Years from now when hindsight puts this NFL draft into focus, we’ll know if the Dolphins decision to improve on defense instead of turning the offense into a loaded point-manufacturing machine was the right way to go.
We’ll know if Dion Jordan was the right choice for Miami or if the other player the team truly coveted in the first round — West Virginia playmaker Tavon Austin — might have been the better pick.
We’ll know if general manager Jeff Ireland’s refusal to blink during a stare-down with Kansas City during the Branden Albert trade talks was the right way to go or if giving up a second-rounder to protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s blind side might have been smarter.
Just 48 hours after the Dolphins made their first pick this draft, we already know details about what might have been. And those details, as provided by a high-ranking Dolphins source, present the possibility of the Dolphins putting a very scary offense on the field.
Consider that if Ireland had gone a different direction on a couple of decisions, the 2013 playmakers on the Dolphins offense might have looked like this:
Wide receiver Mike Wallace, wide receiver Brian Hartline, slot receiver Tavon Austin, tight end Dustin Keller, running back Lamar Miller, and Tannehill at quarterback with Albert protecting his blind side.
It’s not a dream. It could have happened.
The team source familiar with Miami’s draft strategy said the Dolphins desperately wanted to pick Austin in the first round Thursday. Had they remained at No. 12 and had Austin been there, that would have been the pick, the source said.
And the source said if Austin had not been available at No. 12, which he was not, the plan was to select Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert.
So even without the Austin option at their disposal, the Dolphins were going with an upgrade to the offense.
It’s obviously not the way circumstances played out. The Dolphins instead tried to trade up to the No. 3 overall pick and when they succeeded (almost surprisingly) they selected the only player the club’s personnel department loved more than Austin:
The Dolphins picked the pass-rusher believing him the only choice better than Austin.
And that brought to a stop the ongoing building of the offense that began in free agency with the signing of Wallace and Keller and others. The Dolphins chose to improve the defense ahead of the offense.
And then they continued doing more of the same in the second round.
As Miami used one of its second-round picks to trade up for Jordan, it had one remaining pick in that second round. The Chiefs wanted that pick as the featured piece for sending Albert to the Dolphins.
The Dolphins need a left tackle. They’ve been trying to fill the void created by the loss of Jake Long in free agency. And Albert has been the player they’ve been chasing for over a month.
But Ireland and his team didn’t want to give up that second-rounder to the Chiefs. That’s probably the right move. But it’s also a move that might someday be second-guessed because instead of using it to get a proven NFL left tackle, Miami’s general manager used it to pick Boise State cornerback Jamar Taylor.
Taylor comes to the Dolphins with a reputation for rising from an average college player two years ago to a better player last year.
“If you look at it, I was OK and OK and then I kind of took off,” Taylor admitted.
Now Taylor says he plays with a “little dog in me.”
“I play with swagger,” he said. “I play kind of chippy. I like to talk stuff.”
That’s probably a good thing and it will undoubtedly prove entertaining. But Taylor isn’t a sure thing. He hasn’t proven himself NFL worthy.
Albert did that a long time ago.
Yet the Dolphins picked the defensive player over the blindside protector.
Understand that none of these decisions, taken individually, can legitimately be deemed wrong. The Dolphins, after all, took a core position player they slotted higher by drafting Jordan. They took a cornerback in the second round and that also was a significant need at a core position.
But together the view one gets is that Miami spent resources improving a defense that was seventh in the NFL in points allowed last year. And while doing so, the Dolphins stiff-armed the offense that was 27th in the NFL in points production.
In picking defense over offense, the Dolphins decided to help Cameron Wake while not adding more weapons for Ryan Tannehill.
That’s obviously a philosophical decision. And the club can certainly argue that most of free agency was spent improving the offense already.
But that argument won’t matter three or four years from now. By then we’ll know if Jordan truly was more worthy of Miami’s pick than Austin. By then there will be no debate whether adding an unproven Boise State cornerback was a better idea than adding a proven Kansas City Chiefs left tackle.
It’s going to be interesting.