Dennis Hickey, to much of the NFL, remains a mystery man. That will change by close of league business Thursday.
Hickey, in his first draft as a general manager, owns a mediocre first-round pick — 19th overall. How he uses it will shape perceptions — and perhaps his team’s 2014 fortunes.
As it currently stands, Hickey and the Dolphins will go on the clock some time in the 10 p.m. hour. The problem: the elite players will have been off the board by then, and much of the second tier will probably be gone, too.
That’s why there’s a growing belief in league circles that the Dolphins will package a deal and go get someone they truly like Thursday night. And that player is probably versatile Notre Dame lineman Zack Martin.
The Dolphins, historically bad in pass protection a year ago, covet four offensive tackles — Martin, Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan.
Miami’s dream scenario is Martin falling to No. 19. If so, he would be the Dolphins’ starting left guard if the oft-injured Jason Fox (a free agent acquisition this offseason) can hold up physically, and their right tackle if he cannot.
But draft expert Mel Kiper, like most, expects the top tackles to get plucked up long before the Dolphins pick.
The conventional wisdom has been that in that scenario, the Dolphins trade back and target Ja’Wuan James or Morgan Moses. And that could still happen.
But at the 11th hour Wednesday, there were renewed signs that, should the draft fall right, Hickey will go get Martin if he’s available.
The sense in league circles Wednesday was that, with the top quarterbacks expected to slide, several teams will try to move up in the draft to get wide receivers and offensive linemen. The Dolphins are believed to be one of those teams. A jump into the top 10 would presumably require giving up a second-round pick in arguably the best draft in a decade.
Is Hickey the type of GM to make such a costly trade? We simply don’t know.
Hickey, always guarded with the media, perhaps intentionally planted a seed last week, saying: “I always want more picks.”
The only way to get those additional selections is to trade down.
Should the Dolphins move back, which appears to be Plan B, they would likely target James or Moses. Other first-round possibilities include linebackers Ryan Shazier and C.J. Mosley and wide receivers Marqise Lee and Odell Beckham Jr.
All have their flaws, however slight. Not surprising. That has been the mixed history of the No. 19 pick for as long as they’ve been selecting players.
Sure, there have been some true gems found at the 19 spot, but it has been a 50-50 proposition — at best.
For every Marvin Harrison (star wideout with Indianapolis), there’s a Kyle Boller (complete bust at quarterback for the Ravens).
The NFL has been drafting players since 1936. Since then, just two players taken 19th overall have reached the Hall of Fame — cornerback Roger Wehrli and offensive guard Randall McDaniel.
This century, the contrast has been even more stark. Of the 14 players selected at 19 since 2000, just four have reached the Pro Bowl. And only seven are still in the league. Who remembers the names Ashley Lelie and Jeff Otah? Only the most dedicated fan.
The Dolphins have actually had relatively good fortune at the spot. They took linebacker Kim Bokamper in 1976 and offensive lineman Vernon Carey in 2004.
Bokamper turned out to be a great pick. He was a member of the Killer B’s defense, made the Pro Bowl and last year was inducted into the team’s Walk of Fame. Carey was a contributor in his eight seasons, but never a star.
Will Hickey go get a star Thursday? It certainly sounds like he’s going to try.