2001: Dolphins have it covered
The Dolphins did in Saturday's NFL draft, selecting players from the University of Wisconsin with their first- and second-round picks.
"Fortunately, it worked out where we got both [players]," said Rick Spielman, the Dolphins' vice president of player personnel. "We thought that would be impossible going into this draft."
The Dolphins then addressed two other-need positions in the third round by drafting Florida State's Travis Minor -- who is expected to compete as a third-down running back -- and trading to acquire Syracuse linebacker Morlon Greenwood. To land Greenwood, the Dolphins sent their 2002 second-round pick to Philadelphia for the Eagles' third- and sixth-round selections in this year's draft.
A week ago, the Dolphins were heavily considering drafting a wide receiver in the first round in hopes of improving the NFL's 27th-ranked pass offense from last season. Left tackle also was a strong possibility in the first two rounds with the team deciding last week against re-signing 11-year starter Richmond Webb.
Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said the recent free-agent acquisitions of wide receiver Dedric Ward (New York Jets) and tackle Marcus Spriggs (Buffalo) changed the team's draft philosophy. The Dolphins also unsuccessfully tried trading up to select Miami wide receiver Santana Moss and Arizona State safety/linebacker Adam Archuleta. The New York Jets drafted Moss after trading up three spots to the No. 16 selection, and Archuleta went to St. Louis at No. 20.
Wannstedt said he considered selecting UM wide receiver Reggie Wayne at No. 26 but "we were looking to get a more pressing need. Corner was at this point."
"Last year, our third corner played 60 percent of the time," Wannstedt said. "It's kind of the way of the NFL. Any time they bring in three or four receivers, we've got to match up with them."
Enter Fletcher, who was last season's recipient of the Jim Thorpe Award annually given to the nation's top defensive back. Fletcher had seven interceptions, 21 pass breakups and held his receiver without a catch in four games.
Fletcher, though, was the fourth cornerback selected behind Ohio State's Nate Clements (Buffalo, No. 21), Syracuse's Will Allen (New York Giants, No. 22), and Minnesota's Willie Middlebrooks (Denver, No. 24). Blame that on Fletcher's height (5 feet 9) and speed, as his 40-time is in the 4.5-second range.
"Pop in a game film, man," Fletcher said. "I'm really tired of talking about all that. I'm a football player. Football players make plays. That's what I do. I've been doing it for three years. They don't just give the Jim Thorpe award to anybody. Nobody said anything about my height when I won that award or when I was Big 10 [Defensive] Player of the Year."
Said Spielman, whose staff assembled eight scouting reports on Fletcher: "There have been concerns about his size and that he didn't run the fastest. But with his play-making ability, instincts and overall quickness, that makes up sometimes for his lack of height and lack of speed. You can't measure a player based on the Olympics we do with him running a 40 and all that other stuff. You have to measure what that player does on the field and what heart that player has."
The Dolphins received offers to move out of the No. 26 pick from Baltimore, Cleveland, San Diego and the New York Giants. With Fletcher the top-ranked available player on the team's draft board, the Dolphins decided against making a deal amid fears that he wouldn't be available later.
If Fletcher was off the draft board at No. 26, the Dolphins planned to trade down six spots with San Diego in hopes of drafting Chambers. The fact he was available so late into the second round was surprising to the Dolphins and Chambers, who was projected as a first-round pick by many draft analysts.
"We didn't know what was going on," Chambers said. "My uncle was asking me if I failed a drug test or did I do something or am I hurt or whatever. We couldn't figure it out."
Chambers was voted Wisconsin's most valuable player after catching a team-high 52 passes for 813 yards and five touchdowns.
Spielman said Chambers may have slipped because of concerns about his durability, for he missed six games in the past two seasons because of foot and finger injuries. With Chambers' 40-time in the 4.3-second range and a vertical jump of 45 inches, the Dolphins believe he has the potential to become the big-play receiver the team has sorely lacked for years.
"If we were going to draft a receiver, it would be someone with exceptional speed," Wannstedt said. "This kid does it."
Although he may lack the size to become an every-down back, Minor (5-101/2, 203 pounds) caught 42 passes last season and is considered an excellent route runner.
Greenwood will have the chance to compete for a starting position at strongside linebacker, for the Dolphins haven't found a replacement since releasing Robert Jones in February.
"On opening day against Tennessee, I would expect everyone of these players if they come in and work hard to be in the picture and part of our game plan," Wannstedt said. "Any time you can do that, I think that's what you're really trying to accomplish."