Greg Cote

Only May and already dreaming ahead, Dolphins draft reminds us we’re a Football Town again

Dolphin fans react after the team selects Charles Harris of Missouri during the Dolphins 2017 NFL Draft Party at Hard Rock Stadium on Thurs., April 27, 2017.
Dolphin fans react after the team selects Charles Harris of Missouri during the Dolphins 2017 NFL Draft Party at Hard Rock Stadium on Thurs., April 27, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

The arrival of May ushers in the ceremonial dog days for South Florida sports this year. Tumbleweeds roll across the landscape. Post-Dolphins draft, we see the Heat and Panthers watching the basketball and hockey playoffs on TV. We see the Marlins seemingly mediocre as usual and Hurricanes baseball the worst it has been in years.

We face a collective dry season until the fireworks of July, a month that will deliver MLB All-Star Week to Marlins Park, then Barcelona-Real Madrid soccer — El Clasico! — to Hard Rock Stadium, major festivals both.

Slow until then. So let’s wring the recent Miami Dolphins’ draft for a few more drops.

The bad news first:

The Dolphins’ quickest, most direct path to Super Bowl contention is still NFL realignment. I suggest, on the Fins’ behalf, a rejiggering along geographic lines, so the new division-mates would be the Buccaneers, Jaguars and either Falcons or Saints. Alas, no such thing appears imminent.

I previously have suggested the immediate forced retirement of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, or perhaps a sneak attack on Brady by a tire-iron wielding Tonya Harding. But those things also seem sadly unlikely.

Now the NFL Draft might have only widened the gulf separating New England and Miami. Post-draft Vegas betting odds find the Patriots bigger-than-ever favorites and the Dolphins just below mid-pack tied for 19th — largely because they’re stuck in the Pats-owned AFC East. Oh, and ESPN guru Mel Kiper Jr. draft grades lavished an “A” on New England and a “C-plus” for Miami, the rich getting richer.

The good news for Miami?

What the heck does Kiper know! What does anybody really know in the way of instant analysis of a draft? It’s a rhetorical question. Answer: Nuthin’!

Proof came in this year’s first round, when my own mock draft — to which I devote a few hours and minimal actual research — somehow netted eight bull’s-eye picks. Kiper and Todd McShay, who have made a year-round cottage industry of the draft, only had four each. Which is beyond absurd and only proves what a crapshoot the whole thing is. I mean the mock-drafting, the actual drafting, the knee-jerk grades — all of it.

Ryan Leaf went second overall. Brady lasted until late in the sixth round before finally being drafted right in between fellow QB legends Spergon Wynn and Todd Huska.

Draft misses and errant analysis are as common as getting it right.

Hark back only to 2013 for more recent proof.

Pass rusher Dion Jordan was everybody’s draft darling, an “it” guy. My own mock had him going second overall that year. So let’s not retrofit it. It was later Jordan became a controversial one, then a dumb one, then all-time awful. But back around this time in ’13, the Dolphins trading up to take Jordan third was met with broad, effusive praise and seen as bold. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock went as far as to liken Jordan favorably to Dolphins defensive icon Jason Taylor, which, as it turned out, was roughly akin to likening rancid dog food to filet mignon.

Jordan said upon his Miami introduction that he modeled his game after that of Lawrence Taylor. The rookie promised, “When the lights come on and when it’s game time, I turn it on.” We all believed him. We didn’t know any better. Didn’t know then that, alas, the lights would come on in his NFL career. That he would be a draft bust of Leaf-ian proportion.

It is human nature, though, our desire to instantly analyze, to issue grades. I’m guilty of feeding the appetite. I’m writing for the internet, not for a set of encyclopedias. So in my Herald blog I had a poll on what you thought of Miami making pass rusher Charles Harris its No. 1 pick and then another poll inviting you to grade the Dolphins’ overall draft.

Debate, argument, players going way early and others tumbling in freefall — these things make the NFL Draft, the very nexus of pro and college football, fascinating in its unpredictability and our need to dissect it as if it were the most important thing in the world. NFL Network and ESPN’s 2017 draft ratings were up appreciably from a year earlier.

This is true, too:

When the Heat has lost its star power and is out of the playoffs and when the Panthers have disappointed and the Marlins are mediocre, Miami finds itself a Football Town again.

Some of that is the Dolphins ending their playoff drought and Mark Richt bringing hope and fresh air to the Canes, and some of it is by default.

In any case, our fascination with who the Dolphins picked and how many Canes got drafted only underlined the deep hold this sport has on us in South Florida.

Seems natural, like an old friend has returned.

It is only May, and already we are dreaming of football.

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