Apr 30, 2016 8:46 PM
Dolphins owner says team's latest shake-up pays off in draft
The Associated Press
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross says his latest shake-up of the organization paid off in the draft, including unanimity about the risky decision to take Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil.
The Dolphins selected players they had targeted, and benefited from cohesion among their decision-makers lacking in the past, Ross said Saturday.
Tunsil became the biggest story of the draft when he fell to Miami hours after a video was posted on his Twitter account showing him wearing a gas mask connected to a bong. Another post on his Instagram showed an alleged text exchange with an Ole Miss football staff member that included Tunsil's request for money, prompting a university investigation.
Tunsil said his accounts were hacked. The Dolphins conducted months of research into Tunsil and are comfortable about his character, Ross said.
"Two hours before the draft, it's somebody totally out to get the guy," Ross said. "It's not a question of this guy changed overnight. Meeting the kid, you know it's a good kid. It's going to be a great choice."
Tunsil had been touted as a possible No. 1 overall choice, and instead Miami took him with the 13th pick. The Dolphins say there was complete agreement about the decision in the draft room, which also included executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum, new general manager Chris Grier and new coach Adam Gase.
Missing was the dysfunction that was a problem under former general manager Jeff Ireland and former coaches Joe Philbin and Tony Sparano, Ross said. Poor drafts have helped to keep Miami out of the playoffs the past seven seasons.
"I'm thrilled with this draft," Ross said. "We got the players we wanted. There's total unanimity the front office, the scouts, the position coaches and the personnel department are all on the same page. I've never seen anything like it. They players they talked about wanting, they got every single one of them."
Well, not quite. In the first round the Dolphins were high on cornerback Eli Apple, who went 10th to the Giants. They were then going to take linebacker Myles Jack until Tunsil became available. They tried to trade up in the second round to grab Jack, but he instead went to the Jaguars.
The Dolphins nonetheless addressed their biggest needs by drafting cornerback Xavien Howard of Baylor in the second round and running back Kenyan Drake of Alabama in the third. Late in the third round they traded up to select receiver Leonte Carroo of Rutgers, whom they had graded as a second-rounder.
"Those were the guys we wanted," Ross said. "We got four players that we wanted that everybody wanted. After every choice, everybody was thrilled. You saw a type of environment I haven't seen before."
On the final day of the draft, Miami traded one draft bust from the Ireland-Philbin era cornerback Jamar Taylor, a 2013 second-round pick who never panned out. The Dolphins dealt him to the Browns to move up 27 picks in the seventh round.
They made two sixth-round picks cornerback Jordan Lucas of Penn State, and receiver Jakeem Grant of Texas Tech, who said his listed height of 5-5 3/4 was not a typo.
"But I always tell people that I'm 5-6 1/2," he said, "because you never going anywhere without shoes on."
Grier said Tannenbaum was especially keen to draft Grant.
"Mike to his credit was all over this guy," Grier said. "I was busting his chops the whole time, going, 'Hey, this guy can fit under the table in the draft room here.' But he's ultra-competitive and thinks he's the biggest guy on the field."
Miami's seventh-round picks were UCLA tight end Thomas Duarte and Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty, who grew up near the Dolphins' complex.
"Hometown team," Doughty said. "Who would have thought?"
Last year the defense ranked 25th in the NFL, worst for the Dolphins since 1997. But only two of their eight draft picks were defensive players, and they added no linebackers, defensive linemen or safeties.
Even so, Tannenbaum said, the draft significantly upgraded the roster.
"You feel that way until 9 a.m. tomorrow," he said. "You're always looking to add."
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