Barry Jackson

Miami Dolphins will have linebacker options

Previewing who the Dolphins might pick in the 2017 NFL Draft

The Dolphins have a ton of needs, but here's who Adam Beasley thinks the team might pick in this year's draft.
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The Dolphins have a ton of needs, but here's who Adam Beasley thinks the team might pick in this year's draft.

The Dolphins know they have two starting linebackers in Kiko Alonso and Lawrence Timmons but are open to finding a third to compete with Koa Misi, who’s coming off neck surgery, and improving Neville Hewitt.

Examining some first and second-round options:

• Temple’s Haason Reddick: Had 10.5 sacks last season and third in nation with 22.5 tackles for loss.

The good: ESPN’s Mel Kiper: “One of the draft's hottest names, Reddick's value is in his versatility -- he could play inside or outside in a 4-3 or 3-4.”

ESPN’s Todd McShay: “Looks like a top 15 pick. He possesses the speed and change-of-direction skills to be an effective at the next level.”

The concern: NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein: “Undersized by NFL standards for position he's currently playing.”

Chances of him being there at 22: Not very good. Kiper and McShay have him going 11th. The Dolphins have spent time with him.

• Alabama’s Rueben Foster: Won Butkus award after producing 115 tackles, including 13 for loss and five sacks.

The good: Zierlein: “Vicious hitter with elite playmaking range. Athleticism gives him cover ability. Has Pro Bowl potential as a 3-4 inside linebacker or a 4-3 weak-side linebacker.”

The concern: Zierlein: “Instincts are just average… Concerns over his medical history could be a consideration, according to some teams.” He had shoulder surgery in the past several months… McShay: “Some character red flags could cause Foster to slip; he was sent home early from the Combine after an altercation with a hospital worker, but one of the 10 best football players in this draft.”

Chances of being there at 22: 50/50. Where Foster goes will be fascinating. Former Raiders and Patriots executive Michael Lombardi, now a media member, tweeted: “Teams picking between 33-45 will need to make sure they are comfortable with R. Foster, cause he will be there.”

But Kiper actually believes he will go sooner than he first thought; Kiper originally had him 15th and now has him going fifth.

Waltercampfootball.com reported the Dolphins brought him in for a visit, but that is not independently confirmed.

• UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley: Had 10 sacks, three forced fumbles last season.

The good: McShay: “Takk plays with an incredible motor; he just never quits. And while his technique still needs work, you can't teach his speed off the edge (4.59 40).”

The concern: Some believe he’s better suited to a 3-4, and Miami plays a 4-3.

Zeirlein: “Hand skill and overall usage is completely uncultivated and impedes pass rush potential.”

Chances of him being there at 22: Less than 50 percent. Kiper has him 16th, McShay 21st.

• UF’s Jarrad Davis: Had 98 tackles, 11 for loss, 3.5 sacks and four pass breakups. The Dolphins brought him in for a visit.

The good: McShay: “Explosive linebacker with sideline-to-sideline range in the running game and a relentless motor.”… Zierlein: “His ability to cover ground and finish his tackles make him a draft favorite for some teams. Should be able to compete for an early starting job as a 4-3 outside backer.”

The concern: “Will have to take better routes to the ball and [at 6-1, 238] learn to keep himself clean against blocks. Needs to play with more conistent technique.”

Chances of being their at 22: At least 50/50.

• Houston’s Tyus Bowser: Had 8.5 sacks in just eight games after missing a month with a broken orbital bone from a fight with a teammate. The Dolphins brought him in for a visit.

The good: McShay: “Bowser turned heads at the Combine, finishing in the top five among linebackers in vertical and broad jumps, along with the 40-yard dash and three-cone drill. His explosive traits give him upside as an edge rusher.”

The concern: Zierlein: At 6-3, 247, “undersized on the edge. May not have the frame to carry much more weight. Can be engulfed by size. Needs to get better with hands at point of attack. Still has issues where he looks like a basketball guy learning football.”

Chances of him being there: Excellent at 22, not good at 54.

• Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham: First team All-American with 125 tackles, including 16.5 for loss.

The good: McShay: “You can't coach Cunningham's length (nearly 34½-inch arms), athleticism (10-foot-5-inch broad jump) and range (in coverage and versus the run). He projects as an every-down LB in the NFL and could be a star if he improves his take-on skills and tackling as he gains more experience and strength.”…

Zierlein: “His consistent production is hard to ignore. Cunningham is a rangy, three-down linebacker who has a nose for the ball and special teams value. His downhill approach is made for attacking 4-3 defenses and Cunningham could become a good, early starter as a run-and-chase weak-side linebacker.”

The concern: Zierlein: “Cunningham's missed tackles and lack of desired play strength could bother teams.”

Chances of being there: Very likely there at 22, less than 50 percent at 54. McShay has him 44th.

• Alabama’s Tim Williams: Reportedly failed multiple drug tests during his time with Alabama, but was never suspended. Had 10.5 sacks last season in pass rush specialist role.

The good: Zierlein: “Has explosiveness and pass-rush talent to create his own havoc as a pass rusher regardless of what is around him.”

The concerns: The off-field issues, for starters. Also, “scouts say he struggles with Alabama scheme and needs to have things simplified,” Zierlein said.

Chances of him being there at 54: Good. Kiper has him 64th. Kiper says he’s especially suited for a 3-4, though.

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