The Miami Dolphin spent much of the 2016 NFL Draft bouncing into and out of various draft picks. At the end of the three-day selection process, they had eight new rookies to add to the team. While the big story of the Draft, both for the Dolphins and for the league itself, was first-round pick Laremy Tunsil, any and all of the players selected could be in a position to become an immediate contributor to the Dolphins this season.
Will that happen with Penn State defensive back Jordan Lucas, whom Miami selected in the sixth round, using the 204th overall pick? SB Nation's Black Shoe Diaries, covering all things Penn State, gives us a little better look at Lucas.
"In that 2013 season [as a sophomore], Lucas was all over the place," Noel Purcell wrote prior to Draft. "He was third on the team in tackles, behind linebackers Mike Hull [current Dolphins linebacker] and Glenn Carson, and sixth in tackles for loss. He played out wide and also covered slot receivers at times, the first showings of his excellent versatility. He did all this while also being the team's most valuable cover corner. He tied with Ryan Keiser for the team lead in interceptions with three, forced two fumbles, and led with thirteen defended passes."
Moving to Lucas' junior year, Purcell continues, "In 2014, Bob Shoop took over and the Penn State defense became one of the best in the country. Lucas recorded 59 tackles (third behind Hull and Nyeem Wartman-White), seventh in tackles for loss (the most of any secondary player on the team), and was sixth in the Big Ten in passes defended with nine. Though he had no interceptions, this was more a case of teams not throwing at his side of the field. Teams learned that trying to attack Lucas was a poor decision."
This past season, Lucas moved from cornerback to safety, a move that highlight's Purcell's look at Lucas as a senior. "That [2014-2015] offseason, [starting Penn State safety Adrian] Amos departed for the NFL, and Penn State had a hole at safety. The versatility and leadership Lucas showed in his career came through in full, as he made the position switch in the offseason. Always an adept tackler with a nose for the ballcarrier, Lucas took to the position well. Though injuries held him to just nine games, he again led all secondary players in tackles (56), had three passes defended (fourth behind mega human Anthony Zettel, his replacement at corner in Grant Haley, and breakout linebacker Jason Cabinda), and logged his fourth career sack. He took a bit of adjusting, but Lucas made the transition from man cover corner to safety very well."
After reviewing Lucas' career, Purcell turns to exactly what Lucas could be bringing to Miami. "First of all, you're getting a leader," he writes. "Lucas is a three-year starter at two different positions in the secondary and was a team captain as well. His 4.45 40-yard dash and 38-inch vertical leap show the foundations of a very interesting project secondary player. He has great skill in run support and is smooth on turns. He also showed excellent man coverage ability, as evidenced by his 25 passes defended, despite not being a great interceptor of the ball. He has good closeout speed and rarely beats himself. He's not the elite athlete many are looking for at corner now and is no ball hawk, but could provide value there, at safety, and on special teams based on how he develops."
After Miami selected Lucas, Nick Polak added to the Black Shoe Diaries coverage of the defensive back. "Lucas first made a name for himself at Penn State as a shutdown cornerback, proving a lot of people wrong about his skills on the outside. His ability to step up and be a big-time player on the boundaries allowed the Nittany Lions to push Adrian Amos to safety, forming a very dangerous secondary."
He continued, "After Amos moved on to the NFL, Lucas simply followed in his footsteps. Thanks to his speed, athleticism, and hard-hitting ability, Lucas was a natural fit at the safety spot for Penn State. His leadership and playing ability were a big reason that the defense hardly skipped a beat moving on from the extremely talented Amos.
He will likely start off his career as a special teamer," Polak concluded, "something he should excel in, but his ability to alternate between safety and corner without any drop-off or adjustments needed should help him find his way onto a depth chart sooner rather than later."
The Dolphins seem to be leaning toward Lucas playing as a cornerback, looking for him to use some of his physicality to be aggressive at the line of scrimmage and in coverage. The flexibility to be able to play safety if needed will be a benefit for the Dolphins, and one that could be a big part of keeping Lucas on the active roster this year.
Miami clearly needed cornerback help this offseason, and appear to have completely reworked the position. There are a lot of young players who will have to prove themselves in 2016, but the players the Dolphins have added all seem to fit one common mold, and one defensive coordinator Vance Joseph seems to want in his secondary.