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Free agency gives the final view of drafts

One thing the annual foray into free agency does -- particularly once the early mad rush to the best players and biggest contracts ends, as it has this year -- is it allows time for reflection on past drafts.

It is my belief that you judge a team's draft once that draft class hits free agency, normally four or for some players that sign longer deals, five years later.

And doing that exercise we already know that six years after the 2008 draft, which was the first undertaken by the Bill Parcells-Jeff Ireland-Tony Sparano administration, we can judge that undertaking as an unmitigated disaster.

No player from the 2008 draft class is left on the Dolphins roster today. That means that no player taken that year was judged good enough to keep through a second contract once he hit free agency. Talk about no value out of a draft.

Left tackle Jake Long at No. 1 overall was let go by Miami last year. Long, a good player, proved to be not durable -- which I remind you is a critical factor in judging players. He'd finished two consecutive years on injured reserve when his contract came up last year and the Dolphins were wary of that lack of durability so he went to the Rams. And then he finished his first season in St. Louis on injured reserve.

Well, you know who this year's signature free agency signing is for the Dolphins?

Left tackle Branden Albert, who was taken No. 15 overall in the same draft that Long was picked No. 1.

The 2009 draft was a much greater success for the Dolphins but only in the sense they have one player from that draft on the roster today.

Wide receiver Brian Hartline, a fourth-round pick in 2009, is the only player the Dolphins deemed worthy of keeping long-term through a second contract. First-round pick Vontae Davis was not, second-rounder Sean Smith was not. Second-rounder Pat White and third-rounder Patrick Turner didn't even make it out of the their first contracts with the team.

(The Dolphins kept fifth-rounder Chris Clemons through a second contract but it was a one-year, fill-a-gap kind of deal and we all know Clemons is done with the Dolphins now.)

That brings me to the 2010 draft ...

First round pick Jared Odrick is still on the team as a sometimes starter and contributor. But his first contract is not complete yet. His deal expires after the coming season so it will be interesting to see if the Dolphins deem him worthy of a second contract.

Second round pick Koa Misi, a starter, got a second contract from the Dolphins. No, he's not a playmaker. He's not the pass-rusher the team billed him as when it drafted him. But, hey, judging against the return the 2008 and 2009 draft offered, Misi is a stud! (Yeah, not good.)

Interestingly, the Dolphins this offseason were very interested in signing guard Zane Beadles as a free agent before he went to Jacksonville for more money. Beadles was picked five slots behind Misi in 2010.

Guard John Jerry has not been offered a contract by the Dolphins and has been told to test the market, which is a huge indictment on him considering what a significant need offensive line help is for the Dolphins. Jerry was a key figure in the workplace harassment scandal involving Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito and his days as a Miami Dolphin are likely over unless the Dolphins become extremely, extremely desperate to find some guard help.

So that third round pick was a waste, especially when you consider ... yes, it's coming ... that tight end Jimmy Graham was picked 22 slots after Jerry in the third round.

Indeed, San Francisco picked Pro Bowl linebacker NaVorro Bowman 18 slots after the Dolphins picked Jerry. Tennessee picked Pro Bowl cornerback Alterraun Verner and Baltimore picked former Pro Bowl tight end Dennis Pitta one round after the Dolphins picked Jerry.

The Dolphins picked A.J. Edds in the fourth round in 2010. He never played for the team. The Cincinnati Bengals selected Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins the very next pick after Edds.

The 2010 draft is often shown to be something of an embarrassment to the Dolphins because of the players they took and the players listed above on which they passed. But compared to the disastrous 2008 and 2009 drafts, this one was actually a success.

That's because when all is said and done at least two players, and perhaps three depending on what happens with Odrick, will have been judged valuable enough to keep through their second contract: Misi and safety Reshad Jones.

I realize two and maybe three solid-but-not-great players staying on the team isn't exactly great return value for an entire draft. I suppose that's the reason the Dolphins are a mediocre team.

 

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