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In my final piece on NFL prospects after the combine, we take a look at the skill position personnel on the defensive side of the ball that the Dolphins could possibly consider as we work our way towards the 2014 NFL Draft.

 

As we have discussed in these series of articles, Free Agency has been and will be a big part of shaping the direction of the draft for Miami, and that has been the case on the defensive side of the ball as well.  Miami has been able to re-sign Pro Bowl CB Brent Grimes and DT Randy Starks.  Miami also added Houston DT Earl Mitchell and Detroit S Louis Delmas along with St. Louis CB Courtland Finnegan.

 

One player that the Dolphins were interested in and did not sign was Cleveland ILB D'Qwell Jackson, who eventually signed with the Indianapolis.  It is becoming apparent that the Dolphins do want to address that position and have talked about moving Koa Misi inside, allowing Darnelle Ellerbe to be moved to OLB.  With that said, let's look at the ILB position and a player I think could be the pick at #19 of the 1st round for Miami.

 

C.J Mosley has had an outstanding career for Alabama, and is considered the top ranked ILB in this draft.  He has nice size at 6'2, 234 lbs, with nice quickness and striking ability.  It has been thought that the linebacker play for the Dolphins was a big part of the problem for the run defense decline in 2013, and Mosely would help solidify the linebacker unit.  Here is the write up from NFL.com on Mosely.

 

Overview

Two-time first-team All-American selection (2012-2013). 2013: Butkus Award winner (nation's top linebacker) and Bednarik Award (nation's top defensive player) finalist. First-team All-SEC pick after starting in all 13 games. 2012: Butkus Award finalist and semifinalist for the Bednarik Award. First-team All-SEC pick after playing in all 14 games and making nine starts. Had eight tackles, including a tackle for loss, in BCS National Championship win over Notre Dame. 2011: Played in 11 games with six starts. Did not play against Florida and Vanderbilt after dislocating his elbow against Arkansas. Made a tackle and had an interception in BCS National Championship win over LSU. 2010: Was a freshman All-SEC pick after playing in all 13 games as a true freshman, making three starts. Finished third on the team with 67 tackles. High School: Parade and U.S. Army All-American pick.

Analysis

Strengths

Exceptional instincts -- triggers fast downhill. Outstanding urgency. Plays with very good knee bend, balance and base. Secure, drive-through tackler. Hits with explosion and jars ball carriers on impact. Excellent lateral agility -- flows fast and ranges to the sideline. Exceptional weight-room worker with good functional play strength -- plays bigger than his size. Outstanding eyes and anticipation vs. the run. Very good coverage awareness with the ball in front of him -- clings to tight ends passing through zones and blankets speed backs in man coverage. Respected leadership presence -- lines up his teammates and directs traffic. Film junkie. Excellent attitude, effort, field intensity and overall energy. Exceptional football and personal character. Highly competitive. Humble, selfless team player. Outstanding football IQ. Scheme-diverse and versatile. Strong special-teams coverage performer.

Weaknesses

Has a narrow build. Has been slowed by elbow, hip and shoulder injuries throughout his career and long-term durability will require thorough inspection by medical examiners. Gets hung up on the blitz (shoulder stiffness) and must learn how to use more finesse picking a side instead of relying on bull power and striking blockers down the middle. Can learn to do a better job shooting his hands to shock defenders and disengage from blocks. Could be challenged matching up down the field with his back to the ball vs. flex TEs in the slot (man coverage). Could stand to become a more vocal leader.

Bottom Line

Smart, instinctive, fast-flowing, every-down linebacker capable of manning any position in a "40" front or steering a defense from the weak side in a "30" front, where he starred for a national-championship defense as a junior and carried the Tide as a senior. Has the football temperament, desire and work habits to emerge as a tackling machine in the pros. Has Pro Bowl potential.

 

A prospect that could be looked at in the 2nd round is Chris Borland of Wisconsin.  At 5'11, 248 lbs, Borland is the poor man's version of Luke Kuechly, the All-Pro linebacker out of Boston College and Carolina Panthers, which is not a bad thing at all.  The question is whether Borland has the speed to be a 3 down linebacker.  Here is the write up from NFL.com on Borland.

