NFL Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins: 5 Running Backs Team Should Target Through NFL Draft

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Miami Dolphins Should Target 5 Running Backs Through NFL Draft

Miami Dolphins
Robert Mayer - USA Today Sports

As we enter the thick of the offseason with free agency beginning in March and the NFL draft taking place in May, this time of the year presents an opportunity for the Miami Dolphins to improve their franchise from a sub .500 team into a true playoff contender.

The Dolphins hold the No. 19 overall pick in this year's draft. The franchise will have several positions that will have to be addressed either through free agency or the draft. The left side of the offensive line lacks quality starters, the defensive backfield needs more depth and the running game needs an overhaul. The Dolphins had many known issues with their football personnel in 2013, which contributed to their disappointing end to the season; they lost two games in the final two weeks of the season to two sub .500 teams in the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets with a playoff spot on the line.

One of their biggest issues was a lack of running game. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas were the Dolphins' top two running backs from 2013. The running game ranked 26th in the NFL in total rushing yards, 27th in rushing touchdowns and 17th in yards per attempt. Even more troubling was the fact the Dolphins ranked 29th in total rushing attempts. The team knew they weren't capable of running the football, so they didn't even bother in attempting to establish the run in a lot of weeks.

The running back position is the easiest skill position to develop on offense. And although the Dolphins will likely address the position in some shape or form through free agency, the team will still be looking for a young running back through the NFL draft that can be the franchise running back for the offense for the next several years. The 2014 NFL draft has such a deep group of running backs that the Dolphins could find a gem in the middle rounds.

Here are five running backs the Dolphins should target through the NFL draft.

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5. Jeremy Hill

Jeremy Hill
Steve Mitchell - USA Today Sports

Running back Jeremy Hill out of LSU is the big back that the Dolphins like in their backfield. At 6-foot-1, 233 pounds, Hill has the best size of any of the top running backs entering this draft. Projected as a second or third-round selection and considered to be the fifth-best back in this draft class, Hill started for the Tigers the past two seasons and led the team in rushing.

The Dolphins' two current running backs, Miller and Thomas, are both big backs. Miller weighs in at 216 pounds, while Thomas is even thicker, possessing a 235-pound frame at a height of 6-foot-1".

Hill has been compared to New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount. Hill is considered to be a decisive runner, who finds holes quickly, and gets to the next level with ease. His one weakness is his lack of ability to protect the passer.

If Hill can be a good complementary back like Blount was in New England this past season, the Dolphins' offense would immediately improve.

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4. Tre Mason

Tre Mason
Richard Mackson - USA Today Sports

Perhaps the most statistically accomplished of any of the runners entering this draft is none other than Auburn running back Tre Mason. Mason was a Heisman Trophy finalist, and broke many of former Auburn running back Bo Jackson's records at the school. Playing in the most competitive conference in all of college football, Mason ran for 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2013. The Auburn running back ran for 343 yards in the SEC Championship Game and 195 yards in the National Championship Game.

The issue with Mason? He's just 5-foot-8 and 207 pounds. He may not possess the prototypical size the Dolphins like, or even most NFL teams like, but the guy can run the football. Mason is a decisive one-cut runner but his durability is a concern due to his smallish stature.

However, if you ignore Mason's shortcomings as far as stature, you'll see that Mason may be the most dynamic running back in the 2014 draft class.

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3. James Wilder Jr.

James Wilder Jr.
Charles LeClaire - USA Today Sports

Though Florida State running back James Wilder Jr. may not even be considered the best back coming out of his own school in this draft class, there is a lot of potential to be had with Wilder. The son of former Tampa Bay Buccaneer great James Wilder Sr., Wilder Jr. had a solid career as a complementary back with the Seminoles. With Devonta Freeman as the primary ball carrier in 2013, Wilder Jr. ran for 563 yards and eight touchdowns as FSU won the National Championship at the conclusion of the season.

Quite simply put, Wilder Jr. has size. He's 6-foot-3, 232 pounds. As the tallest back entering this draft, the FSU product has great potential. He may not be as highly touted as Freeman or other backs in this draft, as he's not even considered to be a top-10 running back in this class. However, he can be had with a fourth or fifth-round draft selection. There is low risk with high reward involved by drafting Wilder Jr.

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2. Carlos Hyde

Carlos Hyde
Robert Mayer - USA Today Sports

The Ohio State running back is a top-three back in this draft class. Carlos Hyde had an astounding 2013 season, in which he ran for over 1,500 yards despite missing the first three games of the season. Like two of the prior three running backs mentioned in this article, Hyde is a big back. The OSU product is 6-foot-0, 230 pounds. He's a traditional ground-and-pound runner.

The issue with Hyde is he doesn't fit in most of today's NFL offenses. With the spread-it-out nature of most offenses, NFL teams want their backs to be versatile players who can not only contribute in the running game, but be effective pass blockers and receivers out of the backfield. Hyde is one of the most limited backs when it pertains to receiving in this draft class. He had just 34 receptions in four seasons at Ohio State.

If the Dolphins can bring in a running back who can fill that versatile role for the team, Hyde would be a fine fit for the Dolphins. He is projected to be a second-round draft selection.

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1. Bishop Sankey

Bishop Sankey
Joe Nicholson - USA Today Sports

Of all of the top backs in the draft, Washington running back Bishop Sankey is the most underrated one of the bunch. Sankey did not play at a big school, he did not post record-breaking numbers and he doesn't have great size, but his all-around abilities as a running back make him the best choice for any NFL team at his position.

Sankey is just 5-foot-9, 209 pounds, but he runs the football with excellent vision and decisiveness, has shown the ability to be a consistent pass blocker, and has amazing durability. He never missed a single game during his collegiate career.

The Washington running back should be drafted in either the second or third rounds, and if Sankey is available in either round for the Dolphins, the team should jump at the opportunity at drafting Sankey.