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2003: Dolphins' first pick surprises
Eddie Moore wasn't the only one stunned after becoming the first player chosen by the Dolphins in Saturday's draft.
Despite left tackle being the biggest area of need and several well-regarded wide receivers still available, the Dolphins decided to pick the Tennessee linebacker with the 49th selection.
"If you add another level to shock, that's me," said Moore, who said he didn't expect to be selected until the third round. "[The Dolphins] told me they were about to turn in a card with my name, and I'm like, `For real?'"
Moore's name is certain to elicit the same response from fans who hoped the team would use its first selection on a player with a better chance to immediately compete for a starting spot or significant playing time. The Dolphins did address their offensive line in the third round, selecting Memphis tackle Wade Smith and Texas A&M guard Taylor Whitley.
But like Moore, both are expected to begin this season as backups.
The Dolphins started trying to move up in the draft to land an impact player when Chicago was on the clock with the 14th selection.
One of the other teams that turned down a feeler was Arizona, which reportedly was offered the Dolphins' second-round pick in this year's draft, a first-rounder in 2004 and linebacker Derrick Rodgers in exchange for the 18th selection and running back Thomas Jones.
Although Dolphins officials wouldn't reveal which players they were targeting, it's believed they weres trying to get one of the left tackles who landed with Denver (Georgia's George Foster), San Francisco (Stanford's Kwame Harris) or Cincinnati (Iowa's Eric Steinbach). The Dolphins stopped trying to vigorously pursue a trade after Steinbach was selected by Cincinnati with the 33rd pick.
"We [offered] everything we could without selling the farm," Senior Vice President Rick Spielman said. "A couple of the teams we talked to, it was ridiculous what they were asking for. It didn't work out, but we were on the phone for four hours straight trying to get something done in the first round."
Coach Dave Wannstedt said he was worried a quality linebacker might not be available if they waited past their first selection. His hunch was justified when three linebackers were chosen in the four picks after Moore was selected.
"He was the highest-rated player on the board at a position where we had a need," Wannstedt said.
"He's a guy that played all three linebacker positions. He's a smart guy who can run. He fits the mold of what we like as a linebacker with a lot of athletic ability."
Moore's biggest impact as a rookie is likely to come on special teams, where the Dolphins need to replace departed backup linebackers Twan Russell (Atlanta) and Scott Galyon (retired).
Moore also will serve as the understudy to Junior Seau, who has replaced Derrick Rodgers as the starting weak-side linebacker.
The 6-foot, 231-pound Moore was a two-year starter at Tennessee and averaged eight tackles a game. Moore has undergone two arthroscopic surgeries on his left knee and surgery on his left shoulder, but the Dolphins gave him a clean bill of health.
"My role is doing the best I can as far as learning from other guys that are there and coming in [ready] to play," said Moore, 22. "I'm not coming in to sit on the sideline and be a spectator."
Entering the free-agent signing period, the Dolphins had hoped to acquire a left tackle who would allow Mark Dixon to return to left guard. But unless Smith develops quickly or a veteran unexpectedly is released, Dixon is likely to remain in that role.
"From the standpoint of technique and things like that, [Smith] is going to have to learn and work on that," Spielman said.
Still, the Dolphins are thrilled about Smith's potential after spending only two seasons at tackle following his conversion from tight end. The 6-4, 296-pound Smith has gained 20 pounds in a year and has the potential to gain 15 more without losing his impressive foot speed, according to strength coach John Gamble.
Smith was chosen with the third-round pick acquired Friday from New England in exchange for the Dolphins' 2004 second-round selection.
"Wade was the most athletic tackle at the [NFL Scouting] Combine," Wannstedt said. "This guy really has the chance to blossom into something special."
The 6-3, 321-pound Whitley was a college teammate of Dolphins center/guard Seth McKinney, who was the franchise's first pick last year. Whitley is expected to work behind starting right guard Todd Perry, although Spielman said Whitley might get a look as a backup right tackle.
The Dolphins have seven picks today -- two each in the fifth and sixth rounds and three in the seventh -- in the final day of the draft. They are expected to select at least one wide receiver, as Wannstedt believes the position is among the deepest in the draft.