Miami Dolphins' Late Round Draft Targets: Running Backs
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With the NFL Draft taking place in April, teams have shifted their focus to those players leaving college having declared for the draft.
Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing a series of these articles looking at the potential prospects available for the Miami Dolphins to select. The focus will be on positions of need for the Dolphins, and will not look at those areas where there is already good depth.
The aim of this article is to look at the strengths and weaknesses of players declaring for the draft, and analyse whether they are a potential fit for the Dolphins.
The following players are running backs and full backs available for selection in the later rounds of the draft.
Bilal Powell, Louisville (4th Round) – 5’10’’ (height), 205lbs (weight), 4.52 (40-yard dash)
This power back has the burst to break through holes in the line, and he is difficult to bring down, which allows him to fight for extra yardage.
Although he doesn’t have the elusiveness to escape players in the backfield, he has good vision, and is capable of avoiding traffic thanks to this and good cut moves.
He may not be quick enough to run outside, and has only adequate hands as a receiver, but when catching passes he demonstrates good acceleration to get up-field as soon as possible.
He is well-built, so his burst is a surprise, and he is capable of bouncing off defenders and keeping his balance, or jumping over tacklers. His quickness is good for his size, although he sometimes forgets to secure the ball which can be an issue.
Powell’s vision on cut backs isn’t the best either, and although he can make defenders miss, he does run into traffic when there are running lanes open.
He can also struggle in pass protection, where although active in picking up blitzers, he can whiff on his assignment, looking to hit the defender with his shoulder instead of engaging them.
Any possible character concerns have been extinguished since he joined the Cardinals, which is a bonus.
His powerful running style would make him popular with fans and coaches, but his lack of breakaway speed could prevent him from ending up on the Dolphins’ radar.
As a fourth round pick he would offer excellent value, but Miami may simply be going in a different direction to the type of player that Powell is.
Derick Locke, Kentucky (4th Round – 5th Round) – 5’8’’, 186lbs, 4.40
The small-framed Locke offers the explosiveness that the Dolphins’ organization is looking for, but his size and durability is a concern, and he will be significantly smaller than most players on the field when he debuts in the NFL.
However, Locke is a triple threat prospect, and his speed and footwork has been compared to the Titans’ Chris Johnson (he of the 2,000 yards).
He ran a 4.40 40-yard dash at the combine, and can cut and turn magnificently, making him incredibly elusive.
His good vision helps him pick the right hole, and he can break long gains when given half a chance.
His quickness allows him to make defenders miss, and he is able to break arm tackles, although due to his size, he will usually go down on first contact.
He has soft hands, and is dangerous as a receiver, and makes an effort to secure the ball when in possession, but his injury problems are a big concern.
He missed time in all three of his seasons in college, and suffered serious injuries, including a torn MCL and ACL.
His size will limit him to being a feature back, and while he is a willing blocker with good technique, he simply does not have the size to be able to handle NFL defenders in that department.
Locke would be an interesting prospect in the mid-late rounds, as he is fast, elusive and exciting. He can break off big gains as a runner, receiver or kickoff returner, and the latter is another area of need for Miami which will add to Locke’s appeal.
However, his injury history is a worry, and this could be enough to end the Dolphins’ interest in him; but, if Miami choose to look above the injuries, there is a very exciting and dangerous running back, with a lot of potential, on offer.
Evan Royster, Penn State (5th Round) – 6’0’’, 218lbs, 4.65
A tough runner, Royster fights for the hard yards, and is very difficult to bring down.
However, despite having the size and build that would be expected from a workhorse back, he didn’t really have a chance to show that at Penn State.
While capable of breaking tackles and gaining every possible inch on the field, he is not the fastest runner, and lacks breakaway speed.
One of his greatest attributes is in pass protection, and he could play a big part in the passing game in the NFL as a blocker. He has excellent instincts, and is good at reading the defense.
His good football brain will help him make the transition to the pro-game, and his instincts mean he is able to find gaps in the offensive line.
However, there are obviously concerns that Royster is not quick enough to be a real threat in the NFL, and his 4.65 40-yard dash at the Combine confirmed some scouts’ fears.
Unlike Ingram, who offers a great deal else in his game other than speed, Royster does not have the all-round game to make up for a poor 40-time, and it might hurt his stock.
