Dolphins Can Start Fresh in 2014 NFL Draft

The NFL Draft represents a fresh start for each NFL organization and offers each team an opportunity to add fresh talent who can help improve upon the problems of yesteryear while hopefully developing into the studs of tomorrow who will carry the club to greatness. The Miami Dolphins are an organization that has spent at least the last decade botching high draft picks, failing to prioritize their needs and misguidedly placing an emphasis on physical attributes and athleticism over raw talent and intangibles. However, each new year brings new football prospects. New prospects mean a new draft. And a new draft means new hope for teams and their fans!

Team Strengths and Weaknesses

The Fins have a strong defensive line and solid group of linebackers to work with. Ryan Tannehill is still a work in progress but shows flashes of brilliance every now and then. The receiving corps is weak, but the return of Dustin Keller and Brandon Gibson from their injuries will add some life to what was a lackluster group last season. The special teams unit is nothing special, but no games were lost specifically because of them. Their twenty-sixth ranked running game was hit-or-miss (often miss) and much of new acquisition Knowshon Moreno’s success last season could be attributed to the Broncos’ passing game freeing up running lanes for him. Regardless, their running game and the quarterback play should pick up once Miami’s most glaring weakness, the offensive line, is dealt with, particularly at right tackle and right guard. Brandon Albert’s and Shelley Smith’s arrivals shore up left tackle and left guard, respectively, for an offensive line that gave up a league-high 58 sacks last season and should make Tannehill breathe a sigh of relief. The secondary is another weakness that the Dolphins have consistently busted on during the draft. Neither FS Louis Delmas or SS Reshad Jones have the speed or acceleration needed to defend against the deep ball and the squad does not have a cornerback who is particularly skilled in zone coverage.

Priority 1 – right tackle

If Michigan’s Taylor Lewan falls to the Dolphins, they will draft him since both the coaching staff and management loves him. However, since he will likely not fall to the nineteenth pick, most experts agree that Notre Dame’s Zack Martin will be the pick for Miami. He should be available still and can play guard when needed. If Miami is smart though, they will trade down and accumulate picks or maybe get a good player in return. They could also utilize their first round pick on the best player available and shoot for Morgan Moses or Cyrus Kouandjio a little later. Interestingly, 45 percent of all tackles drafted in the second and third rounds during the last 20 years were reliable enough to be primary starters on their team for at least five years. Many second-day tackles end up being successful contributors.

Priority 2 – right guard

The Fins will likely get a guard as a day two value pick. Clemson’s Brandon Thomas would have likely been a first rounder had it not been for his ACL injury. Now Miami could get him for a steal, but if he is not available then Nevada’s Joel Bitonio and Mississippi State’s Gabe Jackson would make good third round options. Florida’s Jon Halapio did not have a good combine and probably won’t get drafted, but his impressive Senior Bowl performance will definitely get him on an NFL team before autumn. Maybe the Dolphins scoop him up as a shot-in-the-dark.

Priority 3 – cornerback

The Dolphins will likely spend a fourth or fifth round pick on a cornerback, considering how loaded the draft class is with quality prospects at the position. Their first target might be Florida’s Jaylen Watkins. He is great in press coverage and can hold his own in zone and man. Both Liberty’s Walt Aikens and Lindenwood’s Pierre Desir are tall, big-bodied corners who would be ideal playing zone coverage in the slot.

Priority 4 – safety

USC’s Dion Lewis is an intriguing safety prospect since he is a safety/linebacker hybrid. He played both positions in college and boasts the softer hands and smaller, more agile body of a safety, combined with the pursuit and hard-hitting of a linebacker. Hybrid players with this build are typically most effective on special teams, but he would make a good situational blitzer who can drop back into coverage every now and then.

Priority 5 – running back

The odds are somewhat small a running back will be selected — not because the Fins do not need one, since they really do, considering Knowshon Moreno is hard to trust as a starter on a team with an average passing game. The main problem is that all of the good value running backs will likely be gone by the fourth round and Miami will not likely shoot for a running back before the fifth round. Maybe they get lucky and Towson’s Terrance West falls to them. He is a powerful workhorse who can catch and has the agility to make hard cuts. He has the makings of a franchise back and can be had at a discount (Round Three or Four projection), but the Dolphins have more pressing needs to attend to. By the time they turn their focus to their backfield, it will be too late for a quality back.

Jonathan Ebanks is an avid sports fan who loves to work as a freelance writer/editor in his spare time. Contact Jonathan at [email protected]

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