David J. Neal

Fins at 50: Miami Dolphins’ 50 greatest draft picks

Mark Clayton was an eighth round pick, No. 223 overall. Here he makes a touchdown against the Steelers at the AFC Championship on Jan. 6, 1984.
Mark Clayton was an eighth round pick, No. 223 overall. Here he makes a touchdown against the Steelers at the AFC Championship on Jan. 6, 1984. AP file

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50. David Woodley, QB, 1980, eighth round, No. 214 overall: Eighth-round quarterback with a mediocre arm? Practice squad fodder. But mobility, moxie and opportunity made Woodley the starting quarterback link between Bob Griese and Dan Marino. He took over a rebuilding Dolphins offense as a rookie and, with considerable help from backup Don Strock, quarterbacked the Dolphins into two playoff appearances and a Super Bowl before Marino was drafted.

49. Ed Perry, TE, 1997, sixth round, No. 177 overall: Perry made only 39 catches for 709 yards and two touchdowns, and all in his first three years. But the Dolphins got eight years of dependable long snapping out of Perry. You might not think that’s a big deal. Ask any NFL coach, punter, kicker and holder what they think.

48. Channing Crowder, LB, 2005, third round, No. 70 overall: A six-year starter who didn’t make many impact plays. During his last four seasons, he ran the defense with an intelligence obscured by his public jocularity and underestimated by all except teammates and coaches.

47. Reshad Jones, S, 2010, fifth round, No. 163 overall: A four-year starter at safety with eight interceptions during the past three seasons.

46. Louis Oliver, S, 1989, first round, No. 25 overall: A big hitter who started 92 of 105 games in seven Dolphins seasons. His 24 interceptions included a club-record 103-yard pick six in hated Buffalo. Yeah, he couldn’t cover Andre Reed in the playoffs. Many couldn’t, and Oliver shouldn’t have been asked to do so.

45. Jarvis Williams, S, 1988, second round, No. 42 overall: Williams made 83 starts and 14 interceptions in a six-year career.

44. Jim Mandich, TE, 1970, second round, No. 29 overall: Didn’t start as many games (20) as you might think, but the Dolphins usually opened games with blocking tight end Marv Fleming. Though they passed sparingly most of Mandich’s eight Dolphins seasons, he had 121 receptions for 1,406 yards and 23 touchdowns. He made big catches when needed in both Super Bowl wins.

43. Mike Kozlowski, S, 1979, 10th round, No. 272 overall: The Dolphins turned a 10th-round college tailback into an NFL safety who played for eight seasons and intercepted five passes.

42. Yeremiah Bell, S, 2003, sixth round, No. 213 overall: Injured and on the practice squad in 2003, the almost comic-book jacked Bell teetered toward the oblivion into which most sixth-round picks fall. Special teams play kept him on the roster until he became a starter in 2006. Bell started all but one game from 2008 to 2011.

41. Brandon Fields, P, 2007, seventh round, No. 225 overall: In eight seasons, Fields can boast of one Pro Bowl and a significant role in several offense-light Dolphins wins (particularly in the Meadowlands) as well as being a dependable holder for the Dolphins’ kickers.

40. Larry Seiple, P/RB, 1967, seventh round, No. 163 overall: Seiple punted for 11 seasons and led the 1969 Dolphins in receiving while moonlighting as a tight end. But on his most famous play, the former Kentucky running back raced 37 yards with a fake punt to jump-start the Dolphins offense in the 1972 AFC Championship Game against Pittsburgh.

39. William Judson, CB, 1981, eighth round, No. 206 overall: From 1983 to 1988, Judson started every Dolphins game (except for the 1987 strike replacement player games), then started 14 of 16 in 1989. His 24 interceptions tie him for sixth in franchise history.

38. J.B. Brown, CB, 1989, 12th round, No. 315 overall: Perhaps the ultimate value pick, Brown, who would be an undrafted free agent today, started 87 games and picked off 16 passes during eight seasons.

