Here is the list of potential unrestricted free agents after the 2013 season:
Davone Bess slot receiver
Dustin Keller projected starter
Richie Incognito projected starter
John Jerry potential starter
Lance Louis potential starter
Randy Starks projected starter
Paul Soliai projected starter
Koa Misi projected starter
Nolan Carrol reserve/special teams
Brent Grimes projected starter
Chris Clemons projected starter
Reshad Jones projected starter
There is a potential for 9 starters (plus Bess who is essentially a starter) to be unrestricted at the end of 2013. That is why I believe it is important to not only look at the rosters current need areas but also potential need areas after 2013 as we try to narrow down which positions might be addressed in the upcoming draft.
I want to attempt to speculate as to what the Dolphins might be thinking specifically with their 8 picks between rounds 1-5 based on current needs AND future ones.
First off I want to address the move up/move down crowd. I love the idea in theory of going up and getting a guy the team loves or adding even more picks in a deep class. However, the chances they move from 12 are very slim. They have had 6 picks in the top 32 since 2008 and have only moved once and this was in a year where they did not have a 2nd round pick. So I'm going to take a leap and project we stay at 12...
I believe the Dolphins absolutely have the ability to choose BPA with any one of their picks and there is no place better to do that than at 12 if Jeff Ireland wants to optimize the chance that the player will succeed. However, something tells me despite the fact that theoretically based on current and future needs the team could go WR, TE, OT, G, DE, DT, LB, CB or S with the first pick, that the team wants an immediate starter with such a high pick and the team wants that player to play a position of high value. Therefore, I believe we can most likely eliminate WR, G. DT LB and S. We can take away WR , DT, LB and S because that player would most likely be a role player year one, and Guard because I pray Jeff Ireland is aware there is no value in taking one at 12. Therefore, I believe like most experts that the Phins will be either going OT, DE, or CB with Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert as a super dark horse IF Jeff sees him as the next Jason Witten (was in room when drafted in Dallas) and he has prioritized weapons for Ryan Tannehill to a level we still can not yet conceptualize. Ultimately, it will probably come down to who is on the board (If Shariff Floyd is there TAKE HIM), but I think we all know there are clearly a few pivotal areas on the team that need help immediatley and 12 is a prime spot to address those spots.
(My opinion? We are better at CB than most think, the OT position is overrated in terms of value, and we need pass rushing help long term more than some realize. There are three proven players on the Dline (Wake, Starks, Soliai) and all three are on the wrong side of 30. Odrick is not a pure pass rusher, and I don't feel comfortable putting too many eggs in the Olivier Vernon basket based on his 2012 tape. I'd get a high upside pass rusher in round 1 unless I loved a guy with a unanimous second day grade. But I digress...)
2nd Round (2 picks)
This is where I hope to make my over arching point. Last year, the Dolphins seemed in desperate need of a WR and many fans expected them to go that route in round 2. However, they went with LT Jonathan Martin not just because he could theoretically slide in at RT (another need) but because Jeff Ireland understood that he shouldn't force a pick AND MORE IMPORTANTLY that Jake Long was an impending free agent and the team might need a LT for 2013. Therefore, while it is easy to sit here now and go "well, if they go OT in the first round they will go CB and DE in round 2" because those are need areas, that likely won't be the case. Why? Because a quick look at the upcoming free agent list shows that there is no long term future at TE, LG, RG, DT, SLB, or FS (Reshad Jones isn't going anywhere). I believe the team is just as likely to take for example a DT or a FS at pick 42 as they are to draft a CB. Ultimately, if Jeff Ireland goes BPA and keeps one eye on the future as he seemed to do in 2012 the team may not address a need position in the first two rounds. The team might have some experts slamming them for having "holes", but it is the job of the GM to think short term AND long term. And despite what many pundits seem to believe, NO roster is ever perfect.
3-5 Rounds (5 picks)
These picks are a numbers game. 5 picks in three rounds. All players chosen statistically have at most a 25% chance of panning out based on recent draft history of all 32 teams. Obviously in the third round you are more likely to find a solid player then the fifth, but don't be fooled into thinking third round picks should be considered huge busts if they don't pan out. Every team misses every year on picks in these rounds. In fact, every team misses on 2nd rounders too from time to time, including Belicheck and Ozzie. (I realize there is no citing sources. I suggest analyzing the last 10 years of draft history you will find this all to be accurate). Having 5 picks in these "middle" rounds increases the chances the Phins will be able to find a couple solid players, and due to the nature of these picks I believe it is unfair to expect Ireland to address any one position unless there is precedent for finding value whether it be on behalf of the league or this specific strengths. My guess? Considering the team won't be projecting any player drafted here into anything but a role playing position I'd think they could go anywhere with any pick, but will acknowledge that many of the top tight ends, guards, linebackers and safeties in the league are found in these rounds and the team potentially could have needs in all those areas going forward. Throw in the fact that Ireland has hit on two fifth round safeties, and the Packers had success finding guards in the middle rounds when Philbin was there, and you have a couple educated guesses.
I want to stress that I fully believe the team will draft a OT, CB, and a pass rusher at some point. But I also want to stress that it is very unlikely that the draft board will work a way in which these three positions are all addressed with high enough picks where you can immediately pencil anyone in anywhere. If anything, if Jeff Ireland is doing his job correctly the draft won't be nearly so predictable.