he gets an opportunity. And he's had plenty of those. In his rookie season the Dolphins tried him at safety, where he didn't seem to understand Saban's complex system, and at cornerback, where he didn't seem to understand Saban's complex system.
When Saban left, new coach Cam Cameron kept Allen at safety and wanted him to compete there. Except Allen couldn't compete. He was overmatched by the skill and experience of players such as Cameron Worrell. Cameron Worrell!
It wasn't until the Dolphins suffered injuries to Worrell and Bell and Renaldo Hill and a couple of other guys, that Allen got his shot. And Allen played OK during that opportunity, considering he was basically playing for the first time.
So we all hoped for better in 2008. And initially things looked better. Allen was basically handed the starting free safety job in training camp which no one questioned because he's a freaking first-round pick! But Allen's grasp on the job was fleeting.
Chris Crocker passed him. Renaldo Hill, coming back from knee reconstruction, passed him. Even when Crocker was cut, Allen still couldn't get ahead of guys like Courtney Bryant or Tyrone Culver in the deep secondary.
So the Dolphins moved him to cornerback, where he started in Miami's nickel package for ... five minutes. And then Randy Moss burned him and it was over for him. Allen was removed from the nickel defense and was passed by Nathan Jones and then Joey Thomas.
Allen was playing only on special teams when the season ended.
So to recap: Saban didn't know what to do with Allen so he benched him. Cam Cameron tried him at two different spots but didn't trust him until half the team got injured and a couple of fans refused to come out of the stands to play safety. Then, handed a starting free safety job this season, Allen handed it back. Then he lost his position, then was moved to a new position and handed a new job in the nickel package. Then he handed that back as street free agents passed him on the depth chart.
Initially, I believed Allen was getting a bum deal.
Then I thought he was just unlucky. I'm now convinced he cannot be very good when three coaching staffs have basically relegated him to special teams duty.
There is a word that defines a first-round pick who plays only special teams in Year Three of his career: Bust.
And that makes the 2006 Dolphins draft every bit a bust as some of the others.