It is difficult to see Miami selecting Royster; he just doesn’t have the speed that Miami needs on offense.
However, if he fell into the 6th round, they might see him as a good power back that would complement a smaller, faster, running back. If that is the case, it is possible the Dolphins make a move for him, but it is a long-shot.
Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh (5th Round) – 5’7’’, 195lbs, 4.57
A very impressive combine performance from Lewis could push him further up the big board, as he showcased his good speed and elusiveness well in front of the NFL scouts.
He was excellent in drills, and showed teams that he has the speed and elusiveness to be a real threat in the running game.
Lewis has outstanding vision and consistently finds the hole when given the ball, and he has good burst. He is patient, and allows blocks to set up, while running low with excellent ball security.
While he is small, he runs low, so doesn’t get injured often, although his size means larger defenders can wrap him up easily, and he does not make enough yards after contact.
However, his elusiveness allows him to avoid tacklers in the open field, which helps him make extra yards.
He has good hands out of the backfield, and secures the ball quickly, but he is a poor pass blocker, and doesn’t give enough effort in this area.
Another concern is that despite his size, he lacks elite speed, and has a limited upside which may mean he plays more as a third down back.
His lack of speed means he can be chased down, and in 2010 he had just one run over 30 yards. However, he knows how to score points, and ran for 30 touchdowns in two seasons with Pittsburgh.
Lewis is a hard-worker, and that will appeal to Miami.
His impressive combine may boost his draft stock too, but teams will have to be wary about taking him too early.
However, he put up bigger college numbers than his predecessor LeSean McCoy, and judging by McCoy’s success in the NFL, this could help Lewis’ stock.
It is difficult to say whether Miami could select a player like Lewis; while he has many great attributes, his small size and lack of elite speed may be an issue for the Dolphins.
Noel Devine, West Virginia (5th Round – 6th Round) – 5’7’’, 160lbs, 4.34
One of the most intriguing draft prospects is the diminutive Noel Devine, scorer of two touchdowns in the Senior Bowl.
At just 5’7’’, and 160lbs, he is very small for a NFL running back, but his 4.34 speed will interest teams and excite the fans; something that the Dolphins are looking for.
He has elite quickness and elusiveness, but there are off-field concerns which could dampen some teams’ interest.
Elusive, and hard to find between 300lbs linemen, Devine has the vision to find a hole, and the ability to race straight through it for a big play.
Once in open space, he has elite speed and will not be caught, and he is capable of excellent cut moves or turns which makes it very difficult for defenders to lay a hand on him.
If they can reach him, NFL players will be able knock him down, but he is very hard to catch, and is a lot stronger than his size suggests with a muscular body and willingness to lower his pads.
Because of his size, he can bounce off piles and be tackled in the backfield, and he has a reputation for trying to dance through traffic inside.
His ball security has improved over his college career, although it can become loose when he begins making cuts.
His size means he will not be an effective blocker, and will be easily overwhelmed by linebackers, but he is capable of putting a block on a cornerback, and he is very dangerous on check down passes and screen plays.
He is less of a threat on deep passes where his hands can fail him, and this can be an issue for him on punt or kickoff returns too.
There are off-field concerns surrounding Devine though, as he has suffered injuries in 2009 and 2010, and he is not the same player when hurt. However, he is willing to participate in every offensive play from scrimmage, and that toughness is appreciated.
He endured a difficult childhood, where he was one of nice children, and both his parents died of AIDS before he was 11.
He has already fathered two children, and was in trouble in high school.
While at West Virginia he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanour battery charge from a fight outside a nightclub, although he was not suspended.
His decision to not take part in the NFL combine will also be a concern, and may hurt his stock; it isn’t clear why he made the decision either as no injury has been cited.
Could you pass up a player who has the potential to take it to the house on every play?
This is the kind of exciting player that Miami want, and the Dolphins should give him real consideration in the fourth or fifth rounds; any later and he would be a steal.
Although there are off-field concerns, his natural talent could override those problems.
Despite his size, Devine should be considered by the Dolphins, as he can bring the excitement that fans crave to the Sun Life Stadium.
Roy Helu Jr, Nebraska (6th Round) -6’00’’, 219lbs, 4.42
Helu is the sort of player that the Dolphins’ front office should love.
In addition to this, he was one of the fastest running backs at the combine, and has great size and bulk too.
If he is available late in the draft, Miami will certainly be interested. However, his speed and size is sometimes negated as he is too hesitant at the line, so he will need to run harder at the line to make the breakthrough in the pro-game.
Helu is a very explosive runner though, with great acceleration to the hole.
His hesitance can help sometimes, as he lets blocks develop before finding the hole, and then he has the speed to take it to the house once in the second level.
His good vision and cut moves help him gain extra yards, and he is quick out of his cut.
He can get the corner on defenders, and regularly makes the first man miss. In addition, he runs good routes, so could help in the passing game, even though he was rarely used in it at college.
He carries out play-fakes well, although he offers very little in pass protection, and struggles against the rush.
He has poor awareness when lead blocking too, but will likely not be used for this in the NFL.
Helu does go down easily at times, and struggles to escape tackles when wrapped up, but he can break arm tackles and lowers his pads to make the extra yards in the open field.
Overall, Helu is a prospect Miami will like.
One added attribute is his excellent leadership, and at Nebraska he earned a reputation as a real team player which will please the Dolphins’ front office.
Helu has the speed and agility that Miami require, and his attitude will sit well with them too. As a result, he should be considered in the mid-late rounds by the Dolphins, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him playing regularly in South Florida next year.
Mario Fannin, Auburn (6th Round) – 5’11’’, 225lbs, 4.38
Despite struggling at times in his college career, Fannin has many qualities that could see him succeed at the next level.
He is a violent runner, who likes to run through defenders, and he has good size and bulk which scouts will like.
He is also very fast for his size, running a hugely impressive 4.38 at the combine, and can outrun players in the secondary.
Although not the most elusive runner, he can make defenders miss, and as he has good balance—he is capable of making decent gains.
That sort of speed is something that Miami need on offense, and it could push Fanning into the middle rounds of the draft, instead of the late rounds where he is currently expected to go.
His main strength is as a north/south runner, and Fannin is also a big asset in the passing game.
A willing blocker, and solid route runner, he has lined up in the slot at Auburn (a college known for producing NFL-caliber running backs frequently).
He averaged around seven-yards per carry in two years with the Tigers, but was never a workhorse back, and the most carries he had in a season was 84 touches as a freshman.
Injuries are one reason for this, as he suffered a dislocated shoulder in 2008 as a sophomore, and an ankle injury in 2009.
A big concern with Fannin is his how often he puts the ball on the ground.
He doesn’t lower his pads enough when making contact with defenders, and his upright running style means he appears quite fumble prone.
While he is a very hard worker, who has great character references and is known as team player, he lacks good instincts, and often fails to find running lanes.
The fact that he turns 24 in his rookie NFL season also suggests that he will not improve these instincts.
Fannin’s attitude and work ethic will be a big bonus for whoever drafts him.
He will work to improve areas of his game where he struggles, and his size and speed make him an interesting proposition.
Whether the Dolphins will take Fannin over a smaller, more explosive back, is questionable, but he looks to be a decent fit in Miami, and would come under consideration in the final hours of the third day of the draft.
Damien Berry, Miami (7th Round) – 5’11’’, 212lbs, 4.63
A tough, physical back, Berry is strong and powerful, but he is a one-speed back who lacks the burst to clear holes at the line, and he struggles to escape defenders in the open field.
Berry initiates contact with defenders, and works hard to make tough extra lines, breaking tackles and keeping his legs moving when tackled.
He went his entire college career with the Hurricanes without fumbling once, and has the patience to allow blocks to develop before accelerating.
He is a smooth runner, and has a good change of direction to make defenders miss in the open field, but he struggles to identify opportunities, and as a result often does not capitalise on open space.
Relying solely on his ability to run through defenders, he does not represent a real threat for breaking off big gains due to his vision.
He is a very willing blocker, and is physical enough to take on linebackers or linemen in pass protection.
He has improved his hands in the passing game too, although he is not a threat after the catch, and he often looks downfield before making the catch which leads to drops.
Although he tore his ACL and MCL in high school, he was relatively healthy in college, and his injury problems may be behind him.
In addition to all this, he is a special teams coverage ace, and a hard working team leader who is well respected by teammates.
As one of Miami’s top special teams contributors, he would offer help in more than one area, although his ability as a feature back is limited.
He does not possess the speed that Miami require in the run game, but should the Dolphins not retain Brown or Williams, then he could be a nice late round pickup to make the hard yards due to his physical running style.
