The first hurdle of the homestretch of NFL draft season is upon us, as the NFL combine begins this week at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. A gathering of the football masses, scouts, coaches, general managers, and other personnel descend upon Indy to watch and evaluate the best players in college football eligible for selection in this May’s draft.
While being mostly known for its creative moniker as the “underwear Olympics”, as players are just working out in shorts and shirts instead of regular pads, the physical workouts done by the prospects provide teams with a glimpse at their athleticism and football ability. But even more importantly, each team to give insight into the mindset of these college prospects does individual interviews. Finsiders analyst John Congemi believes that while the workouts do hold merit, it’s the one on one time with the players that are invaluable to teams.
“The workout validates what the athletes are in terms of their ability, such as quick twitch motion or change of direction during the drills,” said Congemi. “But the one on one time and face to face interaction between the coaches, scouts, and general managers and the players is extremely invaluable, because you get a sense who these kids really are. That especially concerns the underclassmen, because you didn’t get to see or talk to them at the Senior Bowl.”
The players begin the combine with media availability and press conferences on February 20th, as Group 1, consisting of specialists, offensive lineman, and tight ends, speak on Thursday and do on field workouts on Saturday, February 22nd. Group 2, consisting of quarterbacks, wide receivers, and running backs speak on Friday, February 21st, and do on field workouts on Sunday, February 23rd.
Group 3, made up of defensive lineman and linebackers, speak on Saturday, and work out Monday, February 24th. Group 4, consisting of defensive backs, speak on Sunday, and participate in on field workouts on Tuesday, February 25th. It’s a grueling four-day process for the athletes, as they go through the most intense job interview they’ll ever have.
Every team has different needs and players that they’ll be looking at more closely than the others, and the Miami Dolphins are no exception. With needs at several positions on both sides of the ball, the Dolphins will likely be keying in on several guys, so here’s a list of a few players that could possibly be the center of Miami’s attention at the Combine:
Zack Martin - Offensive Tackle, Notre Dame
- Zack Martin of Notre Dame may not have the typical arm length of left tackles in this league, but he’s got almost everything else. Incredibly consistent, and well respected throughout the college ranks, the two time Notre Dame captain that started all 52 games in his career is the definition of solid. Proficient in pass and run blocking with a high football IQ, Martin is one of those offensive lineman that can fill in any hole on the line. He’s very athletic and flexible, and while he projects better as a guard than tackle according to some experts, he could very well end up as a very good left tackle in the National Football League.
Cyrus Kouandjio - Offensive Tackle, Alabama
- With the measurables of a prototypical left tackle in this league standing 6’5 and weighing in at 315 lbs, Cyrus Kouandjio has all the tools to be a left tackle in the NFL. He’s a road grading tackle, a big lineman that buries people and handles power pass rushers very well. He’s very physically gifted, but is a little bit raw. He doesn’t have the quickness of a guy like Zack Martin, but he’s a different type of player, a guy that’s more powerful instead of flexible.
Taylor Lewan - Offensive Tackle, Michigan
- Taylor Lewan is a guy who also has all the measurables of a left tackle. Standing tall at 6’7, you’d assume that Lewan would use his overwhelming size for a more powerful approach, but that isn’t exactly his game. While he does possess a lot of power, Lewan is more of a finesse lineman, and that’s not a negative at all. He’s very light on his feet, and moves laterally very well. He does possess very good balance, and rarely gets beat clean by opposing defensive lineman. Some compare him to former Dolphin and Wolverine Jake Long, and while he may not be as technically gifted as Long was when coming out, he projects to have a bright NFL future.
Tre Mason - Running Back, Auburn
- Even the average college football fan knows who Tre Mason is. A Heisman finalist, Mason was the workhorse for Auburn’s run-based offense, and excelled. He’s a sparkplug of a running back, very bruising in his running style and displays great quickness in space. Mason had the best season of any Auburn running back ever last year (yes, that includes Bo Jackson), as he rushed for a school record 1,816 rushing yards and broke the school rushing touchdown record with 23 TDs. That of course includes his sensational performances in the SEC and BCS title game, where he rushed for 343 and 195 yards respectively. Mason is a powerful back with good vision and instincts, and waits for holes to develop instead of forcing runs. He’s proficient in the passing game as well, as he has good hands, and great breakaway speed.
Carlos Hyde - Running Back, Ohio State
- Carlos Hyde is the guy that will get you the three yards you need on 3rd or 4th and short. A big bruising back at 6’0, 235 lbs, Hyde punishes defenses when he runs between the tackles, and excels inside. He sometimes creates his own holes, barreling through his own line, always running downhill, and leaning forward. He’s great in short yardage situations, especially because he always falls forward due to his running style. The Big Ten running back of the year rushed for 1521 yards and scored 15 touchdowns in his senior season after missing the first three games of the season due to suspension for an off the field incident.
Ryan Shazier - Linebacker, Ohio State
- Shazier is one of those linebackers who’s a true defensive playmaker. A good pass rusher with a lightning quick first step, the local product out of Plantation High School in south Florida racked up 45.5 tackles for a loss in three seasons at Ohio State (39.5 in his final two years with Buckeyes). Shazier moves very well in space, and can play at either inside or outside linebacker. He’s got sideline-to-sideline speed, and while may not have the ideal size of an NFL ‘backer, he makes up for it with his brute strength and athleticism.
Deone Bucannon - Safety, Washington State
- Who said that they don’t make headhunters in the secondary anymore? A first team All-American safety out Washington State, Deone Bucannon is a safety in the mold of the old school punishing defensive backs. He delivers the boom and then some to receivers across the middle, and supports the run well. It’s evident that he flies all over the field, given that he led the Pac-12 in tackles. More suited to be an enforcer rather than a pure cover safety, Bucannon is a guy who will never shy away from contact, and also performs well on special teams.
For the full list of players invited to the combine, click here.
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The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.