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Sunday, December 16, 2007
Dolphins' loss would clinch top pick in draft

By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

A loss at Baltimore on Sunday will bring the Miami Dolphins one step closer to the ignominy of the NFL's first-ever 0-16 season. It will also bring them a consolation prize of sorts: the first selection in the 2008 draft.

No other team in the league has fewer than three victories. With only two weeks remaining in the regular season, a Miami loss to the Ravens will mathematically eliminate all the other franchises from the dubious right to invest $60 million or more on an untested rookie.

Speculation and debate in South Florida have already begun about how the dismal Dolphins might best use the first overall selection in 2008. Although the evaluation process is still in early stages leaguewide, many scouts believe Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, who is expected to forgo his remaining college eligibility to enter the draft, will be the most coveted prospect.

But the Dolphins used the second overall choice in the 2005 draft to choose tailback Ronnie Brown and, even though he is rehabilitating from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the former Auburn star was establishing himself as one of the league's premier all-around backs before suffering his season-ending injury Oct. 21. That fact, and the likelihood none of the quarterback prospects are yet deemed worthy of being the top overall selection, might prompt the Dolphins to consider trade offers.

Adding to the intrigue are recent reports that frustrated Dolphins' owner Wayne Huizenga, who said Saturday he is not actively shopping the franchise, had discussed a potential sale of the team. Even if Huizenga keeps the Dolphins, he has promised a sweeping review of the football operation, which could lead to a front-office shakeup and the possibility that new personnel executives could be making the decision on the Dolphins' first-round choice.

Not since the advent of the common draft in 1967, as a precursor to the NFL-AFL merger, have the Dolphins had the top overall choice. They did own the first pick in the 1966 AFL lottery and chose Illinois tailback Jim Grabowski, who was also selected by Green Bay in the first round of the NFL draft. Grabowski eventually signed with the Packers.

The rest of the order near the top of the 2008 draft was shaken up a bit with San Francisco's victory over Cincinnati on Saturday night. The 49ers, whose first-round pick is owned by New England because of a trade during the 2007 draft, were No. 2 in the pecking order before the victory, but now are fifth.

Here's how the top eight picks in the first round shape up after applying appropriate tie-breakers, through Saturday's game: 1. Miami; 2. St. Louis; 3. Atlanta; 4. New York Jets; 5. New England (from San Francisco); 6. Kansas City; 7. Oakland. 8. Baltimore.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.