Thursday, April 17, 2008

A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Two: The Age of Atrophy (1971-1975)

From 1970 to 1974, the Miami Dolphins posted an 8-3 postseason record. From 1975-1980, the record was just 0-2. Six seasons, two playoff appearances, and two embarrassing first-round losses. Why the drop-off? The drafts of 1971-1975 tell the tale. Miami simply failed to pick enough good players to replace the aging and retiring stars of their championship years. Most writing on the subject that I've seen has focused on the defection of Csonka, Kiick, and Warfield to the WFL. But in 1975 Csonka and Kiick were 29-year-old running backs who each averaged only 3.8 ypc. Warfield was a 33-year-old receiver. Miami needed to replace or at least complement those guys with younger talent, WFL or no WFL. And for the most part they couldn't do it. In Part One I noted how Miami hit on four straight first round draft picks from 1967-1970. That roll crashed to a halt over the next five years. Don Reese and Daryl Carlton were flat-out busts. Mike Kadish played for nine years and was a good DT. Unfortunately, he did it for the Buffalo Bills; Miami dealt him in an ill-advised trade a year after picking him. Miami traded its first-round pick in '73 for WR Marlin Briscoe. Briscoe caught only 57 balls in his three years, not exactly great numbers. However, the trade is defensible in that Miami did win two Super Bowls with him and the 1973 WR draft class was horrible. The NFL stripped Miami of its 1971 first-rounder for tampering to steal Don Shula away from the Colts. (Of course, if you count that as a trade than you could say the Dolphins got tremendous value there). The second round picks weren't much better than the first-rounders.

So who's to blame for these disasters? Well, I've written about Joe Thomas before. As Miami's Director of Player Personnel his brilliant acquisitions in the 1966-1970 period built one of the great teams of all-time. But Thomas still held down that job in 1971 and 1972 and those drafts produced very little. Thomas left in '72 to work for the Colts. Don Shula was firmly in charge of the Dolphins by then but he did not have ultimate control over personnel at that time. The guy who replaced Thomas was Bobby Beathard and though he's got a great reputation now, his drafts here don't look very good at all.

Overall, I count only 9 quality players acquired over these five years, though you could bump that up to 11 if you count Briscoe and Bob Matheson, a good LB who played a key role on the No-Name defense and for whom Miami traded their 1972 second-round pick. Of course I'm being generous counting some of the bolded players below as quality players. QB Don Strock gave Miami 14 years, but he only started 20 total games as a Dolphin. WR Freddie Solomon had a fine 11-year career, but only three of those came as a Dolphin. Benny Malone had a short career. The best player Miami drafted in this period was Ed Newman, an excellent offensive guard. The seond-best was probably Nat Moore was a very good receiver. Two valuable players but, as you can see, Miami drafted 0 stars between 1971 and 1975. One must acknowledge that as a result of their great success Miami drafted late in the first-round unlike 1966-1970 when they picked near the top of the first round. Still, Miami turned up gems in other rounds in those early years as well but Thomas and Beathard couldn't repeat that success over the next five years.


2 47 Otto Stowe WR
3 74 Dale Farley LB
4 99 Joe Theismann QB
6 151 Dennis Coleman LB
7 178 Ron Dickerson DB
9 230 Vern Den Herder DE
10 255 Ron Maree DT
11 282 Vic Surma T
12 307 Leroy Byars RB
13 333 Lonnie Hepburn DB
14 359 David Vaughn TE
15 386 Bob Richards G
16 410 Chris Myers WR
17 437 Curt Mark LB

One of the team's worst drafts ever. Miami got but one quality player out of this draft: Vern Den Herder, a 12-year defensive end. Miami did grab Joe Theisman in the fourth round but Joey T chose to play in the CFL rather than back up Bob Griese. Miami later traded his rights to the Redskins but got little in return. As stated earlier, the first-round pick here was lost as a penalty for stealing Shula away from the Colts. Second-rounder Otto Stowe was a huge bust, catching only 18 passes in his two seasons with Miami.


1 25 Mike Kadish DT
3 77 Gary Kosins RB
4 91 Larry Ball LB
4 103 Al Benton T
5 129 Charlie Babb DB
6 155 Ray Nettles LB
7 161 Bill Adams G
7 180 Calvin Harrell RB
8 207 Craig Curry QB
9 233 Greg Johnson DB
11 285 Ed Jenkins RB
12 311 Ashley Bell TE
13 337 Archie Robinson DB
14 362 Willie Jones LB
15 389 Bill Davis DT
16 415 Al Hannah WR
17 441 Vern Brown DB

Another terrible draft. First-rounder Mike Kadish provided nine solid seasons of defensive tackle play. Unfortunately he did it for the Buffalo Bills. Miami traded him after just one season for washed-up O-lineman Irv Goode. And it's not like Miami ever got to see what Kadish could do; he was on the taxi squad for '72 and never played. Miami traded their second-round pick for Bob Matheson, a good linebacker so at least they got something there. DE Larry Ball and DB Charlie Babb lasted seven and eight seasons repectively with the Dolphins so including Matheson ultimately Miami wound up with three quality players from this draft. But none of those guys ever made a Pro Bowl. Oh, and if you know where Charlie Babb's Super Bowl ring is, for God's sake please let him know!

