Welcome back to Mock Draft season. Between now and the actual NFL Draft at the end of April, speculation, rumors, and flat out guessing will take place all around the internet (and including right here on The Phinsider) as people attempt to predict what all 32 NFL franchises are thinking when it comes to college prospects. We all love the mock draft, and we all debate them as much as we can.
Today, we can debate one of them. SB Nation released their latest 2015 NFL Mock Draft on Monday. When it comes to the Miami Dolphins, author Dan Kadar has them looking to shore up one of their biggest needs from the 2014 season.
Miami opened the year with questions surrounding their offense, a new scheme being put in place by offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, and the development of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The defense, however, was expected to be stout against the run, be able to pressure quarterbacks non-stop, and have a secondary that, with new additions such as cornerback Cortland Finnegan and safety Louis Delmas, should be able to cover. At the end of the year, the offense seemed to be progressing nicely, Tannehill was taking that next step forward, and the defense was no where to be found.
One of the biggest issues for Miami's defense all season was in the linebacker corps. Injuries decimated the group before the season even started, but, even as some of those players began to return, the level of play did not elevate. Jelani Jenkins, who moved into the starting lineup when Dannell Ellerbe was injured, quickly established himself as the future for Miami's linebackers. Koa Misi, who was hurt for much of the season, was a solid, if unspectacular, midddle linebacker, playing the position for the first time in his career. Philip Wheeler continued to disappoint, appearing at times to lose snaps to Dion Jordan, Chris McCain, and Jonathan Freeny, among others.
To fix Miami's linebacker issues, Kadar sees the team addressing the spot with the 14th overall selection:
14. Miami Dolphins: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
Koa Misi played middle linebacker for the Dolphins this season, and was serviceable. He’s better on the outside, though. A player like Thompson has the skill set to play inside or on the weak side. He would give Miami a dynamic, versatile athlete on defense.
While Thompson, a Junior, has not declared for the draft yet, NFL.com's Bucky Brooks took a look at him, and the fact that he played both linebacker and running back at Washington, earlier this year. He wrote:
No one is currently [playing two-ways] better than Washington OLB/RB Shaq Thompson. The 6-foot-1, 228-pound junior is unquestionably one of the top defenders in college football with the size, speed and athleticism to wreak havoc on opponents as a versatile defender on the edge. He has the first-step quickness and burst to blow past blockers on blitzes, while displaying the instincts, awareness and cover skills to pick off errant passes in coverage. Thompson's combination of athleticism, anticipation and awareness have helped him score four defensive touchdowns this season on a variety of "scoop-and-score" chances (fumble recoveries) and pick-6's that will endear him to defensive coordinators around the league.
On offense, Thompson is starting to make his mark as a dynamic running back with impressive skills as an inside runner. Utilizing the same athleticism, speed and burst that make him a terror off the edge, Thompson has churned out big plays on the ground by exploding to the second level on inside runs off zone-read action. The junior standout repeatedly ran through and/or around defenders at the point of attack.The hefty workload not only showcased Thompson's skills as a potential feature runner, but it highlighted his remarkable athleticism and toughness. While most two-way players are only given spot duty on one side of the ball, the fact that Thompson thrived as a major contributor suggests that his talent is far superior to others manning the position on the Huskies' roster.
What do you think of the selection? Should the Dolphins address linebacker with their first round choice, or is there some other pressing need you would rather see selected this early in the process? Do you think Thompson could be a candidate at that selection? Could he go higher, as Sports Illustrated seemed to predict this week?