With the Dolphins set to pick 22nd in the April 28 NFL Draft, exploring players at need positions who could be available in that range:
• Linebacker: Two outside linebackers to keep in mind: UF’s Jarrad Davis (ESPN’s Todd McShay has him 16th), and UCLA outside linebacker Takkarist McKinley (23rd).
McKinley had a terrific season at UCLA, with 10 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, six passes defended and three forced fumbles. Comparisons have been raised to Denver’s DeMarcus Ware.
McShay said he has “elite speed off the edge and brings a ton of upside to the table… One of the season’s biggest draft risers.”
ESPN’s Mel Kiper said “at 6-2, 240, [McKinley] is not huge, but his explosion off the line is suited for today's NFL.”
Davis, hampered by an ankle injury late in the season, had two sacks, six tackles for loss and two passes defended. At 6-2, 238, he’s a bit smaller than the Dolphins’ prototype but should bulk up as he gets into an NFL program.
McShay said Davis “finds so many ways to affect a game. He makes plays in the backfield and is athletic enough to hold up in coverage. Plus, Davis showed great toughness playing through a severely sprained ankle against Georgia to record 2.5 tackles for loss earlier this season.”
Alabama outside linebacker Tim Williams (rated 12th overall by McShay) is expected to be gone before Miami picks.
Kiper said Williams “is still a premium pass-rusher who can be unblockable at times.”
Among inside linebackers, Alabama’s Reuben Foster also very likely will be off the board by Miami’s pick; McShay has him going fifth.
McShay calls him “a tackling machine who flies to the ball.”
• Defensive ends: Besides potential top two overall picks Myles Garrett (Texas A&M) and Jonathan Allen (Alabama), three of the next best defensive end prospects could be gone by Miami’s pick: Tennessee’s Derek Barnett (rated ninth overall by McShay), Missouri’s Charles Harris (15th) and Michigan’s Taco Charlton (23rd overall by Kiper but 13th by McShay).
Two who could be available at Miami’s spot: Auburn’s Carl Lawson (28th) and FSU’s DeMarcus Walker (31st).
Barnett led the SEC in both tackles for loss (18.0) and sacks (12.0).
Harris had 5.5 sacks, six QB hurries and a forced fumble in his final four games, finishing the season with nine sacks overall. Miami will study him closely.
Kiper said Harris, at 6-3, 255-pounds, Harris can be a 4-3 end and “even moved inside to defensive tackle a few times to rush the quarterback.”
Charlton, who’s 6-5 and 270 pounds, was Michigan's best pass-rusher this season, with nine sacks in 10 games and “was the best defensive player on the field in Michigan's loss to Ohio State in late November,” Kiper said, noting he had nine tackles, 2.5 sacks and showed “off a full arsenal of pass-rushing moves. Charlton plays with good leverage for his height, has active hands and takes great angles when rushing. And he's helped by an incredible wingspan.”
Lawson very well could be there at No. 22. He had 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss and 24 quarterback hurries. McShay said he showed “just how explosive he can be after coming off back-to-back injury-plagued seasons. He has a great combination of production, upside and intangibles. Also an elite run defender, Lawson has the skill set of a potential first-rounder if his long-term medical prognosis comes up clean.”
Walker, who could sneak into the first round, ranked second in FBS with 16 sacks, and his 67 tackles were second on FSU. McShay’s take: “Walker is quite the film junkie, and he clearly bought into the process this season, with the results speaking for themselves. He lacks an elite size/speed combo, but Walker does a nice job of maximizing his tools.”
• Defensive tackle: If the Dolphins take a defensive tackle, UF’s Caleb Brantley (17th on McShay’s Big Board) could warrant consideration if he’s there. So would Michigan State’s Malik McDowell (14th).
Kiper, on Brantley: “Brantley's issue is consistency. At 6-2, 300, he flashes the upside and talent of a top-10 pick. But he had only 3.5 tackles for loss in the nine games before the win over LSU and he isn't dependably disruptive, though he did have another two tackles for loss in Florida's loss to Florida State. Maybe the light bulb has come on now. Brantley could be a bigger name in the NFL than he was in college.”
On McDowell, McShay said: “Missed the regular season's final three games because of an ankle injury, and before that, his film and production (1.5 sacks, 7.0 TFLs) had taken a dive from last season. He just isn't the consistent grinder who typically comes out of Michigan State. But McDowell has elite athleticism and can play multiple positions along the D-line at the next level.”
• Tight end: The Dolphins like Dion Sims, but Alabama’s OJ Howard (rated 25th by McShay) would at least warrant discussion. Howard caught 37 passes for 445 yards and two touchdowns this season, then erupted in Monday’s championship game (five catches, 208 yards, two touchdowns).
McShay’s take: “At 6-foot-6, 251 pounds, Howard's size-speed combination gives him a lot of upside, but his production has been streaky in Alabama's run-heavy offense. Don't forget: This is the guy who posted 208 receiving yards and two TDs in last year's College Football Playoff National Championship.”
Kiper said Howard “has all the tools scouts look for in an NFL tight end. At 6-6, 250, he is going to light up the NFL combine. He can stretch the deep middle of the field and become a more dynamic weapon. He could be a playmaker in the NFL.”
UM’s David Njoku could be a tight end option in the second round.
• Offensive line: Though the Dolphins need a right guard, there’s no natural fit at this point in the first round, and defensive front seven would take far greater priority over a guard.
The top offensive lineman in that range is Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk. “Been absolutely dominant this season,” McShay said).
For my post today with UM recruiting news and a Heat trade report, please click here... And please follow me on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz)