Armando Salguero

Miami Dolphins could trade down this draft, but one scenario will definitely keep them from moving

Dolphins GM Chris Grier agrees this needs to be a ‘great draft’

Miami Dolphins GM Chris Grier agrees the 2019 NFL Draft needs to be a "great draft" for their rebuilding effort, April 17, 2019.
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Miami Dolphins GM Chris Grier agrees the 2019 NFL Draft needs to be a "great draft" for their rebuilding effort, April 17, 2019.

If you want a clue about the Miami Dolphins’ strategy in the 2019 NFL Draft, all you have to do is look at the past three drafts.

Those three drafts, like the one that begins next Thursday, were run by general manager Chris Grier. He had final say over those drafts and will again in this one.

And one pattern that has become apparent that Grier follows in the first round is looking for the player who drops. Because that player has been Grier’s guy in two of the past three drafts.

So what is the guy who’s dropping about?

Well, the Dolphins stack their board like every other team, and much of the time there’s near consensus among teams on the top five-to-seven prospects. But sometimes stuff happens and the draft takes consensus and tosses it out a window.

Sometimes the NFL’s appetite for quarterbacks will push down higher-rated, and perhaps more talented players as the quarterbacks are picked ahead of them.

Other times a freak circumstance days or even hours before the draft will cause players to drop. This happened years ago when LSU offensive lineman La’el Collins suddenly, and it turns out unfairly, became embroiled in a murder inquiry which scared teams away.

Collins, considered a first-round talent, dropped like iron in water on draft day and wasn’t selected at all.

So stuff happens. And Grier has pounced on such situations in two of his three previous drafts.

In 2016, the Dolphins believed offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil would be perhaps the first player selected. Surely, he would be picked in the top five, they thought. And then the infamous bong video was leaked.

And Tunsil plummeted.

The Dolphins, picking 13th, selected Tunsil because he was a huge value — video or not. They didn’t need a left tackle because Branden Albert was on the team. But the team simply could not pass on a player who had dropped right into their grasp.

Last year was a similar scenario. The Dolphins expected defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick to be selected in the top five-to-eight picks.

But the Cleveland Browns picked a quarterback.

The New York Jets picked a quarterback.

The Buffalo Bills traded ahead of Miami to pick a quarterback.

The Arizona Cardinals traded up to pick a quarterback.

And suddenly a player the Dolphins valued much earlier dropped to them at No. 11.

“...Last year we didn’t expect Minkah to be there at 11,” Grier said. “Again, once that happens, you kind of see how it starts to fall after the first seven or eight picks, maybe, and then you’ll start thinking, ‘OK, it looks like there may be four guys that we like that look like are there.’

“All right, as we get closer to our pick, you’re two picks away, ‘OK looks like there will be guys definitely available that we like,’ and then we’ll be aggressive trying to move back. Also, if there’s one or two guys we feel really good about and they fall into eight or nine of the picks, ‘Hey, maybe it’s worth us going to get this guy, because we feel that strongly as an organization.’ ”

Sounds complex to hear Grier explain it but it boils down to this: The Dolphins like to pick players they rate much higher if those players fall to them. And that remains true this year.

If a player the Dolphins believe is rated much higher than their No. 13 overall selection falls to them, they will likely pick the guy.

What’s interesting about that is there’s a dynamic at play this draft that didn’t necessarily exist in Miami’s three previous drafts. That is that Miami’s current roster is, how to say it delicately, not good.

This roster — lacking viable edge rushers, needing a legitimate starting right tackle and left guard, and needing a long-term starting quarterback — is an epic construction project.

So the temptation for Grier, indeed the pressure on Grier, will be to trade down from No. 13 in the first round and gather more resources so he can add enough players to fill the many voids.

That scenario played out in 2018 when owner Stephen Ross wanted Grier to trade down even as the general manager was ready to select Fitzpatrick. Ross wanted to add more talent.

And at that moment, Grier’s choice boiled down to quality versus quantity.

Grier elected quality. He decided Fitzpatrick was simply too good to exchange for multiple picks later in the draft. He took the player who improbably dropped on draft day.

“I would say you should always have — and again this is just me — a list of maybe a handful of guys that you definitely take no matter where,” Grier said. “They’re there, these are the guys you’re taking and these are the guys we feel are impact players.”

So no trade down for so-called impact players who drop. But if those guys are gone, the trade-down scenario looms as a strong possibility.

The question then becomes which players Grier see as ones “you definitely take no matter where?” Who are the players the Dolphins would be so thrilled to take that no trade-down scenario will interest them?

Don’t expect the exact names here. The Dolphins, like 31 other NFL teams, do not announce what players they love.

But one can guess:

Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, Alabama’s Quinnen Williams, Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen. Those are easy to deduce as being selected over a trade-down option. But it’s highly unlikely any of those three will be available at No. 13.

There are other players the Dolphins might select rather than choose to trade down, although it’s impossible to say with certainty.

That group might include Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor, probably Houston’s Ed Oliver and Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat, and perhaps Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard. Michigan’s Rashan Gary, Alabama’s Jonah Williams, Oklahoma’s Cody Ford and two inside linebackers, Devin White and Devin Bush, could also be part of this mix.

Regardless who’s on the list, history has shown if Grier sees a top talent unexpectedly on the board when he’s ready to pick, he’s not trading away the chance to take that player.

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