2014 NFL Draft Prospects Who Could Be Instant Starters for the Miami Dolphins
Every team enters the NFL draft looking to bring in prospects who can make an immediate impact.
The Miami Dolphins are certainly no different.
Considering some of the major holes the Dolphins have, new general manager Dennis Hickey can't afford to have a repeat of Jeff Ireland's 2013 draft. Fourth-round pick Dion Sims and undrafted free agent Sam Brenner were the only two rookies to start a game for the team last year.
In order to take that next step and make the playoffs in 2014, the Dolphins are going to need to hit on at least a few of their picks this time around.
The following 10 players are all guys who could come in and be instant starters and contributors for the Dolphins.
For the purpose of this article, unrealistic options such as offensive tackles Jake Matthews and Greg Robinson and wide receiver Sammy Watkins were left off; while these players would certainly be huge upgrades, they will also be gone well before the Dolphins make their selection at No. 19 overall.
With all that said, let's get to the list.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Based on talent alone, Lewan is right up there with Jake Matthews and Greg Robinson as one of the best offensive tackles in the draft.
But there are other factors that may cause him to drop a bit on draft day. For starters, he is coming off a down senior season after putting together a monster junior campaign.
He is also under investigation for the assault of an Ohio State fan after a game back in November. Lewan was accused of punching the fan but denied the allegations. He has not been charged and the investigation is still ongoing, as tweeted last month by Kyle Feldscher of The Ann Arbor News.
However, this all does not take away from the fact that the 6'7", 315-pound Lewan has the ability to be a cornerstone piece of the Dolphins offensive line for years to come.
He is capable of playing both left and right tackle and has proven to be very effective in slowing down both speed- and power-rushers over his college career.
He would be an absolute steal for the Dolphins should he fall to them at No. 19 and would no doubt be a major building block for an offensive line that was one of the worst in the league last season.
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Admittedly, this is the most pie-in-the-sky option among the players on this list as there will surely be a handful of teams eyeing Ebron before the Dolphins select at No. 19.
With that said, there is always the chance of him dropping or the Dolphins moving up to bring in a major weapon to boost a lackluster offense.
At 6'4" and 245 pounds, Ebron certainly fits that role as he is a walking mismatch every time he steps on the field.
Ebron would step in and immediately be the Dolphins' best all-around playmaker. Moreover, he would take a lot of safety attention away from receiver Mike Wallace on the outside.
He needs to continue to improve as a blocker and show that he can be more than just a threat in the passing game.
Considering the major needs along the offensive line, it is unlikely the Dolphins move up for Ebron, especially when looking at the year Charles Clay had and the depth at the tight end position in this year's draft.
However with that said, if Ebron does somehow fall into Miami's laps at 19, the Dolphins should take a mere two seconds before submitting their pick and grabbing the stud out of North Carolina.
Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame
Considering the litany of unanswered questions surrounding the Dolphins offensive line, Zack Martin looks like the perfect option for Miami in the first round.
Martin has shown the ability to excel at both guard or tackle and would be an instant upgrade for Miami at either position.
At 6'4" and 305 pounds, Martin is quick and skilled enough to stop speed-rushers on the outside, but is also strong enough to stop power-rushers on the inside.
We will know a lot more about the type of player the team will be looking for after free agency, but as of now, there is no better option for the Dolphins than a guy who can perform at four different positions along the offensive line.
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Another possible option for the Dolphins in the first round, Kouandjio could step in at left tackle on day one and shore up Ryan Tannehill's blind side.
At 6'5" and 310 pounds, the Alabama junior isn't as polished as some of the other top lineman in the draft, but his potential is through the roof.
As long as the coaches can help refine his game and he becomes more consistent, he has the makings of being a franchise left tackle for the next decade.
Even if the Dolphins do sign someone like Brandon Albert in free agency, Kouandjio is more than capable of flipping to the right side where he could be even more dominant.
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
With Paul Soliai and Randy Starks impending free agents and the Dolphins unlikely to keep both of them, it would be a good idea to draft a replacement this year.
Aaron Donald is a very interesting name for the Dolphins as most draft experts seem split on where he will end up going.
There are many guys, such as Bleacher Report's draft guru Matt Miller that view Donald as the best defensive tackle in the draft and subsequently, an obvious first round pick.
He isn't as big as a typical defensive tackle (6'1" and 288 lbs.) but he makes up for that with his incredible quickness and a great first step.
While Donald has the makings of being a dominant defensive tackle for years to come with Miami, I don't expect the team to reach for him in the first round.
However, if he does drop into the second like some experts believe, the Dolphins would be getting an absolute steal.
Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
If the Dolphins grab an offensive tackle in the first round to shore up the outside, that leaves the rest of the draft to fix the interior line.
Grabbing someone like Richardson in the second round would go a long way to building Ryan Tannehill a dominant line for years to come.
At 6'5" and 340 pounds, Richardson is a force on the interior and may be the best run-blocker in the entire draft.
He is also very good as a pass-blocker, with quick feet and very good technique.
Considering the disaster of a run game the Dolphins had last season, pairing Richardson on the left side with someone like Brandon Albert, Taylor Lewan or Zack Martin could result in an instant turnaround.
Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
Much like Aaron Donald, Hyde is another very interesting name for Dolphins fans to watch out for.
Coming off a monster senior season, Hyde has seen his draft stock rise to the point some are viewing him as a possible first round pick.
However, NFL teams are quickly adapting to the idea that running backs aren't worth a top pick and as a result it is much more likely that Hyde goes in the second or possibly even third round.
That's where the Dolphins can come in. With Lamar Miller coming off a down season and Daniel Thomas continuing to be Daniel Thomas, Miami is in need of someone else to come in and be the new featured guy in the backfield.
At 6'0" and 242 pounds, Hyde is a powerful runner that thrives in between the tackles. He also has an impressive combination of power, speed and agility that can make him a top running back in the league.
Billy Turner, Offensive Tackle, North Dakota State
To do a complete rebuild, the Dolphins are going to need to spend at least two of their top four picks on the offensive line.
If they go elsewhere in the second round, Turner would be an ideal fit in the third.
At 6'6" and 314 pounds, Turner is a force to be reckoned with and has both the quickness and athleticism to be a solid right tackle.
However, his incredible strength and ability as a run-blocker makes him more appealing as a guard, which of course the Dolphins need as well.
Regardless of where the team puts him, Turner would be an excellent option on the second day of the draft to help solidify the offensive line.
C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
If North Carolina's Eric Ebron doesn't find his way to Miami in the first round, Fiedorowicz could be a very solid backup plan on day three of the draft.
The first time he steps on the field, the Iowa tight end would immediately be the best pass- and run-blocker among the Miami tight ends.
He is also extremely versatile and at 6'7" and 265 pounds, he can be a dangerous weapon on pass plays over the middle, especially in the red zone.
While he isn't as explosive as someone like Ebron, he has very solid hands and does a good job of using his big frame to take advantage of smaller defenders.
The Dolphins sorely lack a go-to red-zone weapon and if the team develops Fiedorowicz right, he is more than capable of turning into that guy.
Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama
It's no secret the Dolphins linebackers struggled immensely last season. Considering the amount of money still owed to Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, the team can't afford to find a replacement in free agency.
That makes Hubbard a name to look out for on day three of the draft. At 6'6" and 252 pounds, he has the skill set to play both defensive end and outside linebacker.
Most importantly, he thrived as a run defender in Alabama's defense, which was the biggest weakness of the Miami linebackers last year.
He doesn't excel in any one area but is more of a solid all-around player who can immediately contribute to the Dolphins defense.