With the expected retirement of one of the greatest Miami Dolphins of all time, Jason Taylor, the Dolphins are suddenly very weak at defensive end. Although Miami has sack specialist, Cameron Wake, there is no player currently on the roster to take pressure off of Wake. Koa Misi is expected to “try out” at one of the three linebacker spots in the new 4-3 scheme of Defensive Coordinator, Kevin Coyle. Jared Odrick and Randy Starks were two of the better 3-4 defensive ends last season, but both are better suited as defensive tackles in Coyle’s scheme. While also bringing back Paul Soliai, there seems to be a “logjam” at defensive tackle, so do not be surprised to see Odrick opposite Wake to defend the run on non-passing downs.
This year’s draft class is stocked to the top with pass rushing talent. From the top guys like Quinton Coples and Melvin Ingram, to the middle guys like Whitney Mercilus and Bruce Irvin, Miami is bound to find a young specialist. Although most mock drafts have the Dolphins choosing a pass rusher in the first round (8), I believe they will wait until the third round (they have back to back picks in the third 9 and 10). There are a few guys that I believe are worth a look with one of those picks, or possibly even later on.
Cam Johnson (Virginia) – At 6’3” 268lbs., Cam Johnson fits the bill of a prototypical 4-3 defensive end. This kid has wrecked havoc against my beloved Miami Hurricanes for 3 years now, and he has destroyed Miami’s offensive line each year. He gets off of the ball extremely well, and shows great explosion up field. He uses his hands to keep blockers off of his body, and always remembers to stay home to prevent cut backs from occurring. One thing that Cam struggles with, is double teams. He simply does not possess the strength to fight through a two on one situation. If he can get into the weight room and put on ten pound of muscle, this kid could be an excellent addition to an already strong defensive line. He reminds me of Mark Anderson, who Miami lost to Buffalo. Both are similar in size and speed. If Cam can add some strength to his frame, he can be what Mark Anderson was supposed to be during his Chicago Bears days.
Grade: 3rd round
Jonathan Massaquoi (Troy) – Massaquoi has a similar build to Johnson, 6’2” 264lbs., and they both possess extraordinary explosion off the ball. While I was watching film of this kid, I could not help but see DeMarcus Ware. Both have long arms and a low center of gravity. Massaquoi, like Ware, gets his hands on the lineman to get around him, while also utilizing his speed. Massaquoi has trouble when a blocker can get his hands inside, which can be fixed with coaching and practice. He must get himself into the weight room to build on his explosion and punching ability. Although Massaquoi is like Ware, he should learn how to get low and use his lower body strength to power through blockers. Jonathan has the ability to be a serviceable defensive end for years, who would primarily be used on passing downs. With the right coaching, this kid can be superb. But he is a project player.
Grade: 5th – 7th round
Ronnell Lewis (Oklahoma) – Man, can this kid hit. At 6’2” 253 lbs., he is one of those “tweeners”. He reminds me of a mix between Von Miller and (I know I will catch a lot of glares for this) Lawrence Taylor. It remains to be seen if he can be effective in a 4-3 scheme (unless he adds 10-15lbs.) at defensive end, but he can be effective coming off of the edge. It was a struggle to find film where this kid was not making a huge hit, or ultimately destroying a quarterback. What I did find, is that this kid is a fighter. He sprints straight off of the ball, and uses his hands to fight off blockers. He would strive if a team were to use him similar to how Denver used Von Miller last season. He played a little defensive end and outside linebacker at Oklahoma, therefore I think he would be a perfect fit in a scheme like that. He does not have much of a weakness, other than he seems to wear himself out. He almost goes too hard from the get go, and by the end, he seems sluggish. Endurance could be an issue, but that can be fixed. Also if he is forced to play linebacker, he may struggle at times to cover quick running backs and tight ends. But with some experience, this kid will be able to figure it out and grasp it. THIS KID IS RELENTLESS!
Grade: 2nd – 4th round
Surely, Miami has many holes to fill through the draft. Pass rusher may be one of this biggest the front office is faced with, but they really should take a look at one of these three guys. Pass rushers can be found late in the draft and even through free agency. Although you do not want to see your favorite team pass up an opportunity to get the next premiere pass rusher, you also do not want to see them pass on the next premiere wide receiver (which I think Michael Floyd could be). Miami should have a strong draft, and for Dolphan Nation, let’s hope they do!