The Miami Dolphins spent a lot of time with very talented, and very atypical potential first-round draft picks on Wednesday.
We know Dolphins coaches, including head coach Adam Gase, dined with Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield on Tuesday and then worked him out privately on Wednesday. The team plans to continue its deep dive into the Heisman Trophy winner with a visit to Dolphins headquarters prior to the draft, as The Herald’s Barry Jackson noted.
And at the same time Gase was with Mayfield, a contingent of Dolphins coaches headed by defensive coordinator Matt Burke spent significant time with Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith. Smith also got some private time treatment from the Dolphins aside from his interactions with the team at the Georgia Pro Day on Wednesday.
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And it makes sense the Dolphins are working up a complete study on both these players.
Mayfield is an immediate backup quarterback for the Dolphins if he falls to No. 11 in the first round or even if the Dolphins decide to move up a couple of spots to land him.
Eventually, Mayfield could be an NFL starting quarterback if things play just right.
Smith is a potential starting strong side linebacker who has sideline to sideline coverage and big play ability. The Butkus Award winner may not be picked atop the draft with the quarterbacks, but the draft’s first day will not end without him being on somebody’s team.
It’s possible he’ll be there when the Dolphins (No. 11) pick. But it would not surprise if he goes earlier because he has played in the NCAA’s best conference and been a star. That’s why he already has pre-draft visits set up to Indianapolis (No. 6), Chicago (No. 8), San Francisco (No. 9), and Buffalo (No. 12).
But here’s the thing....
The Dolphins are showing a ton of interest in two players who do not meet the prototype for their position.
Mayfield is the shortest quarterback expected to go in the first round. He’s 6-foot and 5/8ths and weighs 216 pounds. His hand size, which measures 9 1/2, is smaller than both Josh Allen and Josh Rosen but is slightly bigger than Sam Darnold’s.
Smith is 6-foot and 7/8ths and weighed 236 pounds at the combine. He has 32-inch arms and a 77-inch wingspan.
The prototypes at each position?
For a quarterback it’s at least 6-2 and preferably around 6-4 and 225-to-230 pounds.
For the SAM linebacker it’s at least 6-3 and around 240-248 pounds.
And why are these prototypes a thing?
Well, you want the quarterback to see over offensive and defensive linemen and get the ball out. You want him to be big enough to take a hit because they all get hit very often. You want him to have bigger hands so he’ll hold on to the football when he’s hit or is playing in inclement weather.
You want a SAM linebacker who can run but is also big because he’s got to set the edge on run plays and rally to the football without getting pushed six- or seven-yards backward. You want him that big because you don’t want to ask the defensive end to have to cover him up against linemen.
(You want the defensive end to attack not serve as body guard).
And, yes, of course, there are exceptions to the rule.
Drew Brees at quarterback comes to mind -- although Brees was not picked in the first round.
Shaq Thompson in Carolina is about Smith’s size and there have been other successful smallish SAM linebackers.
But an added variable the Dolphins must add to the mix is they already have smallish defensive ends. Charles Harris (250 pounds), Cameron Wake (263), and Andre Branch (263) are all small 4-3 defensive ends.
So that’s something the Dolphins must consider if they expect to ask any of the ends to “cover up” for Smith.
What’s the point?
These players have been amazing in college. But in projecting them to the NFL they come with some added gamble because of their size. A couple of years ago, many readers who regularly comment on this blog didn’t care that Tavon Austin was an elf.
You wanted Tavon Austin even though he didn’t meet any prototype because he made a ton of plays at West Virginia and you knew he’d do that for the Dolphins.
How’s that worked out?
A couple of years ago when Gase took over as the Dolphins head coach, he and then-defensive coordinator Vance Joseph talked about building a prototype team.
Gase wanted fast, big wide receivers and athletic offensive linemen. Joseph wanted cornerbacks who could play press-man and be at least 6-feet tall. Prototype was something general manager Chris Grier wanted to find.
But lately the prototype thing has fallen through the cracks a bit.
Jakeem Grant is 5-7.
The team just signed 5-9 Albert Wilson.
Harris was the first-round pick last year and he’s not prototypical.
Mike Hull has gotten some important playing time the past two years and he’s a 6-foot middle linebacker.
The team signed 5-10 cornerback Alterraun Verner for a season in 2017.
Lawrence Timmons was signed last year despite being only 6-1.
I’ve been told the Dolphins “system” works best with a certain type of player. But that type has seen a sliding scale lately.
Bill Parcells once said if you make one exception on a player, and then another, pretty soon you have a team of exceptions.
And none of the exceptions the Dolphins made have yet to turn into the Drew Brees of their position.
So the Dolphins interest in two very talented but not prototypical first-round draft possibilities is certainly exciting. But everyone should know the risks because, well, they’re kind of easy to see.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero