The Right Choice?

Since the Dolphins couldn't find any takers for the No. 1 overall pick, they were left to select the one player they liked best among this year's top prospects. In the end, Jake Long got the nod over Vernon Gholston, Chris Long, Darren McFadden, Matt Ryan and Glenn Dorsey. Drafting an offensive lineman first overall doesn't quality as a sexy pick, but was it the right pick?

The answer is an absolute, emphatic, undeniable "yes."

It's not that Jake Long is the perfect pick because offensive linemen can only make so much of a difference on a team. And it's not as though Jake Long has been deemed by anyone to be a franchise-type player -- in fact, most observers will tell you Joe Thomas was a better prospect last year.

But there was no perfect pick for the Dolphins in this draft. Every one of the above-mentioned six top prospects came with a major drawback as far as the Dolphins were concerned.

Gholston too often looked disinterested. Chris Long wasn't big enough to play defensive end in a 3-4 and therefore would have to switch to outside linebacker, where there was some reason to wonder whether his athletic ability would help him succeed there. Ryan simply isn't a good enough quarterback prospect to draft No. 1. McFadden is a tremendous prospect, but there are concerns about his character, running back is the Dolphins' best position and running back also is the easiest position to fill.

Dorsey may well be the best prospect around, but he's strictly a 4-3 defensive tackle and the Dolphins aren't going to be playing a 4-3.

That brings us back to Jake Long.

The consensus among scouts is that he will be a good, maybe very good NFL player for 10-12 years. If somehow it turns out he doesn't have the quickness to play left tackle, he can always be moved to right tackle -- even though Dolphins coach Tony Sparano and GM Jeff Ireland have no reservations about his ability to handle that position in the pros.

He clearly fills a major need because before he signed, the Dolphins' tackles were Vernon Carey and Julius Wilson, an undrafted rookie free agent last year who spent the season on the practice squad.

The argument will be made that Long won't score touchdowns for the Dolphins next season. No, he won't, but he's going to make it easier for guys like Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams and Ted Ginn to do just that.

Just look at the Cleveland offense, and how it dramatically improved last year. Sure, a lot of it was due to the emergence of quarterback Derek Anderson, but don't discount for a second the important of Joe Thomas.

Just also think back to another left tackle drafted in the first round by the Dolphins, Richmond Webb in 1990. He was a star from the beginning and made a huge difference on the Dolphins offensive line.

Then again, there have been busts among highly drafted left tackles, the most recent example being Robert Gallery, another guy Long has been compared to coming out of college.

But Long, a two-time captain at Michigan who seems to have all the intangibles, was about as safe a pick as the Dolphins could make at the top of this year's draft.

It's not a "wow" pick, but they weren't going to get that this year. What they did instead was make the smart choice.


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