The Miami Dolphins have struggled with finding a linebacker capable of covering a tight end for way too long. In a division that features Rob Gronkowski, that is a horrible issue to have. Every time the Dolphins seem to have linebackers ready to solve the problem, injuries or a decline in play seem to immediately jump up and bite them.
Is part of the problem the lack of a pass-catching, seam-threatening tight end against who to practice?
This year, the Dolphins will be looking to add a linebacker in the Draft - someone they can line up with Raekwon McMillan and Kiko Alonso, locking down the linebacker corps for at least the 2018 season. Are there coverage linebackers the team can find this year?
- Roquan Smith - One of the top prospects projected to the Dolphins with their first-round pick, Smith is an excellent coverage linebacker who would be able to immediately step in to a starting role with the Dolphins. Smith flies around the field and can make plays just about anywhere.
- Tremaine Edmunds - The other option to be the first linebacker off the board, Edmunds can play anywhere in the linebacker positions, and he would give the Dolphins the flexibility at the position they covet. He is probably a better run-stopper or pass-rusher than he is a coverage linebacker, but he has the speed to be able to fall into that role.
- Leighton Vander Esch - He plays like a run-stopper/pass-rusher, using his size to his advantage, but Vander Esch has the quickness to also be a really talented coverage linebacker. He needs time to add more strength for the NFL game, but he should be able to contribute as soon as he gets selected - likely in the second round.
- Rashaan Evans - Potentially a star run-stuffing middle linebacker, Evans still has a ton of speed that could be used as a weakside linebacker asked to cover. He is a really strong sideline-to-sideline player, but he might not fit the Dolphins perfectly as they already have McMillan who is a run-stopper, power linebacker and Alonso who is best as a middle linebacker despite being asked to play outside last year.
- Darius Leonard - He gets behind the line of scrimmage in the run game really easily, but he also has coverage abilities that were on display at the Senior Bowl. He is a Day 2 pick (second- or third-round) and he can help with both coverage and rushing the quarterback, likely as a weakside linebacker.
- Jerome Baker - His size likely forces him to play as a weakside, outside linebacker, but that could be exactly what Miami needs. He has good speed and coverage instincts, even if he is not great against the run. There are questions if he is going to be able to be a three-down linebacker, of if he is more of a nickel, coverage specialist. Probably a third-round pick, Baker could give Miami a rotational coverage linebacker early in his career as he works to add muscle.
- Shaquem Griffin - You had to know he would make my list of potential linebackers for the Dolphins. Griffin has unmatched speed for player his size and position. He is probably more of a pass-rush linebacker than he is a coverage guy, but he can do just about everything asked of him as a linebacker. His exceptional Combine performance included showing he has coverage skills, even if he is better at getting after the quarterback. Guessing where an NFL team will draft him is futile.