Now that the Miami Dolphins have spent a good chunk of change on free-agent pickups, it's time to move the attention to the draft, where they have five picks in the first three rounds and 10 picks overall.
The Dolphins were salary-cap rich before free agency, they are talent-rich following the frenzy and in April, they'll be draft-pick rich.
This is a make-or-break offseason for Jeff Ireland, who has every opportunity to improve the roster in the last year of his contract as general manager of the Dolphins. If they improve, or even contend, it could mean an extension. If they do not make big strides, it could be the end for him in Miami. He can't afford to miss on the first-round pick.
Who do the experts think could be that can't-miss prospect? Let's take a look at mock drafts around the web from some of the most noteworthy draft experts.
Selection: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Miami Dolphins have major needs heading into free agency. One of those needs rests at cornerback, a position that will be tougher to fill in free agency than needs at wide receiver and along the offensive line.
The Dolphins are expected to be heavy contenders in the wide receiver market when free agency opens on March 12, but that won't help fill their cornerback needs. The team traded away Vontae Davis and may struggle to re-sign Sean Smith (if they want him back) once he hits the open market. That leaves a starting job open in the defensive backfield.
Florida State product Xavier Rhodes has the ideal size and skill for a corner in today's NFL. He's big at 6'1" and fast (4.43 in the 40). As NFL wide receivers get bigger and faster, the need for cornerbacks with Rhodes' ability becomes greater.
The Dolphins' needs may shift after free agency, but two weeks prior, their biggest value at pick No. 12 is with Rhodes.
Reaction: The way the free-agency period has gone for the Dolphins, cornerback is one of the two most sensible positions for them to select with the No. 12 overall pick. Sean Smith was the team's No. 1 cornerback last year, and although he wasn't worthy of that title, he was still the best corner on the roster.
We're no strangers to the Xavier Rhodes love train, having hopped on board following Miller's selection of Rhodes to the Dolphins in late February.
Rhodes has been a huge riser in the weeks since the scouting combine. CBS Sports currently has him 13th overall on their board and the second-best cornerback behind Alabama's Dee Milliner. Other outlets weren't sold by his on-field play. He ranks in the late 20s, according to both NationalFootballPost.com and NFL.com, but those websites both have him as their second-best cornerback behind Milliner.
Either way, everyone agrees he is a physical man corner with great technique in press coverage and has the size and speed to keep up with many of the NFL's top receivers. He has work to do, including being less aggressive in tight quarters and overall concentration and discipline in zone, but he could pose problems for opposing wideouts as a rookie.
If the Dolphins are looking for someone to fill the void left by Vontae Davis prior to the 2012 season, Rhodes could be that guy.
Selection: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The Dolphins boast one of the NFL's better pass-rushers in Cameron Wake but received little pass rush opposite him from Jared Odrick. The 6-5, 302-pound Odrick might make more sense moved back inside to his more natural position, which could occur if the Werner were to slip to the Dolphins. Werner doesn't possess the elite athleticism normally associated with a top 10 pick but is instinctive and technically sound. He also led the ACC with 13 sacks a season ago.
Reaction: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
The Dolphins have fortified the defensive line at every spot except the right defensive end, and landing Jordan would give them a pass-rushing edge presence to put opposite Cameron Wake. Adding Werner would address that need with one of the more NFL-ready 4-3 defensive ends in the draft.
Opinions of Werner are wide-ranging. CBS Sports has him as their sixth-best overall player. NFL.com has him in the 20s. ESPN has him as a mid-first round pick. With Rang's ranking of Werner, this would be a steal.
He's a jack of all trades and a master of none. He's solid both rushing the passer and setting the edge against the run. He's not incredibly explosive, agile or strong. One thing he does well, though, is shed blocks.
Werner certainly has the production to justify the pick. His 13 sacks in 2012 ranked him 20th in the nation, and his 18 tackles for loss ranked him third. Both numbers were good for tops in the ACC.
There are concerns about his motor, but put him in a winning environment (which the Dolphins hope to be in 2013 and beyond) and he'll make a great pairing with Wake.
Selection: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The loss of Sean Smith robs the Dolphins of a big, athletic corner with range. Rhodes is not a polished product at this point, but he possesses a rare combination of size, speed and skill.
Reaction: Not much to add, since we already touched on Rhodes.
There weren't (m)any better options available in Brooks' mock. While Rhodes would be far from a bad pick, if Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan falls all the way to No. 12, as Brooks suggests in this mock, Jeff Ireland should personally do backflips all the way up to the podium to hand in the selection card.
Selection: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
With the Dolphins expected to lose left tackle Jake Long in free agency; many expect them to move Jon martin over to the left side. We think they would prefer to keep Martin on the right side as he did not have a great rookie season and can plug Lane Johnson in at left tackle.
Reaction: Lande's prediction of Jake Long leaving came true, which leaves the Dolphins looking for an offensive tackle. There was a report that the Dolphins would look to make a reciprocal move after Long left, possibly to bring in either Eric Winston or Sebastian Vollmer.
According to most scouts, Johnson would be a solid value pick at No. 12. He is only the third-best tackle in the class behind Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher, but he's the seventh-best player in the draft according to both NFL.com and CBS Sports.
Oddly enough, it's Lande who has the Dolphins reaching for Johnson, whom he presently ranks as the 24th overall player in the draft.
Johnson has played four different positions: quarterback, tight end, defensive end and offensive tackle. He is incredibly athletic for a man his size (6'6", 303 pounds), and his long frame will allow him to reroute opposing pass-rushers around the quarterback, similar to Patriots tackle Nate Solder.
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