Senior Bowl 2011: The North's Most Intriguing Prospects for the Miami Dolphins
Just as I did last year, I'll be taking a look at 10 intriguing prospects on both the North and South rosters from this year's Under Armour Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
Keep in mind, these articles are not top 10 lists based purely on talent and potential. Rather, they are tailored to the needs and schemes of the Miami Dolphins.
Therefore, elite prospects at positions that are not of need to the Dolphins are not discussed here.
Now, on to the North prospects...
Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.
QB Jake Locker, Washington
Career Summary: Locker started most of his four years with the Huskies, excluding a portion of his sophomore season in 2007 which he missed due to a broken thumb. His best year came as a junior in 2009 when he threw for 2,800 yards and 21 touchdowns, while rushing for seven scores. He stayed in school for his senior year despite potentially being a top five pick in 2010, only to see his numbers dip across the board. He finished with a solid 2,265 yards and 17 touchdowns against nine interceptions.
Scouting Report: Measuring in at 6'2" and 228 pounds, Locker has a great arm and top-notch mobility with 4.5 speed. He has experience in a pro-style offense and is good with drop backs, footwork and mechanics. His accuracy has been a constant issue, whether planted or throwing on the run. He's not yet a good pocket passer and often takes too many risks under pressure. He has all the physical tools to succeed but is a bit of a project.
Fit in Miami? While I've not fully given up on Chad Henne, he's certainly going to be on a short leash even if he opens 2011 as starter, and the Dolphins are probably going to draft a potential replacement in April. Locker's stock is all over the place, ranging from a potential top five pick to a second-rounder. He could garner consideration by the Dolphins at No. 15 and would be even more appealing if they traded down into the late first and he was still on the board. He won't be ready to start in 2010, but he absolutely is a prospect worth grooming.
DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
Career Summary: A three-year starter at Purdue, Kerrigan was a two-time All-Big Ten selection and finished his career with 37.5 sacks and a conference record 14 forced fumbles. After seven-sack performances in each of his first two seasons, Kerrigan reached double digits with 11 sacks a a junior and a career-high 12.5 as a senior in 2010. He suffered a broken foot at the end of his junior season but returned for the beginning of his senior year.
Scouting Report: Kerrigan has excellent size at 6'4" and 255 pounds, with top strength and room to carry more bulk even, depending on where he goes in the draft. He has excellent technique as a pass rusher and is a sound, physical tackler against the run. His athleticism and speed are merely average, and he might not have the upside to be a truly elite and dominant pass rusher.
Fit in Miami? Despite playing defensive end at Purdue, Kerrigan would also fit nicely at outside linebacker in the Dolphins' 3-4 scheme. Obviously, Cameron Wake gives Miami a dominant pass rusher and the team did spend a second-rounder on Koa Misi in 2010, but he has far from established himself as a starter and more pass rush is always needed. Kerrigan doesn't fill a huge need in the first round, but if the Dolphins are drafting based on the best player available, he's someone that could be under worthy consideration at No. 15.
OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
Career Summary: Taking over at left tackle for the Badgers when eventual Pro-Bowler left tackle Joe Thomas graduated, Carimi started four years on the blindside at Wisconsin. He earned numerous honors throughout his career and took home the 2010 Outland Trophy as a senior. In his final season in 2010, he helped the Badgers rush for over 3,000 yards.
Scouting Report: Carimi has all the size you want, measuring in at 6'7" and 315 pounds. He has extensive experience at a major school and consistently displayed good pass protection and run-blocking skills. His athleticism is a bit questionable and his height can cause him problems when he doesn't bend enough.
Fit in Miami? Tackle is actually the one offensive line spot the Dolphins don't need, but Carimi could actually be a good addition. Veteran right tackle Vernon Carey is merely decent on the outside but would be an absolutely mauling guard. That would let the Dolphins draft a tackle prospect in the first if it meant it would also help fill one of the problematic guard spots. Carimi fits the mold of a Dolphins lineman and could be a nice pick at No. 15 or a little later in a trade down.
LB Mark Herzlich, Boston College
Career Summary: Herzlich was a highly-productive linebacker at BC, totaling 97 tackles his sophomore year and 110 tackles, 2.5 sacks, eight pass breakups and two interceptions as a junior in 2008. He missed his entire 2009 season, taking a redshirt year while recovering from a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing's Sarcoma. Returning to the field totally healthy in 2010, Herzlich notched 65 tackles and set career highs in interceptions (4) and sacks (3.5).
Scouting Report: Herzlich has ideal size for an NFL linebacker at 6'3" and 250 pounds. He possesses good strength, adequate speed and top-notch intangibles. His agility isn't all that great and he can struggle in space, making him a better fit inside in a 3-4 scheme. His health history is obviously concerning for teams considering a high pick on him, although the cancer has only a 3 percent chance of recurrence and that decreases as time wears on.
Fit in Miami? The Dolphins picked up one of the league's top 3-4 inside linebackers in free agency last year with Karlos Dansby, but the spot next to him could use a bit of an upgrade. Channing Crowder is merely average, and there is no depth to speak of behind him. Herzlich is an ideal fit in the scheme as a thumper with average agility and could be a nice pick-up if the Dolphins can work their way back into the second round by trading down in the first, like they did in 2010.
RB DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma
Career Summary: A three-year starter for the Sooners, Murray appeared in 50 career games and scored exactly that many touchdowns on the ground. He topped 1,000 yards rushing twice in his career, including his senior year in 2010 when he was a first-team All-Big 12 selection.
Scouting Report: Built well at 6'1" and 207 pounds, Murray has a great blend of size and speed. He's an instinctive runner with the ability to make defenders miss and the strength to push the pile. He also has excellent hands and is a great receiver out of the backfield with the talent to play receiver as well. His durability is a big concern, and he does have some issues with ball security.
