Mock draft season is about to reach one of the biggest factors into how these projections change during the offseason, when no football is actually being played. This week will feature the NFL Scouting Combine, with hundreds of potential draft targets descending on Indianapolis to prove their worth at the professional level. Before we get to that event, however, Mocking the Draft's Dan Kadar released a final pre-combine 2016 NFL Mock Draft.
Kadar starts in familiar territory, with the Tennessee Titans selecting Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, followed by the Cleveland Browns picking California quarterback Jared Goff. He then has the San Diego Chargers picking Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner, the Dallas Cowboys taking UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, and the Jacksonville Jaguars rounding on the top five with Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa.
The Baltimore Ravens add Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey with the San Francisco 49ers then picking North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz. The first seven picks set the board for the Miami Dolphins, who head into the Draft with the eighth overall pick.
During his last mock draft, Kadar looked at potential trades that could happen in the first round when the Draft arrives in April, and he had the Dolphins moving back from the eighth pick to the tenth spot, where they added Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland. In the new mock, Kadar returns to a pick he has previously made for the Dolphins, selecting Clemson cornerback Mackensie Alexander.
He explains the pick, as well as Miami not selecting a linebacker with the pick, writing:
Miami is low on talent in the defensive backfield, with few reliable options after Brent Grimes. But do the Dolphins need a cornerback more than a linebacker? Maybe not, but there's arguably more certain value with a cornerback. The best linebackers here are Jaylon Smith and Reggie Ragland. There could still be some concerns with Smith's health and Ragland's style of play doesn't lend itself to being a top-10 pick. Alexander has the talent to be a shutdown cornerback as long as he continues honing his technique. The natural physical gifts are apparent.
The explanation does make sense, and Miami does need to address both cornerback and linebacker this offseason. The team trying to make a trade to move back in the round and add an additional pick in a later round does make sense as well, though Kadar is not projecting trades in this mock. Smith would be a great choice for Miami, and he could be the next great linebacker, but he suffered a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee in January. The question will be, will Smith be able to play this season, or will a team be willing to draft him and wait until 2017 for him to get on the field?
Alexander does fit Miami's draft needs perfectly. He could become the starter opposite Grimes, but there are questions about Alexander as well. He is not always smooth in transition from the line of scrimmage down the field, and he does not come away with interceptions - as in he has no interceptions during his two seasons at Clemson.
According to a report from Matt Miller at Bleacher Report, there are concerns enough that teams may be dropping Alexander from a first-round target to a day-three prospect:
Clemson cornerback Mackensie Alexander left school after two seasons as a starter, but in talking to one AFC scout this week, they're not a fan of that decision. Three different team scouts confirmed this week that they have Alexander graded as a "Day 3" player given his smaller size (listed at 5'11", 195 lbs) and the fact he didn't record an interception at Clemson.
Rounds four through seven seem a bit of a far drop for Alexander, but it is worth noting that teams may not be as high on Alexander as many think. This could also be a smokescreen, with teams hoping to drop his value so they get a shot at picking him. The Dolphins should not have concerns of Alexander's height, given Grimes is listed at 5-foot-10, but he would have to prove he has the athleticism that Grimes has shown throughout his career.
Do you think Alexander is worthy of the eighth overall pick, this year, or should Miami look elsewhere?