5. LB Kiko Alonso
The Miami Dolphins' defense struggled tremendously last season, ranking 28th against the run giving up 126.2 yards per game and 250 passing yards a game. Part of their defensive woes came from their poor play at the linebacker position. Other than Jelani Jenkins (who's play was sporadic), the Dolphins linebackers just looked slow off the edge and failed to tackle 1-on-1. Alonso should help fix this problem, as he had one of the best rookie seasons by any linebacker with the Buffalo Bills just a few seasons ago, before playing with the dysfunctional and underachieving Philadelphia Eagles. New Dolphins DC Vance Joseph is known for getting the most out of his players, where he took veterans like Adam Jones and Leon Hall, and turned them into Pro Bowl talents. He should be able to do the same with Alonso, who has Luke Kuechly like ability in both pass and run defense. Keep an eye out for this new Dolphin next season.
4. OL Laremy Tunsil
All eyes have already been on the former Mississippi Rebel standout after a video leaked of Tunsil just moments before the 2016 NFL Draft started, depicting the massive lineman inhaling a substance from a gas mask. The result? A lot of smoke surrounding the former consensus number one overall pick and a huge break for the Dolphins, who were able to nab Tunsil at 13th overall and completely change the dynamic of their offensive line. HC Adam Gase has already started working Tunsil in as a Guard, which shouldn't be too hard of a transition for Tunsil because of his fantastic athleticism. Thus, their line projects as follows: LT Branden Albert, LG Laremy Tunsil, C Mike Pouncey, RG Billy Turner, RT Ja'Wuan James. That's not too shabby, as 4 former first round picks are penciled in to start. I want to keep an eye on Tunsil for 3 main reasons. First, can he overcome his gas-mask debacle and be the player everyone is hoping he will be? 2. How will he fare after shifting from his natural LT position inside? 3. With Branden Albert's injury history, where will Tunsil finish the season?
A lot of questions, now we wait for the answers.
The Dolphins made major offensive moves again this year, but the difference between this off season and off seasons of late are that the Dolphins didn't overpay. Instead, they are relying on veterans to get the job done, especially in the trenches, In comes former Bills DE Mario Williams, former Jacksonville Jaguars DE Andre Branch, and fan favorite Cameron Wake. The three of them combined have 21 seasons of experience under their belts, and last season alone they combined for just 16 sacks. I think two of the three will go for 16 sacks in 2016-2017, and I wouldn't be surprised if the three combined for over 20 sacks next year, especially with Cameron Wake coming in on third downs only. The Dolphins will have the luxury of switching between the three, as well as Terrence Fede, who really came into his own last season. Pair these guys with Ndamukong Suh, and things could get scary quickly for opposing offenses.
2. RB Jay Ajayi
Adam Gase has already reported that sophomore RB Jay Ajayi has already separated himself from other Dolphins running backs that include 3rd round pick Kenyan Drake, Daniel Thomas, Isaiah Pead and Jahwan Edwards. Ajayi has been the bell cow in the past, rushing for 1,800 yards and adding 500 receiving yards in one season as a Boise State Bronco in college. His knee held up fine last season, and he has the best offensive line the Dolphins have had in the past 10 seasons. There should be no excuses for Ajayi not to emerge as a Top 15 rusher in the league this year, especially given the success Adam Gase has had with RB's in the past, including Denver's C.J. Anderson.
1. QB Ryan Tannehill
Would you expect anyone else to top this list? Since he came into the league as a rookie from Texas A&M in 2012, Ryan Tannehill has been the new face of this franchise and under scrutiny. Statistically speaking, he has gotten better each season. He has also been the most sacked QB in the entire league in the past four years. The Dolphins have brought in QB whisperer Adam Gase and have shored up the offensive line, meaning that Tannehill has no more excuses not to perform well. He is also surrounded by weapons, including DeVante Parker, Jarvis Landry and Jordan Cameron. Will this be the year Tannehill finally reaches his true potential with complete control of the offense? All eyes will be on RT17 as the season begins.