My Sunday column explained why the upcoming 2010 might be the most important for the Dolphins in a very long time.
Simply, in year No. 3 of the Parcells-Sparano-Ireland dynasty, the Dolphins need to turn the corner on one playoff season and one losing season. But unlike most other NFL offseasons, free agency will be an unpredictable exercise based on the likely uncapped year.
Free agency also might not offer the many opportunities to add young, prime-of-their-career talent it has been in the past.
So if the Dolphins are to make the significant jump from inconsistent and mediocre to good or very good, the draft must deliver the talent to do that with.
Well, the Dolphins will have plenty of arrows in their quiver to do damage in the draft.
They have nine picks assigned so far:
First round - #12 overall.
Second round - #11 in the round.
Third round - #9 in the round.
Fourth round - #12 in the round.
Fifth round -- None. Consideration to Kansas City for Tyler Thigpen.
Sixth round - #4 in the round (from Kansas City), # 5 in the round (from Washington) and #10 in the round (own).
Seventh round - #5 in the round (from Kansas City) and #12 in the round (own).
But I'm here to tell you the Dolphins should have at least one more pick. The compensatory picks will be awarded in March and the Dolphins are likely to score at least one pick based on their 2009 offseason losses.
You'll recall that last offseason the team lost three unrestricted free agents -- cornerback Andre' Goodman to the Denver Broncos, safety Renaldo Hill to the Denver Broncos and center Al Johnson to the New England Patriots.
The Dolphins signed three unrestricted free agents -- guard Joe Berger, center Jake Grove, and cornerback Eric Green.
I cannot recite the exact NFL net gain-loss formula for unrestricted free agency, because I'm not that much of a dweeb, but suffice to say the Dolphins will be judged to have a net loss. And while they are not likely to gain anything as high as a third- or fourth-round pick via the compensatory process, they might pick up a fifth-rounder. We'll see.
(Before you go all nutty in the comments section saying I messed up because the Dolphins also signed Gibril Wilson and Jason Taylor, I remind you neither were unrestricted free agents. Both were released by their teams. Both were street free agents. Cameron Wake was also a street free agent as he wasn't even in the league the season before. The NFL does not weigh them in the gain-loss formula.)
Now, as to what the Dolphins do with their nine and perhaps 10 draft picks, I can tell you this:
Miami needs to do better, and certainly no worse, than last year as far as production from their rookies.
In 2009, the Dolphins got two starters out of the first two rounds. That's good despite the fact the first two rounds offered Miami three picks.
The Dolphins need to find starters in the first two rounds of 2010. And then they have to do better beyond that than they did in 2009.
You see, in 2009 only fourth-rounder Brian Hartline contributed to any substantial degree.
Third rounder Patrick Turner was a non-factor. Fifth-rounder John Nalbone was a non-factor. Fifth-rounder Chris Clemons was mostly a special teams player. Sixth-rounder Andrew Gardner was a non-factor. And seventh-rounder J.D. Folsom was a non-factor.
If the Dolphins can find three starters from the 2010 draft, coupled with perhaps one or two starters from free agency and some other avenue (trade?), we could be talking a significant improvement from 2009.
And that's what the Dolphins need.
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