 

Overview

Three-time first-team All-Big Ten (2011-13) selection. Wisconsin's all-time leader with 14 forced fumbles. 2013: Second-team AP All-American pick. Finalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy (biggest influence on team). 2012: Started 12 games, but missed two games with a hamstring injury. 2011: Started all 14 games at middle linebacker. Ranked second in the Big Ten (behind teammate Mike Taylor) with 143 tackles, and third in Big Ten with 19 tackles for loss. 2010: Medical Redshirt due to season-ending shoulder injury. Played in two games. 2009: Big Ten Freshman of the Year and honorable mention All-Big Ten selection. Played in all 13 games with six starts as a true freshman. Led team with five forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Misc.: Brother Mark played basketball at Wittenberg. Brother John played soccer at Army. Brother Matt played soccer at Wittenberg.

Analysis

Strengths

Is built low to the ground and bends his knees. Keen eyes and instincts -- has a nose for the ball. Quick to fill downhill (see goal-line play vs. Ohio State when he stuck RB Carlos Hyde in the hole and drove him back). Motor runs hot -- pursues hard and seldom quits on plays. Flows well laterally. Aware in zone. Capable of bringing pressure as a blitzer. Good leaping ability. Intense competitor who loves to play and it shows. Defensive playmaker -- piled up 50 career TFL and 14 FFs. Started 45 career games. Special intangibles.

Weaknesses

Is short with Tyrannosaurus rex arms -- too easily neutralized (struggles to disengage). Eclipsed by larger offensive linemen. Can do a better job protecting his legs. Average explosion, tackle strength and pop on contact. Lets runners escape his grasp. Exposed in space. Has man-coverage limitations, especially against tight ends (lacks length to match up). Durability could be an issue.

Bottom Line

Short, active, athletic, instinctive tackling machine who will have to overcome physical limitations to establish himself as a dependable, long-term starter, though he has immediate special-teams ability and the makeup to push for a more prominent role.

 

Another prospect that could be a 3rd-4th round pick is Stanford ILB Shayne Skov.  Big, physical and aggressive, Skov has the mentality you love in a linebacker and at 6'2, 245 lbs, he has nice size also.  But like Borland, there is also a question about Skov ability to be a 3 down linebacker due to his speed.  Here is a write up on Skov from NFL.com.

 

Overview

2013: Third-team AP All-American and first-team All-Pac-12 selection. Was a finalist for the Butkus Award. Played in 14 games (all starts) at inside linebacker. Recorded a team-high 109 tackles (62 solo), 13.0 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. 2012: Honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection. Started 13 games after missing the season opener. Returned to action less than one year after major knee injury and rehabilitation. 2011: Suffered a season-ending knee injury in season's third week against Arizona. 2010: Honorable mention All-Pac-10 selection. 2009: Appeared in all 13 games and started seven games at WILL linebacker.

Analysis

Strengths

Outstanding instincts and recognition -- plays much faster than he clocks on a stopwatch. Goes full throttle and plays very hard. Times up the blitz extremely well. Explosive tackler. Alert in coverage. Intense emotional leader. Vocal leader. Has a love for the game and it shows. Ideal special-teams temperament. Fluent in Spanish.

Weaknesses

Marginal foot speed -- limited twitch and agility to adjust to movement in coverage and could be exposed by NFL backs and tight ends (though still does not look fully recovered from ACL injury). Can play with too much abandon and recklessly miss some tackles flying to the ball (out of control). Long-term durability is a concern -- has already had multiple knee surgeries.

Bottom Line

A ballhawking, two-down Mike linebacker with a natural feel for the game, Skov has still not returned to pre-injury form and does not have full plant strength in his knee.

 

Another mid round prospect that has the versatility and athletic ability is Florida State ILB/OLB Christian Jones.  Jones has played both inside and put his hands down as a DE for the Seminoles.  He has the speed to run with TE and the striking ability teams want.  At 6'3, 240 lbs, Jones has nice size.  Here is the write up on Jones from NFL.com.

