9 Prospects the Miami Dolphins Must Watch at the East-West Shrine Game
The East-West Shrine Game is where anonymous prospects go to get noticed.
This game is of particular importance for teams like the Miami Dolphins that have so many needs that finding quality players in the later rounds of the NFL Draft is vital.
Even though the 'Fins are still devoid of a head coach, Jeff Ireland and the rest of Miami's scouting department should have their eyes peeled on these nine prospects come Saturday afternoon.
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The Dolphins are in desperate need of a tight end, so Oregon's David Paulson (no relation to Robert) should be on their radar during Saturday's game.
Paulson reeled in six touchdowns for the Ducks in 2011, but despite this great production, concerns about his blocking skills are bound to arise. Oregon's spread offense only required him to excel as a receiver—not a blocker.
But, if Paulson shows that he can be a reliable blocker, then he will grab the attention of tight-end starved teams, including the Dolphins.
One of the most polarizing players participating in this year's game is Pitt's Brandon Lindsey.
The 6'2", 250-pound linebacker/defensive end is a pass-rush specialist who is sure to draw the eyes of Miami's scouting department.
Lindsey registered a combined 18.5 sacks between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, earning All-Big East honors both years.
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Regardless of how you look at it, the Dolphins must acquire a defensive tackle this offseason.
Paul Soliai could bolt for free agency, which would create a huge void at the position. Even if he stays, Miami must add some depth. Also, the Dolphins new head coach could switch the defense's alignment from a 3-4 to a 4-3, making the addition of a defensive tackle a necessity.
Consequently, the 'Fins should be watching USC's DaJohn Harris. At 6'4", 310 pounds, Harris has the size and athleticism to play in either defensive alignment.
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Wide receiver might not be a primary need for the Dolphins this offseason, but that doesn't mean the team should neglect it. Neither Davone Bess nor Brian Hartline were particularly reliable in 2011, so Miami should, at the very least, keep the wideouts within their peripherals this weekend.
One wide receiver worth watching is Michigan State's B.J. Cunningham. He was the Spartans go-to wideout this past season, recording 79 receptions for 1,306 yards and 12 touchdowns.
At 6'2", 205 pounds, Cunningham has the ideal size and skill-set to play opposite Brandon Marshall. It may take him a few seasons to develop, but Cunningham should be worthy of a mid-to-late round selection.
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Another priority for the Dolphins this offseason should be shoring up the secondary—especially cornerback. Miami needs to add some quality corners to play behind Vontae Davis and Sean Smith if they want to stand a chance against pass-happy offenses like the Patriots.
Iowa's Shaun Prater has been gaining steam at practice this week, and the Dolphins should take notice. Despite a small 185-pound frame, Prater looks like a potential third-round target for the 'Fins.
The Iowa Hawkeyes have a reputation for spewing out quality NFL offensive linemen, making Markus Zusevics a player to watch this weekend.
Zusevics has a prototypical build (6'5", 300) and racked up plenty of experience in his two seasons as a starting offensive tackle. At the very least, Miami could look at Zusevics as a player whom they can develop into a starter down the road.
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The Dolphins have whiffed on the last two free safeties they have drafted (Chris Clemons, Reshad Jones), but that shouldn't discourage them from targeting another one during the 2012 NFL Draft.
Miami's defense would benefit so much from adding a quality free safety, and the best one in this weekend's game might be Wisconsin's Aaron Henry.
Henry racked up 67 tackles and four interceptions en route to a First-Team All Big Ten nod. If he performs well on Saturday and is available in the third or fourth round of the draft, the Dolphins will have to give Henry serious consideration.
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We already discussed why the Dolphins need a cornerback, and another one for them to watch this weekend is Notre Dame's Robert Blanton.
Blanton is a physical yet speedy corner who accrued 70 tackles and a pair of interceptions for the Fighting Irish in 2011. Even if he doesn't make it as a cornerback, Blanton could be a special teams ace worthy of a late-round selection.
With Marc Colombo and Vernon Carey both slated for free agency, an offensive-line overhaul will be in store this offseason.
The East-West Shrine Game doesn't feature too many highly-touted offensive linemen, so the Dolphins should be on the lookout for "projects," players they can groom and develop over a few years.
One such prospect is Temple guard Derek Dennis. His 6'3", 315-pound frame gives him ideal size, and although he played against sub-par I-AA competition for most of his career, Dennis could morph into a serviceable pro lineman.