It would be very surprising if the Dolphins don’t take a defensive lineman with either of their first two picks of the NFL Draft, which begins Thursday and continues through Saturday. And there are a combined 10 or so projected to go between the late teens (Miami picks 22nd) and the Dolphins’ second-round pick at 54.
Examining the Dolphins’ high-round options at a position that’s a high priority:
• Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett: The Dolphins really like him, but he might not be there at 22. Had 33 sacks in three seasons for the Volunteers, and he's an all-around 4-3 end at 6-3, 259 pounds.
The good: NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein: “Elite production on par with former Vol and Hall of Famer Reggie White against the run and as sack artist. 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.”
The concern: Zeirlien: “Admitted slow starter who has had issues with sluggishness to start a season. Will overthink it at times rather than just reacting. Can be undisciplined with guessing snap counts and taking penalties.”
Chances of him being there: 40/60. ESPN’s Todd McShay has him 9th; ESPN’s Mel Kiper has him going 30th, which is unusually low for most prognosticators.
• Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton: Had 9.5 sacks in 11 games last season. Visited the Dolphins.
The good: McShay: “Played his best against top competition in 2016, compiling 5.5 sacks against Penn State, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Florida State.”… Kiper on Charlton: “He can hold up against the run, too. He has very long arms, measuring at 34¼ inches.”
The concern: Zeirlein: “Despite talent and traits, production and overall play has been uneven at Michigan. Earned full-time starting nod in just his final season.”
Chances of being there: Better than average. McShay has him 28th, Kiper 31st. Here is colleague Adam Beasley’s film breakdown of Charlton.
• Missouri defensive end Charles Harris: Can play as an end in a 4-3 or 3-4. Nine sacks last season. Miami has considerable interest.
The good: McShay: “A twitched-up athlete, Harris is like a Tasmanian devil off the edge. He wins with speed and an elite first step. Harris also shows great range against the run.”
The concern: McShay: “He needs to get stronger to improve his play at the point of attack.”… Zierlein: “Found himself too easily engulfed by size this season.”
Chances of him being there at 22: 50/50. Kiper has him going 21st, McShay 29th. Here is Adam Beasley’s film breakdown of him.
• Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell: Dolphins worked him out.
The good: McShay: “McDowell is the most talented interior pass-rusher in the draft.” Kiper: “On pure talent alone, McDowell might be a top-10 pick, and at 6-6 and 295 pounds, he's a physical specimen.”
The concern: Kiper: “Didn't have a great junior season [in 2016], posting just 1.5 sacks in eight games, and there are questions around the league about his effort.”
McShay: “He didn't play with the same passion and toughness this past season, which is a red flag.”
Chances of him being there: Better than average. McShay has him 23rd, Kiper 41st.
• Wisconsin end TJ Watt: Second-team AP All-American in 2016 with 63 tackles, 15.5 for loss, and 11.5 sacks. Potentially a 4-3 end or 3-4 linebacker.
The good: Zierlein: “A plus run defender who can get to the quarterback with plus hand work and relentless effort.”
The concern: Zierlein: “Short strider who lacks explosion out of stance. Foot quickness is average.”
Chances of him being there: Excellent at 22. Less than 50 percent at pick 54. Would be a defensive end in a 4-3 like Miami runs. McShay has him going 41st, Kiper 58th.
• Kansas State end Jordan Willis: Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 with 17.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. Miami likes him.
The good: Kiper on Willis: “One of the most productive defenders in the country (21 sacks over the past two seasons), Willis put up eye-catching numbers at the combine; his 4.53 40-yard dash and 39-inch vertical were second among defensive linemen. You don't often see that combination of production and athleticism.”
The concern: Zierlein: “Very deliberate as a pass rusher. Shows rush moves early and rarely deviates from original track.”
Chances of him being there at 22: Pretty good. Chances of him being there at 54: Not very good. McShay has him 47th, Kiper 60th. Here is Adam Beasley’s film breakdown of him.
• UF defensive tackle Caleb Brantley: The good: McShay: “A highly disruptive interior run defender. He also showed more flashes as a pass-rusher than his 5.5 sacks since 2015 would suggest.”
The concern: Last week was charged with misdemeanor battery for fighting with a woman. Kiper: “Brantley, my No. 2 defensive tackle, was inconsistent during his career.” … Zierlein: “Not a dynamic pass rusher. Drawn offsides 10 times in past two years.”
Chances of him being there at 54: Very Good, in light of his recent arrest. As The Sporting News reports, at least one team has taken him off its draft board.
• Michigan tackle Chris Wormsley: Dolphins like him. Had 12.5 sacks past two seasons, including six last year, and he’s one of only three d-tackles Kiper has in the first two rounds.
The good: Zierlein: At 6-5, 297, “his size, athleticism and versatility gives him a chance to earn early playing time and to become an eventual starter.”
McShay: “Wormsley does his best work against the run and posted 23 tackles for loss in his past two seasons.”
The concern: As Zierlein states, “NFL offensive linemen will be better equipped to counter Wormley's brute power.”
Chances of him being there at 54: Good. Kiper has him 62nd, McShay 63rd.
• Youngstown State defensive end Derek Rivers: Dominated small-school competition past three years with 160 total tackles, 52 tackles for loss and 38 sacks. Miami has studied him but didn’t bring him in for a visit.
The good: Zeirlein: “Consistent, high-level production as a starter. Plays the same way from snap to snap and plays with high football character.”
The concern: Zierlein: “Rivers may lack the length and agility to be a consistent, stand-up rusher on the next level, but has the talent to find a spot as a backup” and potentially more.
Chances of being there at 54: Pretty good.