Defensive end is a high priority for the Dolphins, and NFL Network’s Mike Mayock expects at least one of the high-end ones to be available when Miami picks 22nd overall, barring a trade.
Though not asked specifically about the Dolphins in a conference call on Friday, Mayock said “understand between [Tennessee’s]Derek Barnett, [UCLA end/linebacker] Takk McKinley and [Missouri end] Charles Harris, at least one of them will slide down from the mid to late 20s or 30s. So you could have one of those three. And [Wisconsin end/linebacker] T.J. Watt could be on the board [in the late 20s]. I think Jordan Willis from Kansas State is an intriguing conversation at 30. Really tested well. Good football player.”
But how many of these edge rushers can play in a 4-3 like Miami’s?
“I think Charles Harris can play in either a 3-4 or 4-3,” Mayock said. “It's interesting, because the edge rush group this year between Barnett, McKinley, Harris, Watt, all four of those guys... fit the 3-4 thing very well. But I think they've played enough 4-3 end where they've got enough size and length to at least play in sub-package downs. I think Charles Harris is one of those guys. He's got an awful lot of talent, and he gets in that three-point stance and he goes. He's a long guy, plays hard. Got a great work ethic. He's really good off the field, high-character guy.
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“Takk McKinley from UCLA, you can say the same things about how hard he plays, what kind of kid he is. He's coming off shoulder surgery and had a couple concussions. So there are some medical issues. And T.J. Watt, it's interesting, because he's only a one year starter. He was a tight end. He had two knee operation surgeries in college. Didn't get on the field as a starter until last year. He shows twitch, toughness, and quickness. He's got some length. The 4-3 teams think he can play 4-3. The 3-4 teams think they can play outside linebacker. He's obviously got some bloodlines which are legit. He plays really hard. I've got him in the second round, but if you're sitting there in the first round and you've got to have that position, T.J. Watt can play.”
What about Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton, who was summoned to Dolphins headquarters this month?
“As far as Taco Charlton is concerned, he's intriguing. I wonder why he didn't play more football prior to this year. He's got length, he's got power, he's got athletic ability. He doesn't have the twitch. Like I wanted him to be Carlos Dunlap because they're very similar size. Dunlap ran 4.72, and Charlton ran 4.92. So what you see on tape is what I saw at the combine where he doesn't quite have the twitch of an elite edge rusher, so I think he's more of a base 3-4 end. And there is nothing wrong with that. You can be a good football player that plays eight to ten years in the league, and I've got a second round grade on him.”
And what about Michigan’s versatile Jabril Peppers, who also has been closely studied by Miami?
“I think he's a first round talent, but you better figure out in advance how you're going to use him,” Mayock said. “I know day one he can be the best return specialist on your team,and don't underrate that. That's point number one. Point number two, you better have a plan for him on defense. And from my perspective, he's better closer to the line of scrimmage. There are certain players that just are. And I think he's a starting strong safety that's better in the box. I think he can play nickel, especially teams that have big nickel and little nickel. I think he'll be your big nickel all day long.
“The concern is whether or not he can match-up and cover tight ends. Obviously he can from a speed perspective, but just from a size perspective, if you line him up on tight end. I know he can handle running back.
“When you take him in the first round or any round, but I think he's a first round player, you have to have a plan. Are you playing him on offense at all, trying to get the ball in his hands? Just have a plan and develop this kid. He's just one of those lightning -- when he gets in a room, his energy is just contagious. So you're going to want him in your locker room. You're going to want him on the field. But you need to know what the plan is, and you need to follow through with that plan.”