Scouting Report: Does Kevin Dodd’s Upside Make Him Worth the 13th Overall Pick?

The Miami Dolphins will look towards the defensive line at some point in the 2016 NFL Draft, and many feel that time could be in the first round. If this is true, Kevin Dodd will be a very attractive prospect as the team looks to find a pass rusher who can eventually step into Cameron Wake’s role as he nears the end of his career.

Background & Stats:

Kevin Dodd was actually recruited as a defensive tackle, earning three stars. After committing to Clemson, he did not meet the academic requirements to attend and was forced into a post-graduate year at the Hargrave Military Academy. He arrived with the Tigers in 2011, playing as a freshman but contributing very minimally. He was injured for his sophomore season, and was granted a medical redshirt. Then, as a redshirt sophomore the next year, Dodd was relegated to a backup role.

In 2015, Dodd had his breakout season. He started all 15 games, recorded 23.5 tackles for loss, and 12.0 sacks. In a unique situation given teammate Shaq Lawson’s even greater production, this was not even enough to lead his own team despite finishing top 10 in the country.

Many wanted Dodd to stay in school for one more season. Questions arose as to his ability to play without Shaq Lawson opposite him, and whether or not he could keep up the same level of production in the NFL. However, Dodd declared for the draft and is expected to be a first round pick next week in Chicago.

Positives:

For the NFL teams who are incredibly interested in Dodd, their reasoning usually stems from his physical ability. He has very long arms, boasting a wingspan of over 81 inches (6’9”) and standing at 6’5”. Dodd weighs in at 277 lbs., which is an ideal weight for an end to be able to stop the run and rush the passer.

Kevin Dodd is often able to use his long arms to his advantage when reaching around opposing blockers.

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Not only is he able to keep distance between himself and linemen, but also he can at times make freakish plays reaching around them. Here, Dodd is able to extend and use his length to sack the quarterback even with a lineman in his way.

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Here, Dodd once again uses his arms, but this time to pull down a ball carrier who slipped past him initially. A long armed defensive end can often make up for mistakes in pursuit by using physical gifts.

Another trait that Kevin Dodd possesses is flexibility. Often, stiff rushers struggle when asked to maneuver around blockers in the backfield. While Shaq Lawson, Dodd’s teammate, struggles a bit with his bend, Dodd doesn’t face the same concerns.

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Here, Dodd is able to become almost parallel to the ground and still continue to drive towards the quarterback. For Dolphins fans, this play should be reminiscent of those made by Cameron Wake. While Dodd doesn’t bend as well as Wake (almost nobody does), he clearly has the physical traits needed to successfully implement the move.

Like teammate Shaq Lawson, Kevin Dodd often uses his motor to his advantage. He pursues relentlessly and, while he doesn’t always finish, he manages to consistently break down the pocket.

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Here, Dodd flushes Baker Mayfield from the pocket, forcing him to scramble. Dodd then fights for the entirety of the play, displaying determination and a willingness to relentlessly pursue his target.

Kevin Dodd also possesses impressive speed for his size at 277 pounds. Most would not expect him to be able to beat tackles off of the edge at that size, but against Alabama,Dodd displayed this ability for the entire nation.

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While Kevin Dodd isn’t a quick rusher, he builds up speed even when making contact. Here, the lineman’s offset position behind the line allows Dodd to build up his speed and slip past the tackle and reach the quarterback.

Negatives:

Some of the Clemson defender’s negative qualities as a prospect stem from his technical concerns. The largest of these red flags is the lack of experience. Dodd only has one year as a full time starter under his belt and, outside of those 15 games, has only been a very inconsistent contributor. Sometimes drafting inexperienced players works out (ex: Cam Newton only started for one year at Auburn before being selected by the Panthers). However, it is a very dangerous game.

There are also minor medical concerns about Dodd, as he was unable to play during his sophomore season due to injury.

On the field, concern regarding Dodd is warranted.

One of the raw prospect’s more frequent issues is poor tackling. While Dodd has an outstanding motor, it often won’t do him much good given that he struggles to wrap up players when he reaches them.

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These are examples from Clemson’s game against Notre Dame. Dodd was unable to wrap up the ball carrier in several cases. His best game came against Alabama at the end of the season, and this showdown against Notre Dame was his worst performance that I saw. He missed tackles on other instances during the season, but struggling that heavily in a single game is somewhat of a red flag. Yes, the conditions weren’t optimal due to rain, but that isn’t an excuse for this type of outing if your intention is to be a first round pick.

Another issue of Dodd’s that leads to some of his tackling struggles is a result of his lack of experience. Often, Dodd takes poor angles when making tackles. This occurs both in pursuit and when he has to set his base and strike at the offensive player.

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On this play, Dodd displays this issue. His inexperience lends itself to hastiness when attacking Jake Coker, and he doesn’t to set his base before attempting to bring him down.

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Here is another play during which Dodd is unable to set himself up to make the tackle. This instance is far worse, as he had a solid 5-10 yards to prepare for Coker.

Once again, most of Kevin Dodd’s issues stem from a lack of experience. None are caused by a physical limitation, which is what makes him an attractive prospect. However, there is no guarantee that a player is able to process the speed of an NFL game, and that task becomes even more difficult when their college experience is limited. For Kevin Dodd, he will have plenty of work to do before he is able to put his gifts to proper use in the NFL.

Fit for the Dolphins: 

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(Joe Kipper/AP Photo)

Kevin Dodd projects very well as a 4-3 defensive end. It will be the ideal position for him, and would make him a good fit in the Dolphins’ defensive front. Dodd playing as a 3-4 DE would be somewhat of a stretch but, if he can improve his technique, it is entirely possible given his physical gifts.

The Dolphins would also be happy to have someone to absorb the knowledge possessed by a veteran like Cameron Wake. Kevin Dodd would be in the perfect situation to learn not only from Wake, but also from Mario Williams and Ndamukong Suh. If Dodd is able to pick up the work ethic possessed by players like Wake and Suh, it could go a long way towards helping him become a reliable NFL player.

The Skinny:

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(Photo: Clemson Athletics)

The Miami Dolphins do need help on the defensive line. Nobody will deny that, as they enter the season with Cameron Wake set to take on a more rotational role. When this occurs, the team will need to work out the situation opposite Mario Williams (who also isn’t a spring chicken).

Kevin Dodd, while talented, does not seem like the best option for the Dolphins. Many expect Shaq Lawson to be on the board and if he is that pick makes far more sense. Lawson has better instincts, more experience, and a much higher floor than Dodd. I am not saying that Dodd will be a bad player in the NFL; I simply believe that Shaq Lawson has a better chance at becoming a truly special defensive lineman in the league.

If the Miami Dolphins are able to trade down, then Kevin Dodd would make plenty of sense. He seems to fit will in the mid-late first, but not at the 13th overall pick. The one reason he could end up in Miami is that Mike Tannenbaum is known to commit valuable resources to athletic defensive linemen. I still believe Shaq Lawson would be the pick if available, but Kevin Dodd would provide an intriguing option if they are confident in their ability as a staff to develop him.

If Kevin Dodd is able to refine his technique to the point where he can make the most of his physical talents, he could become a star in the NFL. However, are the Dolphins in a position to make a risky selection at a position that isn’t their greatest need in this year’s draft? I believe the answer to that is no. Even though I don’t believe Dodd should be the Dolphins’ pick in the first round, I feel that whichever team selects him will have a very good chance to mold the prospect into a solid defensive end in the NFL.

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