Miami Dolphins

One of the draft’s strongest men might be the strongest candidate to replace Suh

Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea kisses the Apple Cup trophy after Washington beat Washington State in November.
Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea kisses the Apple Cup trophy after Washington beat Washington State in November. AP

This is the second of a 10-part series breaking down players in play for the Dolphins with the 11th overall pick.

Part 1: Minkah Fitzpatrick.

There’s strong.

And then there’s Vita Vea strong.

At 347 pounds, he’s not just bigger than most every NFL player. He’s bigger than most every NFL defensive tackle.

As he proved at the NFL Scouting Combine, there’s power with that bulk.

He ripped off an absurd 41 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press, not just more than all but one member of this year’s draft class, but more than just 14 players since the league started keeping track in 1998.

But Vea, who also ran a speedy 5.1 40-yard dash, is not just a workout warrior. He’s probably the best interior defender in this year’s draft class.

And he would be a logical fit for the Dolphins, who just last month lost the anchor to their line. Right now, Miami has no true replacement for Ndamukong Suh, whom the Dolphins cut in March over financial and locker room concerns.

Jordan Phillips and Davon Godchaux are the team’s projected starters at defensive tackle, but beyond that, the Dolphins do not have much.

“We’ll kind of see,” Adam Gase said last week, when asked how his team would account for Suh’s lost production. “We’ll keep adding to that position and keep creating competition. We’ll see how it really plays out this season. You never know with injuries and the moves that are made, whether it be the draft or trading for somebody or picking somebody up. You just never know how it’s going to shake out.”

Dolphins coach Adam Gase meets with reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Draft analysts project Vea — whose full name is Tevita Tuliakiono Tuipuloto Mosese Va'hae Faletau Vea, ESPN’s Adam Schefter revealed on Twitter recently — as a part-time player, at least to start. But he should be excellent against the run, and given the Dolphins’ many pass rushers, he probably would not be needed to do much more than that, at least in 2018.

Vea was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 after recording 43 tackles, including 5  1/2 for loss, and breaking up four passes. His rare combination of size and athleticism made Vea a no-doubt first-round pick, so he decided to go pro after his redshirt junior year.

He believes he translates to the NFL as not only a nose tackle, but also a 4-3 three-technique — precisely the spot on the Dolphins’ line that Suh just vacated.

“Over at Washington, you can put on the film,” Vea said. “We played all across the line. It wasn't one specific position that we were assigned to. If it was a D-line job or a D-line position, we were playing it.”

“As a D-lineman, you're just taught to put your hand in the dirt and go out there and chase the quarterback around,” he added.

Measurables

Height: 6-foot-4 (72nd percentile among defensive tackles).

Weight: 347 pounds (98th percentile).

Wingspan: 76  1/4 inches (4th percentile).

Arm length: 32  5/8 inches (26th percentile).

Hands: 10 inches (52nd percentile).

40 time: 5.1 seconds (74th percentile).

Bench press: 41 reps (96th percentile).

Comparisons (per MockDraftable.com): Dontari Poe (Memphis, 2012), Haloti Ngata (Oregon, 2006), B.J. Raji (Boston College, 2009).

He said it

“It's every little kid's dream to be here, growing up to be an NFL star. Finally making it here it's kind of surreal to me. I'm just enjoying it, taking it all in and just living in the moment.” — Vita Vea at the NFL Scouting Combine.

They said it

“Vea's tape can be frustrating because he flashes star potential one series and then looks average the next. With that said, he's still very raw and should be judged by his ability rather than just his results as he should unlock his potential with more coaching. Vea has the size and power to play nose in an odd or even front and he could be targeted by 3-4 teams looking for dominant run defender on the end. He should work into a defensive line rotation immediately and has the ability to become a good NFL starter for years.” — Lance Zierlein, NFL.com.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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