Since the start of the offseason (more accurately, midway through December), Miami Dolphins fans have participated in a legitimate debate over who the Dolphins should draft come the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.
Ask some fans and they will tell you that another playmaker is needed on offense. Other fans will tell you that the Dolphins should add a playmaker on the defensive side.
Some fans suggest an upgrade to the offensive line, which has picked up steam ever since the departure of Jake Long.
Either way, Miami will be improving in an area where improvement is needed; however, with five picks in the first three rounds, Miami will have plenty of chances to improve each of those aspects of the game.
So who do Dolphins fans want in Round 1? Here's a look at four of the most popular players mentioned.
Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver (West Virginia)
Austin is perhaps the most popular name floating around, and despite Miami adding Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson (while also re-signing Brian Hartline), he's still a popular choice amongst Dolphins fans.
He would also be perhaps the least controversial pick the Dolphins would make, as from the looks of the opinions of Dolphins fans on social media sites like Twitter (and the comments in any Dolphins mock draft on ESPN.com, NFL.com and Bleacher Report), he seems like the most popular pick.
But where does Austin fit in Miami's scheme?
For right now he might have an issue getting touches in the offense with not only Miami's newest acquisitions at wide receiver, but also their new tight end Dustin Keller, running back Lamar Miller and Davone Bess.
But speaking of Bess, Austin's greatest value would likely be in the future, as Bess is a free agent in 2014. With Austin in tow, it will be that much easier for the Dolphins to allow Bess to walk (Gibson is a free agent next season as well).
I don't find it likely that the Dolphins will choose Austin, nor does he fill Miami's biggest need on offense. But I won't exactly complain if he does come to the Dolphins.
Tyler Eifert, Tight End (Notre Dame)
Former Dolphin and Notre Dame Alum Nick Buoniconti feels pretty strongly about who the Dolphins should pick in Round 1, stating (per the Miami Herald):
There’s one guy that can change this offense and that’s Tyler Eifert. But I’m not sure the Dolphins have the vision to get him.
If he stays healthy, he will re-write the tight end record books. He’s that good. If the Dolphins had any sense of wanting to improve the team down the middle and open it up for other receivers, this is the guy. He’s a gem.
I’m sure he doesn’t fit the mold for the Dolphins. He’s too good.
Of course he had to fit in a back-handed swipe at the team while doing so. Not as many people feel the same way as Eifert, who in some mock drafts finds him potentially slipping into Round 2. However, those comments did come before the Dolphins signed Dustin Keller, who can spread the field like Eifert; how would Eifert be a fit now?
Well, in addition to his pass-catching abilities, Eifert is a pretty good blocker at the tight end position, ranking only behind Cincinnati's Travis Kelce and Michigan State's Dion Sims. He's the best player available at the tight end position, which is why I don't see him leaving the first round.
Would he be worth Miami's while to draft at 12? Much like with Austin, I won't exactly be upset if they come away with Eifert, even if what Miami needs is more of a bruiser at the position with Keller and Charles Clay already on the roster.
What does help Eifert's case, though, is the fact that Keller was signed to a one-year deal, and Eifert is better than any of the tight end prospects that will be available next season.
Lane Johnson, Offensive Tackle (Oklahoma)
Lane Johnson likely fits the smartest pick available for the Dolphins, assuming he lasts to the 12 spot.
The Dolphins do have a significant need on the offensive line after Long's departure, and despite the lip service paid to sliding Jonathan Martin to the left side, his performance at left tackle last season did leave much to be desired.
Johnson played both right and left tackle while at Oklahoma, and has the athleticism to do well in Miami's blocking scheme.
The only concern I have with Johnson is, will he still be on the board when Miami is on the clock?
With the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals all in desperate need for offensive line help, it's likely that while one of those teams will come away with Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel, the other two will likely leave New York with Central Michigan's Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson, which means Miami likely won't have the chance to pick Johnson.
If they do though, expect it to be the smartest pick, yet not exactly the most popular.
Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback (Florida State)
I'm not exactly a Xavier Rhodes fan in terms of how he fits with the Dolphins' scheme, but I had to put him ahead of Desmond Trufant here because he is rated higher than Trufant head-to-head on many big boards and mock drafts.
Secondary is a need that still sticks out like a sore thumb for Miami, but from the looks of it, Miami can get away with waiting until Round 2 or Round 3 to address the issue. The signing of Brent Grimes helps with that as well.
Just because Miami can afford to do something doesn't mean they should. If the best player available is in the secondary, that's where Miami should draft in the first round, and while I do like Trufant more than Rhodes, it's not like Rhodes would be a terrible pick.
Trufant is better than Rhodes in Miami's zone coverage scheme, but Rhodes did play some zone at Florida State and does have more upside than Trufant overall. I chose Trufant due to him being ready quicker than Rhodes to contribute to Miami's defense, but that's not to say that Rhodes is by any means a bad player. It's just that it will take him sometime to adjust to not only the NFL, but to Miami's coverage scheme.
This might make him look like Sean Smith at first, but being younger (thus developing fewer bad habits and not being so comfortable with one scheme or the other), his mind is a bit more malleable than Smith's was when he had to adjust last season.
So who should Miami choose in Round 1? Be sure to vote in our non-scientific Bleacher Report poll. If you'd rather see Miami go in a different direction than the picks being offered, feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.
Actually why did I say that? I already know that you will, even if I didn't want you guys to.
Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/sports-buzz/2013/02/buoniconti-makes-plea-to-ireland-dolphins-canes-chatter-more-reasons-why-um-is-angry-with-ncaa.html#storylink=cpy