The annual NFL Scouting Combine begins on-field drills tonight with quarterbacks, tight ends, and wide receivers taking the field. This week serves as a good introduction for many fans to the NFL Draft class and its prospects, who are participating in the most important job interview of their life.
To help Dolphins fans navigate the next couple of days, I’ve compiled a list of prospects at each position Dolphins fans should be paying attention to this week.
Quarterback: Kaleb Eleby, Western Michigan
The Dolphins aren’t in the market for a starting quarterback, and they’ve said this week a veteran free agent would likely fill the backup spot. However, for the sake of conversation, let’s talk about a potential third-string quarterback.
Eleby is the only quarterback worth caring about outside the top names in this class. He enjoyed a breakout 2021 season where he showed impressive downfield accuracy, toughness and the tools to be a solid backup quarterback for a long time.
It’s unlikely Miami even drafts a quarterback at all, but I think Eleby profiles well as a long-term backup, which would allow the team to stop spending money on free agent veterans every year.
Running Back: Tyler Allgeier, BYU
Something I wanted to do is target players I thought would be good scheme fits for what new head coach Mike McDaniel wants to do, and Allgeier is about as perfect as it gets.
The five-foot-11-inch and 225 pound running back has been a stalwart of the outside-zone running scheme for the past two seasons. He possesses good contact balance a physical mentality, and he understands how to read his blocks well.
What Dolphins fans should be looking for with Allgeier is what he runs in the 40-yard dash. The BYU product isn’t overly fast on tape despite some chunk gains being scattered across his film. If Allgeier runs a respectable time, he’ll shoot to the top of my Dolphins running back wish list.
Honorable Mentions: Breece Hall (ISU), Isaiah Spiller (Texas A&M), Kenneth Walker III (MSU), and James Cook (UGA)
Fullback/ Move TE: Chig Okonkwo, Maryland
— Dante Collinelli (@DanteCollinelli) February 7, 2022
Fullbacks are back in Miami! With McDaniel’s 49ers’ inspired offense coming to Miami, it means the team will likely be investing in a full back or at least a tight end that moves all-around the formation, including getting reps in the backfield.
My pick for that role is Maryland’s Chig Okonkwo. He lined up all over the place with the Terps and proved to be a potent receiving threat at all three levels of the field. He’s got the athleticism to make plays in the open field, the size to win at the catch point, and the right mentality to be an effective blocker.
This is a pretty important position in Miami’s new offense, and I think Okonkwo would be worth a day-three flier at the position, especially if he tests as well as I believe he will this week.
Honorable Mention: Connor Heyward (Michigan State)
Outside Wide Receiver: David Bell, Purdue
I decided to split the receiver position up since that allows me to cheat and include more names in an absolutely loaded group of players. Bell was a fixture of the Boilermakers’ offense for three seasons, and he was always productive no matter the quarterback play or the talent around him.
He’s got the size to play outside, and he’s a demon at the catch point with a ton of impressive body control catches throughout his tape. Bell isn’t an elite athlete on film, so his testing at the combine might mean a lot to his draft stock.
Miami needs to find someone to play on the outside that isn’t Devante Parker eventually. Bell could be that player, and he likely won’t cost a first-round pick.
Honorable Mention: Christian Watson (NDSU)
Slot/Speed Wide Receiver: Kyle Phillips, UCLA
I’d love to talk about Alabama’s Jameson Williams in this spot, but he’s not testing this week. However, I still think Miami should add a pure slot receiver to its roster. Someone to take the burden off of Jaylen Waddle a little bit and maybe allow the team to end the Isiah Ford saga.
Phillips fits the mold to a tee. He was tremendous at the East-West Shrine Bowl last month, and his film backs up that performance. He’s a shifty, crafty, and explosive route runner who is experienced at creating separation in the short areas of the field.
Phillips isn’t a burner, so watching out for his 40-time will be important, but I’d also recommend noting his 20-yard split.
Honorable Mention: Bo Melton (Rutgers)
Tight End: Trey McBride, Colorado State
There are not a lot of TEs who finish blocks like this anymore. Trey McBride killed the Broncos in this game. pic.twitter.com/Smsbbgw3rU
— Dante Collinelli (@DanteCollinelli) June 8, 2020
McBride is one of the best tight ends this class has to offer, so Miami might not get a chance to draft him, and I’m assuming fans are okay with that given the team’s recent history at the position. However, Mike Gesicki’s future is still up in the air, and there isn’t much behind him.
McDaniel described McBride as a “George Kittle type” player at his press conference yesterday in that McBride likes finishing defenders into the dirt just as much as catching touchdowns.
McBride is a unique prospect who boasts a massive frame, which makes him a menace when blocking and battling for contested catches. Although, the downside is that he tends to lack flexibility in his hips. Keep an eye on how McBride does on some of the short-area quickness drills this week.
Honorable Mentions: Charlie Kolar (ISU) and Jeremy Ruckert (OSU)
Offensive Tackle: Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
I like Penning (#70) for what he is. Good frame + length. Nice mean streak in the running game too. Just not there with the first round hype right now. Might change with more film, but I think I prefer Spencer Brown from last year. https://t.co/1GW1dTjtCj pic.twitter.com/cMdsMgpfzH
— Dante Collinelli (@DanteCollinelli) November 11, 2021
Penning has become a popular mock draft pick to the Dolphins at number 29 overall. It makes sense. Miami desperately needs a tackle, and they are probably too far down the board to get one of the top three in Evan Neal, Icky Ekwonu, and Charles Cross.
