The NFL Scouting Combine is often a chance for fans to watch the top prospects hit the field and prove their value as an early first round draft pick. With over 300 players rotating through Lucas Oil Stadium, however, the Combine is just as much about the later round prospects catching the eye of a general manager, coach, or scout, and solidifying their position in the NFL Draft in May.
This morning, NFL.com's Gil Brandt took a look at 17 players who may have been overlooked by the media and the fans, but caught his attention - and could be a day two or day three selection, or possibly a priority undrafted free agent. Several of the 17 prospects could be players on the Miami Dolphins radar, landing in South Florida this May.
While a lot of the focus for the Dolphins this offseason has, rightly, been on the need to improve the offensive line, Miami's draft will not solely focus on protecting quarterback Ryan Tannehill and opening lanes for running back Lamar Miller. In fact, the Dolphins could be searching for a new running back this year, trying to upgrade the Miller and Daniel Thomas tandem that struggled throughout the 2013 season.
Brandt pointed out two running backs, Georgia Southern's Jerick McKinnon and Boston College's Andre Williams, who, despite having smaller than desired hand size, could be interesting prospects. Of McKinnon, Brandt wrote:
McKinnon (5-8 7/8, 209 pounds) is built like a fire hydrant. He's short but is really well put together, and his speed and strength really attracted my attention. He was timed officially at 4.41 in the 40, and he threw the bar up 32 times (actually, 34 times, but two reps weren't counted because he didn't get the bar up all the way). He doesn't have very good hands (8 5/8 inches), but with his speed and strength, somebody will find a position for him and bring him to training camp, and his athleticism is sure to excite a lot of people.
And Williams' performance warrnted Brandt to write:
Williams (5-11, 230 pounds) is going to be an interesting player to follow in the draft because he doesn't have good hands. He's worked hard to improve but has a long way to go. The question mark on him is going to be whether you can play a running back who defenses will know is not going to be involved in the passing game. But he ran pretty well for a player his size, with a 4.57 40 (4.56 officially), and he's a really bright, deep-thinking guy with tremendous character.
Brandt also liked several of the wide receiver options, including Clemon's Martavis Bryant, Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews, and Ole Miss' Donte Moncrief. Miami could look to add depth to the receiving corps, behind starters Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, and Brandon Gibson. Of Bryant, Brandt explained:
Bryant (6-3 3/4, 211 pounds) was known as the "other" receiver at Clemson, where Sammy Watkins was the star, but he averaged about 20 yards per catch last season and was a big surprise at the combine, catching the ball very well and running faster than anyone thought he would -- I timed him at 4.39 seconds (4.42 officially). Watkins overshadowed him again at the event, but Bryant looked pretty good himself.
Matthews' performance earned this from Brandt:
Matthews (6-3 1/8, 212 pounds) has huge, 10 3/4-inch hands and posted 21 reps in the bench press. I had him timed at 4.45 in the 40 (4.46 officially). Everyone was worried about his speed, and some wonder whether he's going to be just a possession receiver. What I know about Matthews is that he's one of the hardest-working prospects out there. He's the guy who, whenever he stops playing football, will be a hugely successful person, whether it's as a politician or a banker or an entrepreneur. He's a really special guy.
And, finally, Moncrief, who is starting to see some support among Dolphins fans for a potential second round selection, had a performance that led to this from Brandt:
Moncrief is a big receiver (6-2 3/8, 221 pounds) with great speed; his 40 was timed officially at 4.40. He didn't play nearly as well last season as he did in his 2012 season, but he looked impressive catching the ball at the combine, and I thought he really helped himself.You can check out the full list from Brandt on NFL.com.