The Biggest Questions for Miami Dolphins Heading into the 2013 NFL Draft
The Miami Dolphins are ready to compete now. Jeff Ireland is all in for 2013, and while cynics will tell you he is simply fighting for his life as a general manager, Dolphins fans love the bottom line.
Miami is in a position to draft the best players available in 2013 because it may not have any glaring holes by the time the NFL draft rolls around.
Last year, before the draft, the Dolphins had an abundance of weaknesses and questions, which included quarterback and receivers.
This year, the team is far more polished but not perfect, yet.
Let's focus on the questions that remain.
Can Jonathan Martin Succeed as an NFL Left Tackle?
Two years ago, Jonathan Martin was one of the top left tackles at the collegiate level. He was protecting Andrew Luck's blind side at Stanford.
After being selected in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft by Miami, Martin started all 16 games last year. The 6'5", 312-pound tackle began the season as the Dolphins right tackle and switched over to the left side for the final four games due to Jake Long's injuries.
Martin held his own as a rookie.
Dave Hyde of the Sun Sentinel believes that Miami's limited pursuit of Jake Long was a testament to the team's belief in Martin.
The main criticism for Martin is his questionable strength. Martin has vowed to improve during this offseason and, according to Hyde, Dolphins coaches would rather see him on the left side of the line.
If this is the case, Miami can solidify its offensive line by signing Eric Winston. Winston is interested in the Dolphins, and Miami has the cap space.
There may not be a need to draft an offensive lineman in the first two rounds this year.
Does Miami Believe in Dimitri Patterson?
Jeff Ireland saw something in Dimitri Patterson when he picked him off the Cleveland Browns' trash bin. Does he believe Patterson can be Miami's second or third cornerback?
If so, the Dolphins may be set with Brent Grimes, Richard Marshall and Patterson as the team's top three corners.
It still appears Miami will invest a high draft choice on a cornerback, likely in the second round.
Patterson also needs to impress in training camp as his $4.6 million cap number can be completely written off if he does not play in the first game of the regular season.
Last year, Patterson had no interceptions and five passes defended. These statistics were accumulated in nine games, seven for the Browns and two for the Dolphins.
Can Jared Odrick Raise His Game?
The Miami Dolphins made at least two attempts (Michael Bennett, Osi Umenyiora) to improve their pass rush from the right end position.
There are also plenty of high-end pass-rushers that will be available in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.
The 2010 first-rounder, Odrick, has been underwhelming, producing 35 combined tackles and five sacks in 16 games last year.
Odrick's saving grace is that he is still playing on his reasonable rookie contract. Regardless, Odrick's time may have passed, because he may not even be starting in 2013. Olivier Vernon may be given a full test run.
Odrick is still young (25), so there is hope for improvement. The question is whether he will receive an ample amount of snaps to show it.
Even if it is not in the first round, the Dolphins will draft a defensive end this year.
Is Chris Clemons the Answer at Free Safety?
Last year, Miami ranked 27th in the league, allowing more than 248 passing yards per game. Reshad Jones was a standout at strong safety, so that leaves everyone else to blame.
Sure, Miami's cornerback situation was weakened after the trade of Vontae Davis and Richard Marshall's injury, but what can we say about Chris Clemons' play?
Clemons started all 16 games and made 98 combined tackles and two interceptions. The lack of interceptions definitely brings Clemons down a notch, but Jeff Ireland liked him enough to re-sign him to a one-year, $2.75 million contract.
As of now, Clemons is penciled in as the starter, but Miami will likely bring in competition via the NFL draft.
Philbin also claims to be excited about undrafted Kelcie McCray, who did not play last year due to injury.
Can Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas Carry the Load?
Reggie Bush was a dynamic player for the Miami Dolphins, but his production should be easily matched by Lamar Miller.
Miller is fast (4.40) and more powerful than Bush. Last year, Miller rushed the ball only 51 times but averaged almost five yards per carry. His backfield blocking should improve this season, and he will likely be Miami's 2013 workhorse.
There are more questions about Daniel Thomas. The 2011 second-rounder has averaged 3.5 yards per carry in two seasons. Thomas has also missed seven games due to injury.
The Dolphins will look to add competition here through the draft, late in free agency or from undrafted players.