As the first round of the 2017 NFL draft draws near the picture the Dolphins are eyeing as a likely draft night scenario is coming into focus. And although the Dolphins are trying to keep their plans as quiet as possible some clues of what they’re seeing are coming out.
According to league sources familiar with Miami’s draft plans, the Dolphins have two defensive ends they like high on their board with one of those possibly being available when the team picks at No. 22 overall in the first round.
The two defensive ends are Derek Barnett of Tennessee and Charles Harris of Missouri -- two SEC players who had productive careers at Tennessee and Missouri respectively and could easily fill the team’s dire need at the position.
It should be noted that while both head the defensive end class on the Dolphins’ board of players they might be able to reach at 22, it is indeed Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett who is the highest rated defensive end and actually the highest rated player on the Miami board. The Dolphins will have no practical chance to pick Garrett, however, barring a major, major shift in circumstances.
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Garrett is a prototype NFL defensive end at 6-foot-4 and 272 pounds.
Neither Harris (6-3 and 253) nor Barnett (6-3 and 259) are prototype 4-3 defensive ends and in that regard the Dolphins would be continuing their time with unconventionally sized 4-3 pass rushers such as Cameron Wake (6-3 and 261) and Jason Taylor (6-6 and 242) coming before.
Size isn’t necessarily the most important thing for the Dolphins at this stage -- particularly not since they’re picking at No. 22.
But size is a factor for the team, particularly in the run game.
Harris, in particular, comes with some questions about his run defense and ability to set and anchor on the edge -- an issue the Dolphins had trouble resolving when they ranked 30th overall in run defense last season.
This is how NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein summarizes Harris:
“High-cut pass rusher with good athleticism but concerns regarding his ability to drop anchor against the run. Ironically, Harris might be best suited as a penetrator, which is something he fought against this season. His hands can be improved as pass rush weapons, but he has agility and footwork that can't be taught. Harris can play on the edge in a 4-3 or 3-4 front and should be the next in a line of early contributing defensive ends coming out of Missouri.”
Barnett seems better suited to setting the edge on run plays, per Zierlein but doesn’t seem to be as explosive a pass rusher.
“Strong edge presence with NFL-caliber hand usage and play strength. Barnett is one of the most productive defensive linemen to come out of the SEC in quite some time despite lacking the length and twitch that teams usually look for off the edge. His awareness and play traits should keep him near the action and he has the talent to step into a starting base end spot right away. There could be coordinators who view him as an early down, outside backer in a 3-4 with the ability to put his hand in the ground on sub package.”
Obviously the Dolphins are aware of other defensive end types. Taco Charlton of Michigan and Takkarist McKinley of UCLA for example should be available at No. 22 overall.
But, sources say, the team will be more likely to pick higher graded players at other positions at No. 22 than either of those two edge rushers.
The edge rushers the Dolphins covet at No. 22, meanwhile, are Harris and Barnett.
The Dolphins need defensive end help because Wake is 35 years old and No. 3 end William Hayes is primarily a run-stuffer and is signed for only one season. Terrence Fede, meanwhile, is still developing. That means only Andre Branch, who signed a four-year contract this offseason, is the only longterm proven answer the team can currently point to at the position.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero