Coming into the 2014 season with a myriad of questions about the running game from the year before, one of the common questions about the Miami Dolphin's offensive line was who was going to start, and would they be able to create enough holes for the running game. General manager Dennis Hickey did a pretty good job of rebuilding the offensive line, with, at one point, five new starters, but there were still limitations with the overall running game this year. Some of those limitations were due to the fact that Knowshon Moreno got hurt, but also due to the fact that Lamar Miller has some limitations in his game. Because of that, the Dolphins might consider drafting a running back in this year's NFL draft. In order of how they are ranked in terms of the Dolphins running back needs, here are some top prospects that they might focus in on.
Todd Gurley: 6'1" 226lbs. University of Georgia
NFL.com's rating: 6.3 | NFL Comparison: Marshawn Lynch
Gurley is coming off an ACL injury though, and that will definitely hurt his draft stock, but this might be the best thing for the Dolphins as it most likely means he drops to them at the 14 overall pick in the first round. While drafting a running back with this first pick might not fill a need that the Dolphins have, like offensive line, linebacker, cornerback, or wide receiver, Dennis Hickey is on the record for drafting the best player available and Gurley will most likely be the best player available when they pick at fourteen. Also, in the NFL, acquiring elite talent is a must in order to win playoff games and Gurley appears to have the ability to be elite, if he can get over the knee injury.
Tevin Coleman: 6'1" 210lbs. Indiana University
NFL.com's Rating: 6.1 | NFL Comparison: Darren McFadden
Tevin Coleman is an all-purpose back that one has one elite trait and then is good with a lot of other traits. The best trait that Coleman possess is something that can't be taught and that is his top end speed. Coleman has break away speed and can turn a 10 yard run into a 90 yard run. Coleman is also great at jump cutting in and out holes to make defenders miss and get to the next level. While most running backs that have his kind of speed prefer to stay on the perimeter and get to the edge as much as possible, Coleman likes to run in-between the tackles and create contact to get extra yards.
Overall, Coleman is different running back than Gurley, but that does not mean that he couldn't be a much needed addition to the offense. Coleman's speed, ability to make a defender miss, fearlessness in-between the tackles, and catching ability all combine to make him a very good all-around running back. All that could lead to him winning the starting role somewhere this year, and maybe even in Miami if they drafted him.
Jay Ajayi: 6'0" 216lbs. Boise State University
NFL.com's Rating: 5.9
NFL Comparison: Marshawn Lynch
Jay Ajayi is a different back than Coleman and Gurley in that he doesn't have great bruising power like Gurley and doesn't have break-away speed like Coleman. What he does have is very good feet, from his soccer background, which allows him to make very fast jump-cuts, make defenders miss pretty easily and most importantly, gives him great balance.
Power: While his power isn't that of Lynch's, it is good enough get through the line of scrimmage and move a few defenders to be able to gain a couple extra yards. In this picture, you can see that he lowers his pad level very nicely and protects the ball and gains a few extra yards to gain the first down here.
Again, while Ajayi's overall talent might not be of a Gurley or Lynch, he could very well have the ability to develop into that kind of running back. Combine his jump-cut ability, stiff arm, above-average power, and his hands, Ajayi's second round grade will give any team that drafts him a great value, and if the Dolphins can get their hands on him, then they will have a very complete backfield.
This column was written by Seth Fisher. Follow him on Twitter: @SethAFisher