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Scouting Combine Primer for Dolphin Fans, Part 1

On Wednesday, the influx of college football talent to Indianapolis begins. That's right - it's time for the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine. Though the on-field workouts don't begin until Saturday in Indy, the first group of positions report on Wednesday and begin going through the pre-exams, orientations, and interviews.

Every year, tons of people - fans and media alike - pay extreme attention to all of the drills that these potential draft picks go through even though they are barely wearing more than their underwear. Wouldn't it be better to see these guys run their drills - especially the 40 yard dash - in full pads? I guess that's a discussion for another day.

The bottom line here is that team scouts and scouts in the media put a lot of emphasis on these combine workouts. right or wrong, each player's performance on their specific day of drills will play a large role in where these kids get drafted in April's draft.

So the point of these posts is simple - to be very basic primers for some of the interesting story lines that are relevant to the Dolphins. And note that this is far from a comprehensive list. Instead, it's really an overview of just some of the things to look for.

How will Dez Bryant perform?
Whether you feel the Dolphins should draft Bryant (should he be on the board when Miami is on the clock) or not, his workout is going to be one of the most watched of the combine. On Tuesday, NFL Network's Mike Mayock was on a national conference call with the media and said that there have been some rumblings that Bryant was out of shape a few weeks ago. Considering he missed all but three games in 2009 due to his rather ridiculous suspension, Bryant's combine performance will be critical. He needs to prove that he's been working out and preparing for this. If the 6'2 Bryant measures in at around his playing weight of 215 to 220 pounds and runs a 4.4 to 4.5 40, he'll put everyone's fears to rest and solidify himself as an elite receiving prospect.

What will Rolando McClain run in his 40?
One of the most watched 40 yard dashes will come courtesy of the Alabama All-American linebacker. McClain is the best true inside linebacker in the draft. But when you turn on the film, one of the biggest complaints from those who aren't too high on McClain is his apparent lack of speed. Now a 3-4 ILB doesn't need to be insanely fast because they don't have to go sideline to sideline as much as a 4-3 MLB. However, the Dolphins already have a pair of slow starting linebackers and really don't need another one. On tape, McClain doesn't look exceptionally fast. But could that be because of the overall speed and athleticism on the Alabama defense he played in? Maybe. A good time for Rolando will be 4.7 or under. But if he times in at over 4.8, he's going to go down some slots in round one.

Which potential 3-4 outside linebackers will stand out the most?
One of the hardest things to do in the evaluation process of draft prospects is to figure out which college outside linebackers or defensive ends have the potential to play outside linebacker in a 3-4. Why? Probably because it requires a special skill set and most colleges don't run 3-4 defenses. Often times, athletic 4-3 defensive ends make the best outside linebackers in a 3-4. But it's always a risk to take one of those conversion guys early in the draft because you would be changing the kid's position and nobody really can be sure how he will take to the switch. Well the Dolphins obviously need to get younger and more athletic at the position and there are a number of potential candidates. Jason Pierre-Paul, Derrick Morgan, Ricky Sapp, and Brandon Graham are four potential conversion guys. Sergio Kindle, though, is probably the guy I like the most of all the possible 3-4 OLBs. Mike Mayock agrees, calling Kindle "an explosive edge rusher" who would "instantly upgrade" the Dolphins. In fact, he has Kindle rated as the seventh best player in the entire draft while he has the more heralded Rolando McClain ranked ten spots lower, declaring that he thinks "Kindle is a better player." But he'll have to show that he can do more than rush the passer - all of these potential outside linebackers do. The key drill will be the OLB positional drill when teams get a good look at how fluid these prospects are in their hips. An outside linebacker in a 3-4 has to be able to drop into coverage at times and they need to be able to change direction and swivel their hips easily. So keep an eye on those drills that test these kids' ability to do just that.

That's all for part one. Part two of this topic will follow tomorrow.