Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMIAMI) – The annual NFL Draft is a little more than a week away and trying to figure out what any team is going to do is more difficult than trying to stop New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the playoffs.
The Miami Dolphins, like every franchise at this time of year, is keeping its cards close to the vest and not giving any obvious signals about who the team may be interested in with a first-round pick. The Fins have a few glaring holes in the roster despite record free agent spending this year.
The most obvious holes in the roster are at the offensive tackle position and at cornerback. There are only two elite left tackles, Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel, in the NFL Draft and both are expected to be gone within the first four or five picks.
The Dolphins currently have one returning starter back at the offensive tackle position, Jonathan Martin. While the Fins may be ready to put Martin into the left tackle position, Pro Football Focus rated Martin 76th out of 80 qualifying tackles and said he “performed equally poor at both left and right tackle.”
Past the aforementioned Fisher and Joeckel, Oklahoma Sooners LT Lane Johnson burned up draft boards, but the Dolphins are reportedly not as interested in Johnson as they are in Fisher and Joeckel. By the way, Joeckel is widely expected to be the first choice of the Kansas City Chiefs.
After Johnson, CBSSports.com has D.J. Fluker and Menelik Watson as the next two tackles on the board. However, Fluker carries a low-first round grade and Watson carries the same. Watson could conceivably be available in the second round.
One thing Fins fans should remember is that just because the Dolphins don’t draft a tackle in the first round, doesn’t mean the position will be left out. There are still solid offensive tackles available in free agency including Tyson Clabo, Bryant McKinnie, and Eric Winston.
The cornerback position is a little harder to nail down, but after University of Alabama star Dee Milliner comes off the board, likely in the top 10, there’s a decent drop-off to the next group, which rate somewhere in the 20’s of the first round picks.
The problem the Dolphins have heading into the draft is the 12th pick is too high for most of the cornerback talent or to draft a right tackle, but too low to draft an elite left tackle or elite cornerback. But, the Dolphins have one thing that could help them go up, plenty of picks.
The Dolphins have five picks in the draft’s first three rounds and general manager Jeff Ireland has said he’s not afraid to use them to move up in the draft. Ireland has also moved down in previous drafts when a player the team wanted wasn’t on the board.
One area the team could look to add some depth at is defensive tackle/defensive end. The Dolphins have Paul Soliai and Randy Starks under contract for another year, but could use some talented youth to groom if either choose to leave the team.
That could open the door to a player like Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson who NFL scouts have said is a dynamic pass rusher at the defensive tackle position. The Dolphins could also look at Bjoern Werner and Barkevious Mingo to have on the opposite side of the defense from defensive end Cameron Wake.
The Dolphins also have a need at the guard position and if either Chance Warmack or Jonatahan Cooper is on the board they could be the pick at number 12.
Miami also could use a long-term answer at the tight end position. While the team signed Dustin Keller to a one-year deal, finding a tight end to pair him with would only help the maturation progress of quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
At tight end, there are two names at the top of the list in the NFL Draft, Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz. Eifert wowed scouts with a 4.6 second 40-yard dash and a 35.5 inch vertical leap, all of that while standing 6’6” and weighing 250 pounds.
After Eifert is Stanford tight end Zach Ertz who carries a low first to high second round grade heading into next weeks draft.
Finally, playing Tom Brady twice a season and having to sometimes face Peyton Manning as well, help in the secondary is always gladly accepted by the Dolphins. The team brought Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro in for a visit and the 6’, 215 pound safety did run a 4.59 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
Mock drafts have been all over the place with who the Dolphins will take with the 12th pick this year. Here’s a sampling of some of the picks:
- Rob Rang – Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
- Dane Brugler – Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
- Pat Kirwan – D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
National Football Post
- Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
- Daniel Jeremiah – Xavier Rhodes, CB, FSU
- Bucky Brooks – Xavier Rhodes, CB, FSU
- Gil Brandt – Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
- Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Needless to say, when the clock goes on for the Jacksonville Jaguars with the second overall pick, everyone in Miami will be watching on the edge of their seat until either the Dolphins trade up and select someone or sit tight at 12 and wait for the player they want to fall to them.