Analyzing the needs of the Miami Dolphins heading into the 2013 NFL Draft

04/15/2013 12:00 AM

04/16/2013 12:30 AM

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

This is the only place on the field where the Dolphins have a glaring hole. They need a starter at tackle, but have flexibility: Draft a left tackle and Jonathan Martin moves back to the right side; take a right tackle and he can stay at his most natural position.

Early-round options

•  Eric Fisher, Central Michigan: He has been soaring up the draft boards since a breakout Senior Bowl. Would be a great fit for Miami, but will likely be long gone by pick No. 12.
•  Lane Johnson, Oklahoma: A physical specimen who ran a blazing 4.69 40-yard dash at the Combine – despite weighing 303 pounds. A popular trade-up possibility.
•  D.J. Fluker, Alabama: Fun fact – D.J. stands for Danny Lee Jesus. The Dolphins don’t need a savior at right tackle, just someone dependable. Fluker has been that.

Others to watch: Terron Armstead, Arkansas Pine-Bluff; Kyle Long, Oregon; Justin Pugh, Syracuse; Menelik Watson, Florida State.

CORNERBACK

The Brent Grimes signing lowered the panic meter from 10 to 6 or 7 at the position, but few will mistake the group as currently constructed for Madison and Surtain. Plus, Jeff Ireland covets young and cheap covermen.

Early-round options

Dee Milliner, Alabama: Miami would sprint to the podium if Milliner is still there at 12. Only reason he might be is concern over shoulder surgery performed in March.

•  Desmond Trufant, Washington: At just under 6 feet, Trufant isn’t big. But he’s plenty quick (4.38) and is seen as a superb zone corner.
•  Xavier Rhodes, Florida State: The three-year starter is a press corner who broke up 10 passes in his junior. Unclear if Dolphins see him as a fit, however.

Others to watch: Robert Alford, Southeast Louisiana; Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State; Jordan Poyer, Oregon State; Jamar Taylor, Boise State.

TIGHT END

Dustin Keller will replace Anthony Fasano as the featured target, but his one-year signing was a stop-gap measure. We’ll know if the Dolphins see Charles Clay or Michael Egnew as their long-term seam-buster by Round 3.

Early-round options

•  Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame: He’s the consensus No. 1 player at his position. A physical specimen (6-6, 250) who ran a 4.6-second 40 and showed off a 35.5-inch vertical leap at the Combine.
•  Zach Ertz, Stanford: Hurt himself with a poor Combine performance, but Ertz should still be gone by the end of Round 2. Caught 69 passes in 2012, his only year as a starter.
•  Gavin Escobar, San Diego State: Went pro after a junior year in which he led the Aztecs in receptions (42) and was named a John Mackey Award semifinalist.

Others to watch: Nick Kasa, Colorado; Jordan Reed, Florida; Vance McDonald, Rice; Dion Sims, Michigan State.

DEFENSIVE END

Cameron Wake was the league’s best 4-3 defensive end last year, according to Pro Football Focus – and by a wide margin. But the team’s other ends combined for just 8.5 sacks last year, and that includes Jared Odrick, who often rushed from inside.

Early-round options

Ezekiel Anseh, BYU: Despite logging just five sacks last year, “Ziggy” has zoomed to the top of the first round based on overwhelming ability. Mel Kiper has him going second overall.

•  Bjoern Werner, Florida State: Some people love him; others don’t – to put it kindly. He could go top-10; he could fall out of the first round altogether.
•  Datone Jones, UCLA: He’s a hybrid DE/OLB, but Gil Brandt sees Jones as a pure pass-rushing 4-3 end. Had 19 tackles for loss, including 5.5 sacks, as a fifth-year senior.

Others to watch: Tank Carradine, Florida State; Margus Hunt, Southern Methodist; Corey Lemonier, Auburn; Damontre Moore, Texas A&M.

SAFETY

Just like at tight end and cornerback, the Dolphins have a starter (Chris Clemons) with no job security beyond this year. The tandem of Clemons and Reshad Jones was solid in 2012, but combined for just six interceptions.

Early-round options

•  Kenny Vaccaro, Texas: The best of a very deep class. Vaccaro visited the Dolphins, so they have interest in the 6-foot, 214-pounder who ran a 4.59-second 40 at the Combine.
•  Johnathan Cyprien, FIU: Few have risen as fast or as high since the end of the college season as Cyprien. Mel Kiper believes he could even be a late first-round pick.
•  Matt Elam, Florida: A big-hitting, in-the-box player, Elam is a true strong safety. Would be an intriguing pair with the rangy Jones.

Others to watch: Don Jones, Arkansas State; Eric Reid, LSU; Phillip Thomas, Fresno State; Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse.

DEPTH-BUILDERS

Just because it’s not a need doesn’t mean it’s not an option. Familiarize yourself with some roster-bulking gems who could end up in Miami.

•  Defensive tackles: Johnathan Jenkins, Georgia; Star Lotulelei, Utah; Sheldon Richardson, Missouri; Sylvester Williams, North Carolina.
•  Running backs: Montee Ball, Wisconsin; Giovani Bernard, North Carolina; Andre Ellington, Clemson; Eddie Lacy, Alabama.
•  Linebackers: Jon Bostic, Florida; Barkevious Mingo, LSU; Dion Jordan, Oregon; Manti Te’o, Notre Dame.
•  Guards: Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina; Ryan Jensen, Colorado State-Pueblo; Larry Warford, Kentucky; Chance Warmack, Alabama.
•  Wide receivers: Tavon Austin, West Virginia; Stedman Bailey, West Virginia; Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee; Terrance Williams, Baylor.
•  Kickers: Brett Baer, Louisiana-Lafayette; Dustin Hopkins, Florida State; Brett Maher, Nebraska; Caleb Sturgis, Florida.

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