The Dolphins, intent on finding linebackers who are proficient in pass coverage, have cast a net beyond the draft’s first-round prospects.
According to a source, the Dolphins are intrigued by BYU linebacker Fred Warner and summoned him to team headquarters as one of their maximum 30 allowed pre-draft visits for prospects who didn't attend school or grow up in South Florida.
Last Thursday was the final day NFL teams were permitted to host “30” visits at their offices. Players meet with coaches and executives during these visits.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper raved about Warner and said it wouldn’t surprise him if he goes late in the second round.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein rates him as a third or fourth rounder.
Warner had 87 tackles last year. Over his four-year career, he had seven interceptions, 32.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.
"Warner's future success could largely depend on who takes him and how they use him," Zierlein said. "While most will view him as an outside linebacker, Warner moves around like a big safety. With his instincts and cover skills in space, finding a hybrid role in sub-packages might be where he is best utilized. Warner's size, speed and workout at the Combine may play into his draft value more heavily than many other prospects. Warner should find immediate work as a backup who can help on special teams."
The Dolphins have identified improvement in covering backs and tight ends as a top priority that must be addressed this offseason. It hasn't been yet.
At 6-3 and 227 pounds, Warner has these strengths, according to NFL.com's Zierlein:
▪ Size and experience as slot defender gives him some hybrid appeal
· ▪ Possesses good length and fluid hips
· Moves like a safety but plays near the line
· Solid athletic ability
· Change of direction comes fairly easy for him in space
· Gets good production check marks over the last three years
· Team captain and active tackler
· Plays with plus instincts
· Quick to diagnose and trigger downhill for TFLs
· Extremely responsive to quarterback's eyes in space
· Gets early jump on receivers when he sees it
Zierlein said he “will need to add play strength if he gets moved into a standard linebacker role.”
Four first-round linebackers have been linked to Miami: Georgia’s Roquan Smith, Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch and Alabama’s Rashaan Evans.
It’s possible the Dolphins could draft more than one linebacker, with Kiko Alonso the team’s only proven starter and Raekwon McMillan projected for a starting role after missing last season with a knee injury sustained on the first play of preseason.
Here’s my post from earlier Monday with a look at Dolphins veterans whose status could be impacted by the draft, and Brock Osweiler’s thoughts on joining the Dolphins.