There's a planet's worth of pressure on Miami GM Jeff Ireland to comb through the pool of players and unearth a few gems. Nailing this offseason could transform the Dolphins from a 7-9 team to an automatic playoff contender.
Fans are expecting Miami to be big players in free agency, but the draft is where the Dolphins will look to build for the future.
In the interest of building a solid draft, the Dolphins will need to scour the talent on display at the Senior Bowl and identify the players who can best improve Miami's roster.
While Miami's talent scouts prepare for this weekend's game, we're doing some scouting of our own. We've identified a handful of key players at various positions that could make an immediate impact in Miami.
For the purposes of immediate improvement, please note that this scouting guide has left out a few positions at which Miami doesn't necessarily need urgent help. Additionally, some positions—like tight end and linebacker—have been omitted as those positions aren't particularly well-represented at this year's Senior Bowl.
Halfback may not seem like an immediate need for the Dolphins. But if Reggie Bush is not re-signed, Miami suddenly is left with a hole in the backfield.
Lamar Miller showed promise as a rookie despite limited opportunities. Daniel Thomas, on the other hand, failed for a second consecutive year to prove his reliability.
Mike Gillislee had a breakout year in his senior season with the Florida Gators. He amassed 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns and was the primary factor in Florida's punishing running game. His quickness allows him to be a threat on the edge, but he can also run between the tackles and take a pounding.
With a relatively weak running back class this year, the Dolphins could likely snatch Gillislee up with their second third-round pick or possibly even in the fourth round.
The former Gator could see snaps alongside Miller and add an extra dynamic to Miami's running game.
A lot of analysts, including Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller, have the Dolphins taking junior receiver Cordarrelle Patterson out of Tennessee in the first round. While Patterson figures to be the best prospect in a weak class of receivers, Miami could potentially elect to go best value at another position with its first pick.
If that's the case, Miami could find serious value in a guy like Quinton Patton in the second round. The standout Louisiana Tech prospect had a great senior season, reeling in 104 catches for 1,392 yards and 13 touchdowns.
More importantly, Patton is winning over scouts during Senior Bowl practices this week. Our own Matt Miller had great things to say about the receiver after day two, and fellow scouts are beginning to notice the Bulldog's speed and hands.
Patton's electric speed and quick cuts could make him a valuable inside threat in Miami's thin receiver group. However, if Patton continues to impress, the Dolphins may not be able to wait until the second round to make a move on him.
With Jake Long's future in Miami uncertain, the Dolphins could look to the draft to replace the Pro Bowler.
After three days' worth of practice, Eric Fisher appears to have asserted his dominance as the top offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl. Going up against guys like Texas' Alex Okafor has allowed Fisher to show off his ability to handle NFL-like defensive ends.
The Chippewa has astounding versatility—he's played left tackle, right tackle and guard throughout his career. He adds surprising quickness to his hefty frame (6'8", 305 lbs) which allows him to be an able pulling blocker. He'll need to get a bit stronger to last a full season against NFL defenders, but that should be no problem.
One thing is for sure: adding Fisher would immediately boost Miami's offensive line, no matter where he plays.
The Dolphins need another pass-rushing threat. Cameron Wake led the team with 15 sacks in 2012; the next closest player was Jared Odrick with only five.
Ezekiel Ansah may be stealing the show in practice this week, but Texas' Alex Okafor is not to be overlooked. Walter Football lists Okafor as the sixth best defensive end overall and the second best senior defensive end behind Oregon's Dion Jordan.
Okafor's stat sheet from his senior season is loaded with eye-popping numbers. He amassed 46 tackles, eight sacks, 12 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles, one pass deflection and a blocked kick. The 6'4", 265-pound defensive end has great size and speed to fit into Miami's 4-3 scheme.
With Okafor lined up opposite of Cameron Wake and a rotation of Randy Starks, Paul Soliai and Jared Odrick in the middle, Miami's defensive line would go from stifling to downright menacing.
Trufant looks to reach the same heights as his older brother, Marcus
Raise your hands if you've heard of Marcus Trufant. Then we're all aware of Desmond Trufant's fantastic pedigree.
However, pedigree alone won't get you very far in the NFL. Fortunately, Desmond Trufant packs a lot more than a name.
Trufant racked up 34 tackles but only had one interception in 2012. That can be attributed to opposing quarterbacks avoiding his side of the field, though.
The former Washington Huskie has impressed thus far in Senior Bowl practices. According to NFL Draft Scout, Trufant has displayed great awareness and athleticism. His closing speed has been especially impressive, as evidenced when he lined up against Oregon State's Markus Wheaton.
Miami is in desperate need of cornerback help. Adding Trufant in the second round could boost the Dolphins' troubled backfield.