Miami Dolphins' Scouting Guide to the 2014 Senior Bowl
The real big game for the Miami Dolphins this weekend won't be the Pro Bowl in Hawaii on Sunday but rather Saturday's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
The very future of the NFL will be on display in the Senior Bowl, as it is chalk full of players who are looking to get to the next level.
Many of these players would fit well on the Miami Dolphins, especially their major needs at running back and in the trenches.
We're going to look at 12 of the Senior Bowl players that the Dolphins should keep an eye on.
Zach Martin, OL, Notre Dame (North)
Notre Dame's Zach Martin has made some waves this week in Senior Bowl practice, lining up as both a tackle and a guard.
His 6'4" 305-pound frame suits the tackle position well, but his athleticism would work at the guard position if he chooses to play there.
Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com had rave reviews for Martin's Senior Bowl performance, and he too believes that Martin is better off at guard, stating:
He has lined up at both guard and tackle this week and routinely stymied the competition with quickness, power and overall technique. Martin is very good at keeping his feet underneath him while keeping his butt low to handle both speed and power. His lack of elite lateral range was tested on a few occasions, which is why his best NFL position is inside at guard.
Both tackle and guard are positions of major need for the Dolphins this offseason, and Martin can fill them both. However, he appears to be too much of a project for the Dolphins to take in the first round this season—one that is make or break for Miami.
Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia (South)
Big, athletic, nimble and tough.
These are the qualities that a team wants in a left or right tackle, and Virginia's Morgan Moses has them.
He is listed at 6'6", 325 pounds and possesses the skill set needed to protect the quarterback's blind side despite spending most of his career at Virginia at right tackle.
He's already impressing people at the Senior Bowl, including Rob Rang of CBSSports.com, who said this about Moses' performance:
Alternately lining up at left and right tackle for the South team, the 6-foot-6, 325 pound behemoth showcased the length, quickness and balance to handle speed rushers like Auburn's Dee Ford (6-foot-2, 243 pounds) and Arkansas' Chris Smith (6-foot-1, 266 pounds), as well as powerful defenders like his former teammate, 6-foot-6, 298-pound defensive end Brent Urban.
Individual pass-rush drills favor the defensive players but other than one exception in which Ford beat Moses with a quick jab-step inside and explosive burst to his right, Moses handled left tackle duties well. When moved back to the right side, Moses also performed admirably, burying Urban with an emphatic pancake block that drew gasps from scouts in the stands.
According to Rang, Moses didn't just impress in individual drills either, as his performance continued during the scrimmage:
Best of all, Moses' strong play continued into the scrimmages run by the Jacksonville Jaguars' coaching staff. One particular three-play sequence against the defenders in the South team's red jerseys showcased Morgan's pro-readiness:
On "first down" Moses handled a speed rush from Ford to give his quarterback enough time to complete a quick swing pass to the right.
The next play was a run to the right for solid gain. Moses did not supply a block at the point of attack on the play, instead releasing to run approximately 20 yards downfield to force adjustments from a linebacker and safety. The quickness off the ball, fluidity and straight-line speed Moses used to part the defense was every bit as impressive as the pancake block he'd delivered on Urban during the earlier one-on-one drill.
Appropriately enough, it was Urban who lined up opposite Moses on the next play. Attacking Moses with a strong bull rush that had beaten several other South team blockers throughout the day, Urban instead was stopped in his tracks due to a strong anchor and good core flexibility from the left tackle.
It will be fun to see how Moses performs on Saturday against the South's pass rush, which contains many top line prospects. He could wind up playing himself into Round 1 if his performance impresses as much as his practices have.
Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia (North)
You might see a bit of Daniel Thomas in Sims' lanky 6'0", 214-pound frame.
But he runs nothing like Thomas, which is good for him.
It's a great comparison, because Sims is a fantastic do-it-all type of back who doesn't waste a lot of motion in his running. As such, he ends up moving faster than he looks and drives through contact. Scouts call that "converting speed to power," and Sims does it as well as any back I've seen.