Fit in Miami? The Dolphins may very well have a whole new backfield in 2011 with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams both slated for free agency and neither a lock to return, In that event, the Dolphins will need to address the running back position in the draft, in free agency or both. Drafting Murray in the second or third round would give the Dolphins a quality long-term tailback to be paired with a free-agent pickup.
WR Titus Young, Boise State
Career Summary: Young made an immediate impact with 639 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman at Boise State in 2007. He missed 10 games in 2008 when he was suspended for a violation of team rules but returned to earn first-team All-WAC selections each of his final two seasons. He topped 1,000 yards receiving in both 2009 and 2010, setting a career high in touchdowns with 10 as a junior and a 17.1-yard average as a senior.
Scouting Report: In a word, Young is explosive. He has potential sub-4.3 speed, great agility and athleticism. He is a tremendous deep threat and has a huge play-making ability once he has the ball in his hands. His size (5'11", 170) allows him to be blazing fast, but it also means he's pretty small by NFL standards. He's not a factor as a blocker and probably doesn't have the bulk to play in the slot. His character concerns stemming from his 2008 suspension will need to be checked out, but initial signs are that he's matured quite a bit.
Fit in Miami? The Dolphins landed their elite receiver last year in the Brandon Marshall trade, and they also have a great slot guy in Davone Bess. They could still use a deep threat and a legitimate No. 2 receiver, though, and Titus Young is that guy in the mold of a DeSean Jackson or Mike Wallace. The Dolphins would love if he fell to the third round, but his stock is skyrocketing and he's probably going in Round 2, even pushing the end of the first round. If the Dolphins find themselves in such a spot via trade, Young would be an excellent addition.
OT Nate Solder, Colorado
Career Summary: Originally a 245-pound tight end, Solder moved to offensive tackle in 2008 and missed only two snaps during his final three seasons. He allowed just five career sacks as the Buffaloes' blindside left tackle. He was a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection in 2009 and 2010, as well as a consensus All-American as a senior.
Scouting Report: The first thing you notice about Solder is his size, as he stands a whopping 6'8" and weighs 315 pounds. He's an excellent pass protector with good athleticism and quick feet. He's at the height where it starts to become a problem bending and stopping rushers that go low, though, and he also lacks ideal bulk for an NFL lineman. That being said, he has a ton of upside as a potential blindside tackle.
Fit in Miami? As discussed with Carimi, tackle is not a direct need for the Dolphins, but the addition of one could help fill a guard spot if Carey were to move inside. Solder might be the best tackle in the draft, so he's worth considering if he's there at No. 15. He probably wouldn't fall much farther.
QB Colin Kaepernick, Nevada
Career Summary: A four-year starter for the Wolf Pack, Kaepernick finished his career as one of the most productive quarterbacks in NCAA history. He is the only player in college football history to pass for over 9,000 yards and rush for over 4,000 yards in a career. As a senior in 2010, Kaepernick passed for 3,022 yards and 21 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,206 yards and 20 touchdowns on his way to WAC Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Scouting Report: Possesses ideal size at 6'5" and 225 pounds but looks a little lanky and lean by NFL quarterback standards. He has great speed and agility for the position and a top-notch arm. His arms are long as his delivery, and he played in a pistol offense that didn't really prepare him for the NFL. He has a huge upside but is raw and will need a lot of work before he's ready to start and excel.
Fit in Miami? The Dolphins are looking for a quarterback in this draft to groom if Chad Henne doesn't pan out, and they are reportedly high on Kaepernick. His stock is hard to place because of his mix of physical tools and raw nature, so he could go anywhere from the second round to the fourth round. He'd need a great pre-draft experience to go on the early end of that, but you can believe the Dolphins will jump on him in Round 3 or 4.
RB Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
Career Summary: After backing up Dantrell Savage as a freshman, Hunter became a three-year starter for the Cowboys and earned first-team All-Big 12 selections in 2008 and 2010. He played in only eight games and rushed for 382 yards in an injury-plagued junior season, but rebounded with 1,548 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2010 on his way to being named a first-team All-American.
Scouting Report: Hunter lacks ideal height at just 5'7", but he's built solidly at nearly 200 pounds. He runs instinctively and has excellent speed and agility with good receiving ability as well. His size isn't what you look for and that makes his durability even a bigger concern. Those things could force him into a situational role, although he does have starting ability.
Fit in Miami? As I mentioned previously when discussing DeMarco Murray, the Dolphins are in the market for at least one and maybe two running backs for 2011. Hunter might not have the size to carry the load in the NFL, but he's got a great all-around skill set and would be an excellent pick in the third or fourth round if you paired him with a thumper on your backfield, which Miami could pick up in free agency.
QB Ricky Stanzi, Iowa
Career Summary: Stanzi was a three-year starter for the Hawkeyes, improving his yardage and touchdown totals each season. He capped off his collegiate career with 3,004 yards, a 64.1 completion percentage, 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions on his way to becoming one of the most prolific passers in school history.
Scouting Report: Stanzi has ideal quarterback size at 6'4" and 221 pounds. He has a great arm, sound mechanics and plenty of experience at a major school and in a pro-style offense. His numbers improved consistently over his three years, and he has good football intelligence. His decision-making needs work and he isn't the most comfortable quarterback under pressure. He has some minor character concerns stemming from a 2008 arrest for possession of alcohol as a minor.
Fit in Miami? As discussed with Locker and Kaepernick, the Dolphins are in need of a quarterback to develop in case Chad Henne does not pan out. Stanzi is not regarded as an elite prospect, but he could go in the mid-rounds of the draft and has all the tools to develop into a starter down the line.