Who will be the best player available when the Miami Dolphins go on the clock in the first round of the draft on April 25?
That might not be relevant in the Dolphins' draft room.
Many general managers and personnel executives talk about taking the best player available with their draft picks, whether or not it fits an immediate need. But not Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland.
He has drafted for "need" the past two years, taking center Mike Pouncey 15th overall in 2011 and quarterback Ryan Tannehill eighth in 2012. Both picks were panned by many critics as "reaches" relative to their draft worth, but the picks have worked out for Ireland and the Dolphins - Pouncey has quickly developed into one of the league's best young offensive linemen, while Tannehill showed promise in his rookie year and seems to finally be the answer to the Dolphins' long-standing quarterback woes.
Ireland may have to draft for need again this year with the No. 12 pick. The best options available might be on the offensive or defensive line, but this offseason is all about surrounding Tannehill with better weapons, and if Ireland has to "overdraft" a receiver or a tight end, then so be it.
"I really don't care what the public perception is," Ireland said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I care about what my scouts say and what my eyes are telling me."
Ireland said he doesn't really have a plan of action for the 12th pick yet, because he first needs to see how free agency shakes out. If the Dolphins sign an impact receiver - Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings, for instance - then he can use his first pick on a defensive end, cornerback or tight end. If he loses cornerback Sean Smith or left tackle Jake Long in free agency and doesn't replace them with anyone of note, then filling those positions in the draft becomes the top priority.
"Obviously, the first goal, you would like to take the best player available," Ireland said. "But it depends on what you do in free agency, it depends on some of your needs and depends on what's there when you take the pick."