The Dolphins wound up without a third-round pick after deciding to trade down for picks in the fourth and fifth rounds. But the move wound up paying off because of the great value they got in fourth-round choice Will Poole.

That's because Poole was projected before the scouting combine as a potential first-round pick following a splendid 2003 season at USC.

Poole then saw his stock drop dramatically following a poor showing at the combine.

The only thing was that Poole had been fighting an ear infection and strep throat and had lost 10 pounds. Obviously not at his best, Poole ran a very poor 4.65 in the 40-yard dash, a time obviously unsatisfactory for an NFL cornerback.

But Poole improved that time to a 4.5 at a later workout.

But the damage already may have been done.

Other possible reasons for Poole's slide may have been the fact he started only one season at USC, and he didn't enter the starting lineup until an injury to another player two games into the season.

There also have been suggestions of an attitude problem based on the fact he was suspended by Boston College in 2001 for violating team rules. Poole revealed on Sunday the suspension was for stealing.

The Dolphins investigated Poole thoroughly and came away satisfied that Poole is not a character risk. To make sure, they contact USC coach Pete Carroll.

"He gave him a very strong endorsement," said Dolphins director of college scouting Ron Labadie. "He said he gave him zero trouble at USC and supported him 100 percent."

Those watching the draft on ESPN heard Mel Kiper call Poole an overachiever and a guy who on game day "looked like a first-round draft pick."

The Dolphins needed to add depth at cornerback because they currently don't have much behind the top three of Patrick Surtain, Sam Madison and Reggie Howard.

Veteran Terrell Buckley remains an unrestricted free agent and there's no guarantee the Dolphins will be able to re-sign him.

Even if they do, Madison and Buckley might not have that many years left and the Dolphins need to rebuild that position.

In Poole, they got a guy whose performance in 2003 suggests he should have been drafted a lot higher. This, as the saying goes, looks like a great value pick.

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