As the first week of free agency concludes, one thing seems clear about the Miami Dolphins.
They have a plan for this offseason. All indications say that it's going off without a hitch thus far.
While most would call Miami's first week of free agency a success—even if you think they overpaid—the Dolphins still have a long way to go. Free agency has been a boon to the wealthy Dolphins, but the more important part of the offseason still looms.
You can bet Miami's actions in the first week of free agency have influenced how the team will approach the 2013 NFL Draft. Wide receiver suddenly isn't as pressing an issue. Neither is tight end.
However, some areas are now more glowingly important. Miami has been relatively quiet in dealing with cornerbacks, a position at which the team desperately needs help. And if Jake Long does end up leaving Miami for St. Louis, the Dolphins must then scour the assembly of young tackles present at the draft.
With these considerations in mind, here's the first seven-round mock draft for the Dolphins following the opening week of free agency.
Pick: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
NFL.com Grade: 86.2
Xavier Rhodes started the offseason as a cornerback worth considering in the second or possibly even third round. He just didn't seem to be on the level of the top players at the position.
One impressive combine performance later and Rhodes is listed as the clear second-best corner in the draft. He's big (6'1", 210 lbs) yet can burn despite his size (4.43 in the 40-yard dash). He's best in physical coverage, using his big frame to press receivers and disrupt their routes.
While there are a few questions about how well-rounded of a player Rhodes is (he does tend to struggle more in zone coverage), he's still the kind of playmaker Miami has needed at the position for at least half a decade.
With Alabama's Dee Milliner a lock to go in the top ten and with few other teams prior to Miami's No. 12 spot in need of a corner, the Dolphins should have a golden opportunity to take Rhodes in the opening round.
Pick: Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State
NFL.com Grade: 82.9
Another in-state pick, Brandon Jenkins would be the defensive end complement the Dolphins need opposite of Cameron Wake.
Jenkins had a remarkable sophomore season, registering 21.5 tackles for a loss and 13.5 sacks. However, his last two seasons have been marred by injuries.
He missed all but one game in 2012 with a foot injury.
But before you raid the red flag store (those exist, right?), consider Jenkins' athletic ability. He is extremely quick and possesses a long stride. Coupled with his tremendous upper-body and lower-body strength, Jenkins' has all the ability to be a devastating 4-3 pass rusher.
There is an obvious risk involved in drafting Jenkins. But his upside, natural ability and proven performance speak to the greater reward of scooping him up.
Pick: Kyle Long, OT, Oregon
NFL.com Grade: 77.0
It should be noted that this pick is completely contingent upon whether Jake Long returns to Miami or not.
If Long takes the Rams' deal, Miami will need to draft an offensive tackle early to fill that hole.
So why not replace Long with Long?
Son of Hall of Famer Howie Long and brother of Chris Long, Kyle Long may only have one year at the position (he started his career as a defensive end), but his strong performance in that limited time and his freakish build are both extremely promising.
For a 6'6", 313-pound offensive lineman, Long displays deceptive quickness and flexibility, highlighted by his 4.94 40-yard dash time. His long arms allow to him to dictate the line of scrimmage, pushing smaller defensive tackles away from gaps easily.
Long may be a bit raw, but if the Dolphins find themselves in dire need of a new tackle, the former Oregon Duck could fill that role.
Pick: Gerald Hodges, OLB, Penn State
NFL.com Grade: 72.4
The Dolphins' unexpected rearranging of their linebackers was one of the larger surprises of free agency's first week. Most people didn't view the position as a need for Miami; the Dolphins obviously felt differently.
By signing Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler and releasing Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett, the Dolphins announced their new goal at linebacker. They want younger, athletic and dynamic players.
Enter Gerald Hodges from Penn State. Hodges is a former safety who brings excellent athleticism to the position. He wields great short-area quickness to close on ball-carriers and force them into decisions.
Hodges' greatest asset is his coverage ability, something the Dolphins have lacked in the past at linebacker. His background as a safety makes him an excellent candidate to cover the talented tight ends Miami will face.
Drafting Hodges would also allow Miami to move Koa Misi down to defensive end, the position he played in college at Utah.
