Dolphins scouts and front-office officials are in to Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl this week, amping up the process of trying to upgrade what was, in terms of yards allowed, the worst defense in team history.
And one thing is becoming clear: The Dolphins, with the 22nd overall pick, are likely going to have a choice of a bunch of skilled front-seven defensive players that are similarly rated.
While ESPN’s Mel Kiper has the Dolphins selecting UF linebacker Jarrad Davis with the 22nd pick in his first mock draft, other evaluators are advocating Miami select other defensive players that are emerging as strong candidates for that selection:
• NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has the Dolphins choosing 6-5, 243-pound Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt, who had 11.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss, one interception and two forced fumbles last season.
“Watt isn't as freaky as his older brother, [Houston Texans star J.J. Watt], but he is a very good football player,” Jeremiah said. “He is ultra-versatile, athletic and instinctive.”
• Pro Football Focus’ Steve Palazzolo, who covers the college game closely, has the Dolphins selecting 6-3, 255-pound Missouri defensive end Charles Harris (nine sacks, two forced fumbles last season).
“Harris adds a pass-rushing threat after finishing 12th among the nation’s edge rushers with an 88.2 pass-rush grade,” Palazzolo said. “Armed with the best spin move in college football, Harris has been one of the nation’s best pass-rushers the last two years, though there is some work to be done to improve his work in the run game.”
Among other front-seven defenders now emerging as possibilities at No. 22:
• UCLA linebacker Takkarist McKinley. Might not be there. Kiper has him 15th, noting “he took a big leap as a senior with 10 sacks, going from fringe prospect to first-rounder.”
• Michigan end Taco Charlton. Kiper has him 14th. “A big end with the versatility to attack off the edge with his hand in the dirt or standing up,” Miller said.
• Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham, who had 125 tackles and 16.5 for loss but no sacks last season after 4 ½ the previous year. Though ESPN’s analysts don’t consider him a first-rounder, some others do.