To look at Malik McDowell is to marvel at his NFL-ready body at 6-foot-6 and 295 pounds, and massive 10 1/2 hands and 35-inch wingspan. The dude was born to be a defensive lineman.
And that’s what he’s been at Michigan State for three years, mostly as an interior player.
Did I say interior player? From Michigan State?
The Dolphins need an interior defensive lineman. They spent the early part of the offseason searching, with no success, for a defensive tackle to replace Earl Mitchell and add to the starting duo of Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips.
And Dolphins coach Adam Gase is a graduate of Michigan State.
And according to executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum, watching Gase and owner Stephen Ross, a Michigan alum, defend their alma maters and extol each university’s football accomplishments against the other is a fascinating scene.
So Gase loves Michigan State.
Did I tell you Malik McDowell played at Michigan State?
Detectives call what I’m doing here connecting the dots. Team needs defensive tackle. Defensive tackle could be available to team in first round of Thursday evening’s NFL draft. Team’s coach loves Michigan State. Previously mentioned defensive tackle is from Michigan State.
And, sure enough, the Dolphins did some significant homework on McDowell -- in part because this kid’s potential begs attention and partly because he’s a client of Drew Rosenhaus. The Dolphins respect the local agent’s client base and how he does business.
But I’m told that McDowell, for all his prototype size and measurables and choice of agents, is not the direction the team expects to go this evening when the first round is underway and the Dolphins are on the clock.
Much would have to go wrong for the Dolphins in the first round for that to change.
And that leads to this simple question: Why?
The answer, unfortunately, is not clear. Even though the Miami Dolphins have an outstanding media relations department with Jason Jenkins and Matt Taylor at the top, they don’t exactly offer releases with explanations about draft strategy before the fact.
But I have a theory that is purely my own and am confident is in the ballpark of why the Dolphins are not initially planning on picking McDowell in the first round ...
This team, you see, is valuing certain character traits that it wants players to have. That’s always been the case, but it seems more a point of emphasis this year, which is partly the reason the Dolphins love players such as Charles Harris, Derek Barnett, Cordrea Tankersley, and Jarrad Davis.
The Dolphins are locked in on guys that would potentially fit within the scheme of the team and locker room as much as they want to assemble a group of talented athletes.
And it might be McDowell isn’t a perfect fit in that regard.
There’s also this: McDowell is wildly inconsistent.
He can take over a game in one series. And disappear the next two or five series. He is known for taking plays off.
This is what NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein wrote about McDowell: “Production doesn’t match up with the traits and talent. Scouts concerned about his work ethic and leadership.”
McDowell, by the way, had 13 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks as a sophomore. But he slumped to seven tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks last season as a junior. An ankle injury probably had something to do with that. But the tape is the tape.
Another thing: The Dolphins already have one young project high-round defensive tackle with a ton of physical ability whose production doesn’t line up with his potential. That’s Jordan Phillips, a player coaches this season will be leaning on to produce at a much higher level.
Given that project, are the Dolphins are going to take on another such project at the same position?
Hard to fathom.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero