Dolphins GM pre-draft thoughts

Jeff Ireland says he's ready for the NFL draft

Author: Will Manso, Sports Director, wmanso@Local10.com
Published On: Apr 21 2012 04:28:54 PM EDT

Not lost in the Panthers playoff hype and Heat's chase of the No. 1 seed in the conference, the Dolphins are all set for next Thursday's NFL draft.

In case you missed it, Fins GM Jeff Ireland addressed the media this week.  Here are all his thoughts and comments about what to expect from the team in the draft.  Remember, Miami has the 8th overall selection of the 1st round.

Opening Statement - “Just a few opening remarks.  I got a staff upstairs that is outstanding.  I just wanted to thank them.  It’s a job to them but they’re tireless workers.  Between my scouts, Brian Gaine, Chase Leshin, Chris Grier in particular the last three months, in particular, these guys have been here a bunch.  February meetings for two weeks, the combine for two weeks, on the road constantly during the Pro Days and chasing down players, in particular the last three weeks with two Miami Days.  7am – 9 pm meetings basically every single day the last three weeks.  I need to thank Joe (Philbin) and his staff.  We’ve had some great sessions.  It’s been great to get to know his staff and we challenge each other.  We’ve challenged the staff.  We challenged the coaches for vision for the players to help us get a vision to help utilize the players we put on the board.  I need to thank Steve (Ross) for giving us all the resources that we have to turn over every stone.  That’s our policy and philosophy but a lot of guys upstairs I just wanted to thank and just wanted to start that with opening comments. But we just finished up the board.  Basically yesterday and we’re ready draft.  So just now strategy and more preparation.”

On how different it’s been developing the board with a new Coaching Staff - “Not too much different.  My philosophy doesn’t change too much.  Having Joe (Philbin), Joe’s been in a couple of draft rooms.  He’s been around the Green Bay Packers, my philosophy’s not too much different then maybe Ted’s (Thompson).  We grind out the draft.  Believe in the draft.  Believe in the development of young players.  Believe in bringing young players onto the team every single year so you know it’s getting the staff.  You know getting to use the same terminology more or less to what out scouts are using so an average comment to them is the same as an average comment to us.  And it’s getting us all on the same terminology and making sure the coaches understand the division is what we’re looking for.  How do you utilize the player? How does he utilize him on special teams? What kind of nickel role does he have on third down and things like that? Just having a clear vision for the player.”

 (On how important the second and third round picks are  - “I think all the picks are extremely important but certainly second, third, fourth round picks, I mean those guys need to be either starters or significant role players.  I’m a firm believer that you can find talent in the fifth, sixth and seventh and obviously free agency.  So every pick, there’s a lot of thought that goes into each and every one of them.  I’m maybe stubborn enough to think I can hit on every single one of them.  So, we spent a lot of time this time of the year on fifth, sixth and seventh round and free agency.  Those guys are up there right now grinding away at the free agent board as well.”

 On how he’s done on those rounds since he’s been here  - “I’ve got some good guys and some guys are still developing I would say (Charles) Clay and Reshad Jones and Chris Clemmons. Those guys are still here and they’re still developing.  I think we drafted a kid last year in the seventh round, Jimmy Wilson, that I think is going to be a pretty good player.”

 On specifically how he’s done in the second and third round  - “Well, I mean time will tell with John Jerry and Koa (Misi).  So Pat Turner’s still playing in the league.  He’s not on our roster, he’s still playing in the league so we’ve got to do a pretty good job this year.  I’m looking more in the future than in the past.”

 On if he keeps the Number 8 pick if that player has to make an impact this season  - “Not necessarily.  I mean an impact.  You like to be able to say that he’d be an impact player this year.  But you also have to have a vision for the player whether or not he’s going to play this year or next year or the year after that.  Certainly that would be the expectation of a top 10 pick is to have an impact on this team.”

