NFL Draft season is getting revved up with the completion of Shrine Game and Senior Bowl weeks. With that comes the avalanche of mock drafts, including those for the Miami Dolphins.
Jeff Ireland has seen mixed results in the draft since he took over as the general manager, and this could be his last stand if he doesn't get things right.
This year's Dolphins draft will be particularly difficult to predict this far out because of free agency. Miami has anywhere between $35 million and $52 million in cap space depending on what math you use and whether they decide to use a franchise tag.
Should they address the receiver position, the Dolphins won't need to take a pair with their high picks. If they retain Jake Long, offensive tackle is off the board in the early rounds. The same goes for a litany of other positions.
Here is my latest Dolphins mock draft. Each pick has an alternate draft pick based on a scenario.
Pick: Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, DE, BYU
There are so many excellent pass rushers in this draft that Miami would be remiss to avoid one because of holes elsewhere. After all, the "best player available" approach is best in the first round.
Reviews are mixed about Ansah.
Lions getting an up close look at Ezekiel Ansah. He'll be in play if available at #5.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 23, 2013
He is one of those players who will be difficult to gauge, but a good NFL combine and pro day will solidify him at the top of the first round.
The bounty at edge rusher also means it is difficult to tell who might be there at Pick 12 for the Dolphins. If he makes it there—his hype train is gaining steam, especially after he won South MVP honors at the Senior Bowl—Ziggy Ansah will probably be the best one left.
Ansah might just be the perfect pick to stick on the other side from Cameron Wake. He is big, fast and strong. He can rush the passer and play the run.
He might not be a sack machine, like Von Miller or Aldon Smith, but a great all-around player at the position will do just fine.
Alternate Pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The Tennessee receiver's name has skyrocketed in recent weeks, meaning the Dolphins will not likely land Patterson if they pass on him in the first round.
Though he can be characterized as raw, Patterson possesses some enviable measurables. He has great size, at 6'3" and 205 pounds, though he could use a few more pounds.
Should Miami swing and miss with the big receiver names in free agency—possible, considering their recent history—they might be forced to go this route in the draft.
Pick: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
With Sean Smith reportedly mistaking himself for Darrelle Revis—Smith is looking for a deal in the six-year, $63 million range—the Dolphins might be looking to plug a big hole or two at the position.
Desm4nd Trufant would make for a nice second-round pickup regardless.
The Washington cornerback has average size, at 5'11" and 190 pounds, but possesses a swagger that makes him seem five inches taller.
He is good in coverage and an aggressive tackler, totaling 195 tackles in college. Even if Smith comes to his senses or Miami signs another cornerback, Trufant is well worth a look in the draft.
Alternate Pick: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Tyler Eifert will likely be gone at this point, leaving Ertz as perhaps the best option at the position. Anthony Fasano is a free agent with limited upside and Charles Clay has performed slightly better than what we might expect, given his sixth-round draft position.
Ertz is a huge target at 6'6" and 252 pounds. He might not be the most athletic prospect, but his good speed and great hands will make him a valuable asset at the next level.
The Dolphins did just draft Michael Egnew last season, and, despite the bad rap he got, Jeff Ireland seems to think he will pan out. Considering Miami's needs elsewhere, a tight end may not be in the cards at all in this year's draft.
Pick: Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas
The Dolphins can use a receiver or two in the draft regardless of what they do in free agency. Assuming they sign a big name, Goodwin is a good pick for the slot.
You might recognize Goodwin's name from the Olympics. He made the finals in the long jump in London, and he would have tied for fourth if he had matched the distance he nailed in the preliminaries.
The long jump doesn't translate well as a NFL skill, but it highlights Goodwin's athleticism. The problem is that Texas didn't use him much, making him a difficult prospect to evaluate. Scouts got a good look at him at the Senior Bowl, though, and he had some rave reviews.
On a positive note, Marquise Goodwin has taken to coaching very well and impressed outside at receiver. Improved steadily vs press today— Alex Brown (@ABXXV25) January 23, 2013
Marquise Goodwin showing off Olympic Stride. He's shooting up draft boards out here.— Alex Dunlap (@AlexDunlapNFL) January 21, 2013
An athletic, fast receiver who can be coached up properly? He sounds like bizarro Edmund Gates, and the Dolphins could use that sort of help at the position.
Alternate Pick: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
Aside from consistency, the Dolphins have been missing a playmaker or two in the defensive backfield.
While Poyer may not be a shutdown corner, he is a ball hawk. Poyer had seven interceptions in college, and he is great in coverage.
Pick: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
Despite drafting Jonathan Martin last year, Miami might need to fill a hole at right tackle again this year. Jake Long is headed for free agency if the Dolphins can't figure out a way to re-sign him without breaking the bank.
If that happens, Martin should move back to his natural position at left tackle. Enter Menelik Watson, the British freak of nature.
Martin is 6'7" and 320 pounds, and he is rumored to be able to run a 4.7 40-yard dash. He started his football career in college, and he has only 12 starts under his belt, but he sounds like a guy who can be molded into a great lineman.
Alternate Pick: Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia
What better way to complement the Cordarrelle Patterson pick from the first round in this track than with a speedster like Bailey?
Tavon Austin gets all the publicity out of Morgantown, but Bailey put up an outstanding career of his own there. He does not have ideal size, at 5'10" and 188 pounds, but that shouldn't stop him from becoming a lethal option if he lives up to his potential.
Patterson, Bailey, Davone Bess and a re-signed Brian Hartline would make for an excellent, young receiving corps for Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins.
Pick: Robert Lester, S, Alabama
Reshad Jones blossomed into a fantastic safety last season, but his other half left something to be desired.
While Chris Clemons made a couple of big plays, he was average at best throughout the season.
Lester is 6'2" and 210 pounds, great size for the position. He isn't the best tackler, but he is good in coverage.
Alternate Pick: Chris Faulk, OT, LSU
Jeff Ireland has uncharacteristically eschewed the offensive line to this point on this alternate track, but it wouldn't be an Ireland draft without at least one offensive lineman on the board.
Faulk could be a solid right tackle in the NFL, something the Dolphins have lacked for years despite their best efforts. If Jake Long leaves and Jonathan Martin moves to the left side, Miami will need to field a player or two for the right side of that line.