 

Overview

Two-time second-team All-ACC pick (2012-13). 2013: Played in 13 games and made 12 starts. Was suspended for Bethune-Cookman game for a violation of team rules. Made seven tackles in the BCS Championship against Auburn. 2012: Started all 14 games at WILL linebacker. Led team with 95 tackles and had team's only defensive touchdown of the season at South Florida. 2011: Started all 13 games at SAM linebacker. Was second on the team with 56 tackles. 2010: Played in all 14 games as true freshman on special teams with spot duty at linebacker. Recipient of the Devaughn Darling Award, given to the team's top freshman on defense.

Analysis

Strengths

Looks the part. Physical tackler. Highly athletic. Fast and rangy -- flows laterally and chases sideline to sideline. Willing to take on lead blocks. Drops easily into zone and gets depth. Able to match with tight ends in coverage. Versatile -- has played Will, Sam and defensive end. Looked more explosive off the edge as a senior. Uses his arms and hands to press, tug and rip free. Good flexibility and agility to flatten and shows closing burst to the quarterback. Four-down utility and core special-teams potential. Tough, durable, three-year starter. Loves football and works at it.

Weaknesses

Is a bit high-waisted. Average instincts slow his play speed -- still developing diagnostic skills. Hesitates to read and react. Can be more physical at the point of attack. Tends to slip or run around blocks. Needs to improve hand use. Does not jolt blockers and too often gets stuck. Short initial steps as a rush end. Could stand to improve pass-rush arsenal. Power element is missing. Average production -- does not leave his imprint on enough games.

Bottom Line

Chiseled, height-weight-speed see-and-go reactor with intriguing athleticism, versatility and upside who shows in flashes, but leaves evaluators wanting more. Is likely to boost his stock during the pre-draft process, and could warrant consideration from 4-3 teams as a Sam or Will, or from 3-4 teams as a rush linebacker. Play will reach another level if/when his processor speed catches up to his physical talent.

 

A late round prospect that could interest Miami is Michigan State ILB Max Bullough.  At 6'3, 249 lbs, Bullough reminds you of that classic ILB.  The concerns are he is tight in the hips and a limited athlete.  He just a football player.  Here is the write up on Bullough from NFL.com.

Overview

2013: Third-team AP All-American. First-team All-Big Ten. Suspended for Rose Bowl (disciplinary reasons). 9 tackles, 1 TFL vs. Minnesota. 10 tackles, 1.0 sack vs. Purdue. 2012: First-team All-Big Ten. Butkus Award semifinalist (nation’s top LB). Started all 13 games. Academic All-Big Ten. 12 tackles, FF vs. Ohio State. 9 tackles, 2 sacks at Wisconsin. 2011: Second-team All-Big Ten. Started all 14 games and led team with 89 tackles. Academic All-Big Ten. 9 tackles, sack at Ohio State. 13 tackles, sack at Iowa. 2010: Enrolled in January for spring semester. Played in all 13 games as a true freshman. High School: SuperPrep All-American in Michigan. Two-time All-State selection. Misc: Third-generation Spartan. Grandfather, Hank, was a guard (1952-54) and father Shane played LB (1983-86). His other grandfather, Jim Morse, played RB at Notre Dame (1954-56). His uncles Chuck Bullough (Michigan State, linebacker, 1988-91), Bobby Morse (Michigan State, running back, 1983-86) and Jim Morse (Notre Dame, cornerback, 1976-77) played college football. Younger brother, Riley, is a RB at Michigan State.

Analysis

Strengths

Terrific football intelligence. Keys and diagnoses quickly, understands run fits and spills willingly. Physical -- good take-on/tackle strengh between the tackles. Pursues hard. Good tackler when he's able to square up ball carriers. Two-year captain with outstanding football character. Leads vocally and by example. Football is in his blood and approaches the game accordingly.

Weaknesses

Average athlete. Not explosive. Tight hips (exposed in space). Limited foot speed, lateral agility and range. Can be late to the perimeter. Struggles in man coverage and is stiff dropping/turning in coverage.

Bottom Line

Big, tough, experienced, durable, competitive Mike linebacker who was a heart-and-soul type for the stingiest defense in college football. Like a coach on the field, Bullough is a throwback talent whose instincts and technique will have to compensate for athletic limitations for him to win a starting role.

 

Looking at the OLB position, an explosive player that could interest Miami in the 1st-2nd round is Ohio State OLB Ryan Shazier.  Explosive playmaker in both the run and pass game, Shazier reminds me a lot of Tampa Bay OLB Lavonte David, formerly of Nebraska.  Here is the write up on Shazier from NFL.com.

