The Miami Dolphins undoubtedly boast more talent on their roster than a year ago and are aiming to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
This offseason, Jake Long decided to sign with the St. Louis Rams because, apparently, Miami's push to keep him was half-hearted. Little to no effort was made to re-sign Reggie Bush, Sean Smith or Anthony Fasano while Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett were axed.
Jeff Ireland substituted the outgoing talent with the additions of Mike Wallace, Brent Grimes, Dustin Keller, Brandon Gibson, Lance Louis, Tyson Clabo, Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler, Dion Jordan and Jamar Taylor, among others.
Now, I will attempt to rank the 90 players currently on the Dolphins' roster. This is a difficult and subjective exercise so please let me know what you think.
Here are the bottom 27 players in alphabetical order. The list is mostly composed of undrafted rookies and players who were not able to make the Dolphins' regular season roster in 2012.
90. Jeff Adams, T, Kentucky, 2012 Practice Squad
89. Chris Barker, G, Nevada, Rookie
88. Sam Brenner, C, Utah, Rookie
87. Rupert Bryan, FB, Florida International, Rookie
86. Chad Bumphis, WR, Mississippi State, Rookie
85. Chandler Burden, G, Kentucky, 2012 Practice Squad
84. Chris Burnette, DT, Old Dominion, Rookie
83. Michael Clay, LB, Oregon, Rookie
82. Jasper Collins, WR, Mount Union, Rookie
81. Aaron Corp, QB, Richmond
80. A.J. Francis, DT, Maryland, Rookie
79. Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M, 2012 Practice Squad
78. Courtney Gardner, WR, Sierra College, Rookie
77. Jonas Gray, RB, Notre Dame
76. Alonzo Highsmith, LB, Arkansas, Rookie
75. David Hinds, LB, Florida Atlantic, Rookie
74. Keelan Johnson, S, Arizona State, Rookie
73. Jordan Kovacs, S, Michigan, Rookie
72. Ina Liaina, FB, San Jose State, Rookie
71. Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State, Rookie
70. Andrew McDonald, T, Indiana, 2012 Practice Squad
69. Tristan Okpalaugo, DE, Fresno State, Rookie
68. Emeka Onyenekwu, DE, Louisiana Lafayette, Rookie
67. De'Andre Presley, CB, Appalachian State, 2012 Practice Squad
66. Lee Robinson, LB, Alcorn State
65. Brian Tyms, WR, Florida A&M, 2012 Practice Squad
64. Patrick Ward, T, Northwestern, Rookie
Now, this list is mostly composed of players who were on the Miami Dolphins' roster last year but have a diminished probability of returning.
63. Jonathan Freeney, LB, Undrafted
62. Kyle Miller, TE, Undrafted
61. Julian Posey, CB, Undrafted
60. Josh Samuda, G, Undrafted
59. Derrick Shelby, DE, Undrafted
58. R.J. Stanford, CB, Carolina 2010 Round 7 Pick
57. Josh Kaddu, LB, Miami 2012 Round 5 Pick
56. Marvin McNutt, WR, Philadelphia 2012 Round 6 Pick
55. Don Jones, CB, Miami 2013 Round 7 Pick
With the selection of Caleb Sturgis, our next player is on the outside, looking in.
54. Dan Carpenter, K, Undrafted
One of Miami's 2012 third-round selections was used to draft Missouri's Michael Egnew. Considering the Dolphins desperately needed tight end production last year, Egnew was a huge disappointment, suiting up for only two games while adding zero receptions.
This year, Egnew has been given first-team reps as Joe Philbin argued that the ex-Tiger has had a strong offseason.
The bottom line is that Michael Egnew is on the bubble in 2013.
Kelcie McCray signed as an undrafted safety in 2012. The Arkansas State standout did not play his rookie season after suffering a foot injury. This year, McCray is expected to compete for Miami's free safety spot with Chris Clemons.
Tyler McMullen of Phin Phanatic believes McCray will be the Dolphins' starting free safety sometime in the future.
The Will Yeatman experiment at tight end was a failure. Now, the Maryland product must hold off all the rookie offensive linemen to keep his bubble spot.
I currently rank Yeatman behind Mike Pouncey, Tyson Clabo, Richie Incognito, Jonathan Martin, Lance Louis, John Jerry, Dallas Thomas and Nate Garner.
If Miami keeps nine offensive lineman then Yeatman has a shot.
With the selection of Dion Sims in this year's draft, Charles Clay and Michael Egnew are fighting to be the third tight end on the depth chart.
Last year, Clay caught 18 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns.
Kheeston Randall played in 12 games last year and made eight tackles. He is currently fourth on the defensive tackle depth chart behind Randy Starks, Paul Soliai and Vaughn Martin.
Randall will likely make the team if he holds off Chris Burnette and A.J. Francis.
Marcus Thigpen will have a place on the team as long as he continues to be a return ace.
Last year Thigpen was fifth among qualified returners, averaging 27.4 yards per kickoff return and fourth in punt returns, averaging 12.2 yards per return.
