AFC East: Carlos Hyde

DAVIE, Fla. -- The NFL draft's first round is in the books for the Miami Dolphins. They selected former University of Tennessee right tackle Ja'Wuan James at No. 19 overall to boost their offensive line.

But what’s next for the Dolphins in Rounds 2 and 3?

Here is a preview of where the Dolphins stand:

Friday’s picks: No. 50 (second round) and No. 81 (third round)

Remaining needs: Guard, linebacker, safety

Analysis: The Dolphins filled a major need at right tackle by drafting James, but many question whether it was a good value pick. Either way, it’s time for Miami to move forward. The Dolphins still have several needs to address. There is still a hole at guard on the offensive line. Miami signed free agent Shelley Smith but the other spot is wide open. Currently Sam Brenner, Nate Garner and Dallas Thomas are all backups competing for that spot. The Dolphins also could use help at middle linebacker. Dannell Ellerbe played out of position last year and struggled. He could move outside if the Dolphins find a potential starting middle linebacker in the second or third round. Miami missed on former Alabama middle linebacker C.J. Mosley, who was taken by the Baltimore Ravens at No. 17. The Dolphins also could use depth at tight end, receiver and running back, although they have starters at those positions. The draft still have some good prospects in Day 2 available at those positions.

Potential targets: UCLA G Xavier Su'a-Filo, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, WR Marqise Lee, RB Carlos Hyde, RB Tre Mason, LB Chris Borland

NFL combine takeaways: Miami Dolphins

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
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The 2014 NFL combine is reaching its final stages. It was an interesting year with plenty of good stories and developments.

Here are a few that stood out for the Miami Dolphins:
  • The Dolphins clearly have a huge need on the offensive line. Therefore, that was a group I paid close attention to last week. Fortunately for the Dolphins, there are some stud prospects at offensive tackle. Jake Matthews of Texas A&M and Greg Robinson of Auburn were as good as advertised. But the left tackle who really impressed me with his athleticism was Michigan’s Taylor Lewan. He ran the fastest 40 time for offensive linemen at 4.87 seconds. Lewan has good acceleration and smooth, fluid footwork, which is key for a left tackle. Lewan may be out of Miami’s range at No. 19 unless the team is willing to move up.
  • Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin did about what I expected at the combine. He’s not going to wow you with measurables and athleticism. His body typed looked more like a guard at the next level. Martin is an effort player with good intangibles such as leadership, and that doesn’t show in workouts. Martin is one of the players projected to be a strong target for Miami.
  • Former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam said he would welcome the opportunity if he was drafted by the Dolphins. Sam is on pace to become the first openly gay athlete in the NFL. Credit Sam for saying the right things, but I don’t believe Miami is the best fit right now for Sam. The Dolphins are coming off a huge bullying controversy that included anti-gay slurs in their locker room, according to the Ted Wells report. Miami is working to clean up its locker room environment, but I don’t believe the team is ready to handle another major media storm in its locker room. Also defensive end is arguably the deepest area of the team. Miami has Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon, Dion Jordan and Derrick Shelby, who are all capable players at the position.
  • Miami also is in need of a running back, and I liked what Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde had to say during combine interviews. The burly tailback described himself as a “violent” runner who is workhorse. He wants the ball 20 times a game and often got it at Ohio State. The Dolphins were 26th in rushing last season. Neither Lamar Miller nor Daniel Thomas proved they can handle the load. Hyde would be a strong second-round pick for Miami if he falls that far.
  • I was not impressed with Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses. He had a disappointing combine and looked sloppy at times. Moses is a raw prospect who entered the combine projected as a late first-round pick. But I would scratch him off Miami’s list at No. 19. I view him more as a second-round option.
The Miami Dolphins hired former Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor last week. While the initial hype included Lazor’s experience working with quarterbacks and the passing game, a big question is whether he can improve Miami’s 26th-ranked rushing attack.
Thomas
Lazor helped previously unknown Nick Foles go from a backup quarterback to a Pro Bowler this season. But a little-known stat is Philadelphia’s offense actually led the NFL in rushing last year under Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. Lazor certainly picked up some pointers from Kelly’s offense and the successful running game that he hopes to bring to Miami.

“When you come off of a season like we did where we were the leading rushing team in the NFL. We had the leading rusher. We had the highest-rated passer. We were able to be an explosive offense,” Lazor said last week. “Certainly a lot of things that led to that are going to have a great impact on what I believe works going forward.”

Miller
The Dolphins can do a better job in personnel this year to help Lazor. Miami relied on inexperienced former draft picks Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas to carry the load. In fact, the Dolphins only spent $2.412 million of their cap last year on running backs with Miller, Thomas and 2013 fifth-round pick Mike Gillislee. Miami ranked 30th in the NFL last season in money spent on running backs, according to the Roster Management System.

Miami has resources in both the draft and free agency to upgrade the running-back position. Big names in free agency include Ben Tate of the Houston Texans and Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Potential draft targets include Carlos Hyde of Ohio State and James White of Wisconsin. White will play in the Senior Bowl this weekend.

Miller and Thomas were not the answer in 2013. It will be interesting to see if the Dolphins upgrade at running with a new offense and offensive coordinator in 2014.
The Miami Dolphins need to retool their 27th-ranked offense, and running back is one of the biggest questions on that side of the football.

Tailbacks Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas did not get the job done in 2013. Neither player stepped forward as the primary ball carrier, which provided many frustrating weekends for Dolphins fans.

Miller, who was expected to have a breakout year, rushed for 709 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas, a former second-round pick, rushed for 406 yards and four touchdowns. Both appear more suited for complementary roles off the bench, not as a full-time starter.

So where could the Dolphins look to upgrade? Here are some initial thoughts:
  • There will be some interesting names hitting the free-agent market at tailback. Two intriguing options who I think are potential fits for the Dolphins are Ben Tate of the Houston Texans and Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Both are powerful runners who can carry the load. Tate may be the most expensive option. He’s only 25 and doesn’t have much wear and tear. Jones-Drew will be 29 in March and is approaching the age where running backs often decline.
  • It’s always risky talking draft before the Senior Bowl and NFL combine. But let’s take a very early look at this year’s running back class, which isn’t very top heavy. The Dolphins hold the No. 19 overall pick, and Ohio State tailback Carlos Hyde could be an early possibility. Miami has other needs, such as guard and offensive tackle. But picking at 19, the Dolphins must be flexible and consider various options. Miami also could look to the later rounds to add a running back.

Miami will have solid salary-cap room this offseason. So it would be surprising if the Dolphins stay put at running back with Miller and Thomas next season. Look for Miami to add another option into the mix to improve its ground game.

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