37. Bryan Cox, LB, 1991, fifth round, No. 113 overall: Not as crazy as you think and better than expected. Five seasons as a starter and three Pro Bowls from a fifth-round pick keeps a scout employed. Even if the player sets the pre-Rodney Harrison standard for NFL fines, most famously for spitting at and flipping off Buffalo fans.

36. Joe Rose, TE, 1980, seventh round, No. 186 overall: The 1980s Super Bowl teams continued the franchise’s tradition of job sharing at tight end. Rose handled the pass catching. His 112 catches for 1,493 yards and 13 touchdowns led the tight ends during his six years and he caught 18 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns in 11 playoff games.

35. Jim Jensen, QB/RB/WR, 11th round, No. 291 overall: “Crash,” a college quarterback, only threw seven NFL passes but became a jack of all trades. He caught 229 passes for 2,171 yards and 19 touchdowns and ran for 142 yards (5.5 per carry) in 12 seasons.

34. Troy Vincent, CB, 1992, first round, No. 7 overall: Smart decision to draft Vincent. Not as smart to let him leave as a free agent after four seasons, 53 starts and 14 interceptions, including leading the team in pickoffs his last two seasons.

33. Doug Crusan, OT, 1968, first round, No. 27 overall: When you take a first-round tackle, you want him to start 62 games over seven seasons, including all the games as your franchise goes from doormat to Super Bowl team. Crusan started 10 games during The Perfect Season.

32. Jon Giesler, OT, 1979, first round, No. 24 overall: Before Richmond Webb handled the left tackle position for a decade, Giesler did so through most of the 1980s. He started 105 games, including all 57 from 1981 to 1984, which covers the last two Dolphins Super Bowl seasons.

31. Tim Bowens, DT, 1994, first round, No. 20 overall: The Dolphins traded four spots back and drafted Bowens. Opponents chose cheap shots judiciously with the strongest player in Dolphins history glowering across the line. Jason Taylor often has said to him, “TimBo hung the moon.” In his first nine seasons, Bowens played 142 of 144 games, started 140 and made two Pro Bowls as one of the NFL’s best run stuffers.

30. Don Strock, QB, 1974, fifth round, No. 111 overall: Good help is hard to find in the fifth round. But Strock helped keep the Dolphins in playoff contention in 1975 behind Bob Griese; helped get them to the playoffs in 1979 by starting four games behind Griese; and in 1981 as part of “Woodstrock” with David Woodley. He ended a 14-year career helping teach a young Dan Marino.

29. Lloyd Mumphord, CB, 1969, 16th round, No. 401 overall: Most 16th-round picks might as well be snowflakes in July. Mumphord led the Dolphins in interceptions as a rookie, started 33 games through six seasons and blocked a Dolphins record seven field-goal attempts.

28. Howard Twilley, WR, 1966, 12th round, No. 101 overall: The round is a bit misleading as this was the last year of split AFL and NFL drafts. Twilley came out of Tulsa, college’s most wide-open offense back then, and wound up the possession receiver on the most ground-bound Super Bowl champion. He caught 212 passes for 3,064 yards and 23 touchdowns in his 11 Dolphins seasons.

27. OJ McDuffie, WR, 1993, first round, No. 25 overall: Not fast or flashy, although he did have two punt return touchdowns as a rookie. McDuffie mainly moved chains while being tough as a chain for nine seasons. He led the Dolphins in receiving three times and made 415 catches, fourth in franchise history.

26. John Offerdahl, LB, 1986, second round, No. 52 overall: People too often forget that bad teams/units can include very good players. Offerdahl’s the reminder. Terrible Dolphins defenses didn’t prevent Pro Bowl selections in each of Offerdahl’s first five seasons, four times as a starter.

25. Glenn Blackwood, S, 1979, eighth round, No. 215 overall: You get a good training camp rendition of 99 Luft Balloons from an eighth-rounder, it exceeds expectations. The better of the two Blackwood brothers started 99 games. His 41 total takeaways (29 interceptions, 12 fumble recoveries) rank third in Dolphins history.

