This time next week, the Miami Dolphins will have four new rookies, with the fourth through seventh rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft still to be completed. With those four rookies, Miami should have patched up some of the holes on the roster, holes general manager Jeff Ireland described as "glaring." But, what exactly are those needs?
1 - Quarterback. This is the most glaring of the needs the Dolphins have, and it's been that way since 1999. Ever since Dan Marino retired, the Dolphins have been looking for the "franchise" quarterback to replace him. Now, 13 years later, will they finally find the right person to fill #13's shoes?
2 - Pass rusher. The NFL is all about the passing offense. You have to be able to throw the ball, and you have to be able to stop the other team from throwing the ball. The best way to stop an opponent's quarterback from lighting up the scoreboard is to not let him thrown the ball. Miami has an elite pass rusher in Cameron Wake. Then, there's a drop off to Jared Odrick. After that, there's no one. The Dolphins have to fix that if they are going to have any sort of success.
3 - Wide receiver. Again, it's a passing league. If the Dolphins are able to find the quarterback that will carry this team into the future, they need to make sure he has someone to whom he can throw the ball. Right now, the number one wide receiver on the Dolphins' depth chart is Brian Hartline. Could he be a top receiver? Sure, I won't rule him out. But, would it feel a whole lot better if there was another big name on the team? Absolutely. With the trade of Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears, you have to believe the Dolphins will look for at least one wide receiver in the draft, despite signing Legedu Naanee.
4 - Offensive line. Amazing how quickly this need has fallen from the 1 or 1a position to number four, but that's where it belongs right now. During the podcast, I projected the Dolphins' starting offensive line for Week 1 to be: Jake Long, Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey, John Jerry, London Murtha. I would be okay with that line, but I think the team still needs to be looking for some help along the o-line. If Miami can find a stud tackle or guard some where in the second, third, or fourth rounds, I would chalk that up as a success.
5 - Safety. This one could be a toss up. I nearly placed tight end here, because I think the team desperately needs a big, pass catching, burn the seam type of tight end, but I will call Les Brown, the former basketball player the Dolphins recently signed, one of the team's draft picks this year. With that consideration, I will move the need down some, making safety more of a need. The Dolphins did add former Minnesota Vikings safety Tyrell Johnson this free agency period, but I think the team still needs to look to bolster the position. With Yeremiah Bell out, Miami has a big hole to fill in the secondary, and drafting a young rookie could be the move that fixes the problem.
Ireland did not do himself any favors this year. After using the free agency period, as he put it, to build depth, Ireland has placed all the pressure squarely on his shoulders to have a stellar draft. If he can find starters at three of these five needs (or a potential starter at the quarterback position), and solid contributors at the other two this year, I think he will have been successful. But, anything less than that will very quickly ramp up the rhetoric and calls for Ireland's firing.
And, if he does completely bomb this draft, those calls may be justified.