This week’s Senior Bowl unofficially kicks off the path to this April’s draft, with NFL personnel in Mobile, Ala. to get an up-close look at some of the nation’s top senior prospects.
As the Dolphins begin to narrow their focus — free agency will be a part of this process, of course — areas of need, positional targets, will become clear. For now, though, many are speculating that defensive end and wide receiver will be addressed, potentially in the first round (no. 12 overall).
If Miami does end up looking to pick an athletic pass rusher in the top half of the first round, Kiper Jr., a staple of ESPN’s draft coverage since the early ’80s, said there will be plenty of guys to choose from.
“Whether it’s front seven guys in general or just the defensive linemen, this is a great year,” Kiper said in a conference call last week.
Better yet — for the Dolphins, at least — several draft-eligible defensive prospects could slide into a 4-3 defense’s line rotation. The first-round options in last year’s draft were hybrid-type guys, players like North Carolina’s Quinton Coples (Jets) and South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram (San Diego).
This year, though, it appears there are more traditional, hand-in-the-ground defensive linemen that could make an immediate impact, Kiper Jr. said.
“You have potentially, right now, 12 or 13, 14 defensive linemen going in the first round,” the ESPN draft analyst said. “And they’re all first-round caliber. This isn’t a force. These guys would be first-round caliber players or in the first round just about any year.”
So, who stands out in a such a deep group? Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore and Georgia’s Jarvis Jones are at the head of the class, each perhaps in line to become the first pick, which should put them out of the Dolphins’ range. More realistic options include: BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah and LSU’s Barkevious Mingo. The former, a 6-foot-5, 370-pound end, is an elite athlete, whom Gil Brandt and others have said could have a Jason Pierre-Paul-type ceiling.
“From a pass rush standpoint, with his size, his long arms, the length, the athletic ability, the performance level he came through with this year, he skyrocketed for obvious reasons–you want pass rushers, and you want versatility,” Kiper said on Ansah, who arrived at BYU as a track athlete before joining the football team.
Mingo is also a bit of an unpolished prospect; he didn’t begin playing football until his junior year of high school. After a breakout 2011 season — 15 tackles for loss and eight sacks — the redshirt junior’s stats dipped a little, underwhelming Kiper a bit, though he’s still relatively bullish on Mingo.
“He’s going to test out off the charts,” Kiper said. “He can play up or down. So he can play in a 3-4 or a 4-3. I still think he’s going to go fairly high.”
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.