More impressive, during practice today, was Sims' ability to accelerate through his breaks. That's a rare ability for a traditionally built running back, and it gives Sims the chance to really make things happen even when the blocking hasn't been perfect.
The Dolphins were missing a running back who could make things happen even when the blocking wasn't perfect. (And when was it ever perfect last season?) Adding Sims to a revamped offensive line with an offensive coordinator like Bill Lazor (who could use Sims like a LeSean McCoy) would give the Dolphins one of the few missing skill players on offense who could greatly help the team.
Gabe Jackson, Guard, Mississippi State (South)
Thus far, I've given you a lineman from Notre Dame and a lineman from the ACC.
Both of those players are great prospects, but due to the level of competition faced on a weekly basis, I still have a preference for an SEC lineman.
Gabe Jackson is one of two SEC linemen I will be highlighting, and he has thus far impressed in the Senior Bowl.
Charles Davis of NFL.com named him his player of the day on Wednesday due to his powerful performance in the interior, and Davis also cited that Jackson's 52 consecutive starts in the SEC is a reason why he is ready for the pros.
He might not fit Miami's blocking scheme due to being a powerhouse blocker and not exactly a zone fit, but then again, when has that stopped the Dolphins before?
He is malleable and can handle himself well, so why wouldn't the Dolphins take a third-round flier on him if he's available?
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh (North)
Here's a pick that fits a need that the Dolphins should make in Round 1 or 2, if he's available.
The winner of the Outland Trophy and Bronko Nagurski award, Pitt's Aaron Donald was dubbed a "one-man wrecking crew" by Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly earlier this season. In addition to living up to that nickname during his senior season, he has wreaked havoc at the Senior Bowl, where Falcons coach Mike Smith said this about Donald to NFL.com's Chase Goodbread:
Donald is a very explosive defensive tackle. I've been very impressed with him. He's short in stature by NFL standards. He doesn't maybe have all the measurables. But he's one of the more explosive guys we have on the North squad. He's done a nice job in the run and the pass game in the first two practices.
Donald would be a great replacement in the interior defensive line alongside Paul Soliai or Randy Starks and Jared Odrick. Pairing up his aggressiveness with Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan could create mayhem for any offensive line.
Wesley Johnson, OT, Vanderbilt (South)
Here's our second SEC offensive lineman, the versatile Wesley Johnson.
Johnson's stock hasn't been helped much by the Senior Bowl; right now he looks more like a project than someone you would jump for early in the draft.
Because of that, the Dolphins might draft him late (he's projected as a fifth-round pick at best by CBSSports.com) and stash him. Better to do that with your fifth- and sixth-round picks than your third-rounder.
According to Lance Zierlein from The Sideline View, Johnson has struggled this week with run blocking; however, his pass blocking has been pretty good.
At the next level, I see him as a right tackle, but one who must be molded. He is worthy of a late-round pick.
Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami (North)
Canes fans reading this are shaking their heads at this one.
Seantrel Henderson has been one of the most frustrating players to ever put on a uniform at The U. His personal problems kept him off the field, and his performance on the field never consistently lived up to the promise he showed when he was one of the top recruits landed by the Hurricanes.
Yet here he is at the Senior Bowl, where he has opened up about his past in the hopes of a new beginning, according to Adam Beasley of The Miami Herald: “I was partying a little bit too much at times, I had got into trouble a couple of times for marijuana. I just put all that behind me.”
Henderson has the size and tools to be an excellent NFL right tackle, and with a 6'7", 331-pound frame, he would be tough for anyone to move.
He will likely be available in Round 4 or 5. Will the Dolphins take the opportunity, or will they pass up on him due to his past personal issues like they tend to do? My hope is on the former.
Logan Thomas, Quarterback, Virginia Tech (North)
Running a video of a quarterback facing off against a Mark D'Onofrio defense feels like it's cheating, but it does convey the skills of Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas and why it would make sense for the Dolphins to take a sixth- or seventh-round flier on the quarterback.