2 52 Chuck Bradley TE
3 78 Leon Gray T
4 104 Bo Rather WR
5 111 Don Strock QB
5 130 Dave McCurry DB
6 156 Ed Newman G
7 160 Kevin Reilly LB
7 163 Benny Shepherd RB
7 178 Willie Hatter WR
7 182 Thomas Smith RB
8 208 Archie Pearmon DE
9 234 Karl Lorch DE
10 260 Ron Fernandes DE
11 286 Chris Kete C
12 312 Mike Mullen LB
13 338 Joe Booker RB
14 364 Greg P. Boyd DB
15 389 Bill Palmer TE
16 416 James Jackson DE
17 442 Charlie Wade WR

The top pick went to Buffalo for Marlin Briscoe. As I said, he helped them win two Super Bowls but he didn't catch many passes. Whatever the merits of the deal, being 27 at the time Briscoe was no long-term receiving prospect. And as it turned out neither were TE Chuck Bradley and WR Otto Stowe, huge busts (as was Otto Stowe in 1972). Miami snared one excellent player in 1973, Ed Newman, and All-Pro offensive guard who played 12 years for the Dolphins. Long-time backup QB Don Strock went to Miami in the fifth. Looking at his stats, I see Strock wasn't anywhere near as good as I remembered him being. Guess that's why Shula didn't give him the starter's job in 1980 when Griese's career ended. Strock probably helped Miami more as Dan Marino's caddy than anything else.

Turns out the best player Miami drafted in 1973 never played a down for them. Leon Gray wound up one of the NFL's best offensive tackles of the '70's. But Miami waived him before that happened and he became an All-Pro for New England, a division rival! Truly one of the worst personnel moves in team history.


1 26 Don Reese DT
2 38 Andre Tillman TE
2 47 Benny Malone RB
2 52 Jeris White DB
3 78 Nat Moore WR
4 104 Bill Stevenson DB
5 130 Cleveland Vann LB
6 136 Randy Crowder DT
6 156 Bob Wolfe T
7 164 Carl Swierc WR
7 182 Joe Sullivan G
8 208 Melvin Baker WR
9 212 Tom Wickert T
9 234 Bob Lally LB
10 260 Gary Valbuena QB
11 286 Gerry Roberts DE
12 312 Jim Revels DB
13 338 Clayton Heath RB
14 364 Sam Johnson LB
15 390 Larry Cates DB
16 416 Jessie Wolf DT
17 442 Ken Dickerson DB

A little bit of an improvment. But not at the top. Don Reese was an all-time classic bust. Busted that is. He and 5th round pick Randy Crowder got caught selling cocaine and by Joe Robbie fiat were summarily released from the team. The second round picks at least all turned out to be decent players. But none lasted particularly long with Miami. Tillman was out of football after four years. Malone was an ok RB for four years. And White lasted for nine years but only three with Miami. The one really good player here was Nat Moore. Finally Miami hit on a receiver in the draft and Moore even made an All-Pro team in his best season.

BTW, can you believe how long these drafts used to be?

1 23 Darryl Carlton T
2 36 Freddie Solomon WR
2 49 Stan Winfrey RB
3 75 Gerald Hill LB
4 100 Bruce Elia LB
5 106 Morris Owens WR
5 127 Barry Hill DB
6 143 Steve Towle LB
7 179 Phillip Kent RB
8 205 Barney Crawford DT
9 231 James Wilson G
10 239 Clyde Russell RB
10 256 Joe Jackson TE
10 257 Joe Danelo K
11 283 John Dilworth DB
12 309 Joe Yancey T
13 334 Leonard Isabell WR
14 338 James Lewis DB
14 361 John Graham QB
15 387 Skip Johns RB
16 413 Vernon Smith C
17 439 Dwaine Copeland RB

Another first-round bust in Carlton. The only good player to shine out of 1975's pile of garbage? Freddie Solomon, a speedy receiver who along with Nat Moore gave Miami one of the better receiving combos in the NFL. Briefly. Miami ended up dealing Freddie to the Niners just three years later so he could win Super Bowl rings for somebody else.

A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part One (1966-1970)
A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Two (1971-1975)
A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Three (1976-1983)
A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Four (1984-1989)
A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Five (1990-1995)
A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Six (1996-1999)
A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Seven (2000-2004)

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