Barry Jackson

Here’s whom Dolphins fans should be watching in Monday’s national championship game

For Dolphins fans planning to watch Monday’s Alabama-Georgia national championship game, here’s a look at pro prospects you should keep your eye on from a Dolphins’ needs perspective and their 2017 statistics:

▪ Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith (124 tackles, 11.5 for loss, 5.5 sacks).

It’s awfully early, but at this point, Smith might make the most sense of any players in Miami’s draft range at No. 11, based on need.

Smith’s modest size (6-1, 225 pounds) hasn’t been an impediment and he obviously could bulk up once he gets to the NFL.

ESPN’s Todd McShay said he’s a three-down player and likely a weakside linebacker in the NFL.

“Smith is receiving enormous grades from evaluators around the league,” NFL Net’s Daniel Jeremiah said. “He’s one of the more consistent defensive players in the country.” 

▪ Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley (59 catches for 935 yards, 15.8 average, four touchdowns).

It’s difficult to see Ridley being the choice at No. 11 if Miami keeps its top three troika of Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills.

But if the Dolphins move on from Landry (an impending free agent) or trade Parker, than Ridley becomes a top option.

As of last week, the Dolphins and Landry weren’t close to agreeing to financial terms on a new contract after exchanging offers, though Miami could always place the franchise tag on him for about $16 million or the transition tag (giving Miami a right to match outside offers).

“Ridley will be the top receiver in this draft class if he decides to leave Alabama a year early,” Kiper said on “He’s a nightmare to try to tackle in the open field — he has almost 400 yards after catch this season. At 6-1, 188 pounds, he has the size and speed to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL. He hasn’t gotten as many targets in 2017, but he has made the most of them.”

▪ Georgia outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter (57 tackles, 7.5 for loss, 4.5 sacks).

Kiper’s take on “Carter is asked to do a lot of things in the Georgia defense. He’ll rush the quarterback, but he’ll also drop into coverage and get his hands on running backs and tight ends. He doesn’t have a ton of sacks — just 9.5 for his career — but he’s athletic and can bat down passes. At 6-foot-5, 237 pounds, I think he’s going to test well at the combine. He’s probably a true outside linebacker in a 3-4 in the NFL.”

The Dolphins must project how and where he would play in a 4-3 and whether he would be better suited as a 4-3 end if he bulks up.

▪ Alabama inside linebacker Rashaan Evans (66 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, six sacks).

A projected second or third day pick, Evans can play both inside and outside, and he would be appealing if Miami doesn’t fill its linebacker need in free agency and opts for a different position in the first round.

McShay’s take on “Evans leads the team in TFL despite missing two games. He has continued to make great strides since moving into a starting role late last season, and he’s coming off an impressive performance against Clemson. Evans (6-2, 230 pounds) is a rangy run-defender who rallies to the ball with great effort and tackles well. The versatile linebacker has lined up on the inside and the outside in addition to flashing as an edge rusher, and he has above-average range in coverage.”

▪ Georgia running back Sony Michel (1,129 yards rushing, 8.0 per carry, nine receptions for 96 yards).

Would Miami take a running back in the second round despite Kenyan Drake’s development? A case could be made because of Michel’s immense talent and because of the need for depth at the position, regardless of whether Damien Williams re-signs or not.

Kiper: “He has showed great burst, and he can run inside and outside the tackles. He didn’t see many targets in the passing game this season, but he had 48 catches from 2015-16, so he has proven that he can contribute there. I could see Michel (5-foot-10, 220 pounds) being the second running back taken after Penn State’s Saquon Barkley.”

▪ Georgia running back Nick Chubb (1,320 rushing yards, 6.4 per carry, 15 touchdowns, three catches for 31 yards).

The Dolphins will be looking to draft a running back and Chubb figures to go in the third or fourth round.

Kiper: “Chubb looked like a potential top-10 pick when he rushed for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman in 2014, but he suffered a gruesome knee injury in 2015 and has leveled off a bit as a prospect. I like Chubb, but I think his teammate Sony Michel will be taken a little bit higher. Michel is more dynamic.”

▪ Alabama running backs Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough. The Dolphins already have one Alabama running back in Drake and it wouldn’t be a shock if they select another, with both Harris and Scarbrough projected as fourth or fifth rounders.

Harris had 983 yards rushing on 7.6 per carry, 11 touchdowns and 10 receptions for 70 yards. Scarbrough had 573 rushing yards (4.8 per carry), eight touchdowns and 16 receptions for 108 yards.

McShay said Harris “doesn’t have an elite second gear, but he’s a north-south runner who is quicker than fast.”

As for Scarbrough, McShay said he “runs through and bounces off would-be tacklers, thanks to his size, strength and balance, plus the big, 6-foot-2 back has quick feet for his build. He’s still developing as a receiver, but he has some upside in that area.”

Here’s my Monday post with some eye-opening numbers about the Heat’s remarkable play in the clutch this season, and which Heat players have been best in the clutch.

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