Thomas has the size of Cam Newton at 6'5", 250 pounds with a rocket of an arm to match. His last two seasons at Virginia Tech weren't exactly great, but his skill and athleticism might be enough to overlook that later in the draft.
As a replacement for Pat Devlin, I'd take him in a heartbeat.
Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota (North)
Aaron Donald is a better overall player in my opinion, but Ra'Shede Hageman looks like he was born to play defensive tackle in the NFL.
He has been impressive during Senior Bowl week, as Rob Rang of CBSSports.com writes:
The well-built Hageman flashed dominating strength and length, routinely driving opponents into the backfield with a his bull rush and showing impressive burst for a man of his imposing 6-foot-6, 318-pound frame. Hageman was tough to handle in one-on-one drills -- putting Miami guard Brandon Linder on his back during one particularly explosive rush -- but carried over his impressive play into the full 11-on-11 scrimmages, as well. He remains a prospect who flashes rather than consistently dominates but considering his power, size and athleticism, teams operating under 4-3 and 3-4 principles, alike, were taking notice. Hageman's scheme and position versatility is in stark contrast to an even flashier player -- Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald -- who by all accounts was the star of Monday's practice.
While Donald might slip into Round 2, Hageman is going in the first round. Could he be available for the Dolphins? While I'd prefer Donald, Hageman would make sense in Round 1.
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State (South)
If Miami is going to wait until Round 3 at the earliest to draft its defensive tackle of the future, Will Sutton would be a player who should interest them.
He played well at Arizona State, and in 2012 he led the Pac-12 in tackles for loss. He's also effective at rushing the quarterback, which fits Miami's scheme.
But his Senior Bowl has been a mixed bag, with Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com stating that he looked "lethargic and heavy-legged." However, Rob Rang of CBSSports.com stated that during Monday's practice Sutton "showed off his athleticism with a terrific spin move to beat Arkansas center Travis Swanson (who was playing guard) during one-on-one drills late in practice."
If Miami plans to re-sign Soliai or Starks and then draft a defensive tackle for the future (while focusing on the offensive line in the first two rounds), Sutton would be a good pick in Round 3. He can step into the defensive line rotation with Odrick, Soliai or Starks, and a cheap free agent right away.
Billy Turner, OT, North Dakota State (South)
One of my favorite parts of the Senior Bowl are the FCS players who make a name for themselves.
This year, North Dakota State's Billy Turner seems to be that guy, as analysts have raved about him throughout the week.
CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler said this about Turner after the FCS Championship Game:
Physically, Turner looks the part and stood out on the field during pregame warm-ups next to his teammates. A team captain, he showed good shuffle in pass pro, staying light on his feet to mirror and protect the edge. Turner sets up quickly with good reflexes to adjust to the pass rush, using coordination, patience and body position to wall off the pocket. He is strong at the point of attack and extends a powerful initial jolt with his mean/nasty attitude. Turner displayed good vision and awareness at the second level to work off initial blocks and eliminate linebackers and defensive backs in the open field.
While Turner was a tackle in college, his skill set screams that of a guard—one who would work in a zone-blocking scheme. He has a ton of upside, which could move him up in the draft, and he has displayed it all week.
Cyril Richardson, Guard, Baylor (North)
I used to like the idea of Cyril Richardson as a Miami Dolphin.
They could do worse than spending a second-round pick on him; however, this week he has had some issues.
For most of Day 1, Richardson was dominated by Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald, according to USA Today's Brent Sobleski.
This doesn't quite quell the talk from last November, when an AFC scout called Richardson "so overrated," according to Dan Greenspan of NFL.com. The scout cited concerns about his athleticism and Baylor's scheme.
Despite that, Richardson shows plenty of skills that are needed for a guard in the NFL and will still be a fairly hot prospect in May.
I'm not so sure the Dolphins should draft him—which usually means that's exactly who they will draft.