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Football / Sports

Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey taking his first NFL Draft seriously

MIAMI -- Tucked within an otherwise ho-hum predraft briefing Friday, Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey dropped this comedic gift:

If a draft day-style movie was made about the Dolphins front office, the late Leslie Nielsen would have probably been the actor picked to portray him.

"A serious Leslie Nielsen -- not the Naked Gun Leslie Nielsen," the silver-haired Hickey was quick to clarify.

Make no mistake: The draft is no laughing matter -- particularly the first time around for Hickey, who has waited a lifetime to finally get control of a war room.

After years as a top personnel assistant in Tampa Bay, Hickey is in the big seat for the first time. When the Dolphins go on the clock some time Thursday night -- they have the 19th overall pick -- it will be his voice alone.

"We're prepared, we're confident about this weekend coming up and we're ready to go," Hickey said.

How they plan to go about it, however, remains unclear. Hickey was intentionally vague when asked specifics about this year's draft class, but did provide some detail about how the day will unfold.

The draft begins at 8 p.m. Thursday, but he expects to be in the office by dawn. Sleep will be elusive the night before, he suspects.

But when the Dolphins get their 10 minutes to make a selection, he expects the sailing to be smooth.

Just a handful of people will be allowed in the war room.

"Most of the decisions have already been made," Hickey said. "I'm a big believer in proactive decision making. The draft day should be calm."

The team's draft board, at least at the top, is already set, Hickey added. There could be some minor tweaks here and there, but most of the work is done. Next weekend, Hickey will pick players based on what he called "Dolphins value," not need.

"This year's need is next year's surplus, and vice versa," he quipped. "You want to build for the short-term, but you also want to build for the future."

So the supposition that he will reach for an offensive tackle if the top four are already off the board -- as expected -- is probably wrong.

Although Hickey wouldn't go into detail about much of anything Friday -- including his thoughts on this year's offensive tackle class -- he reiterated that analytics have played a part in evaluating prospects.

His methodology is similar to the analytic services available on the Internet, but obviously with their own twist.

"We've always kind of used it on a smaller level," Hickey said. "We're looking to expand that. Analytics to me is a tool to aid in the decision-making. There's a lot of data out there that we have access to that we're looking at different ways to extrapolate that out to maybe help us in a decision, whether it's separating two closely ranked players. It's a tool."

Still, the eye test will be the most important one, as has always been the case.

"We want talented players that help us win on the field, but we want good teammates, guys who will contribute to our community," Hickey added. "Tough, strong, disciplined."

(c)2014 The Miami Herald

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