If there’s one thing that anyone who’s ever worked in the front office of an NFL team, or anyone who’s covered the game long enough will tell you, it’s that the best way to build a contender whose window will stay open for a few years is through the draft. The process sounds simple; scout as much college talent as possible, make the decisions as a group who to pick and where to take them, draft the best fits for your team, develop them, and re-sign them when it comes time for that second contract. Obviously, it’s nowhere near that easy to do in practice and anyone who’s watched what the Dolphins have done on draft day over the last 15 or so years knows it’s not easy. We, as Dolphins fans, have seen bust after bust, bad draft classes as a whole, and some pretty bad, pretty stupid trades over the years. As difficult as it’s been to watch this team spin its wheels for so long, one of the biggest causes has been the decisions made in that war room once a year. But, in my opinion, the Dolphins may have finally turned a corner in the personnel department and in this article; I’ll be explaining my logic.

The first thing that needs to be gotten out of the way, for those who don’t know, is to lay out some of the big mistakes we’ve seen from this team in April (or May a couple years ago). The first mistake I’d like to point out wasn’t necessarily on the front office as much as it was Dave Wanstedt. When Dave Wanstedt was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins and Rick Speilman was the general manager, it was always a bit of a power struggle between the two. That power struggle was never more evident than on the first day of the 2003 draft, specifically the second round. A wide receiver who had a pretty good career that some of you may have heard of by the name of Anquan Bolden was available when it was time for the Dolphins to make their pick. Rick Speilman wanted to draft him, but was overruled by Wanstedt, who opted to take an outside linebacker out of (the University of) Florida named Eddie Moore. Moore never made an impact on this team; he was never healthy enough to. Knee problems kept him off the field during his three year stay in Miami and ultimately led to him being cut by Nick Saban after the 2005 season. Sadly, Moore was not the last bad decision the Dolphins made in the draft, not by a long shot.

The next two big blunders Miami made in the draft came in the first rounds of the 2006 and 2007 drafts in the form of Jason Allen and Ted Ginn Jr. Granted, Ginn has gone on to have a pretty nice career. After he was traded from the Dolphins to the 49’ers in 2009, he really became more of a complete receiver as opposed to the kick returning, blazing fast track star with a case of the butter fingers that he was in South Florida. Free Safety Jason Allen never amounted to anything period. He spent his first three years as a Dolphin not even being a full-time starter and doing absolutely nothing to change any game he ever played in. In his fourth season with the Dolphins, Tony Sparano’s staff moved him out to corner, he was cut a few games into the year, claimed by the Houston Texans, and was pretty much never heard from again. Speaking of the 2007 draft, there was also the pick of quarterback John Beck in the second round, anyone remember him? I didn’t think so. But oh wait, there’s more! We’re not done yet!

The next set of bad choices came in the 2009 draft. Cornerback Vontae Davis, who was our first-round pick, had himself a nice couple of years…after we traded him to the Colts in 2012. The main knock on Vontae was always his lack of maturity, which absolutely shined through when he retired at HALFTIME during the Bills-Chargers game last week.  One of our two second round picks were a quarterback named Pat White who was supposed to be our “Wildcat Quarterback” and take the wildcat formation to the next level and add more dimensions to it. That didn’t work too well. Pat White hardly ever saw the field, got a concussion against the Steelers the one time he did, and he was off the Dolphins roster and out of the league after ONE year. Our third-round pick in 2009 was wide receiver Patrick Turner (who?) and he was also off the roster in one year. As much as I wish I was done, I’m not.

I can’t finish up on pointing out our draft busts without mentioning probably the biggest bust to date for the Miami Dolphins; Deon Jordan. Deon Jordan (who does still play for the Seahawks primarily as a rotational guy) is a defensive end out of the University of Oregon who was the Dolphins first round pick in 2013. What made the pick even more of a disappointment was the fact that the Dolphins made a trade with the Raiders to move up from 12th to 3rd overall to draft him. I personally had high hopes for him. I envisioned him being our next great pass rusher, following in the footsteps of guys like Trace Armstrong, to Jason Taylor, to Cam Wake. Apparently, all the “experts” believed that same hype too. Boy, were we all wrong about this one! In Jordan’s rookie year, he missed some time with a shoulder injury and didn’t contribute hardly anything. In 2014, he missed the first half of the season because he tested positive for P. E. D.’s. He missed a bunch of time in 2015 and into 2016 because of failed drug tests in the NFL’s substance abuse program (weed, if I had to guess what for), and was cut last August by Adam Gase and company. I won’t even get into Jonathon Martin (2nd round offensive tackle, 2012), because we all know how that played out, and the guy’s got some problems. But, since I mentioned Adam Gase, now would be the time to start mentioning what the Dolphins have done right over the last couple years.

