Before this day is out we might see how much of a trader and perhaps a gambler Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey is willing to be while running his first NFL Draft.
Sources around the NFL are saying, insisting actually, that Hickey wants to trade out of the Dolphins’ No. 19 overall selection in the first round. That makes sense because the players the Dolphins covet either are not going to be available more than midway through the round or aren’t a value pick that early.
So Hickey spent much of the past few days on the phone discussing trade-up as well as trade-down scenarios. He was “setting the table,” as one source said.
And while the idea of a trade-up scenario sounds exciting, suggests an aggressive approach and will likely be applauded by fans at the team’s draft party, that approach taken beyond limits is exactly wrong.
Think this way:
Significant trade up bad.
Trade down good.
So why is a trade-up situation a no-win proposition for Hickey and the Dolphins?
Because it only makes sense if A). The Dolphins are one player from being in the playoffs. B). It’s only a good idea if the targeted player is a playmaker, someone who directly affects the outcome of games.
And on both counts it seems that’s not the case for the Dolphins. One source is telling the Miami Herald the object of Hickey’s trade-up scenario is Notre Dame’s Zack Martin.
Martin, nearly 6-5 and 308 pounds, is “one of the cleanest prospects in this draft when you combine ability, character, intelligence and leadership,” one scout said recently.
Martin was a captain at Notre Dame. He works hard. He’s a “yes sir, no sir,” type of young man and that atop the fact he can play is exactly what the Dolphins hope for as they exit the nuclear winter of the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin scandal.
Martin would join Branden Albert as the faces of a new, smarter offensive line that would make fans proud.
Martin is not a quarterback who will throw touchdown passes.
He’s not a cornerback who will intercept passes.
He’s not a big-play receiver.
He’s not even a left tackle who protects the quarterback’s right side.
Martin would be a right tackle for some pro teams, and many NFL scouts say he best projects to guard in a zone-blocking scheme like Miami’s.
And while that might be worth a pick in the first dozen selections, there should be vigorous debate within the Dolphins whether a guard not named Larry Allen merits giving up an extra second-rounder or combo third- and fourth-round picks to move up.
That’s exactly what it would cost for the Dolphins to spring from No. 19 to, say, No. 11 where the Tennessee Titans are scheduled to pick.
Why such a steep climb for Martin? Because the New York Giants (picking No. 12), the Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 15), and the Baltimore Ravens (No. 17) all might be tempted to take Martin before the Dolphins can get him at 19.
Please understand: While Martin might be worth the selection at No. 11 or 12, the Dolphins’ cost would be prohibitive because of the added pick or picks it would require.
Such a trade might solidify one position but at the cost of mortgaging other significant issues that could be addressed with those second- or third-round selections.
So what should Hickey do if Martin is his target but he’s unable to manage a trade up to get him? What happens if he knows he’s going to be sitting at No. 19 and the players he likes are either gone or not a value selection that high?
Trade down. Please.
Dolphins fans accustomed to expecting the worst out of a draft hate the idea of trading down because they have rarely seen the value of passing on one higher pick for a couple of lower ones. I refer those folks to the 2010 draft where the Dolphins traded down, letting San Diego pick running back Ryan Mathews, and in return they got Jared Odrick later in the first round and added a second-round pick that netted Koa Misi.
The Dolphins on Thursday are in a position that even if they trade down, they still are likely to get one of the players they value later in the draft — such as Ja’Wuan James or Morgan Moses, who unlike Martin actually project as tackles.
The Dolphins have a list of players they would also happily take at No. 19 if it came to it. That list might include Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller, and perhaps Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, although his durability is a concern.
Sticking at No. 19 would set the Dolphins up for picking a right tackle or guard in the second round. That’s where names such as Joel Bitonio and Cyrus Kouandjio begin to resonate.
Whatever way Hickey attacks it, he must emerge from this draft with a starting right tackle. Failure to address that spot means a failure to give the Dolphins a functional offensive line from one side to the other.
(Banking on Jason Fox to be that guy would be hoping Fox could do something he has never done in four previous NFL seasons.)
That’s not how a general manager who is a good trader or a gambler would do it.