Dolphins’ draft strategy has drastically changed over past two years

MIAMI — Not too long ago, the Miami Dolphins were known for stockpiling draft picks and trading some of their best players — such as Minkah Fitzpatrick or Laremy Tunsil — in the process.

But that process has changed.

After selecting five players in the first rounds of the 2020 and 2021 drafts, the Dolphins traded their first-round picks in consecutive years and had one nullified by league sanctions. With the team on the cusp of competing for a Super Bowl, general manager Chris Grier swung deals for wide receiver Tyreek Hill and linebacker Bradley Chubb last year.

This offseason, he sent a third-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams for star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, further attacking Miami’s championship window — although he was hesitant to frame it in that context.

“I think where we are is we have a competitive roster that we feel we can win games with. It’s not done,” Grier said. “Obviously, with the draft here still and even post-draft, there will be signings. Again, opportunities to add good players to your roster, we’ll always do that and pursue it. And [Dolphins owner] Steve Ross has given us a lot of flexibility to do that, which I don’t think he gets enough credit for allowing us to do that.

“For us, I don’t really look at it as windows. It’s just opportunities to add good players and then keep building a roster that gives you a chance to compete.”

Before the trades for Hill and Chubb, the Dolphins were poised for a massive draft haul this year with two picks in the first round, a second-round pick and two third-round picks.

That type of draft capital would have allowed Miami the flexibility to trade up for a quarterback if Tua Tagovailoa hadn’t developed to the level he did last season. It also could have infused a burgeoning expensive roster with talent on rookie contracts.

But the Hill trade cost Miami five picks, including a first-rounder and a second-rounder last year.

Grier said he wanted to protect the team’s 2023 draft capital, especially the two first-rounders, when he made the trade for Hill.

“I’m not going to lie, it was important for us to keep those two picks because we had done so much to acquire those before,” Grier said last August. “So I think for us, when you make a move for Tyreek like that, you also want to be prepared to have picks for the future.”

But the NFL stripped the Dolphins of one of their first-round picks this year as part of a punishment for tampering with Tom Brady and Sean Payton. Miami sent the other to the Broncos for Chubb in an effort to solidify its defense, quickly signing him to a $110 million deal after the trade was completed.

The Dolphins’ roster features few weaknesses, but with just four draft picks for the second straight year, there won’t be many opportunities to fix them. They could use help at tight end, offensive and defensive tackle, linebacker and running back — although none of those positions need an instant contributor.

Grier, who has been the Dolphins’ GM since 2016, has typically drafted the best player available throughout his time in Miami and does not see that changing in 2023, although there is some nuance involved.

“It’s still a balance, because at the end of the day, you always have to look long-term,” he said. “There’s guys here — just being realistic — on one-year deals. So you may have a position that you think is deep. Like last year we had, I think, four linebackers on one-year deals.

“We always look for the best player. Then there are some occasions where you do take a position of need, but you try not to draft on need because again, I think that’s where you get in trouble.”

Miami still owns the 51st and 84th overall picks in the second and third rounds, respectively, along with one pick in the sixth and seventh rounds.

If the Dolphins do not trade into the first round, it will mark the first time they’ve gone consecutive drafts without a first-round pick since 2003.

“We’ve had a couple of teams in the bottom half of the first round reach out, saying they would be interested in coming down possibly if their guys aren’t there, and if we’d be interested in moving,” he said. “So for us, again, any opportunities we can to get a player, we’ll look at it. So no serious conversations, but we’ve had those and we’ll keep those options open.”

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