Dig hard, Miami Dolphins: No. 11 pick has been a gold mine (Big Ben, J.J. Watt)

The Texans’ J.J. Watt slams into Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill in 2012. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — For those still unsure about whether Ryan Tannehill is the answer for the Dolphins, how would Ben Roethlisberger look in a Dolphins uniform?

If you’re wondering how the Dolphins’ high-priced defensive line could produce bargain-basement sacks, would J.J. Watt be an acceptable addition?

And if you’re down on DeVante Parker, might someone along the lines of Michael Irvin be a welcome replacement?

Of course, none of those three will be Dolphins in 2018 … but comparable talent could be.

And, more to the point: For the sake of the Dolphins’ future, it pretty much needs to be.

The Dolphins hold the No. 11 pick in the draft, and the names Roethlisberger, Watt and Irvin should come to mind, because all were selected in that slot — a position that has been a gold mine over the years.

(Warning: For some unfortunate souls, it also can be a landmine. But more on that in a minute.)

Stanfill

The Dolphins have chosen 11th once, in 1969, coming away with defensive end Bill Stanfill, a cornerstone of the No-Name Defense on the two Super Bowl-winning teams and member of the Dolphins Honor Roll at Hard Rock Stadium. If you were to offer Adam Gase a guy capable of 18.5 sacks in a season, which Stanfill had in 1973, Gase might find that acceptable.

Linebacker Patrick Willis, a tackling machine for the 49ers whose career was cut short by injury, was a No. 11. So were All-Pros DeMarcus Ware and Dwight Freeney, who between them have 264 sacks.

If you wanted to keep your quarterback in one piece with those headhunters around, calling on Pro Bowl tackles Taylor Lewan or Leon Searcy (yup, both 11s) would be advisable.

So too is doing one’s homework, which should keep the Dolphins’ braintrust of Mike Tannenbaum, Chris Grier and Gase occupied the next few months. The first round is fraught with poor options, and drafting as high as No. 11 only raises the stakes.

Jay Cutler’s Dolphins career will come and go with only one forgettable season, costing Miami $10 million. But what if his price also were the 11th overall pick, which is what the Broncos paid in 2006?

Maybe it’s time for the Dolphins to choose another QB, but can they afford a replay of the Daunte Culpepper experiment (Vikings, 1999)? Or, worse, another Jerry Tagge, whose career passer rating was 44.2 after the Packers thought he’d be the answer in 1972?

Those are the extremes, naturally. A majority of 11s end up somewhere in the middle, ranging from the very good (Wilber Marshall, Bears, 1984, or Dontari Poe, Chiefs, 2012) to the OK (Anthony Smith, Raiders, 1990).

For sheer bizarre entertainment, let’s revisit 1979, when the Saints took Texas punter Russell Erxleben at No. 11. They got what they deserved: After five years of Erxleben averaging 40 yards per punt, they saw him join the Lions, where he averaged 52 yards in 1987. Oh, but did we mention that was for his only kick in his final season?

Even when teams do the right thing, the results may not show it. UM’s Dan Morgan was a solid linebacking addition to the Panthers in 2001, but injuries shrunk his career into seven seasons. Packers fans had to wonder what could have been for Tim Lewis (1983), who had 16 interceptions in four seasons. Then came Sept. 22, 1986, when the Packers were playing the Bears on Monday Night Football. Lewis, 24, was covering speedy receiver Willie Gault, who caught a 6-yard pass. Lewis collided with Gault and didn’t regain feeling in his extremities until he was in the hospital. He was diagnosed with a narrow spinal canal and forced to retire.

The Dolphins’ season just ended with a whimper at 6-10, so all Dolfans have to look forward to is the draft. And, perhaps, another Big Ben, another Playmaker, or the latest installment from the massive talent well of the Watt family.

Breaking down No. 11 picks

The Dolphins hold the No. 11 pick in this year’s draft. They have chosen 11th only once before, in 1979 when they took one of their all-time greats, defensive end Bill Stanfill. Here’s how the No. 11s break down from 1969 to the present.

