April 19 (UPI) -- The mindset is "no complacency" this offseason for the Miami Dolphins.
Adam Gase led the franchise into the playoffs during his first season as an NFL coach last season as the Dolphins surprised the league with a 10-6 record. Gase's squad finishing second in the AFC East to the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
But that's all in the past, as the Dolphins look into the sights of the 2017 NFL Draft.
"I think just to add to that, our mindset is really no complacency," Dolphins executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said Wednesday at a pre-draft press conference in Davie, Fla.
"That's really the fun part about working with Adam and Chris every day is [we're] always challenging ourselves how we can get better. Certainly that's been Adam's message to the players is 2017 is a new year. We're 0-0. We have a lot of work to do. We're proud of some of the things we got done last year but that was really a long time ago. There is a lot of work to be done between now and opening day in 2017."
This year's draft is stockpiled with stellar defensive backs, dynamic running backs, and edge rushers. But the Dolphins won't prioritize need, at least not early on. Its draft board currently includes more than 140 prospects.
"Right now on the big board, we're probably a little over right now, so we're probably in the 140s, and that's probably a little heavy for us," Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said. "At the end of the day, the process of moving up and down, we're spending a lot of time this week – Mike Tannenbaum, Adam and I – meeting together with some of the personnel guys and coaches, and little tweaks here and there."
"For the most part, the board is pretty much set, and now you're tweaking within groups and rankings," Grier said. "There won't be any real major jumps. We've had coaches calling us still. For the college coaches this time of year, they become available, so through our connections, we all know people. We'll get on a conference call and we'll talk about the player. So, that may help settle a discussion we have between a character of concern on a player or not. Just little tweaks throughout this week."
The Dolphins have yet to remove the players with character issues from its big board, as research is still being conducted behind the scenes.
— Al Butler (@ALaboutSports) April 19, 2017
Character concerns were a hot topic at last year's draft when the Dolphins decided to take Laremy Tunsil with the No. 13 pick. Tunsil was touted as the best prospect in the draft, but his stock began to fall when teams were picking up players in the first round. It fell even more when a video of the Ole Miss offensive tackle emerged from his Twitter account, The video featured Tunsil smoking a bong through a gas mask. He was also suspended by the NCAA in 2015 for receiving improver benefits while he was a student at Ole Miss.
But Tunsil hasn't had any known incidents since joining the Dolphins. In fact, 22-year-old rewarded the franchise with solid play at left guard. He allowed just one sack. Pro Football Focus gave Tunsil a grade of 70.6 through 15 games last season. That grade ranked No. 14 among first round rookies.
The Dolphins will approach the April 27 draft in Philadelphia, Pa. with a close eye, but the hard work will be done by the time the franchise sends in its draft cards. Grier said the team won't "take any shortcuts" when it comes to analyzing character concerns.
"With our philosophy, each player, we look at individually, and so, [director of team security] Drew Brooks does a great job and [director of team security emeritus] Stu [Weinstein] doing the background of digging in on players," Grier said. "Again, when the Laremy thing came up, we had already done...[national scout] Matt Winston did a great job of background stuff. So with each player, we're still doing...We still have information coming in on players right now. We'll make those decisions early next week on most of those players. For us, background and character is huge. We won't take any shortcuts doing that."
He said that domestic violence incidents will be looked at case-by-case.
"It's a very sensitive subject," Grier said. "We have our feelings on it, but I think dealing with that, you have to look at every case individually...It's something that we have to look at each case individually before we make a determination."
Grier said that this draft is rich with running back talent and edge rushers, but it is a "rare year" for safeties.
The Dolphins re-signed safety Michael Thomas Monday and inked free agent safety Nate Allen on March 10. They also picked up T.J. McDonald on March 31. Pro Bowl strong safety Reshad Jones anchors the crew.
To say the Dolphins' defense itself is an area of team need isn't a stretch. Miami allowed the fourth-most yards and second-most scrimmage plays last season. The Dolphins were also gouged for 4.8 yards per carry, the worst mark in the NFL. Big plays also killed the Dolphins' defense last season as it allowed 18 runs of 20 yards or longer, the most in the AFC.
"For me, as far as the other ones, we talked about the rush ends," Grier said. "There are a lot of good players. Safeties are another. I think this year is probably a rare year for safeties. There are many good players. At the end of the day, you always hear it's a weak draft class, and then you look back five years from now and that ends up being a much better class than ...The Class of 2009 – I'm just throwing a number out there – that everyone said it was a great class, but there's better players in the class. Again, we operate, we evaluate our players, rank them how we feel they fit for the Miami Dolphins, and we just move forward."
The Dolphins own a pick in round 1 through 3, three 5th round choices, and a 7th round pick. Its 3rd rounder and two of its 5th round picks are compensatory selections.
Tannenbaum served as the New York Jets' general manager for seven seasons before joining the Dolphins in 2015. He said Grier leads this franchise's draft efforts.
"Chris runs the draft," Tannenbaum said. "We set the board and we rely on the board to make those decisions. Adam is right there. But a lot of those discussions are had well before – as Chris mentioned – when we have the debate and disagreements. Once the board is set, that's really what we rely on to make our decisions. Last year is probably the best example of that. Again, we didn't think we were going to be drafting a left tackle, but when there is a guy that's so much higher rated than anything else, those are easy decisions. Our owner, Steve Ross, is there. We're all sitting there and you say to yourself 'This is the best player for the long term for us. Let's turn in the card.'"
The Dolphins do have a need on its offensive line after trading starting left tackle Branden Albert this offseason to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tunsil is expected to move back to his natural position, but the team could still use some depth at guard in his absence.
According to the latest UPI NFL mock draft, the Dolphins are expected to take Western Kentucky guard Forrest Lamp at No. 22.