The Miami Dolphins got little production from their 2013 draft class. It was partially the reason Miami finished 8-8, missed the playoffs and fired general manager Jeff Ireland.
Now, the pressure is on new Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey not to duplicate Ireland’s mistakes. Miami needs immediate production from its '13 rookie class to take its team to the next level.
Here are some lessons to be learned from that class:
Address a need in first round: The Dolphins were aggressive on Day 1 of the draft. They traded up nine spots to No. 3 to select former Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan. Miami had Pro Bowler Cameron Wake and two up-and-coming defensive ends Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby already in the fold. But Ireland had been enamored with Jordan for a couple years and really wanted him, regardless of need. Ireland selected who he believed was the best available player. During the season, Jordan struggled to get consistent playing time, while other positions such as offensive tackle struggled mightily. Hickey must learn from this and take the best available player who fills a need.
Avoid lengthy injury histories: The Dolphins overlooked injuries for two players they really liked at the top of the draft. Jordan and second-round pick Jamar Taylor had various ailments coming into the draft. Both players spent the entire offseason rehabbing and it impacted training camp and ultimately their rookie year. The Dolphins and Hickey must avoid major medical red flags at the top of the draft. This is the best chance for Miami to get an immediate impact.
Avoid "tweener" players: Another mistake the Dolphins made in last year's draft was selecting several "tweeners," which are players who don't have a well-defined position in the NFL. Miami's coaching staff spent a lot of time last year figuring out if Dallas Thomas is a better guard or tackle and which linebacker spot was best for Jelani Jenkins? Even Jordan wasn't bulky enough to stop the run as a defensive end, and that significantly impacted his playing time. The Dolphins must draft players this year who immediately know their roles at the next level and what they're best at.
The 2014 season is crucial for a lot of people in the Dolphins’ organization. Miami head coach Joe Philbin enters the year in the hot seat after posting a 15-17 record in two seasons. Another losing year could cause repercussions for many in the organization.