The Dolphins can only hope

Year Pos Player College NFL team

’11 DE J.J. Watt, Wisconsin Houston

Three-Time Defensive Player of Year, 4 All-Pro teams


’07 LB Patrick Willis, Ole Miss San Francisco

732 tackles, seven Pro Bowls but retired after ’14 with health concerns


’04 QB Ben Roethlisberger, Miami (Ohio) Pittsburgh

Six Pro Bowls; future Hall of Famer


’88 WR Michael Irvin, Miami Dallas

Pro Football Hall of Famer


Patriots QB Tom Brady shares a moment with the Falcons’ Dwight Freeney after last season’s Super Bowl. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

All they expected

’14 T Taylor Lewan, Michigan Tennessee

2 Pro Bowls


’12 NT Dontari Poe, Memphis Kansas City

239 career tackles; 2 Pro Bowls


’05 LB DeMarcus Ware, Troy State Dallas

138.5 career sacks, 4-time All-Pro


’02 DE Dwight Freeney, Syracuse Indianapolis

125.5 career sacks; 3-time All-Pro


’92 T Leon Searcy, Miami Pittsburgh

111 starts; 1 Pro Bowl


’84 LB Wilber Marshall, Florida Chicago

Two-time All-Pro; 1,020 tackles


’73 RB Sam Cunningham, USC New England

“Sam Bam” had 43 TDs in 9 seasons


’69 DE Bill Stanfill, Georgia Miami

69.5 career sacks


Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler was the 11th overall pick by Denver in 2006. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Solid but unspectacular

’08 CB Leodis McKelvin, Troy Buffalo

Part-time starter, 15 career INTs, 80 passes defensed


’06 QB Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt Denver

Personification of inconsistency


’03 CB Marcus Trufant, Washington State Seattle

11 seasons, 21 INTs


’01 LB Dan Morgan, Miami Carolina

7 seasons, 281 tackles, but several injuries


’00 RB Ron Dayne, Wisconsin New York Giants

Best season was 773 as rookie


’99 QB Daunte Culpepper, Central Florida Minnesota

He was no Drew Brees


’98 T William Thomas, FSU Philadelphia

Started 168 games


’96 DB Alex Molden, Oregon New Orleans

8 seasons, 12 INTs


’95 DE Derrick Alexander, FSU Minnesota

20 career sacks


’91 T Pat Harlow, USC New England

94 career starts for Patriots, Raiders


’90 DE Anthony Smith, Arizona L.A. Raiders

57.5 career sacks


’89 DB Donnell Woolford, Clemson Chicago

36 INTs in 9 seasons


’86 LB Joe Kelly, Washington Cincinnati

11 seasons, 6 INTs


’85 DB Richard Johnson, Wisconsin Houston

15 INTs in 8 seasons


’83 DB Tim Lewis, Pittsburgh Green Bay

16 INTs in 4 seasons before neck injury ended career


’81 T Keith Van Horne, USC Chicago

Played 13 seasons


’80 G Brad Budde, USC Kansas City

Played 7 seasons


’77 T Morris Towns, Missouri Houston

Played 92 games in 8 seasons


’75 G Dennis Harrah, Miami L.A. Rams

168 games in 13 seasons


Defensive end D.J. Fluker started 65 games for the Chargers. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Can I get a Mulligan?

’13 DE D.J. Fluker, Alabama San Diego

65 career starts


’10 T Anthony Davis, Rutgers San Francisco

4-year starter; retired early for health reasons


’09 DE Aaron Maybin, Penn State Buffalo

Only 1 career start, 6 sacks


’97 CB Michael Booker, Nebraska Atlanta

Played only 5 seasons


’94 LB John Thierry, Alcorn State Chicago

41 tackles in 9 seasons


’93 DE Dan Williams, Toledo Denver

27 career sacks


’87 DE Shawn Knight, BYU New Orleans

Played only 3 seasons


’82 WR Anthony Hancock, Tennessee Kansas City

5 TDs in 5 seasons


’79 P Russell Erxleben, Texas New Orleans

Seriously? A punter? Zero chance of a repeat today


’78 DB Luther Bradley, Notre Dame Detroit

Played only 4 seasons; good USFL career


’76 WR Billy Brooks, Oklahoma Cincinnati

Seven TDs in 5 seasons


’74 RB John Cappelletti, Penn State L.A. Rams

2,951 career yards


’72 QB Jerry Tagge, Nebraska Green Bay

Career rating: 44.2


’71 RB Joe Moore, Missouri Chicago

281 career yards


’70 RB Bobby Anderson, Colorado Denver

1,282 career yards


Ex-Gator Vernon Hargreaves of the Bucs defends against the Jets’ Jermaine Kearse. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

Too early to tell

2017 CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State New Orleans

52 tackles as rookie


’16 CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida Tampa Bay

1 career INT


’15 CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State Minnesota

65 career tackles, 2 INTs


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