 

Overview

Two-time first-team All-Big Ten pick (2012-13). 2013: First-team All-American selection and Butkus Award finalist. Started all 14 games. 2012: Started in all 12 games. Was a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week pick. 2011: Played in 13 games and started the last three.

Analysis

Strengths

Highly productive, disruptive playmaker vs. the run and pass. Shoots gaps and plays behind the line of scrimmage (compiled 39.5 TFL the last two seasons). Agile to slip blocks. Quick, strong hands to shed. Knifes gaps and flows very well laterally. Striking tackler -- uncoils on contact. Excellent speed and range -- opens up his stride in space and really covers ground. Bends naturally. Changes direction and accelerates with ease. Explosive first step as a pass rusher -- shows the ability to dip, bend and run the arc low to the ground. Ample athleticism and flexibility to mark backs and tight ends. Four-down utility. Arrow is pointing up.

Weaknesses

Lacks ideal size and bulk. Still developing eyes and instincts -- will diagnose and trigger more quickly down the road. Gets caught in traffic or engulfed by larger blockers when he hesitates to step downhill. Prone to overaggressiveness -- occasionally overruns plays or loses cutback contain. Could stand to improve his eyes, awareness, anticipation and reactions as a zone defender. Took some time to acclimate before making an impact.

Bottom Line

The Big Ten's leading tackler, Shazier flies around the field and his unique athletic ability stands out. Offers a tremendous combination of speed, tackling and coverage skills to become a playmaker as a run-and-hit 4-3 Will or perhaps a 3-4 weakside 'backer if protected by a block-occupying nose tackle. Value is increased by the fact that he will not have to come off the field.

 

A 2nd round prospect that could be looked at is Brigham Young OLB Kyle Van Noy.  He has nice size at 6'3, 243 lbs and has the ability to rush the passer or cover running backs or tight ends.  Here is the write up on Van Noy from NFL.com.

 

Overview

2013: FBS All-Independent Defensive Player of the Year selection. Had eight tackles, one sack and one tackle for loss in win over Texas. 2012: Third-team AP All-American after recording 13 sacks, 22 tackles for loss and forcing six fumbles. Had eight tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, an interception return for a touchdown, a fumble recovery for a touchdown and blocked kick against San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl. 2011: Played in all 13 games with eight starts. Was only FBS player to record a stat in each of the following categories: tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, inteceptions, pass breakup, QB hurries, fumble recoveries, forced fumbles, blocked kicks and touchdowns. 2010: Played in all 13 games and made two starts. 2009: Redshirted. High school: Helped lead footballteam to state title as a senior. Also ran track (400-, 800- and 1,600-meter relays).

Analysis

Strengths

Has a muscular, well-proportioned build. Quick get-off. Knifes gaps. Good pass-rush ability -- can push the pocket or pressure the edge. Keeps working to the quarterback and has deceptive closing speed. Eyes the quarterback and tries to get his hands in the passing lane. Athletic with good movement skills in all directions -- equipped to keep pace with backs and tight ends in coverage. Is rangy and can open up his stride and run vertical. Glides on the field. Scheme versatile. Football smart.

Weaknesses

Lacks elite length and flexibility to bend and flatten. Average instincts and diagnose. Still developing eye discipline. Needs to cultivate a more sophisticated arsenal of pass-rush moves. Leaves some production on the field. Leaves his feet to tackle and slips off the ball carrier. Hit-or-miss run defender. Could stand to improve his upper-body strength and stack-and-shed ability. Average motor -- could pursue with more urgency.

Bottom Line

Good-sized, athletic, smooth-moving stand-up player who projects best as a 3-4 right outside linebacker, but could also warrant consideration from 4-3 teams as a Will or Sam. Is not without flaws, but has unique ability to play up the field, laterally or in reverse.

 

A couple of mid round prospects to possibly consider are UCLA Jordan Zumwalt and Alabama Adrian Hubbard.  Here are the write up from NFL.com on both kids, starting with Zumwalt.

