Senior Bowl week is here, and the football scouts, professional and amateur like myself, are busy keeping an eye on all the senior prospects available in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Although the Miami Dolphins' staff is coaching the South squad, the North also has its share of talent to be considered as well.
These are my top 10 prospects on the North roster, specifically looking through the lens of the Miami Dolphins' needs and schemes:
OG Mike Iupati, Idaho
Guards rarely get drafted in the first round, but Iupati is making a strong case to go within the top 32 picks of this year's draft.
There are simply very few things to dislike about Iupati, who has all the size (6-6, 330), strength, athleticism, and talent you look for in an NFL interior lineman.
Although the Dolphins' offensive line is one of the NFL's best, and Iupati is likely to go somewhere between the Dolphins' first- and second-round picks this April, there has to be a point where the team would at least consider drafting Iupati if they ended up in the right position.
Even a team with a good line could certainly use Iupati, and the Dolphins do have some question marks at guard. Left guard Justin Smiley has had a tough time staying healthy in two seasons with the Dolphins, while right guard is totally up in the air as Nate Garner, Donald Thomas, and Dimitri Tsoumpas all try to separate themselves from the pack.
While it is very unlikely the Dolphins will be in position to draft Iupati, he's worth mentioning as a prospect for the team simply based on his talent alone. A trade down in the first round (or up from the second round) would be essentially to even being in position, however.
LB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri
Arguably the best outside linebacker in the draft, Weatherspoon was highly productive during his career at Missouri, topping 100 tackles in each of his last three seasons and recording 9.5 tackles and four interceptions between his junior and senior years.
Weatherspoon has it all, from size (6-2, 245) to speed (4.6 forty) to athleticism to instincts and smarts. He's a great talent and good leader with an outgoing, coachable personality.
Although he played outside at Missouri and projects there in the 4-3 scheme, Weatherspoon is also a good fit inside in Miami's 3-4 scheme. The Dolphins would need to be picking in the late first round to have a shot at Weatherspoon, however, so a trade would necessary.
WR Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati
Gilyard was a major component in the Cincinnati's fantastic 2009 campaign, leading the Bearcats with 87 catches for 1,191 and 11 touchdowns. It was Gilyard's second second consecutive season of over 80 receptions, 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Gilyard is a bit on the small side at 6-feet, 179 pounds, but he's a dynamic playmaker with excellent speed and athleticism and good hands. He's also a highly productive return man, with five career touchdowns on special teams.
Wide receiver is one of Miami's biggest needs, and a playmaker like Gilyard is someone they will surely consider if he's still on the board when they are picking in the second round.
CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State
Wilson is one of the fastest-rising prospects in the draft, and for good reason. He has a very good blend of size and speed and is an excellent tackler with good ball skills.
While the Dolphins don't have a dire need for a cornerback, he'd be worth considering in the second round given Will Allen's knee injury and lack of young depth behind Miami's two second-year corners.
Wilson is likely to creep into the first round with a good offseason, however, so the Dolphins may not be in position to even consider him without a trade.
DE Jared Odrick, Penn State
A two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, Odrick was named the conference's defensive player of the year in 2009 after recording 11 tackles for a loss and seven sacks.
A versatile prospect, Odrick has great size (6-5, 296) and combines good athleticism and strength with a nonstop motor and constant effort.
Despite playing defensive tackle in college, Odrick projects very well to the five-technique defensive end position in the 3-4 scheme. The Dolphins are very deep at the position and probably won't be looking to draft one high, but he's worth mentioning as someone that is a great talent and a good fit for the scheme.
CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers
Projected as a mid-to-late round pick as prior to his senior season, McCourty has rocketed up the draft charts in 2009 after a strong year with six interceptions and 10 pass breakups.
The brother and former Rutgers teammate of Tennessee Titans 2008 sixth-round pick Jason, McCourty doesn't have blazing speed, but makes up for it with good technique and tackling skills. He's also a capable kick returner and blocked seven kicks in his college career.
As explained when discussing Kyle Wilson, cornerback is not an immediate need for the Dolphins. However, McCourty is a talented player who can contribute on defense and special teams, and thus is someone to consider in the second or third round.
LB Brandon Graham, Michigan
Graham measured in at the Senior Bowl a bit on the small side at only 6-foot-1, but it's hard to deny his production.
Graham was a constant pass-rushing force during his last three seasons with the Wolverines, racking up an impressive 29.5 sacks and 56 tackles for a loss since the start of the 2007 season.
Despite lacking the ideal height for the 4-3 defensive end/3-4 outside linebacker positions, Graham does possess great strength and pass-rushing technique to go along with a nonstop motor.
It's no secret the Dolphins are in desperate need for some outside linebackers with Joey Porter's likely release and Jason Taylor's return uncertain, and Graham would be an ideal prospect to consider in the second or third rounds.
OT Vladimir Ducasse, Massachusetts
An intriguing FCS prospect, Ducasse arrived in America from his homeland of Haiti in 2002 at the age of 14 and being forced to learn English as a new language. Less than a decade later, he's one of the top offensive tackle prospects in the NFL Draft.
Ducasse possesses all the tools you look for in an offensive tackle, with ideal size (6-5, 330), a big body with long arms, tremendous strength and athleticism. Despite the small school knock, there is no doubt Ducasse has the talent to compete with the big boys at the next level.
While it's true the Dolphins have no need for an offensive tackle, Ducasse is still someone worth considering in the second round. He projects greatly at guard, where the Dolphins need a lot of help on the right side, and could even take over at right tackle for Vernon Carey a few years down the line.
TE Ed Dickson, Oregon
Dickson ranks as one of the top tight ends in the draft and arguably the best at this year' Senior Bowl, really challenged for that title only by Southern California's Anthony McCoy.
A three-year starter for the Ducks, Dickson leaves Oregon as the most prolific receiving tight end in school history with 124 receptions for 1,557 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Dickson is more of a receiving tight end than a blocking one, which could be a nice complement to Anthony Fasano or Joey Haynos in Miami. Dickson has the skills to develop into a productive NFL pass-catcher, and thus is someone for Miami to look at in the third round.
DT Cam Thomas, North Carolina
Thomas isn't the kind of guy that will blow anyone away with stats, as he recorded 83 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, and 3.5 sacks in 46 career games with the Tar Heels.
Still, nose tackle isn't a position about the glory, but about the grunt work, and Thomas can certainly handle that roll. He has the ideal size (6-3, 330) you look for in a nose tackle, obviously has great strength, and carries his weight well (yeah, we're looking at you, Terrence Cody).
The Dolphins sorely need a long-term nose tackle, as veteran Jason Ferguson might retire and Paul Soliai has the physical tools but hasn't produced. Thomas will certainly be available for the Dolphins to pick at some point, and I suspect he'll garner some consideration in the fourth or fifth round.
Which North squad prospects would you most like to see the Dolphins draft/sign? Share your thoughts on the forum here!