24. A.J. Duhe, LB, 1977, first round, No. 13 overall: Say the name, watch Jet fans recoil as they recall his 35-yard pick six plod through the mud in the 1982 AFC Championship Game. But that three-interception day often overshadows an eight-season career of 90 starts, 38.5 sacks, a Pro Bowl and an AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

23. Kim Bokamper, LB, 1976, first round, No. 18 overall: Bokamper’s nine-year career is an early link in the evolution of outside linebackers. He started four years as a big outside linebacker, made a Pro Bowl, then started four years at defensive end during the Killer Bs era.

22. Tim Foley, CB, 1970, third round, No. 55 overall: Before Sam (Madison) & Pat (Surtain) in the 1990s, the Dolphins had Tim & Curtis (Johnson) on the corners in the 1970s. Each finished his Dolphins career with 22 interceptions. Foley started 109 games at cornerback and strong safety over 11 seasons and was selected to one Pro Bowl.

21. Curtis Johnson, CB, 1970, fourth round, No. 81 overall: Defense: Johnson started 113 games in nine seasons and made 22 interceptions. Special teams: he blocked a team-record nine kicks. Hair: nobody’s Afro poofed out better upon helmet removal.

20. Patrick Surtain, CB, 1998, second round, No. 44 overall: A year after drafting Sam Madison, in the exact same spot, the Dolphins got the other half of their set of Pro Bowl cornerbacks. Surtain’s 29 interceptions rank fourth in Dolphins history. He was selected to two Pro Bowls in seven seasons.

19. Sam Madison, CB, 1997, second round, No. 44 overall: Knife-slim but thick with confidence, Madison intercepted 31 passes in nine seasons, third in Dolphins history. He was selected to three Pro Bowls and went to a fourth as an injury replacement for, of course, Patrick Surtain.

18. Vern Den Herder, DE, 1971, ninth round, No. 230 overall: What do you expect out of the ninth round and/or Central College in Iowa? Not a starter for 143 of 148 regular-season games at defensive end from 1972 to 1981, including all 28 regular-season games on the Dolphins’ two Super Bowl winners.

17. Jim Kiick, RB, 1968, fifth round, 118th overall: The Sundance Kid to Larry Csonka’s Butch Cassidy from their drafting to their 1975 World Football League money chase that broke up the Dolphins. The best receiver of the Dolphins’ running back trio caught 221 passes in seven seasons, more than any Dolphins wide receiver or tight end during the same span.

16. Mercury Morris, RB, 1969, third round, No. 63 overall: At Division II West Texas State, the Dolphins found a breakaway back who averaged 5.1 yards per carry over seven seasons and rushed for 1,954 yards and 22 touchdowns during the two Super Bowl-winning years. Morris took three kickoffs back to the house, to boot.

15. Nat Moore, WR, 1974, third round, No. 78 overall: Moore’s 13-season career started with Griese and ended with Dan Marino. He led the Dolphins in receiving six consecutive seasons. His 510 catches rank third behind the Marks Brothers, and his 74 touchdown catches second only to Mark Clayton in Dolphins history.

14. Keith Sims, OG, 1990, second round, No. 39 overall: Few teams remade a side of their offensive line in one draft as well the Dolphins did in 1990 with Richmond Webb and Sims. Sims made three Pro Bowls in eight seasons.

13. Richmond Webb, OT, 1990, first round, No. 9 overall: Webb’s Job No. 1 from Day One: protect Dan Marino’s backside. For Marino’s last 10 years, Webb protected better than the Secret Service, come hell or Bruce Smith. Webb combined quality and quantity: his first seven seasons, he made seven Pro Bowls and started 110 of 112 games. In 11 Dolphins seasons, he started 163 of 176 games.

12. Dick Anderson, S, 1968, third round, No. 73 overall: Anderson and Jake Scott performed alchemy for defensive backs: they made plays and rarely made mistakes. Anderson, the 1973 NFL Defensvie Player of the Year, holds the franchise record for playoff interceptions (five), total takeaways (51) and is one behind Scott in regular-season interceptions (34).