 

Overview

2013: Honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection. Started all 13 games and finished second on the team wiht 93 tackles. 2012: Played in 13 games and made nine starts. Finished fourth on the team with 71 tackles. 2011: Played in 13 games and made four starts. Finished third on the team with 60 tackles. 2010: Played in 11 games and made four starts.

Analysis

Strengths

Very competitive with a fiery, on-field temperament. Explosive hitter. Throws his body around recklessly and times up the blitz well (disruptive presence). Is around the ball a lot. Very good football intelligence -- lines up teammates and makes adjustments. Versatile and has played all linebacker positions and contributed as a fullback in short-yardage situations. Defensive tone-setter -- has a love for the game and it shows. Plays big on big stages -- capped his career with co-MVP effort in the Sun Bowl vs. Virginia Tech, when he knocked Logan Thomas unconscious and returned an interception 43 yards.

Weaknesses

Does not play strong. Mechanical mover. Tight-hipped with average change of direction. Gets outflanked to the corner vs. speed. Average knockback body power -- does not strike with thump to drive back ball carriers. Catches too much. Struggles to disengage from blocks when he is locked up. Limited coverage range.

Bottom Line

High-energy overachiever with a special-teams temperament. Stands out most for his competitiveness, effort, versatility and swagger. Brings the feisty type of attitude desired on a Jeff Fisher or Jim Schwartz defense. Will factor immediately on special teams and could work his way into a starting lineup.

 

Here is the write up on Hubbard.

 

 

Overview

2013: Played in all 13 games and made 12 starts. 2012: Played in all 14 games and made 13 starts. 2011: Played in nine games as a reserve. 2010: Redshirted. High school: Was an Under Armour All-American in Georgia.

Analysis

Strengths

Exceptional length and overall size for a rush linebacker. Good hand strength to leverage the edge. Flashes pass-rush ability -- nice bend and balance. Flattens down the line and is athletic enough to string out plays to the sideline. Is strong enough to set the edge, shed and defend the run. Good take-on strength and anchor -- benchpresses tight ends. Nimble-footed enough to carry tight ends down the field (see LSU). Already graduated.

Weaknesses

Lacks elite edge speed, burst and explosion. Does not make plays and too often disappears for stretches. Instincts are still developing -- can be lured by play-action and misdirection. Average career sack production (10 sacks). Has a quirky personality, inflated opinion of his ability and carries a sense of entitlement that could be difficult to manage and require a patient positional coach.

Bottom Line

A long-bodied, athletic rush linebacker with the base strength desired in a 4-3 left defensive end, Hubbard's greatest physical trait is his core functional strength and ability to leverage the edge and defend the run. Is still developing as a pass rusher and offers the scheme versatility and upside to interest any defense. Has starter traits, but has yet to reach the impact level he thinks he makes. Has upside if the light bulb comes on.

 

Working our way to the back end of the defense and the defensive backs, let's take a look at the cornerbacks and safeties.  One cornerback that is a 1st round talent that will be there at #19 probably is Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard.  Nice size at 5'11, 199 lbs, he has the makeup you like in cornerbacks.  Good speed, physical, good in press man or man off coverage.  Here is the write up on Darqueze from NFL.com.

Overview

2013: Unanimous First-Team All-American. Jim Thorpe Award Winner. First Team All-Big Ten. Started all 14 games. Career-high 4 INT. 2012: Second Team All-Big Ten. T-team lead with 3 INT. 2011: First Team All-Big Ten. Played in and started 11 games. T-3rd on team with 3 INT. 2010: Played in six games, started two. High School: 2-time All-State WR. All-State DB in senior season. Also lettered in Basketball and Track. Misc: First Spartan to win Jim Thorpe Award and first Spartan to be named unanimous First-Team All-American. Distant cousin to Patriots CB Alfonzo Dennard.

Analysis

Strengths

Outstanding size with a well-distributed frame, knotty calves and thin ankles. Good press strength. Controlled, efficient pedal. Good competitive playing speed. Transitions cleanly in man-off coverage. Very good eyes, anticipation and reactive quickness. Good pattern recognition -- sorts out what he sees quickly. Clings to the hip pocket of receivers down the field. Swift speed turn. Likeable personality. Very accountable leader by example. Brings intensity to the field and plays with urgency. Highly confident and competitive.

