Let’s start here: Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is a good draft pick. Solid player. Safe idea. He’s a highly graded talent with no serious concerns who fits the Dolphins defense’s needs and where the game is going.
Again, what’s not to like?
There’s only one draft-night option that might give pause.
Maybe it’s the one an NFL official says was offered to more than one team before Green Bay actually bit on the deal. It also could be – could be, no verification – what was behind Door No. 2 that Dolphins owner Steve Ross raised if you connect that night’s dots.
Ross “stepped in and implored his team to trade back, both to acquire more picks and save money on the first-rounder,” The Boston Globe reported.
Let’s re-set the scene: The night’s question was if the Dolphins would draft a quarterback. One post-draft debate centered on whether they would have taken Josh Rosen if Arizona hadn’t traded up with Oakland to take him with the 10th pick, right before the Dolphins’ 11th.
The easy answer: No chance. If the Dolphins thought Rosen was a franchise quarterback, they would have made the trade with Oakland, which would have preferred the 11th pick to Arizona’s 15th.
But there was another obvious option missed in the aftermath. New Orleans traded up. The Saints were calling teams for a while, too, the NFL official said. It finally traded its 27th pick, a fifth-round pick and 2019 first-round pick for Green Bay’s 14th pick in this draft.
“Green Bay wasn’t the first team New Orleans called, I know that,” the NFL official said. “It was just the one that decided it was ready to trade down.”
Let’s play this out: If New Orleans called Green Bay at 14th, it’s little stretch to think it also called the Dolphins at No. 11, especially when the Dolphins talked of trading down before the draft and teams like Arizona thought the Dolphins wanted one of the quarterbacks off the board by then.
Ross had the full flow of information before him and suggested trading back. This is an increasingly frustrating ownership for Ross. He hasn’t won in a decade. Most expectations are for an average team, at best, again this year.
Now for the real question, the one no one could have known, as the Dolphins were on the clock with the 11th pick: Who could they get at No. 27?
Because this wasn’t about saving money, as the Globe also reported. Ross isn’t about saving money, as his spending shows. He’s about trying to win. They could have taken the first tight end, Hayden Hurst, as Baltimore did at No. 25 or receiver Calvin Ridley at No. 26, as Atlanta did.
The real value, though, was where this regime didn’t want to go. Lamar Jackson was sitting there. The Louisville quarterback and Broward County native was the draft’s most fascinating talent and will revamp the offense in Baltimore, where he was picked 32nd.
He’s also a player everyone had to be on board with to take. He’s a different talent. Coach Adam Gase, general manager Chris Grier and vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum evidently didn’t think Jackson was good enough or could stay healthy with his running.
They probably feel a need to win now, too, and Ryan Tannehill offers that best shot. Fitzpatrick helps with that. Ross, by this view, was looking at the longer term with more creative ideas.
There would be a completely different buzz around the Dolphins with Jackson and an extra first-round pick next year. I would love it. But then I went into the draft loving Jackson in a way most NFL teams obviously didn’t, considering where he was picked.
Let’s not overplay this, though. Dropping from 11th to 27th is a long descent, especially when you have a top-rated player such as Fitzpatrick ready fall to you. There’s no sure thing waiting that low.
Also, New Orleans is expecting to contend, too. So its 2019 draft pick again will be near the bottom.
“I wouldn’t advocate doing a deal like that if you’ve got someone you like there for you to take,” the NFL official said.
There’s always a what-if nature to any draft. Dolphins fans know this more than most in recent years. Jamar Fletcher over Drew Brees. Jake Long over Matt Ryan. On and on.
Rosen is the player to watch in this draft. What if they’d traded down in a manner Ross wanted? What then? Throw it in the what-if pile for now, even as Fitzpatrick looks like a fine pick.
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