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Miami Goes For The Big Fish

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Dion Jordan was picked third overall by the Miami Dolphins. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.
Dion Jordan was picked third overall by the Miami Dolphins. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

The Miami Dolphins continued their splashy offseason by aggressively trading up in the draft from the 12th pick to the 3rd pick. By throwing in the 42nd pick, Miami was able to swap spots with the Oakland Raiders and select defensive end Dion Jordan from Oregon.

It was a surprising pick for a few reasons. This is the biggest draft day move that the Dolphins have made since general manager Jeff Ireland took over. In the past, he has been extremely cautious in regards to draft picks, always looking to move down and gather more picks. However, three straight losing seasons have put immense pressure on Ireland and he has responded by going all in on this offseason. Trading up to the third spot to take Jordan falls in line with the aggressive offseason bidding that Ireland used to bring in free agents Mike Wallace, Dustin Keller and Dannell Ellerbe.

Ireland realizes that his job is on the line this season and has been liberal with future resources to improve the team this offseason. Normally, when a GM is making short-sighted moves to save his job, it leads to problems in the future. However, these moves might work out for Dolphins, if only for this season.

In addition to the surprising predatory nature of the move, most draft experts expected Miami to take a tackle after the departure of Jake Long this offseason. It has been Ireland’s calling card to invest in the offensive line and with such a glaring need at tackle and a smaller need at cornerback, most people penciled in Lane Johnson or Xavier Rhodes for the Dolphins’ first round pick. Few people saw Miami picking a defensive lineman.

Dion Jordan is a physical specimen. At 6-foot-6 and 248 pounds, he ran a 4.60 second 40-yard dash. He has extremely long arms and quick feet. His athleticism is evident. He came to Oregon as a tight end prospect and turned into a formidable pass rusher and coverage linebacker. The Dolphins will move Jordan to defensive end and pair him with Pro Bowler Cameron Wake. Some may be worried about Jordan’s transition from 3-4 outside linebacker to 4-3 defensive end, but the Dolphins have had a recent track record of success with those transitions. Wake and former star Jason Taylor moved fluidly between end and linebacker under this regime.

Fans will be upset that Ireland traded up in a draft in which most teams wanted to trade down, but the bottom line is that it is harder to miss on prospects at the top of the draft. There will be busts at the top of the first round like Jamarcus Russell or Ryan Leaf, but the majority of top-three picks are successful in the NFL. There is a reason that these guys grade out as the top prospects. Right now, Miami is desperate for top flight players and the best players in the league are normally found at the top of the draft.  

It was also inspiring for the Dolphins to invest in an impact position like a pass rusher. Fans have complained for years that the Dolphins are putting too many high draft picks and too much money into the offensive line. They have a point — the Dolphins built their team with an emphasis on the trenches. When Ireland arrived in Miami with Bill Parcells, they made a left tackle, Jake Long, the cornerstone of the franchise. The thinking was that building a great offensive line would build a great team. The only problem is that left tackles don’t win Super Bowls. The Baltimore Ravens just won the Super Bowl with Bryant McKinnie playing that position. This was after he had been discarded by the Vikings for being out of shape and possibly washed up.

This pick is further proof that Ireland may have changed his philosophy. Following last year’s pick of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, he went after another impact position in this draft — pass rusher. Elite quarterbacks usually create elite offenses and on the other side of the ball, the best defenses excel at rushing the passer.

The Dolphins need to make the playoffs this season and Jeff Ireland knows that. He obviously thinks that Miami is close because he spent a lot of money and burned a draft pick this offseason. This aggressive draft strategy shows that Miami is expecting a playoff run. Fans should be happy that the team is investing in impact positions and if things break right, the Dolphins could find themselves in the playoffs for the first time since 2008.