The decision facing Bill Parcells in his final NFL Draft with the Dolphins was a difficult one.
Should he and Jeff Ireland keep the 12th overall choice and take a potential blue-chip prospect such as Earl Thomas or Jason Pierre-Paul? Or should they trade down to the 28th and 40th picks to select two players, filling multiple needs?
Parcells opted for the latter in 2010, seizing on San Diego’s desire to move up to draft running back Ryan Mathews. Now two and a half years later, the merits of that decision can still be debated.
Jared Odrick and Koa Misi, Miami’s selections with those picks, have become competent starters. So it cannot be said that trading down was an egregious mistake.
But it also cannot be called a brilliant stroke, either, because the Dolphins passed on at least one All-Pro player at a high-demand position: Pierre-Paul, who was plucked by the Giants with the 15th pick and has 27 1/2 sacks in 2 1/2 seasons, including 16 1/2 last season and 6 1/2 this season.
The good news: Misi has improved in his third year, and Odrick has been stout against the run and had a key sack to force a Seattle punt that set the stage for the Dolphins’ game-winning drive last Sunday.
Among players selected between 12 and 27 in 2010, a bunch have been productive: Seahawks safety Thomas at 14 (nine interceptions in three years); Pierre-Paul; 49ers guard Mike Iupati at 17 (not that Miami could have justified taking a guard at 12); and Steelers Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey at 18 (the Dolphins drafted a comparable player, his brother Mike, a year later).
Also there is: Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon at 19 (162 tackles in 2 1/2 seasons); Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham at 21 (47 catches for 558 yards this season); Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas at 22 (61 for 1,015 this season); Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga at 23 (made All-Rookie Team); Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant at 24; and Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty at 27 (12 interceptions in 2 1/2 seasons).
Was passing on Bryant to trade down a mistake? Depends on how much stock a team puts in off-field issues. The Cowboys require Bryant to follow a strict set of guidelines, including a midnight curfew, in the wake of his arrest last summer on a domestic violence charge involving his mother.
Bryant has 15 touchdown catches since the start of 2011 — including six this season, with 65 receptions for 880 yards — but also has been prone to fumbles and drops. And at least Miami didn’t stay at 12 to pick Brandon Graham (15 tackles, one start for the Eagles this season) or Derrick Morgan (6 1/2 career sacks for the Titans).
As for Odrick, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle called his game against Seattle his best of the season. The key sack was encouraging because he entered the game with only two.
Among defensive ends who play in a 4-3, Pro Football Focus ranks Odrick 61st and last in pass rushing but 20th against the run.
“There have been too many times I’ve been too close and just missed a big play,” said Odrick, who had five sacks as a part-time starter in 2011. “I’m putting myself in the right position. [But] I’ve made leaps and bounds in the run game.”
Whereas Odrick is 310 pounds, Miami’s other starting end — Cameron Wake — is 258.
“You do realize you’re one of the biggest, if not the biggest, right ends in the league,” Odrick said. “It’s a challenge my coaches gave me and a challenge I’m giving myself to hold myself to a higher standard even though I’m a heavier end.”
Odrick estimates he has moved inside, to tackle, on about a quarter of his snaps.
“We like that he’s done a lot of jobs,” coach Joe Philbin said. “He can fit into a lot of places in the defense.”
Like Odrick, Misi also has been capable against the run, ranking 10th among 43 linebackers in a 4-3 defense, according to Pro Football Focus. He struggled against the pass early but not during the past month in limited opportunities in coverage.
He also has 2 1/2 sacks and has adjusted well to playing outside linebacker in a 4-3. He has become a reliable starter, though the Dolphins in retrospect can be questioned for not drafting tight end Rob Gronkowski, who went to the Patriots two picks after Misi.
“You look at the work Koa’s put in to be a role player in this defense — he’s been very productive, done all the things right,” Wake said.