We’ll start with the 2016 draft, where the Dolphins were going to be picking eighth overall. The Dolphins ended up with the 13th overall pick thanks to a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles that brought cornerback Byron Maxwell and outside linebacker Kiko Alonso to Miami. Things didn’t exactly work out with Maxwell; he was cut mid-season last year. As much as Dolphins fans seem to enjoy beating up on Kiko, he actually has been a pretty solid player for us and he’s also been the best linebacker on the team since he arrived here. I would move down five spots in the draft if it meant netting a Kiko Alonso. In the second round, we hit an absolute home run with the pick of cornerback Xavien Howard. Another pick that’s working out pretty well for Miami is running back Kenyan Drake in the third round of that same draft. There was also a sixth-round pick in that draft who was VERY raw when we took him, but he’s also the fastest guy on the team and has been developed into a pretty good receiver; Jakeem Grant.

The results of the 2017 and 2018 drafts have yet to be seen, but I think they’ll prove to be two draft classes well done. Our first-round pick in 2017, defensive end Charles Harris has the tools to be a good pass rusher, but it’s a little tougher for him to get on the field with as much talent that’s sitting above him on the depth chart. It was unfortunate when our second-round pick in that draft was lost to a knee injury and sidelined for his entire rookie year, but Raekwon McMillan is back at middle linebacker with something to prove. What can you say about Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor? A couple of defensive tackles picked in the fifth and sixth rounds respectively that are giving the Dolphins significant minutes in games and are looking especially stout against the run so far this year. There was also a seventh-round pick in 2017 that’s shown some flashes at wide receiver in Isaiah Ford.

The draft class that I’m really anticipating making waves in the coming years is this year’s draft class. Every pick filled a need and every pick in the first four rounds will turn out to be a contributor. I loved the pick of Minkah Fitzpatrick, because it gives us a center-fielder type of free safety that the team hasn’t had since the days of Brock Marion. On top of that, he’s obviously a very smart player. If Nick Satan…I mean, Saban trusts a true freshman enough to have him play every position in the secondary and start immediately, we’re talking about someone special. Taking Mike Gesicki in the second round was also a great pick up that gives us the kind of play maker at tight end that we haven’t seen since Randy McMichael. He just needs time to learn how to do it at the NFL level. I also think Jerome Baker in the third round will turn out to be a solid decision. Jerome has a ton of speed, but he’s a bit undersized for an NFL linebacker. I think Jerome will be just fine given a year to put on some muscle and adjust to the professional game. Our two fourth round picks; tight end Durham Smythe and running back Kalen Ballage also give the Dolphins some quality depth.

In 2018, there’s so much more to root for than just wins and losses. Yes, the record is very important and ultimately decides rather or not you’re “in the dance” come January, but there are many more things to keep an eye on this year. Obviously, I’m hoping for a good showing this season and a possible trip to the playoffs, much like everyone else who loves this team is. But, here are two reasons to root for a good year (besides the obvious reason); Adam Gase and Chris Greer getting to stay. Chris Greer seems to be making the right decisions in his first three drafts as the GM of the Dolphins and Adam Gase along with his coaching staff seem to be doing a good job of developing the young players they’re given. The Miami Dolphins are FINALLY following the formula for success AND they’re getting it right. So, here’s a really big reason to root for Gase and Greer to be able to stick around, so that they can finish building this house. IF our current front office and coaching staff are allowed to remain in place long enough to finish the job, THIS house just might end up with a Lombardi Trophy or two sitting on the mantle. As much as I’d love to go on a rant about the horrible job Mike Tannenbaum has done managing the salary cap, I’ll save that for a later date. I trust the process for the first time in a very long time. This is definitely something for Dolphins fans to ponder as the 2018 season goes on, especially if some losses start to mount. I see the light at the end of the tunnel and everyone else can too. You just have to look for it and you’ll see it.

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