Weaknesses

Has been slowed by injuries and durability needs to be examined closely (double hernia surgery). Was not asked to play a lot of zone coverage.

Bottom Line

Big, strong, athletic, instinctive press-man corner who elevated his game as a senior. Is deceptively fast and has the desirable size to match up with big receivers.

 

A nice prospect in the 2nd round is Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller.  He again has nice size at 6'0, 194 lbs.  Here is the write up on Klye from NFLDraftScout.com.

 

STRENGTHS: Physical demeanor with good length. Excellent toughness and energy -- plays like he's 25 pounds thicker. Good vertical leap and smooth hip action to flip-and-go.

Good route recognition and outstanding read-and-react quickness to mirror or plant-and-drive to attack. Above-average anticipation and cover instincts. Studies receivers and does his homework to know what to look for without hesitation.

Physical in run support and works hard to get off blocks. Closes in a flash with a fierce attitude. Heady and opportunistic player. Very good ball awareness and NFL ball skills. Good blitzer. Experience playing inside and outside and at safety, linebacker and special teams.

WEAKNESSES: Very lean with limited muscle definition and overall growth potential. Overaggressive nature and he over-pursues in coverage and run support to compensate for lack of elite speed. Doesn't have gear to recover if he loses a step at the line. Too "hands on" and is susceptible to mental errors. Tends to freelance. Undisciplined making tackles in the open field. Strong durability concerns with his physical style and lean body type. Senior season ended prematurely due to hernia surgery in Nov. 2013.

Compares To: Jason McCourty, Titans - Fuller isn't an elite athlete, but he's agile and quick with the aggressive nature and reaction quickness to make plays against the pass and the run.

 

A nice mid round prospect is Auburn CB Chris Davis.  At 5'10, 202 lbs, Davis a compact, strong cornerback that is physical in the run game and is good in zone coverage and can re-route receivers off the line of scrimmage.  Here is the write up on Chris from NFL.com.

 

Overview

2013: Second-team All-SEC selection after starting in 12 games. Finished second on the team with 74 tackles. Return of a missed field goal for a touchdown was decisive play in Auburn's win over Alabama. 2012: Played in nine games and made seven starts. Missed three games due to injury. 2011: Played and started in 11 games. Missed two games due to injury. 2010: Played in all 14 games. Was injured on opening kickoff of BCS National Championship win over Oregon and did not return.

Analysis

Strengths

Physical supporting the run -- fills quickly and likes to hit. Tough pound-for-pound. Takes on bigger receivers with aggression and sets a hard edge. Plays off blocks well. Good open-field tackler. Good press strength to re-route receivers at the line. Alert in zones. Has big-play return ability (recorded most memorable play of the 2013 season returning field goal 109 yards for TD vs. Alabama). Can factor as a punt returner with a low center of gravity and good run strength. Emotional, energetic field presence. Respected team leader.

Weaknesses

Is short, short-armed and very stiff-hipped. Straight-linish and tight transitioning -- allows separation at break points. Marginal ball skills and hands (zero career interceptions). Gets caught playing flat-footed and peeking. Can do a better job carrying receivers in short zones. Mismatched vs. bigger receivers and struggles contending in the red zone.

Bottom Line

A compact, physical zone corner with intriguing return skill, Davis will be more challenged by his lack of height and tight hips in the pros. His intangibles, toughness against the run and ability to factor as a punt returner will allow him to carve out a role.

 

A late round pick that would have went much higher if not for tearing his ACL in the Senior Bow is Oklahoma CB Aaron Colvin.  He has nice size at 5'11, 177 lbs, and has very good technique, smart and very instinctive.  Here is the write up on Colvin from NFL.com.

 

Overview

Two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection (2012-13) and a 2013 semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award. 2013: Played in 11 games and started eight. 2012: Started all 13 games at cornerback. 2011: Played in and started 12 games at strong safety. Did not play in Ball State game after knocking himself out on hit against Missouri. 2010: Played in all 14 games with one start at cornerback.

Analysis

Strengths

Looks the part -- good size, body length and athletic ability. Fine technician. Smart and instinctive -- can sort out combo routes. Matches up well with taller receivers and can carry them vertically downfield. Functional tackler. Hardworking, respected team leader who will hold teammates accountable. Experienced, three-year starter.