However, the Dolphins might look to focus on other areas instead of the power run game, and overlook Berry in favour of other needs.
Graig Cooper, Miami (7th Round) – 5’10’’, 204lbs, 4.65
Simply put, if Cooper has recovered from his injury problems, he could be one of the draft’s steals.
He never put up big numbers in college, having split carries with the aforementioned Berry, and suffered injuries over his career which derailed him somewhat.
However, Cooper’s versatility will interest Miami, as he is a threat in all aspects of the game. Unfortunately, his poor 40-yard dash at the combine suggests that he may not have reached his level of ability before injuries struck.
He has good receiving ability, runs routes well, playing out of the slot for the Hurricanes on occasions, and is a solid blocker.
He is a good dual-threat back, with excellent speed, and great explosiveness. This means he is hard to bring down in the open field, and is a touchdown threat whenever he touches the ball.
His agility and burst means he can avoid defenders, and he is projected to return punts and kicks in the NFL too.
With the exception of injuries, there are concerns that Cooper lets the ball get away from his body a bit, and this could lead to fumbles in the NFL.
He isn’t the strongest back in the draft, and needs to bulk up a little, and his ball-carrier vision is not the greatest; he frequently dances in the backfield instead of running straight ahead.
Despite a torn ACL in 2009, he recovered quickly, and is of strong character and is a good teammate, which will interest the Dolphins.
If his knee checks out he has the ability to be a good situational back, and he also brings special teams ability which Miami would appreciate.
As a late-round pick, he would offer great reward if the pick panned out and Cooper remained injury free. His college career in Miami might also play in his favour too.
As a seventh round pick, Cooper could be a steal if healthy, and he has the qualities that the Dolphins’ front office likes.
A late-round pick could pay dividends if Cooper stays injury-free, but it is unclear if Miami will take that risk.
Again though, there are concerns that he has lost some of his speed following injuries, and that could hurt his stock; a 4.65 dash is not quick enough for Miami. He needs to show he is faster than that to interest the Dolphins.
Charles Clay, Tulsa (5th Round), 6-3, 245lbs, 4.69
The versatile Clay lined up in many formations at college, and offers a good threat out of the backfield.
He is a good seam threat when used in this capacity, and teams might look to line him up at tight end as a result; something that would appeal to Miami.
He has good hands, and is a big target for quarterbacks, although his route running is not as crisp as some scouts would like, and he is not explosive after the catch.
As a runner, Clay is hard to bring down, but he lacks vision or elusiveness, and is seen to run too high by many scouts.
He is good in short-yardage situations, but Miami already possess a fullback with this quality. However, he is a reliable pass protector, and is a good blocker on screens.
He is not considered a dominant lead blocker though, and does miss inside targets.
He needs to deliver a stronger punch to sustain blocks, although he has potential in this area.
While injuries and inconsistent performances are issues which scouts will look at, Clay’s versatility may appeal to Miami.
He offers a good receiving threat, and could also play at tight end for his NFL team; another position of need for Miami.
He also has special teams ability as an outside protector on field goals, and one of three second-level blockers on punts, and this is something else that Miami are looking for.
Whether this will be enough for Miami to select Clay is unclear; his inconsistent blocking might lead the Dolphins to turn elsewhere in their search for a blocking fullback.
Anthony Sherman, Connecticut, (7th Round) – 5-10, 242lbs, 4.74
The Dolphins’ search for a new blocking full back could lead them on to this player, as Anthony Sherman certainly would fill the void.
Suitably, he shares a name with the Sherman Tank, and that describes his style of play.
He is a very powerful lead blocker, and is exactly what Miami are looking for at the position.
He might lack speed, which means he is not a threat as a runner, but current fullback Lousaka Polite can continue in that role.
Instead, Sherman is excellent at locating defenders in space to make his blocks, and is solid in pass protection too. In addition to this, he is a decent receiver out of the backfield, and that could be of use to Miami.
A three-year starter, and two-time team captain, Sherman is exactly what Miami need at the position.
He would come under real consideration in the last couple of rounds of the draft, but if he lasts until the final round, he would be a great pickup.
A quality blocker like Sherman could also have a good impact on special teams, and the Dolphins need that too. Expect him to be on the Dolphins’ radar.
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