Ranking the Dolphins' Draft Priorities

Despite being very active in free agency, the Dolphins still have a lot of needs to fill as they continue to try to close the gap that separates the New England Patriots from the rest of the division. But what are the biggest priorities the team needs to address in the 2013 draft?

Let's count down the 15 positions in order of draft priority for the Dolphins, starting with the least important to the most.

15. Quarterback: The re-signing of Matt Moore left the Dolphins in great shape here, with an established young starter, a quality veteran backup, and a promising developmental passer.

14. Defensive tackle: The Dolphins not only have quality at this position, they also have quantity. Newcomer Vaughn Martin will replace Tony McDaniel as backup behind Paul Soliai and Randy Starks, and Jared Odrick even could be used there if needed.

13. Center: Mike Pouncey clearly has established himself as a quality starter here, and it might be just a matter of time before he makes the Pro Bowl.

12. Middle linebacker: Dannell Ellerbe, signed as a free agent from Baltimore, is considered a rising star and he'll step in to replace the departed Karlos Dansby.

11. Fullback: Jorvorskie Lane was a find last year and there's no reason to think he won't be able to produce again.

10. Wide receiver: There's been talk of the Dolphins potentially going after Tavon Austin, but the Dolphins don't really need another wide receiver and Marcus Thigpen already has established himself as a top-notch returner. Really, with Brian Hartline, Mike Wallace, Davone Bess and Brandon Gibson, the Dolphins are more than fine at this position.

9. Safety: The Dolphins got good play out of this position last year with the breakthrough season enjoyed by Reshad Jones and the improvement of Chris Clemons. Re-signing Clemons as a free agent was a big move for the Dolphins. A dynamic playmaker could help here, but this isn't a big need.

8. Kicking specialist: Punter Brandon Fields averaged better than 50 yareds per punt last year, so there's no reason to look for anyone else. The Dolphins, however, might be in the market for a cheaper alternative than kicker Dan Carpenter.

7. Tight end: Don't quite understand the fascination with Tyler Eifert here. Yes, he's a tremendous prospect, but the Dolphins signed Dustin Keller to be a downfield threat. It's also still probably too early to give up on 2012 third-round pick Michael Egnew, even though his rookie season certainly was one to forget.

6. Halfback: The Dolphins are very high on the potential of Lamar Miller, but the reality is there isn't a lot of proven talent here after the departure of Reggie Bush.

5. Guard: The Dolphins are in good shape on the left side with Richie Incognito, who is coming off his first Pro Bowl, but John Jerry isn't necessarily a sure thing on the other side.

4. Cornerback: The thought out there is the Dolphins badly need help at cornerback, but that's only true if Brent Grimes (Achilles) and Richard Marshall (back) can make full recoveries from their 2012 injuries. Dimitri Patterson is another intriguing player and it shouldn't surprise anyone if he ends up starting in 2013. Bottom line is this isn't as dire a need as many analysts would have you believe.

3. Outside linebacker: The Dolphins released veteran Kevin Burnett in the offseason along with Karlos Dansby, and replaced him with Oakland free agent Philip Wheeler. Like Ellerbe, Wheeler is a younger defender with speed and a lot of upside. Koa Misi returns as the other starter. What the Dolphins could use here is a dynamic playmaker who can make plays as a pass rusher or in coverage.

2. Defensive end: This is clearly a major need. Cameron Wake is one of the best in the game, but he needs help in the pass-rushing department. Jared Odrick was solid as the other starter in 2012, but the reality is he's better suited to play DT in a 4-3 or DE in a 3-4. Olivier Vernon showed flashes as a rookie in 2012, but he's too early to tell how good an NFL player he'll become.

1. Offensive tackle: This is an obvious one after the departure of Jake Long. The Dolphins could use a starter at left tackle or if Jonathan Martin is moved there on a permanent basis, then Miami needs a right tackle. Trading for Branden Albert obviously would eliminate this need, but that's far from a sure thing that it will happen.

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