11. Bob Baumhower, DT, 1977, second round, No. 40 overall: The best of the Killer Bs Defense made five Pro Bowls in a 10-season career. His 17 fumble recoveries tie for second in franchise history.

10. Bill Stanfill, DE, 1969, first round, No. 11 overall: The nickname No-Name Defense did no justice to Stanfill, a four-time Pro Bowler. Quarterbacks knew his name. In eight 14-game seasons, when 25 dropbacks a game counted as gunslinging, Stanfill compiled 67.5 sacks, now second in Dolphins history.

9. Mark Duper, WR, 1982, second round, No. 52 overall: Duper flew out of Northwestern State. Once the Dolphins drafted Dan Marino a year later, passes could catch up to him. In addition to a franchise-record 8,869 receiving yards, Duper scored 59 touchdowns on his 511 catches over 11 Dolphins seasons as half of The Marks Brothers.

8. Larry Csonka, RB, 1968, first round, No. 8 overall: Zonk embodied the essence of the 1970s Dolphins offense: relentless, strong, but with shirt tail out and a hearty free-spirited laugh. The Hall of Famer’s 6,737 rushing yards don’t include 891 playoff yards or 145 as Super Bowl 8 MVP. Ask the Vikings if those yards count.

7. Bob Griese, QB, 1967, first round, No. 4 overall: To think many Dolphins fans wanted University of Florida Heisman winner Steve Spurrier. The 1970s Dolphins mainly ran to three Super Bowls, winning two, but their Hall of Fame quarterback also led the AFC in passing twice and, in an era when quarterbacks called the plays, ran the Dolphins offense brilliantly for 13 years.

6. Zach Thomas, LB, 1996, fifth round, No. 154 overall: Being only 5-10 pushed Thomas down to the fifth round. Nobody measured his toughness, his love for studying the game (the CIA would envy his comprehensive files on quarterbacks and offensive coordinators) or unceasing demands of perfection from himself. He led the team in tackles 10 times in his 12 Dolphins seasons and made seven Pro Bowls.

5. Jake Scott, S, 1970, seventh round, No. 159 overall: Completely individualistic and coarse, Scott infuriated some coaches (particularly Don Shula) almost as much as he did opposing quarterbacks. They tolerated him because he made five Pro Bowls and a still-standing Dolphins career-record 35 interceptions in six seasons. Yeah, Super Bowl 7 MVP with two interceptions, but even NFL Films said that should have been Manny Fernandez.

4. Mark Clayton, WR, 1983, eighth round, No. 223 overall: With a full offseason to work with Dan Marino after their rookie year, this half of The Marks Brothers did his part for the phenomenal 1984 season with a then-NFL record 18 touchdown catches. When he finished as a Dolphin after 1992, Clayton held still-standing franchise records for catches (550) and touchdowns (81).

3. Jason Taylor, DE, 1997, third round, No. 73 overall: Being skinny and from Akron U. kept Taylor on the board. Being fast, long of limb and athletic will put him in the Hall of Fame. It seemed like JT specialized in impact plays over 13 Dolphins seasons: 131 sacks, 27 fumble recoveries (NFL record six returned for touchdowns) and eight interceptions (three TD returns). The 2006 NFL Defensive Player of the Year was selected to six Pro Bowls.

2. Dwight Stephenson, C, 1980, second round, No. 48 overall: When the Dolphins reached Super Bowl 19, a San Francisco coach told one of his linemen Stephenson was the best center — ever. His Hall of Fame career got aborted late in his eighth season when he sustained broken leg on a hit from the Jets’ Marty Lyons, a friend and former college teammate.

1. Dan Marino, QB, 1983, first round, No. 27 overall: Only in Miami can the NFL team say “thank goodness for drug use rumors.” Those caused Marino, considered NFL quality the year before as a college junior at Pitt, to slide down the first round. The Dolphins snapped up perhaps the greatest pure passer in NFL history, a 17-year starter who destroyed the NFL record book in a Hall of Fame career.

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