If it all went the way it was supposed to this year, Dolphins fans would still be talking about the 2014 Dolphins team in the middle of January. Instead, we’ve spent the last month looking ahead to the 2015 roster. And in perfect Dolphins fashion, we all have our own opinions on how that roster should look. Ask ten different Dolphins fans about the teams needs for next year and you’ll get ten different answers. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is for our fan base in recent history.
This weekend, we all get to sit back and watch some prospects that could help turn the Dolphins luck around. GM Dennis Hickey, who was present at the Shrine Game practices along with multiple Dolphins scouts, are looking to find a late round gem or two from this game that will help turn his January’s into something a little more meaningful next time around. I was at the practices this week as well and gathered a list of prospects that could fill some holes on the Dolphins roster for the 2015 season.
QB Taylor Heinicke - Old Dominion
In my opinion, Heinicke has separated himself from the other quarterbacks at the Shrine Game this week. His decision making alone makes him a viable option to be Ryan Tannehill's backup next season. Heinicke, FCS 2012 player of the year at Old Dominion, finished his career with a 67.7 completion percentage, 132 passing touchdowns and just under 15,000 passing yards. He is also capable of using his legs, gaining 1,320 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground for the Monarchs. Keep a close eye on Henicke during the game.
RB John Crockett - North Dakota St.
Crockett is a guy that has stuck out from day one at the Shrine game practices this week. At 6’0 217, Crockett has the ideal size, speed and power to be a diamond in the rough in this year’s draft. He’s as good off the field as he is on the field, which made the Dolphins scouts gravitate towards him before and after each practice. He was constantly encouraging other players, whether he was in the huddle or off to the side. Crockett excelled in all areas this week and should be fun to watch in the game. I was particularly impressed with his pass protection, his ability to hit small holes with authority and his catching ability out of the backfield.
WR Darren Waller - Georgia Tech
Before this week, Waller was described as a guy that couldn’t use his big size (6’6 240) to his advantage. I didn’t see that at all. Despite being matched up with quality cornerbacks in practice, Waller was winning almost every individual matchup. He was terrific at catch the ball at its highest point, which for him was usually above the goal posts. Scouts weren’t pleased with his route running though. He struggled with many short yardage routes. His game at his best primarily with one on one jump ball situations which could make him undraftable, but with some offseason technique work, Waller’s size could be enough for the Dolphins to sign him as a free agent wide-out.
TE Blake Bell - Oklahoma
You want size? Here he is. Oklahoma’s big tight end Blake Bell is 6’6 263 and moves like a landslide. Bell, nicknamed ‘The BellDozer,’ has been living up to his name all week here at the Shrine Game. Despite seeing very limited time as a TE in college, Bell looked every bit like a prototypical NFL player. He blocked well in both the passing and the running game, ran smooth routes and caught everything thrown his way. Bell is a guy that the Dolphins could get to add to their line and utilize in the end zone and could be got in day three of the draft.
G John Miller - Louisville
Miller is a big boy. Strong, wide and takes up plenty of space. He has tremendous lower body strength and the upper body power to move defenders with ease. The only thing that was troublesome was that the Shrine Game coaches were on him all week. Whether it were penalties or wrong blocking schemes, Miller was constantly hearing it from coaches. Whether or not he responded well to the coaching could determine how high Miller’s stock can rise in the coming weeks. His physicality cannot be overlooked and will translate well to the next level.
DT Chucky Hunter - TCU
I watched Hunter closely this week and one word constantly came to my mind to describe him - powerful. Hunter, listed as 6’0 and 307, plays much bigger and much stronger. During individual drills, Hunter was always the better man. He ripped through double teams, wrapped up ball carriers, and always finished plays through the echo of the whistle. As of now, Hunter is being mocked in the later rounds, but a good showing vs. a big East offensive line could help him raise his stock this weekend.
DT Tyeler Davison - Fresno State
Davison was a three year starter at Fresno St. He has the size to be a solid run stuffer at the next level and also the pass rushing ability to get to the quarterback. Davison recorded 8 sacks last season for the Bulldogs. Davison could be a cheap option to replace a guy like Randy Starks if the Dolphins choose not to bring the veteran back. With guys like AJ Francis and Kamal Johnson waiting in the wings, Davison will be a good, low risk player to bring into Dolphins camp.
ILB Ben Heeney - University of Kansas
Heeney’s size as an inside linebacker isn’t going to blow you away, but his effort, pursuit, tackling ability and knowledge of the game will quickly change your mind. Described by many scouts as ‘cerebral,’ Heeney has the ideal smarts that NFL teams love in the middle of their defense. If Heeney can turn some heads this week, and bulk up a bit this offseason, he’ll have a chance to move into the middle rounds of the draft.
CB Damian Swann - Georgia
Swann is a very physical, vocal player that matches up well with WR’s in the slot. He’d be used ideally as the Dolphins nickel CB and could be an upgrade over Jimmy Wilson and take over the role filled by Jamar Taylor if Cortland Finnegan isn’t brought back. You could hear Swann from a mile away at practice. He plays aggressively, but smart. A defensive back coach’s dream. Swann is on the smaller side, but has the speed to keep up with the Julian Edelman's and Percy Harvin's in the AFC East.
CB Justin Coleman - Tennessee
Another guy with a vocal presence and the game to back it up was CB Justin Coleman from Tennessee. The Volunteer was dominant in man coverage despite giving up a lot of size vs. much bigger wide receivers and made sure everybody knew it. He’s not an ideal fit for the Dolphins off man coverage preference, but could serve as a great Nickel cornerback in their system. Coleman will be tested a lot vs. a large WR corps on the other side of the ball, but my guess is he’ll be the one standing tall at the end of the game.
This column was written by Jeff Hyde. Follow him on Twitter: @Jeff__Hyde
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