Rebuilding Dolphins take win-later approach into draft
By STEVEN WINE
MIAMI (AP) Since last season the Miami Dolphins have parted with their top three quarterbacks, their leading rusher and top receiver, three veteran defensive ends and three starting offensive linemen, while adding no marquee free agents.
They went 7-9 in 2018 and are widely expected to be worse next season. Heading into the draft, the Dolphins' odds for winning the Super Bowl are 250 to 1, longest in the NFL.
Even so, they say they're not tanking under new coach Brian Flores, who replaced Adam Gase.
"From Day 1, when we made the change, we talked about building the foundation and building it up the right way," general manager Chris Grier says. "So that's all it is. There's no tanking."
Flores bristles at the word.
"To disrespect the game and use that term, it stirs something inside of me, to put that nicely," Flores says.
So the Dolphins say they want to win now. But as they pare payroll and stockpile 2020 draft picks, personnel decisions are being made with the goal to win later.
Here's how that approach will dictate decisions in the draft:
The Dolphins haven't been to the Super Bowl since the 1984 season, and in that time they've drafted one quarterback in the first round.
Probably not, but the trend is unlikely to change this year.
The Dolphins have the 13th pick, which probably puts the potential franchise QBs out of reach. So they're expected to wait until 2020 to use their top choice on a quarterback, which is why a lot of losses this season could have a huge long-term payoff in the form of a high pick.
Well-traveled veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick signed in March, and the Dolphins acknowledge he's merely a caretaker QB.
"At that position, you can never be satisfied until you have the guy you really feel can give you a chance to win a championship," Grier says.
Fitzpatrick replaces Ryan Tannehill, who failed to deliver a playoff win as the only quarterback to be drafted in the first round by Miami since Dan Marino.
Grier joined the Dolphins as a scout in 2000, which happens to be the most recent season they won a playoff game.
While Miami has been mired in mediocrity, Grier has climbed the company ladder and was promoted in February to oversee football operations. He has had final say on draft choices the past three years, but says he emphasizes collaboration.
"I'm not going to force a coach to take a player, because that doesn't work," Grier says. "It creates animosity and distrust."
Chances of a war room clash between Grier and Flores are slim because they've enjoyed a long friendship. Each started his NFL career as a scout for the Dolphins' AFC East nemesis, New England.
The Dolphins will need a lot of bulk to rebuild. Draft prognosticators have listed at least 10 offensive and defensive linemen as potential first-round picks by Miami.
The draft is deep in defensive linemen, and the best bet is Miami will take one from Clemson, with former Tigers teammates Clelin Ferrell and tackle Christian Wilkins both possibilities.
MOVING DOWN OR UP
The Dolphins might continue their accumulation of 2020 picks - they now have 10 - by trading down in the first round.
With so many roster holes to fill, it's unlikely they'll trade away multiple picks to move up.
"If there is a guy there that we like this year that we feel we need to go get, yeah, we will be aggressive trying to get him," Grier says. "But we'll also be smart about it. There is a limit to what you should do."
Bad draft decisions are a big reason for the Dolphins missing the playoffs 15 of the past 17 seasons. They haven't had a first-round pick make the Pro Bowl since center Mike Pouncey, who was drafted in 2011.
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Updated April 18, 2019