The Dolphins are on the right track. They have some quality young players to build around, which was not necessarily the case at this point last season. The biggest piece is obviously quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but there are other key players who make up Miami’s core.
Second-year center Mike Pouncey has been a rock and is already one of the league’s best at his position. Rookie Jonathan Martin has developed as a tackle. Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller are young running backs with some serious potential. On defense, Cam Wake, Paul Soliai, Karlos Dansby, Koa Misi, and Reshad Jones have all had solid seasons.
MDD Staff Writer: Garrett Baker
But that’s not to say Miami doesn’t have any holes, because they certainly do. There are a number of positions on both sides of the ball that will need to be upgraded this offseason.
I’ll examine exactly which positions need improvement, address the level of their importance, and look at whether or not they should be looked at via free agency or the draft.
First and foremost, Miami needs a legitimate weapon on offense. But in addition to that, they need some depth as well.
A lot of mock drafts have Miami selecting a wide receiver in the first round of the draft, but I don’t necessarily agree with that. I would much prefer to go after one of the potential free agent wide receivers, such as Greg Jennings or Dwayne Bowe.
Of the two, Bowe would be more preferable to me. He has had a relatively poor season in Kansas City, and that will at least partially lower his cap hit. He’s also more of a possession receiver than Jennings, and would fit better in Joe Philbin’s west coast offense.
Tannehill has struggled to throw touchdown passes this season, and Bowe would be a huge help for him.
If the Dolphins can grab that No. 1 receiver in free agency, they’d be much better off. I still think they would be wise to look at another receiver in the later rounds. Da’Rick Rogers or Quinton Patton would be great pickups in the second round, and Ryan Swope should be available in the third.
Offensively, tight end is another spot where an upgrade would really help out Tannehill. Stanford has two tall, skilled pass-catching tight ends in Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz. Both should be available in the second round, and Miami would do well to take one of them.
The next most pressing need is at cornerback. Sean Smith started off strongly this season, but has regressed a bit and shown some inconsistencies. At this point, Smith should be thought of as a pretty good No. 2, but not a reliable No. 1 corner.
This could absolutely be addressed with the Dolphins’ first round pick. Depending on exactly where they’re slotted, Miami should look at either Johnthan Banks from Mississippi State or Dee Milliner from Alabama.
Both have the potential to develop into shutdown corners in the NFL. If the Dolphins take a corner in the first round, it will drop Richard Marshall back to third on the depth chart, assuming he recovers fully from his back injury. This depth should be sufficient enough that it won’t require another early pick at the position.
If Miami doesn’t take a corner in the draft, there are a few good free agent options. Tracy Porter would be a great fit in Miami, and Brent Grimes should be available as well. Both have No. 1 talent. Sean Smith’s contract expires at the end of the season, so depending on how things shake out, he may actually end up playing for someone else next season.
As the NFL becomes more and more pass-heavy, players who are adept at getting to the quarterback become more and more valuable. While Miami has one of the league’s best in Cam Wake, they are not as well-equipped elsewhere.
Olivier Vernon has shown a little bit of potential, but not enough to plan around yet. Jared Odrick has done a decent job this season, but is really more of a run-stopper at this point. He could very well be moved in to defensive tackle if Randy Starks doesn’t resign.
If that happens, Miami should take a long look into drafting a pass rushing defensive end with their first pick, partially because of the incredible depth that this draft class boasts.
Damontre Moore, Dion Jordan, Bjoern Werner, Sam Montgomery, and Corey Lemonier are all first-round prospects with a ton of potential. At least one, and probably more, should be available whenever Miami drafts, and they should be tempted to pull the trigger.
This could all get thrown completely out the window if Jake Long doesn’t resign. If he does, Miami would very much be in the market for a tackle, and the rest of these needs get shuffled around accordingly. But as of now, there’s no real evidence that Long won’t be back, so we’ll cross that bridge only if we have to.