Penning was a Senior Bowl standout thanks to his massive size and physical mentality, which was so pronounced it seemed to upset the defensive players he was going up against.
Personally, I wasn’t overly enthralled with Pennings’ film, so a strong combine would go a long way to convincing me he’s worth the 29th overall pick — even as a developmental player. He’s quite tall, so pay attention to how he gets through some of the movement drills.
Honorable Mention: Bernhard Raimann (Central Michigan)
Interior Offensive Line: Zion Johnson, Boston College
Unlike Penning, Johnson is a player I’m comfortable drafting with the 29th pick regardless of how they perform this week. However, like Penning, Johnson was a standout at the Senior Bowl and is looking to build off a strong week there.
Johnson has a connection to the Dolphins’ current staff already. He was coached by Miami’s new offensive line coach, Matt Applebaum, while he was at Boston College.
Johnson projects best to center, but he’s got experience playing both guard and tackle at a high level in the ACC. He’s a great scheme fit for McDaniel’s offensive and fills a vital position of need.
Honorable Mentions: Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa) and Luke Fortner (Kentucky)
Interior Defensive Line: Phidarian Mathis, Alabama
This is another position where I’d be pretty surprised to see Miami make a selection come Draft night, but Mathis is without a doubt their type of player. He’s got years of experience playing all over the line and working a similar role to what Raekwon Davis did when he was at Alabama.
Mathis is a big-bodied, run-stuffer with good length and power to push the pocket and two-gap. That seems to be the prototype Miami likes in the middle of its line. He could also function as a base end, in a pinch, if the team loses Emmanuel Ogbah.
Seeing what Mathis’ three-cone time is and how he looks moving through some of the drills could alleviate some of the concerns about his movement skills translating to the next level.
Honorable Mention: Zachary Carter (Florida)
EDGE Rusher: Logan Hall, Houston
Speaking of potentially replacing Ogbah, Logan Hall is a player who could help Miami do that much better than someone like Mathis. Hall has the size and athletic profile to legitimately line up all over the line of scrimmage.
He can rush from interior alignments, stand up as an outside rusher, and drop into space if needed. That sounds like the type of player Miami would like to have upfront. He’d pair nicely long-term with Jaelen Phillips, giving the Dolphins two versatile athletic freaks on the edge.
Hall’s three-cone time and explosiveness drills should be pretty revealing of just how impressive of an athlete he really is.
Honorable Mentions: Arnold Ebiketie (PSU), Joshua Paschal (Kentucky), and Boye Mafe (Minnesota)
Inside Linebacker: Leo Chenal, Wisconsin
Leo Chenal’s film against Army is some of the funniest (in a good way) film I’ve watched this cycle. He shot the A-gap like this and blew up at least 6-8 plays before they even started.
He’s pushing for a top-50 grade from me. pic.twitter.com/xyWTCyVJDr
— Dante Collinelli (@DanteCollinelli) January 5, 2022
Oh, look at that, it’s me copping out again by dividing up a position group into multiple categories. Anyway, Chenal projects perfectly to replace someone like Elandon Roberts in the middle of Miami’s defense.
Chenal is an exceptional downhill player with the size to impact blockers at and near the line of scrimmage and the explosiveness to make plays in the backfield. He’s also one of the best blitzers this class has to offer, which is a premium in Miami’s defensive scheme.
The concerns with Chenal are centered around how well he changes directions and what he can do in coverage. Watching him go through some of the on-field drills might alleviate those concerns.
Honorable Mentions: Darrian Beavers (Cincinnati)
Outside/Coverage Linebacker: Brandon Smith, Penn State
Smith falls into the new linebacker category of “very athletic but very raw.” Miami could use a linebacker who specializes in coverage on the second level, and I think Smith has a fair amount of potential in that role.
He’s got the speed, size, and burst to handle tight ends in the open field while also being able to close down windows in zone coverages. I’m almost certain he’ll test well, but his work in the on-field drills will be more important to me.
What does his technique look like during coverage drills? How fast is he changing directions? Winning in those areas could make him some money this week.
Honorable Mention: JoJo Domann (Nebraska)
Cornerback: Roger McCreary, Auburn
— Dante Collinelli (@DanteCollinelli) February 2, 2022
I’m sure seeing that position with that school name sends shudders down the spine of all Dolphins fans, but hear me out. One, I don’t think Miami will invest in cornerback, and two, McCreary is a perfect fit for Miami’s scheme.
He played almost exclusively man coverage while at Auburn, which is something Miami’s defense has ranked near the top of the NFL in since Josh Boyer came aboard.
McCreary’s length is pretty questionable, but the rest of his profile seems like it would be right up Miami’s alley if they decided to surprise everyone again with a cornerback pick.
Honorable Mention: Akayleb Evans (Missouri)
Safety: Daxton Hill, Michigan
Watching some Daxton Hill (Michigan, SAF) this morning. This play stands out as Hill reads and reacts to the eyes of the QB, putting himself right in the throwing lane. pic.twitter.com/38FKLuqfkU
— Dante Collinelli (@DanteCollinelli) January 11, 2022
Safety is another position I don’t think Miami will invest in, but the thought of pairing Daxton Hill with Jevon Holland has me salivating at the mouth. Hill is an uber impressive athlete with long speed, change of direction skills, and short-area agility.
He’s got experience playing in single-high roles, in the box, and working as a primary slot cornerback. Getting him with Holland would give Miami two safeties who can play literally anywhere on the defense at any time.
Assuming Hill participates in all the drills this week, I imagine he leaves Indianapolis as one of the highest rising prospects from the event.
Honorable Mention: Jalen Pitre (Baylor)