2012 NFL Draft: 7 Biggest Needs the Miami Dolphins Must Address

Scott AltmanCorrespondent ISeptember 27, 2011

2012 NFL Draft: 7 Biggest Needs the Miami Dolphins Must Address

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    Is it too early to start peering ahead at the Miami Dolphins' 2012 Draft needs?


    But after an 0-3 start, Miami's chances of making the playoffs have been decimated. Let's just be honest here; they're not going to make it. 

    The team's first three games have revealed a slew of concerns and positions that need upgrades. Miami's defense has been torched by both the run and the pass and the offense remains in flux. 

    Even though it's entirely premature, let's take a look at which positions the Dolphins must address in April's draft. 

    Scott Altman is a featured columnist for the Miami Dolphins and the National Football League. He is also the co-founder of GentlemensTailgate.com, a sports blog with a classy edge. Check it out and like the site on Facebook here

#6 Cornerback

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    Vontae Davis and Sean Smith could be the best cornerback tandem in the league one day, but if the Dolphins don't find quality corners to fill out the depth chart, their secondary will continue to struggle. 

    Opposing teams will expose players like Will Allen, Nolan Carroll and Nate Jones all year, making cornerback a vital need heading into the next offseason. 

    Because the Fins already have Davis and Smith (though one could soon leave for free agency if the team doesn't manage its payroll well), they won't be targeting a corner early on. Instead, they will probably look for a contributor in the middle rounds, and a player like Iowa's Micah Hyde—a tackling machine—could make for a nice pick. 

#5 TIght End

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    Jeff Ireland's refusal to invest in a tight end ranks atop his agonizingly long list of mistakes.

    Virtually every top-tier NFL offense has a receiving-oriented, seam-threatening tight end in their arsenal. Think the Chargers with Antonio Gates, Packers with Jermichael Finley, Saints with Jimmy Graham and the Patriots with Gronkowski and Hernandez. 

    It's time for the Dolphins to abandon the Anthony Fasano experiment (though he would make for an excellent number two tight end) and pursue an athletic, dynamic tight end in the 2012 Draft. Players like Clemson's Dwayne Allen, Mizzou's Michael Egnew and Oregon's David Paulson should all be targets for the Fins. 

#4 Free Safety

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    It's tough to put free safety on here considering Chris Clemons, last year's starter, still hasn't played due to injury. But don't forget that he and interim starter Reshad Jones were neck and neck for the starting job during the preseason, so perhaps this is a glaring need. 

    Even if Clemons returns and plays well, the Dolphins need a reliable and dynamic player who can lay a safety blanket over the defense. 

    Again, if Miami misses out on the top crop of quarterbacks, they could take a shot at a free safety with their first-round pick.

    A player like Alabama's Robert Lester could be an ideal target. His blend of size (6'2", 210 frame), speed (projected 4.51, according to WalterFootball.com) and ball-hawking skills (8 interceptions last year) would seriously bolster the Dolphins' ailing secondary. 

#3 Offensive Guard / Right Tackle

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    Despite Tony Sparano's specialization in offensive lines, he hasn't been able to construct a formidable one in Miami. In fact, the line has been the team's Achilles Heel over the past two seasons. 

    The right side of the line, consisting of aging veterans Marc Colombo and Vernon Carey, must be upgraded. The draft would provide an opportune time for the Dolphins to do so. 

    Miami probably won't spend another first-round draft pick on a lineman unless they miss out on one of the top three quarterbacks. Even then, the team and whomever is managing or coaching it would have to pass on a few other studs. However, a prospect like USC's Matt Kalil could be too enticing to pass on. 

#2 Inside Linebacker

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    When the Dolphins replaced Channing Crowder with Kevin Burnett, Miami's defense figured to reap some serious benefits. 

    Crowder's awful durability and declining athleticism became a huge liability, but he looks like a Pro Bowler compared to Burnett thus far. Burnett has been a total ghost through the team's first three games, and he has not proven to be an upgrade in any aspect of the game. 

    If the Dolphins miss out on the elite quarterbacks of the 2012 Draft Class, they could settle for one of college football's most dominant players: Vontaze Burfict. Plugged in alongside Karlos Dansby, Cameron Wake and the rest of Miami's front seven, Burfict could be an instant star and the Fins defense could become elite. 

    Whether or not they draft Burfict, the Dolphins will be in the market for an inside linebacker in April. 

#1 Quarterback

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    Chad Henne's numbers might look decent after three weeks, but do not be mistaken.

    He is not the answer for the Dolphins. At this rate, it would surprise me if he finishes the year as the team's starter.

    General consensus pins Andrew Luck as the sure-fire first overall pick, and both the Dolphins and its fan base are already drooling at the prospect of grabbing arguably the greatest prospect in history. 

    Unfortunately, there are a few teams—namely the Chiefs, Colts, Bengals, Broncos—that might place worse than the Dolphins. But assuming Miami does finish the year somewhere around the bottom five, they should be able to snatch either Matt Barkley or Landry Jones. 

    Scott Altman is a featured columnist for the Miami Dolphins and the National Football League. He is also the co-founder of GentlemensTailgate.com, a sports blog with a classy edge. Check it out and like the site on Facebook here