DAVIE (AP) — Dennis Hickey says he’s well prepared for his first NFL draft as a general manager, and when the Miami Dolphins begin picking players Thursday night, he wants a calm atmosphere at team headquarters.
Not that the Dolphins’ recent drafts have been anything to get excited about.
Too many poor picks were a big reason for the departure of Hickey’s predecessor, Jeff Ireland, whose unpopularity among fans grew with each draft during his six years in Miami.
Hickey, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneers executive, was polite when asked to assess the Dolphins’ recent drafts, although he did mention “mistakes.”
“I’m focused on the 2014 draft,” Hickey said. “Obviously — and in Tampa we were the same way — we always want to be reflective, learn from whatever mistakes, try to judge and improve your processes as part of that. That’s what we’ve done, and those are the processes that I brought to the Dolphins.”
Here are five things to consider as the Dolphins try to avoid the poor decisions of the past:
DOING BETTER SHOULD BE EASY: Not one of Ireland’s nine picks a year ago cracked the starting lineup, and that included overall No. 3 choice Dion Jordan. Second-round pick Jamar Taylor and third-rounders Dallas Thomas and Will Davis hardly played.
Ireland’s record in Rounds 2 and 3 was especially poor, producing just two projected 2014 starters: defensive end Olivier Vernon and linebacker Koa Misi. Only three first-round picks are still with the team.
These are all reasons the Dolphins haven’t had a winning season since 2008, and haven’t won a playoff game since 2000.
Clashes between Ireland and coach Joe Philbin didn’t help with draft decisions. Philbin said he’s off to a good start with Hickey, who spent 18 years in Tampa.
“Every step of the way he has earned additional responsibilities based on his work ethic and the type of individual that he is,” Philbin said. “It has gone very, very well. He’s a real class guy and he’s a real credit to the organization.”
HICKEY’S DRAFT HISTORY IS SO-SO: The Bucs won four division titles and one Super Bowl championship during Hickey’s time with them, but went 28-52 over the past five years.
Hickey was director of player personnel in 2011-13, and Tampa Bay had a mixed record in the draft in recent years. That includes three players who made the all-rookie team in 2012, and also several second-round whiffs.
Hickey said he’ll probably be at work by 6 a.m. on draft day and won’t sleep much the night before. But he’s confident he and the organization will be ready.
“The goal of draft day is to be calm, to be measured,” he said. “We will feel prepared. We will be confident and ready to go, and it can’t get here soon enough.”
MIAMI’S BIGGEST HOLES ARE IN THE OFFENSIVE LINE: TheDolphins gave up an NFL-worst 58 sacks last year and ranked 26th in rushing. Four of the five starters from the offensive line have departed, including tackle Jonathan Martin and guard Richie Incognito, who were at the center of a bullying scandal that helped sabotage last season.
Pro Bowler Branden Albert was signed to play left tackle, and Hickey also acquired veterans Shelley Smith and Jason Fox. But the Dolphins need a right tackle and more competition at guard.
They like Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin, who might be gone by the 19th pick. Other possibilities in the first round include UCLA guard Xavier Su’a-Filo, West Virginia tackle Morgan Moses or Alabama guard/tackle Cyrus Kouandjio.
MIAMI IS NEEDY: The Dolphins went 8-8 last year and were outscored 39-7 in their final two games, which underscored weaknesses at numerous positions.
Veteran linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler had disappointing seasons after signing free agent deals, and the draft is deep in talent at the position, making linebacker a likely option in the early rounds. Alabama’s C.J. Mosley is a possibility if Hickey uses his top pick on a linebacker.
Hickey might also decide to give new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor help at receiver in the first round.
TRADING DOWN IS A POSSIBILITY: Hickey held a news conference last week but declined to discuss players in the draft, or even talk about specific positions. He did say he’s open to trading up or down, and the latter might be more likely because he finds appealing the idea of swapping one pick for two lower ones.
“I always want to have more picks,” he said.
That would mean more chances to get it right, something theDolphins haven’t done a lot in recent drafts.
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