 On his approach to free agency and how that had to marry with the draft  - “Well with free agency I think, again, it’s a process.  You have to look at the free agency board and the dollars that you’re going to have commit to free agency versus what you might be able to get in the draft.  Value’s important to me and again the draft is extremely important because I think that’s the best investment in professional sports to be honest with you is the draft.  Getting young players that have upside and development, but the free agency I’m trying to build depth.  I’m trying to bring depth to the football team, at least this year that’s my philosophy.  I think free agency changes, depending on the situation that you’re in from year to year.  But this year it was trying to provide some depth at certain positions and not have to feel like you’re pressured into making any need decisions in the draft.”

On putting the emphasis on depth when developing the draft board  - “Well, it depends.  You’re putting your first and second, third round, those are the ones you think that can come in right away and make an impact or start or have a significant role in the nickel. And your fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh are your developmental guys or role players.  So you have to have a vision for the player.  Not every fourth round is going to have the same exact vision. Some guys are fourth rounder’s maybe nickel players.  Some fourth rounder’s may be developmental guys.  There’s going to be some guys that you want on your team and you have to put them there because that’s where you think you’re going to have to get them.”

 On his philosophy of free agency and finding starter type guys  - “I would say that yeah, we need to get some starter types in the draft.  I would certainly say that you certainly do.  Moving forward I don’t know if I understood your question the move forward.”

On free agency depth putting pressure to find draft starters  - “Well yeah sure.  It puts a lot of emphasis on trying to find starters.  That’s what we’re trying to do with every draft.  You’re trying to find starters and impact players in every draft.”

On what he’s learned about Ryan Tannehill  - “I spent a lot of time with a lot of players to be honest with you.  I wouldn’t put a whole lot of stock into any one particular player.  Almost 29, almost 30 guys into the building in the last couple of weeks and spent quite a bit of time on the road.  But what I learned specific about Ryan (Tannehill) is he’s a great kid.  Great kid.  He’s smart.  He’s tough.  Got a good family background.  A lot of good things about Ryan.”

 On his emotions this time of year - “Excitement to be honest with you.  I’m excited.  This is my second favorite time of the year.  First being the first day of training camp.  I love that aspect of it.  But I love this time of the year.  I thoroughly enjoyed the Miami Day process a couple of days ago watching guys move around in shorts and do football drills with our coaching staff.  That was exciting.  But just excitement.  I do wake up in the middle of night thinking, I have a notepad next to my bed, that I don’t want to forget about it.  I’ll write it down or type it into my phone or something, but certainly excitement.  Just excited to get this process going and wake up every morning excited about, we do pretty much a position a day.  We take the entire day until, we start early and we end late regardless of when that positions over we’re going to stay here and get that position done so I wake up the next morning going, okay we got quarterbacks today or we got linebackers today or we got corners today so there’s certainly excitement there to try to attack that position that day.”

 On balancing best player available versus filling team needs  - “Everybody thinks that you draft like, well this players better than this player is better player.  But that’s really not the way you do it.  You do it horizontally.  You have an expectation horizontally.  That’s the way I look at it.  I don’t look at vertically.  I look at it horizontally.  And you put an expectation on the round and when the best players marries to the need position and they’re in the same area then that’s probably when you probably take need over best player but usually they marry together.  Usually they marry together and you kind of stack your board to the strength of the position.  And you may attack certain positions earlier in the draft because there’s lack of depth in the draft.”

 On how often he feels a franchise should use a first round pick on a quarterback  - “When there’s one available.  I mean that’s tough question.  That’s kind of a loaded question to be honest with you.”

 On if a matter of course if a healthy franchise should do it (draft a quarterback in the first round) every few years  - “I can’t say for the years in the past or the other teams that are involved with selecting quarterbacks.  Certainly I’m not going to get into the quarterback discussion here today from the strategy stand point but I think there are times that you should try to go after one but I certainly don’t feel like you should be pressured into doing that either.”

 On the strength of wide receiver group, especially the first few rounds  - “Well I think it’s a pretty good group.  Receivers, you can look at, and we had this discussion in our draft room when we were doing receivers is that they come in all shape and sizes.  There’s always an exception to the rule when it comes to receivers.  You can find them in the first round.  You can find them in free agency.  You can find them anywhere and they come sometimes they’re 5’8” and sometimes they’re 6’5”.  Sometimes they run 4.6 and sometimes they run 4.3.  And there’s more of the receiver positions on your board them any other position just because there’s more of them.  And so I think there’s strength if you’re picking in the first round.  I’ll have a pretty good stack board at receiver throughout my board.  I can tell you that.  I think it’s a pretty good position this year to be honest with you.”

