NFL Scouting Combine Preview: Prospects Who Will Draw the Dolphins’ Attention in Indianapolis
Each player understands what is at stake when they arrive at Lucas Oil Stadium. There is no such thing as the perfect prospect, and NFL general managers and coaches will be sure to identify these imperfections prior to arriving in Indianapolis. Once there, they will be looking for answers. Chris Grier and Adam Gase are going to be trying their absolute best to ensure that their first season together goes as seamlessly as possible, and that process arguably starts at the combine. The combine is a time for identifying potential steals, busts and the players that best fit their culture and scheme. In fact, the evaluations that occur in the coming days could be considered the first steps in Miami’s rebuilding process.
In this article, we will be discussing the combine in-depth. Here are some of the prospects that we believe have the most to gain in Indy, especially in the minds of the Dolphins’ evaluators.
Rashard Robinson (CB, Louisiana State)
This week will be important for Rashard Robinson in more ways than one. Dismissed from LSU’s football program for a series of behavioral issues, Robinson has some work to do if he hopes to rebuild his draft stock. This starts during the interview process, as he is undoubtedly going to have to explain his past and prove that similar behavior won’t occur in the future. If this aspect of his combine performance is successful, look for his numbers in the agility drills to drive his status back up into the Top 50. While he hasn’t played organized football since 2014, his tape displays plenty of the strengths that NFL teams will be looking for in cornerback prospects: great length, fluid hips, and respectable ball skills, to name a few. Robinson has gone on record saying that he expects to post the top time in the 40-yard dash this year, and if this statement comes anywhere close to being accurate, it will be a huge boost for the six-foot-two, 182 pound defensive back. Robinson would fit a position of need for Miami and, as a native of Pompano Beach, FL, would be returning to his home state if drafted by the Dolphins.
Jayron Kearse (S, Clemson)
This is one of the more interesting situations to monitor throughout the draft process. Jayron Kearse is widely considered one of the best athletes in college football, but hasn’t risen into the first round because his explosiveness hasn’t translated to results on the field. This suggests that he may lack the football IQ to warrant an early pick. Kearse should amaze in the shuttle run and three cone drills, which test a prospect’s change of direction and lateral quickness, respectively. But the most important part of his combine will be his interviews. He must prove that concerns about his knowledge are overblown, and that he will be able to adjust to the speed and advanced concepts of the NFL game. If he impresses, some team will take the chance that his elite measureables and athleticism will finally lead to an advanced product on the field.
Kolby Listenbee (WR, Texas Christian)
Meet arguably this year’s top contender to break Chris Johnson’s 40-yard dash record: Kolby Listenbee. As an All-American track star, the senior wide receiver out of TCU features blazing speed. 40-yard dash times can often be overrated, and Listenbee certainly has a downside; he’s very thin and doesn’t have an advanced route tree. However, someone with his kind of top-end speed and abilities as a deep ball specialist is sure to draw interest from around the NFL. With Jarvis Landry, DaVante Parker, and Kenny Stills already in the fold, wide receiver won’t be Miami’s top priority on draft day. But there is no such thing as too much depth, and Listenbee would add yet another explosive dimension to the offense.
Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson)
Kearse’s teammate at Clemson, Mackensie Alexander is widely considered a top two cornerback in the draft (along with Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves). However, Alexander will still face some questions at the combine. His performances in the 40-yard dash and three-cone drill should be among the most eye-opening by defensive backs, and teams are surely intrigued by the upside he offers. With that being said, teams are going to be paying very close attention to his measurables. Height and length are extremely important at the cornerback position, and Alexander seemingly lacks in these facets. While Hargreaves’s height is also less than ideal, his natural coverage skills and ability to play bigger than size on tape somewhat make up for that. Alexander’s play isn’t nearly as impressive as his counterpart’s, and therefore needs to measure and perform well in drills in order to keep up. Considering their lack of talent at cornerback, Miami could have Hargreaves and Alexander high on their boards, and the combine could prove to be one of the deciding factors between the two.
Jihad Ward (DL, Illinois)/Vernon Butler (DL, Louisiana Tech)
I decided to pair Jihad Ward and Vernon Butler together because their situations are extremely similar. Both defensive linemen were extremely impressive at the Senior Bowl, much like Spriggs. Each has been slightly overshadowed by other members of a stacked defensive line class, but has the tools needed to succeed at the next level. Ward is a 300 pounder with extremely impressive change of direction skills and agility for his size. Butler uses a rare combination of power and quickness to dominate offensive linemen. While the rawness and game tape of each prospect will most likely keep them in the latter half of round one or early part of round two, the combine is their chance to show the athletic abilities that will have team’s drooling if they fall into this range. If Mike Tannenbaum & Company choose to draft for “talent” over “need,” as most franchises claim to, fans shouldn’t be surprised if either Ward or Butler are playing alongside Ndamukong Suh next season.
Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
Myles Jack is going to continue to receive a ton of attention until draft day. Almost surely a top-five talent when healthy, Jack was extremely unlucky to tear his ACL in September. Jack won’t be participating in any agility drills during the combine, but instead will aim for his Pro Day to display the speed and change of direction skills that make him such a force in coverage and run defense. However, the UCLA standout will still be participating in interviews and medical evaluations. Through his interviews, he will have the opportunity to sell teams on the idea that he can lead a defense, while the medical evaluations will be essential in determining how long he will be sidelined and if his injury could be detrimental in the long run. Impressive performances in both categories could actually cement his draft position out of the Dolphins’ range, but their decision makers will undoubtedly be paying close attention in the event that he does fall to their draft slot.
Jason Spriggs (OL, Indiana)
Jason Spriggs, at six-foot-six and 305 pounds, has the size and frame of a prototypical NFL offensive tackle. He put on a show at this year’s Senior Bowl, holding his own against a group of extremely impressive defensive linemen while his o-line counterparts were consistently beat. Similarly, his quickness and natural athletic ability should allow him to shine in the agility drills in comparison to other members of his position. While technique will always reign supreme in the evaluation of offensive linemen, athleticism is becoming a staple of strong play at the position as well. Now more than ever, coaches are expecting tackles to get off the line to stick with speed rushers and get up field as lead blockers on stretch run plays. For this reason, Spriggs has a lot to prove at this combine if he hopes to continue his rise up draft boards. While many see guard as Miami’s biggest need along the line, tackle could be improved as well, and Spriggs provides significant upside.
Noah Spence (DL, Eastern Kentucky)
I don’t think there are any doubts that Noah Spence will be one of the best athletes on display in Indianapolis. The Eastern Kentucky star was a former 5-star recruit at Ohio State, and has dominated at every level he has been a part of. Spence’s last hurdle is proving that he is ready to leave his past drug abuse behind him. His interviews will be absolutely essential. He has nothing left to prove on the field; he simply has to display the progress that he has made since his dismissal from Ohio State. If he is as impressive as the reports have made him out to be there is no telling how far his stock may soar.
Evidently, these are players that will certainly draw interest from all over the league, not just in Miami. While each prospect has a ton to gain at this point in the process, they simultaneously have a lot to lose if they don’t perform to the best of their abilities. It is this that makes the NFL Scouting Combine so interesting and such an essential time during the draft process. With that being said, pay attention to these prospects over the next few days, because how they test will have an undeniable effect on their draft stock. If their interviews, medical evaluations, verified measurements, and strength/agility drills go as planned, it may just be enough to hear the Miami Dolphins call their name on draft day.