DAVIE, Fla. (AP) - The Miami Dolphins can blame their long Super Bowl drought on lots of lousy drafts, and they’ll try to get it right this time with - or in spite of - a new, confusing chain of command.
The draft beginning Thursday will be Miami’s first with Mike Tannenbaum as executive vice president of football operations.
When the former New York Jets general manager was hired in January, he said Miami GM Dennis Hickey would continue to have the final say on draft decisions, but added he would be Hickey’s boss.
In other words, Hickey will make the call with Tannenbaum looking over his shoulder. That seems like a potential recipe for disaster, but perhaps Tannenbaum’s fresh perspective will benefit a team with plenty of draft busts and no Super Bowl titles over the past 30 years.
Here are some things to know as Hickey and Tannenbaum sort out their options:
WHO’S IN CHARGE?: Tannenbaum and Hickey both say it’s Hickey.
“We have a great debate,” Tannenbaum said. “But the final decision rests with Dennis.”
There’s no doubt Tannenbaum is putting his stamp on the franchise, however. He did much of the talking at the introductory news conference for newly signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and at a pre-draft news conference last week.
Tannenbaum’s draft record with the Jets was mixed. He selected such eventual stars as Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and David Harris, but also used high picks on Mark Sanchez, Vernon Gholston and Vladimir Ducasse, who didn’t pan out.
Hickey joined the Dolphins in 2014 and earned mostly good grades for the draft, one of Miami’s best in years. His top two picks were tackle Ja’Wuan James, who started every game, and receiver Jarvis Landry, who led Miami with 84 receptions.
WHO’S THE TOP PICK?: The Dolphins’ first-round choice might be as tough to predict as any team’s this year, because the mostly likely choice is a receiver or cornerback, and the draft is deep at both positions.
After finishing 8-8 for the second year in a row in 2014, Miami has the No. 14 selection. There will be strong incentive to choose a receiver, because the Dolphins have lost Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson and tight end Charles Clay, who combined for 193 catches and 16 touchdowns last year.
Miami acquired veteran Greg Jennings and young Kenny Stills this offseason, and Landry emerged as a reliable target in his rookie year, but it will be a surprise if Hickey and Tannenbaum don’t add another option for Ryan Tannehill during the first two days of the draft.
By the time Miami’s turn comes in the first round, at least two receivers are likely to be gone - Kevin White of West Virginia and Amari Cooper of Alabama. That leaves Central Florida’s Breshad Perriman or DeVante Parker of Louisville as the most probable choice.
CORNERING A DB: With the retirement of Cortland Finnegan, the Dolphins need a starter at cornerback opposite Pro Bowler Brent Grimes. Veteran Zack Bowman was acquired this month to compete with holdovers Jamar Taylor and Will Davis, but it’s possible Miami will devote a first-round pick to a cornerback for only the second time since 2001.
Five cornerbacks are expected to be taken in the first round. Candidates for the Dolphins include Trae Waynes of Michigan State and Jalen Collins of Louisiana State.
GUARDS: Tannehill has been sacked 139 times in the past three seasons, the most of any quarterbacks, and the Dolphins might devote their top pick to the offensive line for the second year in a row. La’el Collins of Louisiana State is a candidate.
HISTORY: Here’s one measurement of the many draft misfires by the Dolphins: When they reached a five-year agreement this month with center Mike Pouncey, he became the first first-round pick to sign a second contract with Miami since running back Ronnie Brown, who was drafted in 2005.
Another gauge: Only one draft pick from 2013, linebacker Jelani Jenkins, has cracked the starting lineup.
“The draft should be fun,” Tannenbaum said. “You’re improving your team. It’s a great opportunity.”
To return to title contention, Miami must draft better.
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