 On what other positions are strong this year and what are some positions not too strong  - “Well some guys, again I got this question the other day, some people would say that the strength means that there’s more first round caliber guys.  My way of looking at is I got one pick in every round basically.  Am I going to have an opportunity to take one if I miss him in the first, second or third.  So I look at strength of the draft and basically how my board falls and where I might be able to find key target positions in the draft.  So other positions that I think are strong I think it’s a pretty good defensive line.  When we’re talking defensive line I’m talking about defensive end, three technique, one technique, five technique.  I think it’s a pretty good group of guys.  I think the offensive line groups are a fairly good group too.  I don’t think center is the most deepest in the draft but I think the guard and tackle positions pretty good too.”

 On if he’s looking for different players due to the change in coaching staff  - “I think at some positions we’re looking for different types of skill sets.  I’ve always been big, strong, fast.  That’s what I’m looking for and big, strong, fast and intelligent.  But now in some cases you’re looking for a little bit different player versus the run or a little different player in a nickel situation or coverage situation.  Some guys would be protected by a three technique from the linebackers standpoint so I think there are some cases that we’re looking for different types of players but it’s not complete offensive ‘D’.  We’re not looking for completely different types of players on offense and defense.”

 On the offensive line  - “Not necessarily.  I think Jim (Turner) and Mike (Sherman) and Joe (Philbin) are still looking for big, strong, athletic type for offensive linemen.”

 (On how do you measure heart) - “You know, that’s a tough one. You wish you could bottle up some of these guys and sometime you feel it. I always tell player you reach in your pocket for two cents because I’m going to give you my two cents of advice whether you like it or not. I always try to tell them a little bit about we have this thing called the makeup. Basically, I ask my scouts to grade the ability of the player and the make of the player. Pretty simple and I ask them grade their ability in a system. Let’s say 1 through 10, you’re a 9.5. You’re an 8.6. The makeup of the player I’m trying to grade whether he has it or not. It’s passion. It’s heart. It’s toughness. It’s competitiveness. It’s football intelligence. It’s integrity. It’s character. It’s a yes or no answer. Either you have them all or you don’t and some of those you can develop and some you can’t. And that’s the way my scouts answer that question. It’s a yes or no. Does he have all or he doesn’t? If he’s missing one of those, he doesn’t because that’s a margin of failure. And so that doesn’t answer your question, on how you rate heart, but it’s more than just heart. It’s the entire makeup of the person allows a player to be successful.”

 (On having a philosophy of trading down in the draft) - “It’s hard. It depends on what you’re going to get in return. Everyone say they use this draft calculator or trade down sheet. I think that’s really ambiguous to be honest. You use it as a starting point. But it depends on the person that’s coming up. The team that’s coming up and what they’re willing to give up and how bad do they want it and how bad you want to keep it. So if you’re trading back you’re certainly looking for value. You’re looking to get more than what you think the pick is worth. Sometimes, it’s future. I traded back in Dallas for future first-round picks and things like that. I think it’s just the matter of the circumstance and it has to be the right circumstance.”

 (On considering trading up in the first round this year) - “I think anything is possible. Sure, anything’s possible trading back, trading up.”

 (On how important is it to have back-to-back picks in the third round) - “I think it’s extremely valuable. It gives us a little bit more time to make decisions. And it’s an extra pick and having them back-to-back somewhat high in the third round extremely valuable.”

 (On what is the atmosphere like in the War Room) - “Anticipation. Again, excitement. Depends on the guy you think is going to be there. Obviously, there could be a scramble. I’ve been in a couple of scrambles before. It’s always interesting. You’re picking high in the draft and so every pick leading up to that is anticipation obviously.”

