The 2016 Senior Bowl practices begin today, with general managers and scouts from all 32 teams watching every move a potential draft prospect makes. The Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staffs will run the players through drills and build a game plan for Saturday's game, though it is really the four days of workouts that matter when it comes to evaluating a player. This week should not supplant film work as to the draft value of players, but it should supplement those evaluations.
The Miami Dolphins head into this offseason with several needs across the roster, needs that should be addressed primarily through the Draft this year. Who could Miami be trying to watch closely during the Senior Bowl week?
Reggie Ragland, linebacker, Alabama
Ragland should be one of the first linebackers to come off the board in April, and he fits perfectly into Miami's needs. The debate of whether Ragland looked good just because he was behind Alabama's defensive line will continue, but he could start to quiet those as he works his way through the pre-Draft process. Miami has to get an idea of exactly what Ragland would be for the team, because there is a chance he is sitting on the board when the team picks eighth overall.
Jalen Mills, cornerback, LSU
While the Dolphins need to address the linebacker position on defense, they also need to add to the cornerback position, likely adding a starter opposite Brent Grimes, or, potentially, trying to replace their top starter. Mills is 6-foot-2 and has played both cornerback and safety. He needs to prove he can be a consistent tackler and can support the running game, but the Dolphins will not be looking for him to do that right away. Mills is probably a Day 2 pick, and Miami could keep him on the radar for the second- or third-round.
Austin Blythe, center, Iowa
The Dolphins need offensive line help, particularly in the interior. Blythe, who is listed as a center, could be moved to guard and fill one of those two positions from day one. He has the skill set and athleticism to make him a viable option for Miami if they are looking to the Draft to fix the offensive line. He probably is not going to be picked early in the Draft, so Miami should try to get a good read on him this week and keep him as a target for Day 2 or Day 3 of the selection process.
Joshua Perry, linebacker, Ohio State
Perry played outside linebacker at Ohio State while Miami likely needs to start at middle linebacker in their upgrade of the position. That does not mean the team could not keep Perry on their board for the second- or third-round of the draft process. He flies all over the field and finishes tackles, which is exactly what the Dolphins need from a linebacker. He can over-pursue at times, but that is something that can be coached. If Perry can prove his athleticism transfers into being able to cover NFL tight ends and running backs, he could be a great pick-up on Day 2.
Carson Wentz, quarterback, North Dakota State
The Dolphins are not going into this year's Draft with a first-round quarterback in their sights, no matter what some of the beat writers say. Ryan Tannehill is the starter for the team, and adding a first-round draft pick (a) only confuses the depth chart with another first-round priced quarterback and (b) does not add any talent to a team that has holes that need to be filled. Adding a quarterback later in the Draft, however, makes sense. That's where Wentz comes into play. He is generating draft buzz already, and, with a great showing this week, as well as in the Scouting Combine and Pro Day workouts, could find himself a second- or third-round prospect for the Dolphins. If he ends up working his way into a first-round grade, the Dolphins are out, but if he is available on Day 2, the Dolphins could find their backup quarterback and provide the push Tannehill needs behind him this season.
Braxton Miller, wide receiver, Ohio State
The Dolphins are not likely to use an early round pick on a wide receiver, but Miller will be intriguing for scouts all week. Converting from quarterback to wide receiver last year, teams could be looking at him as an answer to multiple positions including receiver, quarterback, or running back. He may not be a realistic choice for Miami, but if he is on the board later in the Draft, there is no reason why Miami could not consider taking a flyer on an explosive offensive weapon.
Cyrus Jones, cornerback, Alabama
There are some character concerns (a dropped domestic violence charge to start) that come with Jones, but if he can interview well with teams, he could be a mid-Draft option. He is in the small-cornerback mold that Miami currently has, while the team likely needs to be looking for a big-bodied cornerback, but he has played well since making the move from wide receiver in 2013 and the Dolphins could take a closer look at him this week.
Jonathan Williams, running back, Arkansas
After missing the 2015 season, Williams has to prove that he is healthy. The Dolphins could be interested in a running back this year to pair with Jay Ajayi, if the team is unable to bring back Lamar Miller. Williams was one of the top seniors at the position heading into the season before his foot problems, so he will be looking to prove he can be what people thought he was prior to the season. How far will he slide really will determine if the Dolphins are truly interested.