Rishard Matthews, a 2012 seventh-round pick, was not expected to make the 53-man roster but he did.
I rank Matthews behind Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson and Armon Binns. This means the Nevada product must hold off Marvin McNutt, Jeff Fuller and Brian Tyms, among others, to be the team's fifth receiver.
John Denney, Miami's long snapper, made the Pro Bowl last year.
As a reward, the Dolphins brought in Patrick Scales to compete with him in 2013. Scales was cut earlier this month.
Pat Devlin is currently Miami's third quarterback. Devlin must hold off Aaron Corp to remain on the roster.
Jorvorskie Lane is a fan favorite because he often seeks contact when rushing, often running through defenders.
Lane is also a tough blocker and played for Mike Sherman at Texas A&M. Expect Lane to be Miami's fullback in 2013.
Nolan Carroll made 53 tackles last year while starting 10 games but did not make a single interception.
While Carroll was victimized often last year, he holds the experience advantage over the slew of young defensive backs he will be competing against.
I currently rank Carroll behind Brent Grimes, Jamar Taylor, Richard Marshall, Dimitri Patterson, and Will Davis.
There is a place for Dimitri Patterson on the Miami Dolphins' roster. The former Cleveland Brown will also be motivated by the fact that the Miami Dolphins can cut him and save $4.6 million against the cap if he is not on Miami's opening regular season roster.
It will be interesting to see what Jeff Ireland does in this case.
Without factoring in money, Patterson should make the 53-man roster. I rank him behind only Brent Grimes, Jamar Taylor, and Richard Marshall.
Jason Trusnik is a special teams ace. Last year, the Ohio Northern product made 25 tackles.
Austin Spitler is another special teams standout for the Dolphins. Last year, the Ohio State product played in 15 games.
Jimmy Wilson is not spectacular but is steady and versatile, playing both the nickel corner and strong safety positions.
Last year, the Montana standout made 40 tackles but did not make an interception.
Daniel Thomas, a former second-rounder, had a disappointing 2012, playing in only 12 games and rushing for only 325 yards. Thomas averaged a pedestrian 3.6 yards per carry.
Rookie Mike Gillislee may drop Thomas to third on the depth chart.
Vaughn Martin was signed to add depth to the defensive tackle rotation that includes Randy Starks and Paul Soliai.
Nate Garner provides versatility to the Dolphins' offensive line much like rookie Dallas Thomas. Garner can play as a guard or tackle. While Garner will not be pushing anyone to start, he is a capable back-up.
While Dustin Keller will be making big plays as a tight end, Dion Sims will take on Anthony Fasano's role with his blocking and red zone presence.
I rank Sims as Miami's second tight end.
Jelani Jenkins will compete with Philip Wheeler for Miami's weak-side linebacker spot and even if he does not earn a starting position, he will likely be Miami's fourth linebacker and a special teams contributor.
There is high hope that Mike Gillislee will hurdle Daniel Thomas and be Lamar Miller's back-up. The Miami Dolphins will receive a boost if Gillislee proves to be healthier and more elusive than Thomas.
Brandon Fields is one of the best punters in the league but I cannot rank him any higher because punting does not win championships.
Will Davis has the size and speed to succeed in the NFL as a cornerback. If he can translate the defensive awareness he exhibited at Utah to the professional level, Davis will see immediate playing time.
The Miami Dolphins were so happy to land Brandon Gibson and were so certain that he could dominate the slot that they traded the ultra-productive Davone Bess to the Cleveland Browns.
Last year, Gibson caught 51 passes for 691 yards and five touchdowns.
Dallas Thomas can play anywhere along the offensive line and will challenge to be a starter in 2013. John Jerry is likely the lowest-hanging fruit.
Jared Odrick, a former first-rounder, has not provided the play-making the Dolphins crave. At this point in his career, he will likely be surpassed by Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan.
Odrick made five sacks last year.
John Jerry was often criticized for his poor conditioning in the past. Jerry turned the corner last year and was productive for Joe Philbin. The Ole Miss standout will have to hold off Dallas Thomas and Lance Louis to remain a starter.
Caleb Sturgis was selected in the fifth round of this year's draft, meaning he has the inside track to the Dolphins' kicking job. Sturgis will definitely be cheaper than Dan Carpenter but Miami fans hope he will also be more accurate when it comes to game-winning field goals.
Olivier Vernon showed glimpses of his athletic prowess last year by making 3.5 sacks in limited playing time. Vernon also contributed in 2012 with a blocked field goal and a defensive touchdown (off a blocked punt).
Vernon will see more playing time in 2013 at the expense of Jared Odrick.
I will continue to argue that Matt Moore would be starting for many NFL teams. Moore is better than potential starters such as Mark Sanchez, Blaine Gabbert, Kevin Kolb, Carson Palmer, and Christian Ponder.
The Miami Dolphins are fortunate he decided to stay.
Miami was able to land Lance Louis at a discount only because he is returning from an ACL tear. Once fully recovered, Louis should be able to take John Jerry's position as Miami's right guard.