 (On how do you evaluate your draft history in Miami) - “Well, it’s a team effort. Bill (Parcells) and I conducted a couple drafts together. I’ve conducted one here solely by myself with my team upstairs obviously. Certainly, I’m not responsible for all of it. When you look back and you made some good picks. Depends on how you look at it. If you look at the future or past of the draft and you say 50-55% and you say if you can be 50% in the draft over a period of time, you’ve done pretty good. I think where we were when we started to where we are now we’ve done a pretty good job of adding some talent to this football team. Certainly I’m not saying I hit on every single one because I haven’t. There’s no doubt about that. Some I have taken some risk on and hit. And some I have taken some risk on and didn’t work out so good, but that’s just part of the draft.”

 (On drafting different types of player compared to what you’re accustom to drafting) - “Well, I think the first couple of years we were here I think trying to build the foundation, which would be offensive line, defensive line was a big hole for this franchise, for this team and so I think that was the main purpose of doing some of the things early was getting the offensive line and defensive line set and then as we matured our team adding skill to the football team was important last year in particular coming out of the 2010 season. I think we needed to add some speed on the football team, some playmakers. We had some really good possession type offensive skill set, but we needed some explosive playmakers. That was glaring to me last year. Certainly, I have some glaring things that hitting me in the face this year, which I won’t get into strategy and tell you what those things are, but I got some things I feel certainly confident about that we can probably approach here in the next week.”

(On if his board is set now and he know what he wants to do) – “Yes.”

(On when did you finalize your draft board) - “Last night at 11:47, no (laughing).”

(On have you changed anything since you finalized your draft board) - “The board is set. The board is in its place. I wouldn’t say it’s completely set. Do I know what I want at eight? I have a pretty good feeling at what I want at eight. If the player is not there at eight I have got a pretty good idea of what I want if that player is not there. You have to have a contingency plan and a contingency plan to the contingency plan. So how many times have I changed my mind? Every time I see another good player that’s a consideration at eight, I’m like ‘woo’ that would be a good player to have. I think there’s some really good players in this year’s draft, especially in the top 10. I think some really impact players.”

 (On knowing what you’re needs are this year) - “Yeah, absolutely.   To me, I think they’re pretty glaring to me and so I haven’t really changed too much what I’m looking for in this year’s draft. I think you go into every draft looking for core position players. You’re looking for guys that can make an impact and certain guys that can block premier pass rushers and guys that can make big plays down the field. Create big plays on defense. You’re looking for those types of guys.”

 (On a player not flourishing on college level, but flourishing in the professional level) - “Depends on what me and my staff upstairs feel. If we feel that’s the case, then we wouldn’t draft him. But I’m not going to worry about the gurus out there feel about a player. Depends on what we’re talking about. Are we talking about in the third round or the first round? (laughing) Certainly, if I feel like that and my staff feels like that, then he’s probably not a consideration at eight.”

 (On considering offensive linemen impact players) - “Do I consider offensive line impact player? Let’s see, it depends if it’s the right guy. Yeah certainly, I would consider him an impact player. A guy could start 16 games every single year and Pro Bowler, I think that’s a pretty impactful player, sure.”

(On how impactful is a player’s stock increase or decrease prior to the draft) - “Tough. To me, that doesn’t change a whole lot. To my staff, that doesn’t change a whole lot. We start the process and it’s a good question because soon as my scouts get on the road in the middle of December without any time 40s or combine workouts. We sit there and watch the tape. We put a football grade on them. Put them on the board and then we’ll do it again in February after the bowl process so we watched these guys as a group, graded them as a group, evaluated them haven’t necessarily gone through the checks and balances of the character and some of that stuff. We’ll put a football grade on them. I would say very few, very few change drastically from December, February to April.”

 (On how high can a player rise in the draft after the college season) - “We have a couple of guys like we had a fifth round grade on and jump to a third round. There’s some guys that maybe didn’t have some of the production in 2011 that they did in 2009 and 2010. So best time of the year from February to April gives us an opportunity to really search back and their Sophomore seasons and their Junior seasons to really to really kind of grind in on some of that stuff you’re going through, and the scouts on the road they really not getting the opportunity to sit down and grind the past years and so that’s when guys will start rising when you get the chance to really get deep into their production from years past.”