Commentary

Devising draft strategy tops Parcells' to-do list

What to do with the No. 1 pick in next year's draft will be among Bill Parcells' biggest decisions as he settles into his new role in Miami, writes John Clayton.

Originally Published: December 20, 2007
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Once Bill Parcells steps into Dolphins headquarters to assume his role as executive vice president of football operations, he has a lot of planning to do. In some ways, though, the job might be a little easier than what he would have undertaken in Atlanta, even though the Dolphins are in the midst of a 1-13 season.

Though he faces many challenges, Parcells can take comfort in the fact that the organization is committed to the type of defense he likes -- the 3-4. The Falcons are a 4-3, and the change to a 3-4 can take three to four years unless the team is blessed with a dominating nose tackle. The Falcons don't have that nose tackle on their roster.

For two years, former Dolphins coach Nick Saban tried to draft and sign bigger bodies to fit the 3-4, so at least Parcells inherits a team that has some pieces in place.

Here are his five biggest challenges.

1. Knowing he has the first pick in the 2008 draft, Parcells must decide whether LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey is the right building block for the defensive line or if it is better to trade down. Knowing volume works better than one player, Parcells will shop the pick, but the high cost of No. 1 picks may make that difficult.

Regardless, Parcells has a big bargaining chip with the No. 1 pick. At 1-13, the Dolphins clearly aren't one player away from the playoffs, so trade options will entice him.

2. Parcells must see QB John Beck play in the final two games or look through the tape to see if Beck can take the Dolphins through the next four years. Head coach Cam Cameron and general manager Randy Mueller staked their jobs on Ted Ginn Jr. and Beck being the future of the Dolphins' offense. Ginn was a third Pro Bowl alternate as a returner, showing his big-play potential, but Parcells must determine whether he's the right fit at receiver. Ginn might remind Parcells of Terry Glenn, who became a mainstay in Parcells' Patriots offense.

Beck was drafted in the second round this year after the Dolphins decided QB Brady Quinn wasn't worthy of the No. 9 pick, where they selected Ginn. With Cleo Lemon set to become a free agent after the season, Parcells will look around for a veteran quarterback. If Beck isn't a Parcells-type of quarterback, Parcells will be in the market to overhaul the entire position, which would obviously affect the longevity of the head coach.

3. Parcells must decide what to do with DE Jason Taylor and LB Zach Thomas, the mainstays of the Dolphins' defense. Taylor is the Dolphins' lone Pro Bowl player this season, but he will be 34 next fall. Parcells must decide whether he wants to keep Taylor as the team's main pass-rusher, or see what value Taylor might have in a trade.

Saban let the defense get too old, which is one of the reasons the team has fallen to 1-13. If there is a way to get first- and third-round draft choices for Taylor, Parcells might be willing to give him up.

Thomas is another story. He'll be 35 next fall. He's coming off a season filled with concussions and missed time. Although Parcells probably feels Thomas' leadership is a huge plus, he might feel the need to get younger at the position, thus cutting ties with the popular Thomas.

4. Time must be spent with the medical people to review the injured reserve list, headed by halfback Ronnie Brown. If healthy, Brown would be the ideal back to handle a ball-control offense. Before the injury, Brown had breakaway speed and great hands to catch passes out of the backfield. He was developing into a workhorse. But he's coming off a knee reconstruction, so Parcells has to project what Brown can do.

Because of the two-back success he had in Dallas with Julius Jones and Marion Barber, Parcells will probably draft a running back in the second or third round as long as Brown is healthy. If he's concerned about Brown's health, he might have to look higher in the draft or sign a free agent. Hmm. Jones will be available as a free agent. That might be an option, and Jones' style is a little different than Brown's.

5. Miami's offensive line has been a problem for years. The Dolphins drafted a promising center, Samson Satele, this year. Parcells may like Vernon Carey at tackle, but he'll be looking to upgrade two or three spots along the offensive line.

John Clayton, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame writers' wing, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer