10 Hidden Gems the Miami Dolphins Should Have Noticed at the NFL Combine
The Dolphins come into the combine with needs along the offensive and defensive lines, as well as at running back and linebacker. There are other positions where Miami doesn't have a glaring need but could always use a bit of help in terms of depth.
We're going to look at 10 players from the combine whom you might have missed with the massive coverage of Jadeveon Clowney, Michael Sam and Johnny Manziel—who are not needed in Miami due to the fact that their positions are covered, yet they received the majority of TV time.
Note: Combine results are courtesy of NFL.com.
Aaron Donald, Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh
How hidden can a gem be when said gem was the 2013 winner of the Outland Trophy in his senior season and has already impressed people at the Senior Bowl?
Aaron Donald is this said gem, and despite his work on the field at Pittsburgh and his great Senior Bowl performance, you didn't hear much about him going into the combine.
He changed that tune quickly, finishing second among defensive linemen in the bench press with 35 reps, running a 4.68 40-yard dash (which ranked fifth among defensive linemen) and ending up fourth at his position in the three-cone drill in 7.11 seconds.
Power, strength and speed are the qualities you tend to look for along the defensive line, and Donald has them, despite his smallish frame.
Unfortunately for the Dolphins, he might have created just enough buzz to fall out of their range, especially since Clarence Hill Jr. of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram implies that the Dallas Cowboys (who pick three spots ahead of the Dolphins) have an interest in Donald:
After impressive showing at the senior bowl and now the combine, the Cowboys might have to trade up from 16 to get Pitt DT Aaron Donald. Wow— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) February 24, 2014
He is a name to watch on draft day and should be a first-round target for the Dolphins, who will likely need a miracle to acquire him. If some miracle does occur, they should take advantage of it, especially if neither Paul Soliai nor Randy Starks re-signs in Miami.
Russell Bodine, Offensive Lineman, North Carolina
In an offensive lineman, I value the versatility to play multiple positions in multiple blocking schemes, as well as strength and athleticism.
North Carolina's Russell Bodine possesses all of that, and he was impressive in showing it off at the combine.
He is accustomed to the zone-blocking scheme, which North Carolina used. That's a big plus for the Dolphins.
He also spent most of his career at center but can easily slide in as a guard. That's another plus for the Dolphins, who not only need a guard in the worse way but are also in need of a backup center.
Bodine had 42 bench-press reps, which not only was the best among offensive linemen but also the best in the entire class at the combine. On top of that, he posted a 29-inch vertical jump, which was fifth among offensive linemen.
This mixture of strength and athleticism is just what Miami is looking for along the offensive line. He should be available in the third or fourth round.
Wesley Johnson, Offensive Lineman, Vanderbilt
In addition to the first-round talent along the offensive line that could be possibilities for the Dolphins in the first round (Taylor Lewan and Zack Martin), I've been looking for late-round linemen who could provide depth, which Miami struggled with even when times were good along the O-line.
For that reason, I was intrigued by Vanderbilt's Wesley Johnson going into the combine, and his workouts gave me no reason to not be interested in him on Day 3 of the draft.
Now for his downside: He's not the most powerful blocker, as he only completed 26 reps on the bench press. Strength can be developed with the right coaching, and he does have the frame to add weight.
However, his athleticism caught my attention.
He was fifth among offensive linemen with a 9'3" broad jump and fifth among his position in the three-cone drill, completing it in 7.40 seconds.
Johnson is someone who can develop into a good right tackle in the NFL if he bulks up a bit. He would be a great pick on Day 3 for Miami.
Tenny Palepoi, Defensive Tackle, Utah
The late rounds should also be a place for the Dolphins to look for depth along the defensive line, even if either Paul Soliai or Randy Starks re-sign.
For this, we head to Utah, where we find a defensive lineman who could be a shorter, thinner version of Soliai.
Tenny Palepoi played defensive tackle throughout his career at Utah (unlike Soliai, who started as an offensive lineman) and was named a second-team All-Pac-12 selection.
He was fairly good at the combine, and while he wasn't a top performer in any workout, he was solid across the board. He got up 35 reps on the bench press and posted with a 30.5-inch vertical jump and a 111.0-inch broad jump.
As a developmental piece, Palepoi would fit in Miami, especially with defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers working with him.
Kevin Pierre-Louis, Linebacker, Boston College
Can the Dolphins find a linebacker who can compete for a starting job and either fire up Philip Wheeler to perform or replace him outright?
Maybe Boston College's Kevin Pierre-Louis can get the job done.
He was a top performer among linebackers on almost every workout, running a 4.51 40-yard dash, getting 28 reps on the bench press and recording a 39.0-inch vertical jump, a 128.0-inch broad jump and a 4.02 20-yard shuttle.
He also has versatility, which might be his downfall as the much-maligned "tweener" label is attached to him. He could play at strong safety, but while his speed was good for a linebacker, it's not up to par with other safeties.
He is relentless, which—as we've seen in Miami in the past—can more than make up for his lack of size at 6'0", 232 pounds.
Telvin Smith, Linebacker, Florida State
While the Dolphins need plenty of help at linebacker, you wouldn't think they'd reach for one in the second round.
I would if Telvin Smith were available, and his time at Florida State shows me why.
I would have said that prior to the combine and in the end not think too much about it; however, the Al Davis in me was impressed by his 40-yard dash.
His time was 4.52, which was the best among linebackers at the combine.
Get some bulk on him, and Miami could have its next middle linebacker, which would allow Dannell Ellerbe to move to the outside.
With that kind of speed, Smith should be able to not only cover tight ends (with the added bulk he will need) but wide receivers as well, and he should be a force in run defense.
Ed Reynolds, Safety, Stanford
If the Dolphins let Chris Clemons go (which, according to James Walker of ESPN.com, they won't mind if it happens), it will be for a more dynamic safety.
Ed Reynolds of Stanford could fit that mold. He has the size to do it at 6'2", and he is a very good tackler.
His speed isn't too great (he ran a 4.57 40-yard dash at the combine), and none of the other workouts wowed anyone, but he was fairly solid across the board and showed in college that he can be dynamic and make plays.
Jerick McKinnon, Running Back, Georgia Southern
Miami might be in the market for a running back, and one impressive player who caught my eye at the combine was Georgia Southern's Jerick McKinnon.
I didn't know much about him before the combine, but here's a video of him scoring against the Gators last season. What I did see of him at the combine was impressive.
His 40 time of 4.41 and his 32 bench reps intrigued me, while his 132-inch broad jump impressed me.
He's a stellar athlete despite his size (5'9", 209 pounds) and has the tools to be a good running back at the next level, including blocking.
Henry Josey, Running Back, Missouri
Missouri's Henry Josey is the closest thing we have to this year's Marcus Lattimore-type story.
A knee injury almost ended his career in 2011, which forced him to miss the entire 2012 season. He came back in 2013 and posted a 1,000-yard season (his second), winning the Cotton Bowl's offensive player of the game.
He was even more impressive at the combine, running a 4.43 40-yard dash. He's quick and shifty and likely would be better in Marcus Thigpen's role as a return man and receiver out of the backfield, but he's still an intriguing name to watch.
Jace Amaro, Tight End, Texas Tech
This is my "best player available" pick that I'd love for Round 1, if Miami can fill in enough holes in free agency.
It would also be great to keep this guy away from the New England Patriots.
Jace Amaro is obviously not so much a hidden gem as he is a likely signal of doom if Bill Belichick can get his hands on him. In Miami's offense, he would be a great complement to Charles Clay, but only if Miami can fill enough holes in free agency to allow the team to select the best player available (meaning the Dolphins have to not only sign Branden Albert but also sign at least one guard while re-signing Paul Soliai and Brent Grimes).
Amaro was impressive at the combine, running a 4.74 40-yard dash, recording a 118.0 inch broad jump and throwing up 28 reps in the bench press. There's nothing about him that I don't like, and imagine the possibilities of him in Miami's offense.
It's a pipe dream that's predicated mainly on how well Miami can solve some of its other issues, but if the team can take him, it should.
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