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We now know the names. We know the positions. We have dissected what they have done in college. But to truly evaluate what Dennis Hickey accomplished in his first draft as general manager of the Dolphins, to accurately gauge the impact these players will have, we will need to be patient. There is simply no way to properly judge a draft in May.
But even at this early juncture, there are some things we do know.
We know that Hickey has brought in two offensive linemen who could very well be the final pieces in a significant offseason overhaul.
We know that Hickey went after seniors and captains and high-maturity players who, for the most part, seem to have the right DNA to someday form the leadership of this team.
We know that Hickey did not defer to the conventional way of doing things, that he literally scoured every college campus – even the smallest ones – to find the right players for this team. Liberty? Marist? Coastal Carolina? North Dakota State?
See, it didn’t matter to Hickey where they were; it came down to who they are. It didn’t matter what round they were projected to be taken; it came down to a conviction, a lot of intense, thorough homework and a go-for-it mentality. How can you fault this? This franchise has seen far too many draft day failures over the years from the biggest of schools to, at this point, question an untraditional approach.
“We don’t evaluate a school,” Hickey said. “We evaluate a player.”
Isn’t that what you wanted to hear? Haven’t we learned over time that a rush to judgment, good or bad, serves no significant purpose? Hickey and Coach Joe Philbin have a well-defined plan to get this team back into the playoffs. We saw it begin to unfold in free agency with some important signings.
Now, there is a draft class to add to that mix: Two offensive lineman, two receivers, a linebacker, a tight end, a cornerback and a defensive end. They come from all different backgrounds with all different skill sets.
Was every position on my personal wish list accounted for? Hardly. But the realistic hope is that four or five of these rookies will have significant roles on this team in 2014. That’s how you begin to judge a draft class. That’s why you have to be patient.
Until then, here are a few morsels to digest:
• I fully expect No. 1 pick Ja’Wuan James to be the starting right tackle on opening day. Granted, he will have to earn his way there. But this is a player who started 49 games at Tennessee, all at right tackle, and appears to possess the right internal make-up and talent to fill an important need. You hear him talk, you listen to the maturity in his words, you look at his long powerful arms and those 315-pounds distributed so nicely over a 6-foot-6 frame, and you quickly see why Hickey was sold.
• I also expect third-round pick Billy Turner to seriously challenge for a starting job, probably at left guard. You don’t trade up to near the top of the third round, as Hickey did to get Turner, without a strong, true conviction. Turner started 56 of a possible 57 games at left tackle for North Dakota State. The only real question now: How quickly can he make the transition to guard?
• If you haven’t checked out some of the video online of second-round pick Jarvis Landry you definitely should. Some of the catches he made at LSU left my mouth open and my head shaking. Plain and simple, Landry is a playmaker and this team could certainly use more of those, especially one with hands as sure as his
• Another draft pick who really intrigues me is linebacker Jordan Tripp out of Montana. He is fast, smart, productive and is especially proficient at stopping the run, which could fill a big need. So you don’t have high expectations for a fifth-round pick at linebacker? I’m in no way comparing the two, but a guy named Zach Thomas turned out to be a pretty good fifth-round pick, don’t you think? We can only hope.
• And finally there is Hickey. He had waited a long time for this opportunity and showed to be confident, creative and assertive. Didn’t you like the way he maneuvered his way through the second round, acquiring draft picks? This stage clearly wasn’t too big for him. He brought in leaders. He brought in consistency. He brought in eight players who he hopes will make this team better.
We’ll just have to wait a while to find out for sure.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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