Weaknesses

Average bend, feet and twitch, which negates his transitional quickness and allows receivers to create separation out of breaks. Does not play fast. Lacks striking power. Gets hung up on blocks. Has a concussion history.

Bottom Line

Long, smart, tough, zone corner whose body is not built to withstand heavy contact or the aggression with which he likes to play. Will grow on evaluators the more they watch him and has the instincts to eventually compete for a starting job, though teams could always be looking to upgrade his lack of speed and athletic ability. Torn ACL injury suffered at the Senior Bowl will affect his readiness for the season and could drop his draft status by a round or two.

 

At the safety position, you have two very talented kids that could possibly be there for the Dolphins in the 1st round in Alabama Ha Ha Clinto-Dix and Louisville Calvin Pryor.  Here is the write up from NFL.com on both kids, starting with Clinton-Dix.

 

Overview

2013: Second-team All-American selection and first-team All-SEC pick. Played in 11 games with nine starts. Was suspended indefinitely (two games) after an assistant coach loaned him money. Underwent surgery for a torn meniscus in December 2013. 2012: Played in all 14 games with 10 starts. Led the team and tied for the SEC lead with five interceptions. Had an interception in the SEC Championship win over Georgia and the BCS National Championship win over Notre Dame. 2011: Played in all 13 games as true freshman. High School: No. 1 safety in the nation according to Rivals and Scout. Misc.: Full name is Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix.

Analysis

Strengths

Nice size and body length. Quick to read and react. Has speed and flexibility to match up with slot receivers or tight ends. Ranges off the hash. Good hands to intercept. Effective run supporter -- drops downhill with conviction and does not shy from contact. Takes direct angles to the ball. Runs the alley and wipes out ball carriers. Secure tackler. Can break down and tackle in space. Has special-teams experience. Well-coached in a pro-style defense.

Weaknesses

Has a narrow build and lacks ideal bulk. Could stand to get stronger. Occasionally gets stuck on blocks. Could stand to iron out his pedal. Does not always play with abandon -- plays conservatively at times and can be late fitting in the run game or getting off the hash. Average ball production and playmaking ability. Not as natural in the box. Not an intimidating presence. Started just 19 games.

Bottom Line

Lean, athletic, physical, instinctive free safety with starter-caliber range, coverage skills and tackling ability. Was not an omnipresent ballhawk or violent eraser, but should step into a starting role right away and solidify the position.

 

Here is the write up on Calvin Pryor.

 

Overview

2013: First Team All-American Athletic Conference. Played and started 12 games. Suspended for game against Memphis for violating an unspecified team rule. Second on team with 75 tackles. 2012: Second Team All-Big East. Started all 13 games. Second on team with 100 tackles. Led team with five FF. 2011: Played in 13 games, started the final seven. High School: No. 31 safety nationally (Rivals). Also played running back.

Analysis

Strengths

Very good instincts. Physical, lights-out hitter (see second defensive snap of UCF game). Very aggressive running the alley and seeks to make his presence felt in the run game. Sacrifices his body. Defensive tempo-setter. Made a spectacular, one-handed INT vs. UCF. Good pre-snap recognition -- makes adjustments. Explosive tackler. Can leverage the field off the hash and cover ground. Good zone recognition. Rangy enough to play center field. Carries a swagger and plays with confidence.

Weaknesses

Plays with too much reckless abandon and lacks discipline playing the cutback. Takes some bad angles and can be outflanked to the perimeter. Average production on the ball. Is not asked to play a lot of man coverage.

Bottom Line

A big, physical, hammering run defender brings an enforcer mentality to the box and an intimidating, punishing presence to the back end. Is arguably the most violent hitter in this year's draft class and should make his presence felt readily in the pros.

 

A 2nd-3rd round pick to look at is Florida State S Terrance Brooks.  Brooks has nice size at 5'11, 198 lbs, and very good speed running a 4.42 40.  Fluid and fleixible with good pedal and technique.  Here is the write up on Brooks from NFL.com.

 

Overview

2013: Second-team All-ACC selection. Played and started in 13 games, missing one game due to concussion. 2012: Started all 14 games. 2011: Played 12 games. Made an interception in the end zone to clinch a bowl game win over Notre Dame. 2010: Played in 10 games, mostly on special teams.

