With the NFL Draft approaching, we’re taking a team-by-team look at the needs of each club. The Dolphins, who hold the 19th pick in the first round, are up next. Miami went into the final weeks of the season holding their playoff destiny in their hands, but they lost by a combined 39-7 score to the Bills and Jets to put an end to postseason dreams. Here’s our look at what they need to do to make it further this time around.
Right Tackle: We won’t rehash everything that went on with Jonathan Martin, Richie Incognito and company last season as it should be sufficient at this point to just say that the Dolphins entered the offseason needing four starters on the line.
Signing Branden Albert gave them a left tackle, but Jason Fox’s arrival doesn’t come close to closing the door on the right tackle competition. In a perfect world, the Dolphins would get a clear upgrade on Fox – Notre Dame’s Zack Martin, perhaps – but they have to add players of any type to give them options when it comes to building a better line next season.
Guard: See the above and pretty much repeat it. The Dolphins signed Shelley Smith, but he’s never been a long-term starter during his NFL career. And even if he does nail down a job, the Dolphins still need another starter and an overall upgrade of talent.
The versatile Martin could work here as well, as could Nevada’s Joel Bitonio or Mississippi State’s Gabe Jackson. Whether they play guard or tackle, the Dolphins need to add multiple bodies to the mix on the line because the line was such a disaster on and off the field last season that one player isn’t going to fix everything on his own.
Tight End: Last year’s signing of Dustin Keller bore no fruit after Keller’s knee injury wiped him out for the entire season. Charles Clay did solid work, but offensive coordinator Bill Lazor comes from an Eagles team that made a lot of use of tight ends as receivers last year.
The Dolphins probably won’t be filling that need in the first round, but they’ll likely be among the teams looking hard at Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro in the second round. They’ve also been active when it comes to looking at this year’s crop of wide receivers, so they could go that route if nothing materializes at tight end.
Safety: The Dolphins didn’t make out badly by swapping Chris Clemons for Louis Delmas this offseason, but Delmas’ ability has been mitigated during his career by his constant knee issues. That makes counting on him for 16 games a dicey affair, to say nothing of the benefits of finding a long-term contributor at the position. USC’s Dion Bailey and Stanford’s Ed Reynolds are mid-round options at the position that could sit now and contribute when needed.
Linebacker: The Dolphins are set with starters at linebacker right now, but, as at safety, they have room for help at the position. Neither Dannell Ellerbe nor Phillip Wheeler set the world on fire during his first year in Miami and a the arrival of some new competition could help Miami now and in the future. Wisconsin’s Chris Borland would be an option if Miami wants to bolster things in the middle of the defense.