Dolphin Doppelgangers: Player Comparisons for 2015’s Draft Class
I have always found that the best way to convey my opinion about a prospect coming into the draft is by comparing their strengths and weaknesses to those of a player already established in the NFL. That is the basis for this piece, which will look specifically at how some of this year’s prospects compare to players currently on the Miami Dolphins.
Dante Fowler & Cameron Wake:
This comparison makes sense both in size and scheme fit. Fowler is strong defensive end with good speed and agility, much like Cameron Wake. Due to their builds, both players have the capability to play defensive end for a 4-3 scheme, or stand up and play linebacker in a 3-4. Teams love players who can fit in multiple defensive systems, and that ability is a testament to both Fowler’s and Wake’s athleticism. Cameron Wake actually already made this switch, going from a 3-4 linebacker to a 4-3 defensive end, and Fowler appeared to play a hybrid position with the Gators.
Overall, this comparison is a big compliment to Fowler, and is more a testament to what he could become than what he currently is. Dante Fowler is raw, and played in a defense without much stress on tasks and assignments. If he wants to develop into a player whose production mirrors that of Cameron Wake, he will have to learn to play in a systematic defense, and refine his technique. The similarities that can be drawn between the two pass rushers make it an easy choice based on speed, strength, and size. While the comparison may fit, it leaves Dante Fowler with big shoes to fill as he moves from the Swamp to the NFL.
Arik Armstead & Dion Jordan:
Drawing a line between Arik Armstead and Dion Jordan on the field is not as easy as indicating how similar their draft seasons have been. Armstead is an absolute monster athletically, and his strength helps him beat offensive lineman to blow up running plays. However, issues appear when you look at his film. Armstead has a problem with his motor, and sometimes appears to give up on plays. In addition to this, he can be a defensive force on one snap, and get driven to the ground due to poor technique on the very next play. The inconsistencies of Arik Armstead sound pretty familiar to those faced by Dion Jordan in college.
This comparison stands as a cautionary tale. Armstead’s stock has soared following the season, and hype has built around his ceiling, much like it did for Dion Jordan. Any team looking to select Armstead should keep Jordan in mind. Both players have incredible ability, but the similar offseason pattern has to leave teams somewhat alarmed. At least one team will surely fall in love with Arik Armstead’s ability, but they should use Dion Jordan’s struggles early on as a cautionary tale before selecting another athletic defender with inconsistent play on film.
Devin Smith & Kenny Stills:
If you ever play a word association game and someone says Kenny Stills or Devin Smith, your answer should be the same either way: speed. Both of these players have made names for themselves with their unique breakaway speed, which allows them to beat defenses to create big plays. The 40-yard dash times for the two players were separated by only 0.04 seconds, with Stills posting a 4.38, and Smith running a 4.42. The two also have the same height (6’0), and Smith weighed in only 2 lbs heavier than Stills did at the combine (194 and 196 respectively).
Kenny Stills game could actually help Devin Smith develop, as Stills has a sneaky ability to gain separation and get open, while Smith uses speed alone. Devin Smith’s route running will have to improve for him to be effective in the NFL. Regardless of his routes, he will be a threat early on due to his speed. Despite their reputations, neither Kenny Stills nor Devin Smith has track-style speed. They are players who get faster when they put on pads. Their game speed far exceeds what their 40-yard dash times would indicate, and the two players have similar styles and builds. Look for Devin Smith to make big plays early on his career, just like Kenny Stills did with Drew Brees and the Saints.
Marcus Mariota & Ryan Tannehill:
I am going to preface this comparison with a note that will address a concern I’m sure many of you have upon first glance: Marcus Mariota is much more refined than Ryan Tannehill was, and has a higher level of safety as a pick. Tannehill’s limited number of starts was highly concerning, and Marcus Mariota comes with the pedigree of multiple seasons with the Ducks, and experience in big games. This breakdown addresses how they will be used in the NFL, and I believe any coach who ends up with Mariota should look to Ryan Tannehill as a platform to work off of.
While their college careers are not comparable whatsoever, the two as individuals actually are not so dissimilar. If you examine the two quarterbacks physically, they are nearly identical. Ryan Tannehill is 6’4, weighs 220lbs, has around 32.5-inch arms, and has 9-inch hands. Marcus Mariota is also 6’4, weighs in at 222lbs, has 32-inch arms, and around 9.7-inch hands. The similarity in their builds and proportions are uncanny. Mariota slightly outdid Tannehill in the 40-yard dash with a 4.52, besting Tannehill’s 4.62. Mariota’s acceleration might be better than that of Ryan Tannehill, but the top-end speeds for the two quarterbacks look to be similar.
The similarities between the two also extend off of the field. Neither of the signal callers are extremely vocal leaders. Ryan Tannehill has come out his shell since joining the Dolphins, and Mariota will most likely develop a more passionate brand of leadership when he realizes he has to earn the trust of older, more seasoned veterans. Ryan Tannehill’s confidence and comfort levels as a leader have grown exponentially as he has gotten more familiar with the system and players in Miami. Marcus Mariota’s college experience will give him a huge head start on Ryan Tannehill in the NFL, but the two do possess incredibly similar physical traits and leadership styles, which make it easy to connect the Heisman winner to the Dolphins’ signal caller.