Analysis

Strengths

Fluid and flexible. Pedals and transitions smoothly. Good play speed and range. Patrols zones with awareness and anticipation to react to threats. Keys quickly, trusts his eyes and does not hesitate. Aggressive in run support -- swoops down with urgency, runs the alley and plays with abandon. Confident and energetic. Tough and durable. Profiles as a core special-teams player. Solid personal and football character.

Weaknesses

Inconsistent tackler -- arrives out of control, does not always see what he hits and will miss some tackles seeking the knockout blow. Is built like a cornerback, sustained a concussion as a senior and durability could be an issue given his aggressive playing style. Minimal production on the ball -- was not a playmaker. Has average hands and leaves some INTs on the field. Could stand to add some body armor and get stronger.

Bottom Line

Lean, athletic, long-limbed hybrid safety with an appealing combination of fluidity, range and physicality. Versatile defender who can be deployed over the top as a “robber” or in the box. Has starter-caliber ability if he if he’s able to shore up his tackling and become a more productive on-the-ball defender, but at worst should be a solid backup and core special-teams player.

 

A nice mid round selection is Stanford Ed Reynolds.  Love his size at 6'1, 204 lbs, he has the speed to run with tight ends and ball skills, as he had 6 interceptions as a junior.  Here is the write up on Reynolds from NFL.com.

 

Overview

Two-time first-team All-Pac-12 pick (2012-13). 2013: Played in all 14 games and started 13. 2012: Third-team All-American selection after leading team wiht six interceptions, including a school-record three interceptions returned for touchdowns. Those six pick were the most by a Stanford player since 1973 (Jim Kaffen, 7). His 301 interception return yards was 1 yard short of NCAA record set by USC's Charles Phillips in 1974 (302). 2011: Redshirted due to knee injury in spring practice. 2010: Played in seven games, but did not start. Misc.: Father, Ed, played for the New England Patriots (1983-1991) and New York Giants (1992).

Analysis

Strengths

Good size to contend with tight ends. Reads the quarterback and displays good instincts and anticipation. Has ballhawking skills -- 6 INTs and 3 TDs as a junior. Functional range off the hash. Wrap tackler. Has NFL bloodlines.

Weaknesses

Very average speed, twitch and flexibility. Unsudden change of direction. Lacks burst to close suddenly or recover when beat. Occasionally loses field leverage and takes some inaccurate angles. Leaks yards after contact. Misses too many tackles in the open field and can be run over (see Utah). Eyes get stuck on the quarterback, leaving him vulnerable to manipulation. Limited experience in man coverage.

Bottom Line

Big, assignment-sound, Cover-2 safety with enough tackling skill, range and ball skills to crack a depleted starting lineup. However, he lacks prototypical athletic ability and physicality, and would be more ideally suited as a backup. Is a candidate to be overdrafted on interception production.

 

A lot round prospect that I really like is Mississippi State S Nickoe Whitley.  Nice size at 6'0, 205 lbs, and has been a very productive player while at Mississippi State, but on the field issues and discipline have been issues for Whitley and teams will have to do their homework on this young man.  His production indicates he should be a much higher draft pick, but he is here because of the concerns.  Here is the write up on Whitley from NFLDraftScout.com.

 

He looks the part, but Whitley's inconsistency and discipline issues - including an ejection for throwing a punch against Kentucky in October - are strong concerns. (11/1/13)

 

 

12/11/2013 - 2013 ALL-SEC SECOND TEAM (COACHES): DB - Nickoe Whitley, Mississippi State...Whitley made two of the biggest defensive plays for the Bulldogs all season with a pair of forced fumbles. He halted a potential game-winning drive by Arkansas and ended the Egg Bowl by jarring the ball away from Bo Wallace. He was tabbed the Dec. 2 Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Week following his Egg Bowl heroics. A native of Jackson, Miss., Whitley is the FBS active leader in career interceptions with 15 and owns 229 career tackles. - Mississippi State football.

 

In the next few weeks, I will start trying to zero in on guys that I have read or heard that the Dolphins might have keen interest on as we head towards the draft in May.

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