Armando Salguero

Dolphins say they will pick best player available in NFL Draft

The Miami Dolphins might select UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, perhaps even move up in the first round to take him because he might be the best available player when they pick during the NFL Draft’s first round.
The Miami Dolphins might select UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, perhaps even move up in the first round to take him because he might be the best available player when they pick during the NFL Draft’s first round. AP

The Miami Dolphins might select UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, perhaps even move up in the first round to take him because he might be the best available player when they pick during the NFL Draft’s first round. And that’s a good thing.

The Dolphins might instead draft Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott because they’ve visited with him, they’ve been impressed with his tape and measurables, and everyone agrees he might be the highest-graded player on their board when they pick in the first round. And that’s a good thing, too.

So the Dolphins are all about picking the best available player (BAP for our purposes) this coming draft. They said as much five times in 20 minutes during an NFL mandated predraft news conference Friday.

Executive vice president for football operations Mike Tannenbaum made the point once, so he’s obviously sold on the idea of picking the best available player. And general manager Chris Grier repeated it four times so he’s really, really, really, really all about drafting the BAP.

But what was left unsaid is the Dolphins are also going to draft for need. Because everyone does. Because failing to do so could leave the gaping holes in Miami’s roster unplugged.

I mean, could you imagine if this draft passes and the team doesn’t add a cornerback or two?

Teams rarely admit they draft for need because it tells other teams what direction they’re heading. “We always take the best player,” Grier firmly established over and over.

That merely signals to other teams the Dolphins are open to drafting just about anyone. That’s covert. That’s smart.

The thing is, the Dolphins might draft the best available player, which is good. And they’ll also draft for need, which is good.

But the fact the team will likely be doing both at the same time signals bad things.

No, it has nothing to do with a clash of philosophy. The philosophies can easily coexist and always do.

The reason this is bad news is because the Dolphins have so many needs that the best player on their board might easily fill one of the leaking holes on the roster.

You know what that means?

The Dolphins have multiple leaking holes on the roster in need of filling by whatever best available player they can find.

Jack, for example, is a strong-side linebacker savant. Were it not for his meniscus knee injury and surgery last year, he might otherwise be selected before the draft is an hour old the first night. But the knee is indeed a question so he might slide.

(Pray, Dolphins fans.)

If Jack slides, he might be the BAP on Miami’s board. But that BAP would also fill a need because the Miami linebacker corps was bad last season. And while the addition of Kiko Alonso alleviates the problem somewhat, a defensive coach told me the team needed “two” linebackers this offseason.

And Myles, fast enough to cover a slot receiver and big enough to cover a tight end such as Rob Gronkowski, fills that big need.

Elliott, who might go in the top-10 picks, also might drop to the within reach of the Dolphins at No. 13 overall. So he might be Miami’s BAP at that point.

But guess what? If the Dolphins draft him, he’d immediately become their starting running back because the Dolphins need a running back.

This exercise extends to cornerback, defensive end and even guard if you’ve noticed Ryan Tannehill has been the most sacked quarterback in the NFL the past four years. This exercise even extends to more than one linebacker spot because Alabama’s Reggie Ragland, a middle linebacker, could easily be Miami’s BAP when it picks.

And he, too, would fill a need.

The Dolphins have glaring, glowing-in-neon needs at multiple positions, folks. The Dolphins refused to admit it Friday, instead talking up players on the roster now who are likely to be cut during training camp.

Tannenbaum made the point Friday the Dolphins are “not one player away.” How many players away are they then, he was asked rhetorically. And away from what?

Everyone chuckled.

Except this isn’t a laughing matter: The Dolphins are not one player away because they are half-a-dozen really good starting players away from being better than the New England Patriots, the team that has dominated the AFC East since this millennium dawned.

Two cornerbacks.

A running back.

A guard.

A linebacker.

A defensive end.

The Dolphins should want to find BAPs to fill those needs.

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