Parcells, Dolphins will have decisions to make with top pick

Updated: December 24, 2007, 2:06 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When he settles in to his new role as vice president of football operations for the Miami Dolphins, Bill Parcells is likely to find there isn't really a lot of talented personnel on-hand with which to rebuild the struggling franchise.

But with Sunday's loss to the undefeated New England Patriots here, Parcells and the Dolphins did secure the rights to one significant building block for the future: the first selection in the 2008 draft.

[+] EnlargeDarren McFadden
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesDarren McFadden could be the top pick, but do the Dolphins want a running back?

By virtue of its 1-14 record, Miami has clinched the top pick and, with that dubious consolation prize, the right to invest $60 million or more on an untested rookie.

"It's not the kind of thing you ever really want," said quarterback Cleo Lemon after Sunday's game. "But it's where we're at right now as a team, I guess. Hopefully, we can make the best of it."

Even before Sunday, speculation and debate in South Florida had already begun about how the dismal Dolphins might best use the first overall selection in 2008. Although the evaluation process is still in early stages leaguewide, many scouts believe Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, who is expected to forgo his remaining college eligibility to enter the draft, will be the most coveted prospect.

But the Dolphins used the second overall choice in the 2005 draft to choose tailback Ronnie Brown and, even though he is rehabilitating from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the former Auburn star was establishing himself as one of the league's premier all-around backs before suffering his season-ending injury Oct. 21. That fact, and the likelihood none of the quarterback prospects are yet deemed worthy of being the top overall selection, might prompt the Dolphins to consider trade offers.

Of course, the hiring of Parcells last week to oversee the entire football operation will add some intrigue in coming months to the decision the Miami organization faces. Parcells could overhaul the scouting department and he has yet to begin a thorough evaluation of the Dolphins' roster. It's expected that Parcells will be formally introduced to the media by owner Wayne Huizenga at a news conference later this week, possibly on Thursday.

Parcells has an interesting draft history and is known as a man who likes to wheel and deal in the lottery. Notable is that there is already speculation his former boss, Dallas owner Jerry Jones, may attempt to trade up in the draft for a shot at McFadden. The Cowboys have two picks, their own and the Cleveland Browns' choice, in the first round of the 2008 draft.

Not since the advent of the common draft in 1967, as a precursor to the NFL-AFL merger, have the Dolphins had the top overall choice. They did own the first pick in the 1966 AFL lottery and chose Illinois running back Jim Grabowski, who was also selected by Green Bay in the first round of the NFL draft. Grabowski eventually signed with the Packers.

Here's how the top eight picks in the first round shape up after applying the appropriate tiebreakers, through Sunday's games: 1. Miami; 2. St. Louis; 3. New York Jets; 4. Atlanta; 5. Kansas City; 6. Oakland. 7. Baltimore; 8. New England, from San Francisco.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.

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