The 2016 Miami Dolphins are a playoff team. Based on the unenviable path the NFL’s only franchise with an undefeated season has taken the last 20 years, that is a borderline miracle. Once a regular on top of the AFC East, the Dolphins have been basement regulars for awhile. Few teams in the league have wallowed in obscurity to the extent of Miami, and they owe a lot of that to awful decisions on draft day.
Miami has made so many glaring missteps with the majority of its last 15 first round draft picks that reaching the postseason, for awhile, seemed like a part of Dolphins history, not a part of Dolphins future, and fans know not to look forward to the playoffs.
How different it could have been. We’ll take a look at exactly what Miami could have done differently with those last 15 first rounders. Offense, defense, skill positions, and in the trenches, most years Miami could have done better. There’s a couple of season where the Dolphins got it right, but altogether there are few teams in the league that have made poorer decisions in the NFL Draft than Miami. We’ll try to fix the past. Check out our redraft and let us know if you agree.
15. 1998 – Flozell Adams
Original Pick: John Avery
The 1997 Miami Dolphins finished the season 9-7 with seven of its sixteen games decided by a field goal or less. For their efforts they were awarded a Wild Card game with the AFC East champion New England Patriots, a game they lost 17-3, and the #29 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.
The Dolphins used that pick to select John Avery, a running back out of Mississippi. It was a common theme throughout the career of Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino, building up the run to compliment the Dolphins historic passing attack. Avery was not the answer, and in fact there were only two running backs who would reach a Pro Bowl from the ’98 Draft, Fred Taylor out of Florida, and Ahman Green from Nebraska. The Dolphins did just miss out on a selection however that could have significantly bolstered the Miami rushing game.
Nine picks after Avery’s name was called, the Dallas Cowboys selected offensive tackle Flozell Adams out of Michigan State. Adams slipped in the draft due to a hearing problem and questionable athletic ability. A lot of teams regretted passing on the Spartan. Adams spent 12 of his 13 seasons in Dallas, five times being named to the Pro Bowl and starting 194 games in a spectacular career.
14. 2001 – Drew Brees
Original Pick: Jamar Fletcher
It would be two seasons before Miami again got the opportunity to make a first round selection, and they blew it. The 2000 Dolphins season went better than many expected, with Miami winning the AFC East and knocking off the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round before crashing to the Earth with a 27-0 loss at Oakland in the Divisional round.
That season was Miami’s first following Marino’s retirement, and the quarterback play from Jay Fiedler was competent enough that the Dolphins thought they had found their successor to the greatest signal caller in franchise history.
With the offense seemingly in a good place, Miami went with defense in the 2001 NFL Draft. Jamar Fletcher, a two-time All-American cornerback from Wisconsin would spend three years with the Dolphins, appearing in 41 games, and was never a full-time starter. After Fletcher was chosen at #26, seven of the next ten picks were future Pro Bowlers, and there’s a couple of shoo-in Hall of Famers. As Miami has spent the better part of the last 15 years searching for its next franchise quarterback, in my redraft I’ll take Drew Brees, who was selected by the San Diego Chargers just six picks after Fletcher.
13. 2004 – Chris Snee
Original Pick: Vernon Carey
Another two years passed before Miami selected in the first round, a tough reality for a team that missed the playoffs in back to back seasons. The 2003 Dolphins finished 10-6, a one game improvement from the previous season, but were left on the outside looking in when the postseason began.
The following summer Miami looked to strengthen its offensive line when they chose Vernon Carey from the Miami Hurricanes with the 19th overall pick. While the selection of a hometown favorite was well received, and Carey certainly had a nice career as a Dolphin, there was another offensive lineman on the board Miami wishes they had taken.
The next OL selected in the 2004 NFL Draft was Chris Snee out of Boston College. Snee spent the entirety of his 10 year NFL career with the New York Giants after he was taken with the second pick in the second round. A two-time Super Bowl champion, Snee was named to the Pro Bowl four times and was a First Team All-Pro in 2008.
12. 2005 – Aaron Rodgers
Original Pick: Ronnie Brown
2004 was a disaster for the Dolphins. Embroiled in a controversy regarding marijuana use, lead running back Ricky Williams elected to retire from football, and Miami bottomed out with a 4-12 effort. The Dolphins started the season 0-6, and finished with a losing record for the first time since 1988.
So it’s unsurprising that with Williams out of football, Miami aimed to improve the backfield in the 2005 Draft. With the second overall pick the Dolphins were in a good position to pick up a playmaker. It’s hard to say that they whiffed, Ronnie Brown was the best running back chosen in the first round, the other two being Cedric Benson and Cadillac Williams. So with the benefit of hindsight, I’m going with a quarterback in this redraft.
Alex Smith was the number one overall pick in the ’05 draft. And while there has been no shortage of criticism for Smith’s bland style of quarterbacking, he’s carved out a nice NFL career for himself, and has led the Kansas City Chiefs to the playoffs this season. I’ll take the next QB called in the draft, Aaron Rodgers, the #24 overall pick of the Green Bay Packers. The Dolphins certainly have a lot of company among teams who missed out on the future Hall of Famer and Super Bowl champion.
11. 2006 – Antonio Cromartie
Original Pick: Jason Allen
Miami bounced back in 2005 with new head coach Nick Saban at the helm. The Dolphins again missed the playoffs, but went 9-7 and finished the season on a six-game winning streak.
In the 2006 Draft Miami focused on the defensive side of the football. The Dolphins took Jason Allen, a Third Team All-American out of Tennessee with the 16th overall pick. Allen spent four seasons in Miami before being released in November of 2010.
The Dolphins were so close to adding a vastly better player to their secondary. Two spots after Allen was chosen, the San Diego Chargers selected Antonio Cromartie out of Florida State. While Cromartie has been viewed as a head case at times, evidenced by the five different stops he’s made in his ten year career, his accomplishments on the field cannot be denied. He’s been named to the Pro Bowl four times, and led the league in interceptions in 2007, a First Team All-Pro year for the Seminole.