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Despite its receiver corps, Dolphins' first three picks next spring could learn toward D

We've heard it time and time again this season--This Dolphins receiver group sucks. Can't any of these guys get deep? How about open? WTF is with Miami trying to make Davone Bess and Brian Hartline into No. 1 wideouts? Ryan Tannehill looks great but needs weapons. FIRE JEFF IRELAND RIGHT NOW!

The Dolphins desperately need a big-player corner, and FSU's Xavier Rhodes fits the bill.
The Dolphins desperately need a big-player corner, and FSU's Xavier Rhodes fits the bill.
Stacy Revere

Miami Dolphins fans are right to be so perturbed with the team's receivers. No one in Miami seems to be able to threaten safeties or consistently pick up huge chunks of yards after the catch, and Tannehill's body language, at times, screams, "Someone get open so I can show off this here flamethrower!" Unfortunately for the rookie quarterback wunderkind, help in the receiver department likely won't be on the way until next spring. Does that mean Miami acquires a big-shot receiver via free agency? It's certainly possible. Less likely, however, is a scenario where the Dolphins take a receiver in the first round of the draft ... or early in the second round, for that matter.

Now, before anyone here gets crazy and starts with the "You're killing our franchise quarterback" talk, let's consider this: Joe Philbin is fresh off of coaching a Green Bay offense that is void of any first-round picks in the receiver corps. Greg Jennings? Second rounder, 2006. James Jones? Third round the following year. Jordy Nelson? Second rounder in 2008. Randall Cobb? Also a second rounder, this time in 2011. Noticing a pattern here? The Pack assembled a world-class offense with a slew of day two picks, saving their first-round selections for impact players on the defensive side of the ball (B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews in 2009, Nick Perry last April) or offensive linemen (Bryan Bulaga in 2010, Derek Sherrod the following year).

Don't be surprised if Miami takes a similar approach in 2013.

Think about it: the Dolphins' defense is on the verge of becoming something utterly nasty, lacking only a big-time corner opposite Sean Smith, a playmaker safety and possibly a knockout franchise linebacker. Those are positions that are hard enough to find after day two, sometimes even day one. If you're Jeff Ireland and you see what you have on defense, it's almost a no-brainer to go out and get the pieces necessary for Miami's defense to dominate the AFC East for much of the next decade. This means the receiver position, regardless of what happens in free agency, isn't likely to be addressed before the Dolphins' third pick (their second selection in the second round, to be exact), and even that might be a bit of a high-ball guess.

I said prior to this season that Miami would probably pick somewhere in the mid-to-late teens, so let me amend that: I believe the Dolphins' selection will end up somewhere between Nos. 17 and 24. Let's split that projection favorably and give them the 21st pick. Also, Let's say the Colts stay where they are as of Week 8 and select sixth overall. That would give the Dolphins the 37th and 51st picks in the second round. Great success. Miami's third round selections would fall on the 83rd and 90th picks, which doesn't seem great, but should yield some outstanding receiver talent (see where I am going with this?).

If I am Jeff Ireland, the first two days of the Dolphins' 2013 draft will look something like this:

21) Should be: Bjoern Werner, DE Florida State

Yes, defensive end was absent from Miami's "to-do" list on defense, but no team has ever suffered from having a stable of predator pass rushers on tap. FSU's Bjoern Werner has been a star in the making this season, boasting ultra-violent hands and breathtaking speed off of the edge. His presence in Miami would also do a great service to the Dolphins' new-look secondary (spoiler alert ... sort of). And while I am still struggling to find an accurate pro comparison for Werner, if you called him a faster Ryan Kerrigan with blitzkrieg upside, I wouldn't disagree.

Could be: Johnthan Banks, CB, Miss. State, Jonathan Cooper, G North Carolina, Alec Ogletree, ILB Georgia

There's always the chance that Miami sticks with its board and eschews value in favor of getting the player they most want. Banks has a tall, thick build for a cornerback, and he'd form a very unforgiving corner tandem with Sean Smith. Don't rule out a guard at this spot, either. It's not a sexy pick, but it is a big need for the Dolphins. And with Cooper and Alabama's Chance Warmack grading out higher than David DeCastro--the top-rated guard in 2011--either lineman would hold legit value this late in the first round.

Middle linebacker will soon be a need in Miami, and Ogletree possesses a berserk blend of speed and versatility, so keep an eye on the Georgia flash.

Oh, and Ogletree's on this list because there's no way in hell Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o slides this far. Commence sad face.

37) Should be: Xavier Rhodes, CB Florida State

Tough call with the corners this year. Banks, Alabama's Dee Milliner and Florida State's Xavier Rhodes are the stars in this class, but Milliner at this point is the only first-round lock (honestly, he'll be long gone by the time Miami gets on the clock). That means early day two will be the ideal time for the Dolphins to get the powerhouse corner--and complement to Smith--that they so sorely lack. And getting Rhodes at this spot would be an outright steal--he has the size and speed to make an immediate difference in Kevin Coyle's secondary,

Could be: Kenny Vaccaro, S Texas, Robert Woods, WR USC

You really can't go wrong with either Vaccaro or Woods. Vaccaro may end up as the best safety in this class (it's likely between Vaccaro and Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson), and Woods is a sharp-route-running burner with excellent hands. His height (6'1") might turn off some teams, which is why he could still be available on day two.

51) Should be: Matt Elam, S Florida

Elam is officially my favorite prospect in this draft class, and I believe any Dolphins fan who checks out the standout safety's play at Florida the last two seasons will almost certainly agree. The Gators allow Elam to do everything: roam around the line of scrimmage, play centerfield, rush the passer, whatever. The best comparison I've read for Elam is Troy Polamalu. Isn't it time the Dolphins had someone like Polamalu in their secondary?

Could be: Terrance Williams, WR Baylor, Tavon Austin, WR West Virginia

Two advanced receivers who could be available when the Dolphins go on the clock for the third time. In fact, there's a good chance Miami goes receiver here, but unless all of the knockout safeties are gone (and there are quite a few of them this year), the Dolphins would be wise to wait until round three before going hog wild with the receiver picks.

83) Stedman Bailey, WR West Virginia

Here we go with the receivers, and I won't be surprised if Miami gets very familiar with receiver picks late on day two and throughout day three. West Virginia's Stedman Bailey has the hands, ultra-precise route running and explosiveness off the line to make him a day-two quality receiver, but his height will hurt him in the No. 1 receiver department. That's no matter for Philbin and Miami, however, and Bailey could have a Greg Jennings-like impact on the Dolphins' offense (provided Jennings isn't, you know, playing for the Dolphins next spring). This guy is one of my favorite receiver prospects for a reason: he's a match-up nightmare and a machine after the catch.

90) Aaron Mellette, WR Elon

You can't have Greg Jennings without James Jones, and Elon's Aaron Mellette very much reminds me of the latter. He's a big-bodied receiver with excellent hands, quality speed and a knack for making touch catches when they matter most. He's also a certified deep threat, though the middle of the field is where he does his best work.