This is the final installment of a 10-part series breaking down players in play for the Dolphins in the first round of Thursday's draft.
Part 1: Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Part 2: Vita Vea.
Part 3: Josh Rosen.
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Part 4: Roquan Smith.
Part 5: Derwin James.
Part 6: Tremaine Edmunds.
Part 7: Saquon Barkley.
Part 8: Taven Bryan.
Part 9: Da'Ron Payne.
If you're of a certain age, you hazily remember the once-ubiquitous taste test.
Cans and cups were stripped of their logos, and so consumers would rate competing sodas/coffees/beers on nothing but their taste, with often surprising results.
In the spirit of the '80s, let's do the same with two linebackers who should go in the first round of Thursday's draft.
Player A: 6-foot-5; 253 pounds; 4.54-second 40-yard dash time; 19 reps on the bench press; 117-inch broad jump; first-team all-conference; 108 tackles (14 for loss), 5 1/2 sacks, three fumbles forced and zero interceptions in 2017.
Player B: 6-foot-4; 256 pounds; 4.65-second 40-yard dash; 20 reps on the bench press; 124-inch broad jump; conference defensive player of the year; 141 tackles (8 1/2 for loss), four sacks, four fumbles forced and three interceptions in 2017.
Both have remarkable athletic ability for their size. Both made plenty of plays and were the best linebackers in their conference in 2017. But one is almost a slam-dunk top 10 pick, while the other could last until the 20s.
So what gives? Why is Virginia Tech's Tremaine Edmunds (Player A) getting all the love and Boise State's Leighton Vander Esch (Player B) somewhat under the radar?
Make no mistake: Vander Esch is most certainly on the Dolphins' radar, even if they have kept that interest quiet.
They met in Indianapolis during the NFL Scouting Combine, but the Dolphins never flew him to Davie for an on-campus visit.
But try not to read too much into that. Charles Harris did not have a pre-draft visit with Miami last year, and he was the Dolphins' top target at 22.
The Dolphins might hope for the same luck with Vander Esch — particularly if all of the quarterbacks go early and they trade out of the 11th pick.
Edmunds and Vander Esch would both fill needs for the Dolphins, who still do not have a starter at the strong side. Roquan Smith is also in play at 11. But if Edmunds and Smith are gone, he is one of the top contenders to be Miami's first-round pick.
We hear the Dolphins are serious about trading back and picking up extra picks, if the board cooperates.
But if Miami tries to get Vander Esch at a bargain, Mike Tannenbaum, Chris Grier and Adam Gase might be getting too cute. The former walk-on at Boise State, who played eight-man football in native Idaho, has visited most of the teams that follow Miami in the first round.
And unlike Smith, who is probably too small to play strong-side linebacker, Vander Esch is a plug-and-play prospect at all three linebacker spots.
"I feel like they can move me around, utilize me however they want," Vander Esch said. "I’ve got pretty good athleticism, so I feel like no matter where they put me, I’m gonna get the job done and I’m gonna make sure I prepare myself for every chance I get."
Height: 6-foot-4 1/4 (98th percentile among linebackers).
Weight: 256 pounds (95th percentile).
Wingspan: 81 1/8 inches (96th percentile).
Arm length: 33 7/8 inches (96th percentile).
Hand size: 9 3/4 inches (56th percentile).
40-yard dash: 4.65 seconds (82nd percentile).
Vertical jump: 39 1/2 inches (98th percentile).
Broad jump: 124 inches (96h percentile).
Three-cone drill: 6.88 seconds (89th percentile).
20-yard shuttle: 4.15 seconds (86th percentile).
60-yard shuttle: 11.57 seconds (66th percentile).
Bench press: 20 reps (35th percentile).
Comparisons (according to MockDraftTable.com): Benardrick McKinney (Mississippi State, 2015), Stephone Anthony (Clemson, 2015), Rolando McClain (Alabama, 2010).
He said it
“Pop on the film. You see dudes that are running the ball and giving the effort they give and being relentless and just the type of person they are. I feel like it tells a lot about a person. You can break it up into divisions if you want to do that, but that doesn’t mean anything to me. If the guy can play football, he can play football.” — Leighton Vander Esch
They said it
“If you put his tape on against Oregon, it’s as good an off-the-ball tape I’ve seen in years. He goes sideline to sideline and is great in the pass game. He splits over and under blocks." — Mike Mayock, NFL Network