With the NFL Draft just over a week away, it's time to take an in-depth look at the six players most analysts, including myself, believe the Miami Dolphins will take with the No. 8 pick in the draft.
Certainly, Miami could trade out of the No. 8 spot, but I am a firm believer in going with the best information you have at the time. At this point, a trade looks unlikely for Miami. It would cost a plethora of picks to move up into the top four selections of the draft, and there doesn't appear to be an enticing player that would encourage a team to move up into Miami's slot at no. 8.
Therefore, I believe Miami's draft options come down to Stanford guard David DeCastro, Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, South Carolina defensive end/linebacker Melvin Ingram, North Carolina defensive end/defensive tackle Quinton Coples, Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd, and Iowa OT Riley Reiff.
I would include Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon on the off-chance that Floyd's stock rises above Blackmon's in the last few days before the draft, but as of now I see little concrete evidence of that.
Regardless, in this segment, I will present an in-depth scouting report on DeCastro based on my own comprehensive review of film. In the coming days, I will give similar reports on the other five prospects leading up to next Thursday's draft.
I have modified and scaled down a scouting report template I used while receiving my professional football scouting certification from Sports Management Worldwide for easy reading. Enjoy!
DeCastro is an above-average but just-shy-of-elite athlete. Perhaps his best athletic quality is his surge at the snap of the ball. If a team has a 3rd- or 4th-and-short, it would be well served to duck the quarterback behind DeCastro's 6'5", 312-pound frame.
DeCastro was often asked to pull, especially as the back-side guard in a power-running scheme. This was something he was quite adept at, and while he isn't the most nimble player ever, he has plenty of agility to get down the line and reach the assigned defender. Ask pass rushers like Southern California's Nick Perry (a likely first-round pick in his own right) what it's like to get picked off by No. 52 when he is on the move.
My concerns about DeCastro's athletic ability come in pass protection. While he typically doesn't allow much pressure on quarterback Andrew Luck, he is susceptible to more advanced pass rushing moves, such as players using a swim technique. In film study, I saw him occasionally get initially beat by Southern Cal defensive tackle and fellow draft prospect DaJohn Harris, although DeCastro would re-direct and run Harris past the pocket.
Grade (On a one-seven scale, with one being unacceptable and seven being elite)
DeCastro doesn't take plays off. He fires off the ball on every snap, and when his initial man is blocked, he will look for the next defender to take out of the play.
He has extremely quick hands that he will use to control pass rushers, although his hand punch is not violent enough to jolt defenders backwards and create distance.
DeCastro is more likely to ride a pass rusher out of the pocket than to knock one to the ground, although when he locks on to a defender, that player is out of the play regardless. He communicates with his linemates before the snap and is very effective on double-teams.
Opponents will actually stunt, loop and twist their rushers away from DeCastro (watch tape and you will see DeCastro without anyone to block on more than a few plays) which tells you a lot about how much they respect his ability and football intelligence.
You won't ever question whether DeCastro knows his assignment or, for that matter, those of his fellow linemates. He appeared to bail out right tackle Cameron Fleming on a few occasions in 2011, especially when Fleming could have been beaten by an inside pass-rushing move.
DeCastro doesn't seem entirely comfortable in space and will look around occasionally for the next man to block. I am a bit curious to see how he would function for a team that runs a lot of screens.
Regardless, it's clear that DeCastro is a leader and a communicator on the football field.
Again, DeCastro's explosion at the snap on running plays is almost ideal.
However, for such a big man, he is clearly not overpowering. He is not going to pancake elite pass rushers, and he is more of a technician who will rely on fast hands and side-to-side foot movement to get the job done.
One thing you notice about DeCastro with the more film that you watch is that he is at his best when he can turn a defender inside or out. That's when he can put defenders on the turf. Straight on and head up on a defender, DeCastro usually battles the defensive player to a stalemate, which will be good enough at the professional level.
DeCastro is about as durable as it gets, having started all 39 games of his three-year playing career with the Cardinal.
As a credit to the young man, you rarely see DeCastro get up last from any pile, even though he could easily be at the bottom of it to start. His energy level doesn't seem to wane, and I didn't see him as a player who will have his hands on his hips trudging back to the huddle in the NFL.
DeCastro is a superior prospect who led a Cardinal offensive line that surrendered just 24 sacks from 2009-11. He is not a mauler in the mode of former Dallas Cowboy Larry Allen, but his athletic gifts, competitive fire and use of sound technique could make him no less valuable to the team that drafts him.
He fits in either a zone or power blocking scheme, although I'd really like to see him in a zone scheme that puts added emphasis on athletic movement and angles.
Overall Grade: 6.8
How he fits with the Dolphins:
DeCastro is one of the 10 best players in this draft, and you could argue solidly that he might be among the top five. Unfortunately, as a right guard, and possibly exclusively a right guard, he plays what is perceived as one of the least important positions in the NFL.
That perception along with the fact that Miami has already used early picks in the draft in recent years to invest heavily in the offensive line would seem likely to limit the chance of the Dolphins selecting DeCastro.
Any professional football team should not pass up the likelihood of getting a perennial Pro Bowl player with a top-10 pick. DeCastro would be seem to be that player and would give the Dolphins a scary core of Jake Long, Mike Pouncey and DeCastro on the offensive line.