The 2014 NFL Draft will not take place until the first week of May this year, pushed back a couple of weeks due to a scheduling conflict with Radio City Music Hall in New York City. However, that does not mean we cannot already begin to look at the Dolphins' draft needs, trying to get an idea of where the team will be looking when May gets here.
The Dolphins offensive line was, well, offensive most of the season. They played well in spurts, but as a whole, giving up a team record 58 sacks is not getting the job done. The retooling of the offensive line will start with the tackle posisions. Miami could consider bringing back left tackle Bryant McKinnie, but will most likely be considering both left and right tackles this offense, both in free agency and in the draft. If they do not sign someone in free agency, the team's first-round pick could be used on a left tackle.
Get ready for an offensive line heavy draft this year. There really is no way around it. The Dolphins have to fix the line, and drafting young players is cheaper and could mean they are around much longer than a quick fix free agent. With Richie Incognito on his way out of town and the team being luke-warm on John Jerry last year, the Dolphins will be looking for two guards this year. At least the center position seems to be locked down, right?
Just when you thought the draft needs had finished listing the positions along the line of scrimmage, we jump over to the defensive tackles. This one absolutely looks like a draft need today, but by the time May gets here, it could all be solved. The Dolphins currently have both Paul Soliai and Randy Starks scheduled to be free agents. If the team can bring one of them back (with Soliai the likely candidate between the two), they could be set with that player and Jared Odrick at the position, with A.J. Francis and Isaako Aaitui as the reserves. Of course, they could also look to draft a young defensive tackle late in the selection process, but the re-signing of at least one of Soliai or Starks should drop the need to draft a defensive tackle well down on Miami's priority.
The Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas experiment failed badly this year. Part of that could be blamed on the poor play from the offensive line, but a portion of the blame has to land at the running backs' feet. Miami has to find the player they feel will be able to at least provide the threat of a running game. Taking a mid-round running back (Storm Johnson?) could be the best move for the Dolphins.
I know, the Dolphins spent two early picks last year to bring in two rookie cornerbacks that barely saw they field. I expect them to see more playing time, including challenging for a starting role, this upcoming season. However, with Brent Grimes and Nolan Carroll scheduled to be free agents, and the $5.4-million salary cap number for the oft-injured Dimitri Patterson, adding another cornerback could make a lot of sense.
Tight end - The Dolphins have found their starting tight end in Charles Clay, and could re-sign Dustin Keller if his knee is ready, but the team could use a complimentary tight end next to Clay. A dynamic, pass-catching tight end would add another weapon to the Miami offense, and, as the league moves to multiple tight ends more and more, it would be an asset the Dolphins have to consider. How Michael Egnew and Dion Sims fit into the new offensive coordinator's plans could determine how big a need this is.
Wide receiver - Most likely, this is not going to be an early round pick (despite how much I personally would love to pick Mike Evans from Texas A&M), thanks to the team's top three receivers of Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, and Brandon Gibson. Add in Rishard Matthews, and the team has a good stable of receivers. However, findind a big-bodied, red-zone target could be the goal. If the tight end position does not find that player, a wide receiver pick could.
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