Pick: Michael Williams, TE, Alabama
NFL.com Grade: 68.9
With Anthony Fasano departing Miami for Kansas City and Dustin Keller leaving the Jets for the Dolphins, Miami has experienced a paradigm shift at tight end. Fasano was a talented blocker who was a serviceable receiver; Keller is a very reliable pass-catcher who can stretch the seam yet his blocking needs some work.
The Dolphins don't currently possess a tight end who is a successful blocker. That's why Michael Williams could be a huge addition.
Williams is almost exclusively a blocking tight end. His 24 catches for 183 yards speaks to that. He's built like a lean offensive lineman, and his power allows him to seal the edge as a run-blocker. Despite his speed, Williams' hands and large frame still allow him to be a viable red-zone threat. He caught four touchdowns in 2012 with the Crimson Tide.
Williams could be a valuable second tight end for the Dolphins.
Pick: Terry Hawthorne, CB, Illinois
NFL.com Grade: 69.0
I know what you're thinking.
I know Jeff Ireland doesn't have the greatest track record when it comes to drafting corners. I know he drafted two corners in a single draft already, and that three years later, those guys are no longer on the team.
But the Dolphins have no other choice. Despite a visit from Brent Grimes near the end of last week, the Dolphins have basically been immobile in the race for free-agent corners. A pool that at once looked full of depth is suddenly appearing dried up, with most of the solid prospects having already signed.
Assuming Miami doesn't make a move on one of the remaining free agents, it will have to draft two corners this year (something the team should probably do anyway, considering the quality of corners currently on the roster).
Terry Hawthorne is another player similar to Xavier Rhodes, my projected first-round pick. He's big, plays physically and can match up with opponents' top receivers. He excels in man coverage and his aggressive style lends itself well to run support.
Hawthorne did suffer a concussion midway through last season, but the corner seemed to recover from the injury.
Pick: Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida
NFL.com Grade: 70.3
The Dolphins would be wise to draft another running back to mix into the backfield. With Reggie Bush gone, that leaves Lamar Miller as the feature back and Daniel Thomas as the backup. I have a good deal of confidence in Miller's abilities, but I'm not particularly fond of Thomas.
Gillislee would be an ideal spell back for Miller. He's got a solid frame and has speed to hit seams quickly. He also runs with a deceptive amount of power; his legs never stop churning in contact, allowing him to scrape out additional yards.
There's a fair chance Gillislee may not drop into the fifth round. Miami may not risk going running back earlier in the draft, but Gillislee's abilities should warrant a look from the Fins' scouts.
Pick: Jamal Miles, WR, Arizona State
NFL.com Grade: 66.6
Wide receiver probably will not be much of a concern for Miami in the draft after bringing Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson on board in free agency. However, the Dolphins should still look at adding another receiver for depth later in the draft.
Jamal Miles is a smaller receiver who uses his speed and agility to make plays in the slot. Miami may already have its slot receiver in Davone Bess, but Miles could provide a nice change of pace, especially in multiple receiver sets.
Miles' ability to make defenders miss after the catch should appeal to Miami. He also has a ton of speed, an area in which the Dolphins would like to get better.
Also, there's something oddly fitting about a former Arizona State Sun Devil being given a grade of 66.6.
Pick: Earl Wolff, SS, N.C. State
NFL.com Grade: 63.4
Much like receiver, safety probably won't be an immediate need for the Dolphins. With Reshad Jones starting to look like one of the NFL's better safeties and Chris Clemons being re-signed to a one-year deal, Miami has its safety tandem locked up for 2013.
However, Clemons is the odd man out. He's been decent-to-good in his career with Miami, but he's certainly not a game-changer. Assuming the Dolphins can't come to a long-term agreement after next season, Miami will find itself in need of a safety.
Earl Wolff is a solid prospect. He's an athletic juggernaut who had a great combine. The former halfback has great speed and quickness which allows him to work the zones and not get burned on vertical routes. He's also an excellent run support safety.
Wolff needs a bit of shoring up, especially when it comes to making interceptions. But with a year of NFL-level training under his belt, Wolff could step into a starting role for the Dolphins.