It's no secret that the Miami Dolphins need help at cornerback. The hole in Miami's secondary, however, shrank considerably when they signed Brent Grimes, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Grimes is recovering from an Achilles tear, and there's no guarantee that he'll return to full health. He's on a one-year deal, and if he doesn't pan out, the Dolphins need to have someone ready to step up in his place.
Richard Marshall and Dimitri Patterson are capable veterans, but Patterson is owed a contract worth a lot more than his play would dictate, and he is a candidate to get cut.
The Dolphins play a lot of zone coverage and need athletic playmakers who are intelligent and move well in space. That eliminates a physical corner like Xavier Rhodes, who is a talented ballhawk but does not fit well enough into Miami's scheme to warrant taking with their first-round pick.
But these players are all good fits for Miami and would get selected after the 12th overall pick, where the Dolphins currently sit in the first round. Here are seven cornerbacks that Miami should target in next weekend's draft.
In my Miami Dolphins mock draft last week, I had D.J. Hayden getting selected with their first pick in the second round, and I think that could be a phenomenal move for Jeff Ireland.
Hayden is a surefire first-round talent who will only slip due to his medical condition, a scary heart issue that seems to have fully healed now but still presents some significant risk for his NFL future.
But as long as he stays healthy, Hayden would be a great value in the second round. He has an ideal frame for a cornerback and is athletic and aggressive attacking the ball in the air. He would be a great No. 2 corner with the potential to be a top corner in the future.
A potential value pick in the fourth or fifth round, Dwayne Gratz would be an ideal selection for Miami after already suring up the No. 2 spot with a prospect in the first or second round.
Gratz has a strong frame, standing at 5'11" and weighing in at just over 200 pounds. He is an elite athlete, evident by his 22 reps on the bench press and 38-inch vertical jump at the combine, both among the tops for all cornerbacks.
He was a three-year starter at Connecticut and received the team's Brian Kozlowski Award, which is given to the player that is the most courageous, hard-working and productive. He's a high-character guy that would fit right in with the attitude Joe Philbin is trying to establish in Miami.
This is an interesting prospect for Miami because of the value versus need conundrum. Had the Dolphins not signed Grimes, they would almost be guaranteed to take a guy like Desmond Trufant with the 12th pick.
But with Grimes, do they really need to go after Trufant at No. 12? It seems like a bit of a reach to me, and I'd be more comfortable if Miami traded back into the early 20s and grabbed Trufant there.
If they are to take him, they would be getting a heck of a football player. Trufant is a big cornerback who is physical yet still has elite speed and quickness. He could excel in either man or zone coverage, and would really be a big boost to Miami's secondary.
Jamar Taylor is an intriguing prospect who would bring an element to Miami's cornerback group that they have lacked for a long time. Taylor is an aggressive, big-hitting cornerback who isn't afraid to mix things up.
Taylor stands at 5'11", 192 pounds but plays like he's 6'3", 225 pounds. He is more than willing to jump up in the run game and lay out a running back coming his way and will get physical with bigger receivers as well.
He ran a blazing 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine and has fluid hips and excellent footwork in coverage. One of the bigger knocks on Taylor is that he has poor technique in press coverage, which Miami rarely plays, so he could really benefit from playing in a zone-heavy scheme.
Miami should put him at the top of their priority list for the second round.
Overshadowed by highly rated cornerback Johnthan Banks, Darius Slay has not gotten the attention he deserves. He has only one year of FBS football under his belt and is a bit raw, but the potential is there.
Slay would be an ideal second-round pick for Miami because of his combination of size, speed and quickness. He is a long corner who excels at reading the quarterback and anticipating the throw. He jumps routes well and gets a hand in to disrupt the receiver.
He is also a dangerous playmaker with the ball in his hands, which was evident during the run-backs on his five interceptions, one of which he took back for a touchdown. Given time to develop opposite Grimes, Slay could be a future shutdown corner.
A virtual unknown heading into the draft process, Robert Alford has made a name for himself after an impressive Senior Bowl and even more impressive combine.
At 5'10", Alford isn't the most physically imposing corner, but he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine and shows elite quickness on tape, making him an ideal prospect for zone coverage.
He changes direction quickly, flips his hips and runs with even the fastest receivers and backpedals smoothly. Alford may start out as a nickel corner, but he has the athleticism to move to the outside if he continues to grow and harness his talent.
He should be available in the third round and could be a great value pick for Miami should they decide not to go with a corner earlier than that.
I decided to save my favorite option for the end. Jordan Poyer is a tremendous athlete, formerly recruited to play both baseball and football at Oregon State before deciding to only focus on his NFL dream.
He's 6'0" and a smooth athlete who perfectly combines size and speed. He is extremely quick in short spaces and shows the burst and closing speed necessary to excel in zone coverage.
A big knock on Poyer is his lack of physicality, but the Dolphins don't ask their corners to press up and jam the receivers very often, so he fits well in that regard too. He can bait the quarterback and takes great angles to make a play on the ball.
Poyer was a team captain as a senior, has a ton of experience in both man and zone coverage and is just generally a tough, intelligent player. He would be a perfect fit for Miami as a second-round pick.