Chris Grier has final say over the Miami Dolphins draft that begins a week from Thursday. And if you’re wondering how that’s different from the past three years he’s been the club’s general manager you have an answer now.
Because there is no difference.
Grier, you see, had final say over the Miami drafts in 2016. And 2017. And 2018.
“Yes, I did,” he said Wednesday during his fourth annual pre-draft press conference. “It was a collaboration. As you know me, I’m not going to force a coach to pick a player. That doesn’t work. If a coach doesn’t want a player and I say, ‘No, we’re taking him,’ and then it works out one way or the other, it creates that animosity and the distrust. And it’s not worth it.
“You’ve been here long enough, you’ve seen a lot of that happen. So I’m not going to force any player on anyone. But, yes, I had final say.”
So will Grier, who has full control of the entire Dolphins football operation now, approach the 2019 draft differently than he did when Adam Gase was coach and Mike Tannenbaum was the team’s executive vice president and both had powers Grier did not?
“No,” Grier said. “You know me, I’m going to be very collaborative. And that’s the only way it works. Again, you all have heard stories here and stuff from the past. It’s a combination of coaching staff and personnel having the same vision, getting on the same page together, picking the players we feel are good fits for us as an organization.”
This is interesting because the Dolphins are rebuilding. And so much is new.
The head coach is new. His staff is new. The quarterback is new. The philosophy to rebuilding the team is new.
But amid all the new stuff, the man responsible for putting it all together in the draft is the same one who put together the past three drafts.
Those past three drafts were Grier’s babies as much as this year’s draft will be.
And during those three years, the Dolphins had good drafts and not-so-good. Consider:
The 2016 draft that included left tackle Laremy Tunsil, cornerback Xavien Howard, running back Kenyan Drake and receiver Jakeem Grant as a sixth-round selection was very good.
Tunsil is Pro Bowl caliber in everything except the actual recognition. Howard is, in fact, a Pro Bowl player. And the other two guys have made plays during their three years.
But while Grier’s first draft was stellar, his next one wasn’t based on what the players have shown on the field.
The 2017 draft was supposed to fix the defense but didn’t. First rounder Charles Harris has been a disappointment. So has third-round pick Cordrea Tankersley, who is still trying to get fully right after tearing his Achilles tendon last year.
Second-rounder Raekwon McMillan will start his third season as something of a question mark.
A case could be made the best picks in 2017 were defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor, who were picked in the fifth and sixth rounds.
The 2018 draft is still not in focus so it’s unfair to fully judge. But it seems first round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick is a very good addition while everyone else needs to improve as well as prove themselves.
That means Grier’s first three drafts combined can be described as solid but unremarkable.
(Reminds me of one of my columns).
The problem is that won’t do anymore. The team, you see, is more reliant on the draft now than at any time this century. Miami basically skipped free agency this year so the draft must fill whatever holes riddle the roster with the free agency net to overcome mistakes.
That means the Dolphins must hit home runs this draft.
Like grand slams.
Like 120 mph exit velocity shots that dent walls or break windows outside the ballpark.
And Grier understands this.
“For me the pressure is self-imposed,” he said. “I want every draft to be great, you know? I’m like everyone, I would like for every pick to work and have everyone saying how great a job you do. But it’s going to happen, you’re going to miss on guys and get criticized.
“But at the end of the day, when you build through the draft, it’s important. But the most important thing is that coaches and scouts are all on the same page of what we’re looking for so that we can try to eliminate the mistakes that are inevitably going to happen but you’re hopefully trying to limit to one per draft or so.”
Grier says he tries to find three starters every draft. That’s a very good draft if those players are not simply filling a space. Because there’s a big difference between starters filling a space (Tankersley his rookie season) and starters performing at a high level (Tunsil his rookie season).
The Dolphins badly need the former. They have seven picks this draft. It’s not likely the team will hit seven home runs.
But Grier seems to be aiming high.
“I’m sure like every team, we’d love to have seven starters,” he said. “As we all know it’s not always perfect in terms of picking human beings and projecting them from college to pro. We all know that’s not realistic, but if we can get three starters and good contributors as backups, we’d be happy with that.
“That’s always the goal to at least come out with hopefully three starters and hopefully the rest will be gravy.”