Miami Dolphins' 8 Biggest Scouting Combine Takeaways
Sitting with the 19th selection of the NFL draft, the Dolphins could choose to go in many different directions.
New general manager Dennis Hickey has his work cut out for him, as the team has an entire offensive line to rebuild, along with some key free agents who may need to be replaced.
The Offensive Line Can Be Rebuilt Quickly
While it seems like a daunting task to replace four out of five positions on the offensive line, the good news for the Dolphins is that they picked a great year to do it.
Even taking away the two top linemen in Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews—who will both be long gone before the Dolphins make their pick—the draft is loaded with offensive linemen who can come in right away and make an impact.
Zack Martin is one of those guys and is the leading candidate to get drafted by Miami.
Despite his underwhelming performance at the scouting combine, he has proved over his college career that he can excel at both guard and tackle. He is a Pro Bowl-caliber player at either position.
However, unlike with past years, plenty of quality offensive linemen can be had after Round 1 as well.
Other guys like Xavier Su'a-Filo, David Yankey, Jack Mewhort, Joel Bitonio and Billy Turner are all expected to go after the first round, and each player is capable of being an instant upgrade from Day 1.
If the Dolphins can grab a couple of these guys, it can be a much quicker turnaround for the offensive line than originally expected.
Taylor Lewan Will Likely Be Gone Before the Dolphins Select
About two weeks ago, I listed Taylor Lewan atop my rankings of prospects who could be instant starters for the Dolphins.
At that point it seemed possible, albeit unlikely, that he would fall to the 19th pick.
But after the performance he put up at the scouting combine, "unlikely" seems to have turned into "impossible."
The 6'7", 315-pound former Wolverine ranked as the top offensive lineman in the 40-yard dash (4.87) and the broad jump (9'9") while also finishing third in the vertical jump (30.5") and fourth in the three-cone drill (7.39 seconds).
While that performance was great for his draft stock—shooting him up plenty of big boards—it was terrible for Dolphins fans who were hoping to could steal him with the 19th selection.
Defensive Tackle May Be a Bigger Need Than Initially Thought
When looking at the Dolphins' impending free agents, most fans expected Paul Soliai to return and Randy Starks to find a bigger contract elsewhere.
However, Soliai has already been getting major interest from other teams and may be walking out the door as well, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.
In the blink of an eye, the Dolphins could go from having two Pro Bowl-caliber defensive tackles on the roster to none.
That would means they have to go out and find one.
If they go through the draft, there are a few very talented options both early and late.
Louis Nix III, Aaron Donald, Ra'Shede Hageman and Timmy Jernigan are elite defensive tackles who will likely go in the first round.
All four can step right in and do just as well as Soliai or Starks.
But if the Dolphins want to gamble a bit more, they could try to grab someone like Stephon Tuitt, Will Sutton, Dominique Easley or DaQuan Jones in the second or third round.
Either way, if Starks and Soliai both leave, the Dolphins will need to find replacements in the draft or free agency.
A Plethora of Good Tight Ends Are Available
Thanks to Charles Clay's career season in 2013, the Miami Dolphins can feel confident about their top tight end heading into next year.
However, the rest of their tight end depth chart isn't as clear.
Dustin Keller is a free agent, and Dion Sims and Michael Egnew are still relative unknowns.
If the Dolphins choose not to retain Keller, they would be wise to grab a tight end in the middle rounds of the draft to bolster their depth at the position.
With Clay at his best as a receiving threat, the team could use a big-bodied guy who can throw some blocks while also being a weapon in the passing game.
Georgia's Arthur Lynch and Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz are two of the best dual-threat tight ends in the draft and are expected to go somewhere between Rounds 3 and 5.
Both guys would step right in and be the best pass- and run-blockers on the roster at the position.
As an added bonus, the 6'5", 258-pound Lynch and the 6'7", 265-pound Fiedorowicz are difficult matchups and could be major red-zone weapons as well.
Trading Down Is Still the Best Option in the First Round
The Dolphins shocked everyone last year by trading up to the No. 3 pick to draft Dion Jordan.
However, it's safe to say that if they do make a first-round trade this year, it will involve moving down.
In fact, a trade down isn't just a possibility; it's actually a best-case scenario for Miami, who will be trying to stock up on as many picks as possible.
If the scouting combine showed anything, it's that this draft class is extraordinarily deep.
Getting an extra second- or third-round pick would do wonders for a team that needs to fill quite a few holes.
To top it off, the guy the Dolphins are likely targeting in the first round, Zack Martin, is just as likely to be there at No. 19 as he is later on at No. 29.
The problem will be finding a partner who is willing to move up.
But on draft day, if a team gets desperate enough to send the Dolphins a couple of picks to move up a handful of spots, general manager Dennis Hickey should be very quick to pull the trigger.
Drafting a Linebacker Should Be a High Priority
It's no secret that the Dolphins linebackers struggled last season.
However, considering the amount of money that is still owed to Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, the team can't afford to find a replacement in free agency.
As a result, it would be smart for the team to look to the draft for a possible upgrade.
Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr won't be there when the Dolphins pick at No. 19, but there will be plenty of solid options available.
C.J. Mosley is one option, but he will likely come with a first-round price tag.
The team could look at players in the second and third rounds such as Wisconsin's Chris Borland, Ohio State's Ryan Shazier and BYU's Kyle Van Noy.
A few other later options include Jordan Tripp, Telvin Smith, Adrian Hubbard, Shayne Skov and Jeremiah Attaochu.
Regardless of what round it comes in, the Dolphins would be crazy to not address the linebacker position at some point in the draft.
Daniel Thomas' Days Are Likely Numbered
Considering the seasons that Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas had in 2013, the Dolphins will almost certainly be looking to bring in another running back in the offseason.
In all likelihood, that guy will replace Thomas, who has been the worst running back in the league in terms of yards per attempt since he was drafted.
Among players with at least 350 carries since 2011, he has averaged a league-worst 3.59 yards per rush, according to Pro-Football-Reference.
That makes Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde an interesting name to look out for in the second round.
At 6'0" and 242 pounds, he is a powerful runner who 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.
Miami could also go after other big bruising backs like Jeremy Hill, Charlie Sims or Terrance West later on in the draft, if Hyde doesn't make it to the team in the second round.
A Decision on Brent Grimes Has Not Been Made
The biggest news to come out of the scouting combine for the Dolphins has been with the status of Brent Grimes.
A contract extension has still not been reached, and the team has until March 3 to put the franchise tag on him.
The franchise tag seemed to be a near-certainty until NFL.com writer Kevin Patra cited an Ian Rapoport report, saying that Grimes getting franchised is unrealistic considering the $11.3 million salary he would be owed next season.
It's tough to imagine the Dolphins just letting him walk after the season he put up last year, but apparently it is being considered.
If that happens, suddenly cornerback would become a major need for Miami, who will largely be relying on second-year players Jamar Taylor and Will Davis to make an impact despite barely playing last season.
Regardless, it still seems unlikely that the Dolphins will draft another cornerback after investing in two of them early in the draft last year, even if Grimes does leave.