Chris Clemons was solid, but not spectacular, for the Dolphins last year, making 98 tackles and two interceptions. The lack of interceptions opened the door for Kelcie McCray but Clemons is expected to remain the starter at free safety.
Much was expected from Richard Marshall last year but he only played in four games due to injury. Marshall is expected to settle into his corner slot position this year and be a pest over the middle.
Koa Misi had his best year as a pro in 2012, starting 14 games and making 65 tackles. This year, Misi will be expected to create more turnovers than the two forced fumbles he had in 2012. A failure to take his game to the next level may spell an end to Misi's career in Miami.
Jonathan Martin held his own as a rookie starting all 16 games for the Dolphins at one of the two offensive tackle positions.
Martin was criticized for his lack of strength in 2012 so he has packed more muscle into his frame for 2013. He will protect Ryan Tannehill's blindside, making Martin a key player for Miami's 2013 success.
Lamar Miller is slated to be Miami's featured running back in 2013. He has the speed and strength to be a breakout player.
While I was tempted to rank Miller higher, he hasn't proven it on the field, YET.
Richie Incognito made the Pro Bowl last year and continues to have the reputation of being a gritty player. He is Miami's left guard unless Jeff Ireland wants to go cheaper and younger.
Jamar Taylor has a superior skill set when compared to Richard Marshall, meaning he should start opposite Brent Grimes. Taylor has first-round talent and should be an instant contributor for the Miami Dolphins.
If Taylor is slow in learning the defense or has lasting health issues, it will be a huge disappointment.
Jeff Ireland traded up to grab Dion Jordan because he saw something. As the third overall selection in the 2013 draft, Jordan needs to provide immediate dividends.
He has the ability to be a perfect partner for Cameron Wake.
If he is brought along slowly under a "project" tag, we'll know Ireland made a mistake. I don't expect that to happen.
Dustin Keller will be Miami's No.1 tight end and will provide speed that Miami may have never had from that position in its history. Yeah.
In just eight games while receiving passes from the worst quarterback in the league, Mark Sanchez, Keller had more receiving yards (317) last year than any Miami tight end.
Ryan Tannehill is going to love Keller.
Clabo provides a toughness and consistency that Miami is happy to have.
The Atlanta Falcons cut him earlier this year to clear salary cap space.
Brent Grimes went down in the 2012 regular season opener with an Achilles tear and was available in free agency. Before the injury, Grimes had established himself as one of the top cornerbacks in the league.
Miami hopes he can return to form and so far, Adam Beasley of The Miami Herald reports that Grimes has looked superb in the offseason.
Grimes will be Miami's No.1 cornerback.
Brian Hartline surpassed the 1000-yard receiving mark last year as Miami's No.1 receiver. Hartline accomplished this with a rookie quarterback and a poor supporting cast.
Hartline is not a true No.1 but he is a tremendous No.2 receiver and this is why the Dolphins opted to sign him to a hefty contract.
The Miami Dolphins defense starts up front with Starks and Soliai. While 2012 may not have reflected it, the Dolphins have consistently been a top defense against the run because of Soliai.
Expect Miami to return to their run-stuffing ways in 2013.
Miami's decision to place the $8.45 million franchise tag on Randy Starks was a simple one. Starks is a key contributor on defense.
Along with Paul Soliai, Starks is a catalyst to stop the run and free up the Dolphins' linebackers.
Last year, Miami's defense had its poorest showing in years and Jeff Ireland chose to blame Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett.
Ireland was correct and Starks will spearhead the defense's return to glory.
Ryan Tannehill has the size, athleticism, and arm strength to succeed in the NFL. Now, Jeff Ireland has provided the weapons.
After a rookie season full of learning, Tannehill must prove he has the mental capacity to be a star in the league.
I expect Tannehill will take a huge step forward in 2013.
No Dolphin has climbed the ladder to stardom faster than 2010 fifth-rounder Reshad Jones. Last year, Jones made 94 tackles, four interceptions and forced two fumbles.
From the strong safety position, Jones has become one of Miami's true play-makers.
If he takes another step forward, fans all over the country will surely take notice.
Mike Pouncey is arguably the best center in the NFL right now. He should have been a Pro-Bowler in 2012 and should be a perennial participant.
Pouncey was a solid selection by Jeff Ireland and will be Miami's center for the next decade.
Mike Wallace is simply the key for the Miami Dolphins' offense in 2013 and beyond.
Wallace is the player that will stretch defenses for Tannehill. Wallace is the player that will run under the majestic throws that Brian Hartline could not reach. Wallace will give defensive coordinators nightmares.
When was the last time anyone feared the Dolphins' passing game?
Be prepared for a new era in Miami.
Cameron Wake is Miami's purest superstar. He looks the part and he delivers, making 37.5 sacks during the last three seasons.
Wake is a phenomenal athlete with an undying determination to find the quarterback.
Here is one of my favorite clips. It shows Wake touching the ceiling of a CFL training facility, exemplifying his athletic prowess.
Like 2013 for the Dolphins, the sky's the limit.