Draft Preview: 12. Miami Dolphins

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When a large man leaves, a large hole is created.

So far this offseason, the Dolphins have purchased pretty much every available player. That may or may not be a drastic exaggeration, yet it seems so true. Hey, $45 million (the approximate cap space the Dolphins started free agency with) is a whole lot of green.

The primary focus early was finding a remedy for Ryan Tannehill’s lack of reliable targets, a problem which threatened to slow his development. In the opening hours of free agency Mike Wallace was showered in sweet, sweet bills, and then Brandon Gibson and Dustin Keller followed. That all came after Brian Hartline was retained. Problem = solved.

There was also the matter of upgrading the linebacker corps. Enter Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler. Done and done.

Oh, you’re leaving, Sean Smith? No worries. Here’s your money, Brent Grimes.

Yep, making it rain has been the theme of the Dolphins’ offseason. But they failed to retain a key asset in one area, and as I discussed with Kevin Nogle from The Phinsider, addressing that miss will likely be Miami’s early draft focus.

1. After all the free agency spending, there’s still a need at tackle following the departure of Jake Long. But all the top tackles (Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, and Lane Johnson) will likely be off the board when the Dolphins are on the clock at No. 12. Will Jeff Ireland trade up? The picks acquired through the Vontae Davis and Brandon Marshall trades give him some flexibility.

With eleven total picks and five in the first three rounds, Miami does have a lot of flexibility, and the moves they made in free agency should open up a lot of possibilities with the 12th overall selection. More and more talk about the Dolphins liking Lane Johnson has been coming out lately, and there is a chance they could move up to grab him, Joeckel, or Fisher, but I think that may be more smokescreen than anything else.

The Dolphins could be looking to force someone to jump over them, take Johnson, and let someone they like more fall. Ireland is big on getting the right players for the right price. Trading up in the first round is not something he typically does, and I’m not sure he would do it here.

2. Alternatively, if Ireland stays at No. 12 D.J. Fluker should still be available, though the mocks that don’t have him landing in Miami are instead slotting him in around 20th overall. What’s your take on Fluker? Is 12th too early?

Fluker has started to appear in more mock drafts as a potential pick for the Dolphins. But I think you’re right, it’s probably too early for him. I would not rule out the Dolphins trying to trade back, pick up another draft pick somewhere, and grad Fluker around that 20th spot. But taking him at 12 seems high.

3. If a tackle isn’t pursued through either a trade or by selecting Fluker, will the first-round focus change to cornerback? Brent Grimes was acquired to replace Sean Smith, but some depth would be nice as he recovers from his knee injury. Maybe Xavier Rhodes?

Cornerback is one of many ways the Dolphins could go here. Assuming Dee Milliner is off the board, Miami will look at either Rhodes or Desmond Trufant.

There are arguments either way for both of those players, and either one could be the right choice for the Dolphins at 12.  Miami could also be looking at tight end Tyler Eifert or a defensive end, depending on who falls out of the top eleven.

4. Will a safety be drafted with one of the Dolphins’ three picks in the top 55? They may have a shot at Jonathan Crypien.

Safety is a fringe need for Miami. It’s not one they have to address this year, with Reshad Jones breaking out at a Pro Bowl level last year (he was named an alternate, but did not get selected for the game) and the return of the solid, yet unspectacular Chris Clemons on a one-year deal.

But it’s a position where they could grab a player to develop, then replace Clemons next year. No one would fault Miami for grabbing a safety, especially if they can get Cyprien, but it’s not going to be a must have draft choice this year.

5. What other needs should be addressed in the later rounds?

The Dolphins head into this draft with several needs, but they’re in a much better position than where they were before free agency. Other than offensive tackle, Miami should address defensive end and cornerback this year. The team could also look to add another wide receiver, a running back, and a tight end on the offensive side of the ball, along with the safety position on defense. Like we said earlier, the Dolphins have eleven draft picks, so it’s the right time to pick up some of these fringe needs, looking for answers to roster holes that may surface next year.

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