Previewing What the Miami Dolphins Will Be Looking for at the Scouting Combine
Every team is looking for the best possible fits for them at the combine, which comes off as a job interview with weight lifting and 40-yard dashes. The Dolphins have their own list of needs and wants, and will use the combine accordingly to decide who fits their needs the best—and more importantly—who will fit in with the makeup of the team.
Here's a look at what the Dolphins will be looking for in terms of position, as well as specific traits.
Possible Franchise Tackle
According to Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post, the prevailing thought around the Dolphins is that they will seek a starting left tackle via free agency, where there will be plenty of available options (Eugene Monroe, Branden Albert, Jared Veldheer, Anthony Collins or Jordan Gross). However, with the franchise tag and the teams that have money to keep their own players, that won't be as easy as you think.
As a backup plan, Miami will have to go into the combine with an eye towards acquiring a franchise left tackle that will be a cornerstone of the Dolphins for the next 10 years—but who could that be?
Some of the popular names, like Auburn's Greg Robinson and Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, are projected to go early in the first round—well before Miami's turn to pick. While I would love the idea of drafting Notre Dame's Zack Martin, he makes more sense as a guard.
Still, there are some linemen in the draft that could be taken later; however, those players will probably be better off at right tackle instead of left tackle.
Finally there's Michigan's Taylor Lewan, who likely will be available for the Dolphins with the 19th pick. Lewan contains the talent and size to be a franchise left tackle, but might need a year of seasoning while backing up a veteran before he can step in and start. There are also some maturity issues he's dealt with in the past (including an assault he was questioned for back in November, which he has denied any wrong-doing in, per USA Today's Mark Snyder), which might not be what the Dolphins would like in their locker room after the entire Incognito-Martin mess of 2013.
A Guard That Fits the Zone Blocking Scheme
For a team that has run the zone blocking scheme for the last two seasons, Miami hasn't really found any guards capable of playing in that scheme.
Richie Incognito did make the Pro Bowl in 2012 under the scheme, but other than his success in 2012, Miami's guards have struggled.
Good guard play, especially in zone blocking, can hide the play of the tackles at times, making a good left guard almost as important as a good left tackle.
Miami should (and likely will) be looking at guards who can fit in the zone. Zack Martin didn't play zone at Notre Dame, but does have the footwork and athleticism to play well at guard in said scheme. Clemson's Brandon Thomas played in a zone blocking scheme in college and would also be a good pick on Day 3.
A Between-the-Tackles, Short-Yardage Running Back
There are plenty of questions surrounding Miami's running back duo of Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas.
I have those questions (like, "Why did they retain Thomas last season?" and "Will they please release him this season?"), as do fans. Even within the Dolphins organization there are questions about Lamar Miller and the wish that he had a more physical style, as reported by Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.
The same report states that many expect Miami to go after a running back in the draft; however, if they do, then it won't likely be a do-it-all type back, but instead a bruiser that can compliment Miller in the backfield. Boston College's Andre Williams will be at the combine, and he fits that mold well.
An Inside Linebacker with Great Instincts
One would think with the spending spree of 2013 that the Miami Dolphins are stuck set at the linebacker position.
This couldn't be further from the truth, as there is plenty of room for improvement in the draft, especially when it comes to stopping the run.
For that, Miami needs an instinctive inside linebacker, and one that will be available is Max Bullough of Michigan State. His specialty is stopping the run, and putting him behind Jared Odrick and whomever gets re-signed between Randy Starks and Paul Soliai will improve Miami's run defense. This will allow them to move Dannell Ellerbe to the outside and Philip Wheeler to the bench (where both are better suited).
A New Defensive Tackle to Plug into the Rotation
The Dolphins will have to replace one (or both) of their free agent defensive tackles in 2014, and the combine would be the right place to find that replacement.
What Miami will be looking for in a defensive tackle is an intelligent and athletic tackle with great hands that can stuff the run and rush the pass.
Will Sutton fits the bill, and with defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers (currently the best position coach on the Dolphins staff), he should be a monster.
Other options to look at include Pitt's Aaron Donald, Penn State's DaQuan Jones and Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman.
To explain work ethic, one has to ask this question: What would Zach Thomas do?
Zach Thomas is the embodiment of work ethic, something that the Dolphins will surely be on the lookout for at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Thomas, of course, didn't have prototypical NFL size, but his work ethic (along with his football instincts) is what made him a legend in Miami.
Can the Dolphins find another Zach in terms of work ethic? They will surely be looking for a player like that in Indianapolis.
I couldn't think of a picture or video to signify a great interview, so take a look at this video of DaQuan Jones, another option for the Dolphins at defensive tackle.
Interviews are what the NFL Scouting Combine are really about, as you get to learn as much as you can about a player's personality.
I said at the beginning of this piece that the combine was simply a job interview with 40-yard dashes and weight lifting. This is because the interview part is the most important.
Who will leave an impression on head coach Joe Philbin and general manager Dennis Hickey this year? Who will leave a bad impression on them?
This is a big one for me, and for the Dolphins it should be the most important intangible to look for at the combine.
This Dolphins team needs leaders, especially on the offensive line (sorry, Mike Pouncey doesn't seem like leadership material).
The need for leadership is part of the reason why I'm in favor of drafting Zack Martin in Round 1. He was a captain at Notre Dame, and received these warm words from head coach Brian Kelly, according to Andrew Owens of 247Sports.com:
The stories that I've heard this summer are absolutely incredible. As a unit, the starting offensive line would stay together driven by Zack to wait for the freshmen to get out of class this summer. [...] Because of him, he's been able to up the play of all of our younger players exponentially. He's made others around him better.
Compare that to the stories of the Dolphins' left tackle and left guard from 2013, who in this article I wrote for The Sports Daily I described as "one angry, boisterous loose cannon fighting with a maladjusted, immature man-child who quit on his team after being benched."
Zack Martin doesn't fit any of those two descriptions, and would be a great piece for the Dolphins to build their offensive line around. There are plenty more like him available in the draft, but the Dolphins will have to look for them.