Dolphins GM speaks candidly about draft plans

DAVIE, Fla. -- With one candid remark, Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland dashed the credibility of his entire 25-minute news conference Thursday.

The subject was the upcoming draft, and Ireland conceded that even in April, NFL teams play games.

"There are times to be up front, and times to bluff," Ireland said. "There are different ways to play poker in this game of the draft, and leading up to the draft."

Two years ago, shortly after joining the new Bill Parcells regime, Ireland spoke of the Dolphins' expectations with the No. 1 overall pick.

"You hope that he's a pillar of your defense for a long time," a poker-faced Ireland said.

Defense? A week later, Miami drafted an offensive tackle, Jake Long.

Regarding this year's draft, Ireland offered no such hints to be parsed. The Dolphins have the No. 12 overall pick on April 22, and their most pressing needs are at receiver, outside linebacker, nose tackle and free safety.

Outside linebacker will become more pressing if Jason Taylor signs with the rival New York Jets. The NFL's active sack leader is a free agent, and he visited the Jets this week.

Taylor has expressed a desire to remain with the Dolphins, where he has spent 12 of his 13 pro seasons. But Ireland said the team won't be rushed into deciding whether to make a contract offer, even when confronted with the alarming possibility of Taylor in a green and white uniform.

"We have to evaluate things after the draft," Ireland said. "He's a free agent. We've told him exactly what our stance is, and he's free to do what he needs to do."

The Dolphins' other starting outside linebacker in 2009, Joey Porter, was released last month and signed with Arizona. Miami might fill the void by drafting Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain.

Other first-round possibilities include Texas safety Earl Thomas, Tennessee nose tackle Dan Williams and Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant. All but Williams have been to the Dolphins' complex for a visit.

Which might mean nothing. Ireland confessed to arranging interviews with prospects to fake out other teams on draft day.

"Maybe I'm trying to trick out the 11 teams in front of me, or the five behind me," Ireland said.

While the rest of the league attempts to figure out which player Ireland and Parcells want, the Dolphins will attempt to figure out who will be available to them by compiling a mock draft. Ireland predicted it will be fairly accurate.

"You have to know what your competition is doing," he said. "You have to study what teams' needs are picking in front of you and directly behind you. I spend some time with that. I've got a couple of guys on that right now. I put a lot of attention to it, knowing what our competition is doing."

Given Parcells' fondness for size and defense, odds are favorable the Dolphins will take a nose tackle or outside linebacker with their top choice. They haven't used a first-round selection to shore up the defensive front seven since 1996, when Jimmy Johnson's first pick as Miami coach was Daryl Gardener.

The Dolphins have nine other picks in the seven rounds, including three of the first 73 choices. Regardless of the selections, Ireland anticipates substantial improvement thanks to the draft.

"It's a little deeper than I've seen it in the past," he said. "There are some really good skill-position players. There are some really good big-guy positions in this draft. The depth is good."

Then again, he could be bluffing.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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