Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay of ESPN both have the Miami Dolphins selecting Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain with the 12th overall pick in the draft. If he's there on draft day, the Dolphins can't possibly pass on an opportunity like that.
McClain has drawn comparisons to Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens and Patrick Willis of the San Fransisco 49ers. He was the "Mike" linebacker for the Crimson Tide since he was a freshman, and last season recorded 105 tackles with four sacks and two interceptions. Scouts Inc. gave him a grade of 95, tops for his position.
The guy is a tackling machine who dominates against the run. His instincts and recognition are elite, and at 6'3" 245 lbs, McClain packs a powerful punch. When he makes contact, he explodes into his opponent and makes them think twice about coming at him the next time around.
There are few opportunities to draft specimens like him. Linebackers of McClain's quality don't come around often and the chances of actually landing one are even less. Forget the fact that he didn't run at the Combine, there's plenty of game film that says more than enough to back him and there's always the chance for McClain to showcase his skills on Pro Day.
The knock on the Bama backer is that he was benefited by playing behind 354-pound nose tackle Terrence Cody, and that McMclain's collegiate success might not be duplicated without the help of a reliable nose.
"I always get that question," McClain said. "I don't know. I don't know if [Cody] sheds off two blockers. He does his job. It's a defense. He does his job or he doesn't play. He did his job and I did my job."
You won't get much more than than from McClain no matter what the question. He's straight business, and from what he's shown thus far the transition to the NFL shouldn't be a problem with or without help up front; he's smart enough and talented enough to adapt no matter what the situation.
McClain has all the intangibles to be an All-Pro inside linebacker in the NFL. His skill-set, intelligence, demeanor, and leadership all point toward a quick adjustment to the big stage. Don't be surprised to see the 21-year-old linebacker take home the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He's ready to step in immediatly and provide a big-time boost to any defense lucky enough to draft him.
The Dolphins may have more pressing needs, but if Kiper and McShay are right, the choice at 12 will be an easy one. Incumbent starters Channing Crowder and Akin Aydele combined for 122 tackles in 2009. The pair's lackluster performances have Bill Parcells and general manager Jeff Ireland looking for replacements in the middle.
Karlos Dansby of the Arizona Cardinals may be an option in free agency. But even if the Dolphins land Dansby they'd probably still pull the trigger on McClain if given the chance. The two of them together would probably be the best inside linebacker duo in the NFL.
Regardless of the team's outcome in free agency though, the talent McClain brings to the table is too good to pass up. A lot of people think Miami's first choice in the Draft would be wide receiver Dez Bryant, but Bill Parcells' history says otherwise.
Parcells has only selected one receiver in the first round throughout all his yeas as a head coach, general manager, and now vice president of football operations. Bryant is an exceptional talent, but the Dolphins brass prefers to wait on wideouts.
Linebackers are a different story. If McClain and Bryant are both on the board, Parcells will take the Alabama linebacker with a wide grin knowing he's just committed robbery.