Drafting a defensive back that offers flexibility to cover deep center field, kick inside to the slot and even play a quasi-linebacker role was in the cards for the Dolphins prior to the Isa Abdul-Quddus injury news. That unfortunate neck injury forces the Dolphins hand and now the aforementioned type of player is vaulted near the top of the Dolphins’ need list. One could argue that it is the most pressing issue despite the fact that Miami has one of the league’s best safeties in Reshad Jones with a shiny new contract.
Pairing Jones with a rangy player allows the Dolphins pro bowl safety to do more things close to the line of scrimmage where he excels even more so than in single-high.
Much like a few other positions, this safety class is loaded. Four will certainly go in the first round and a fifth could possibly sneak in. Two are likely to be long gone by the time Miami picks and two have a real possibility of being on the board when the Dolphins make their selection.
Day 1 Options –
Malik Hooker and Jamal Adams.
There is not enough effusive praise to go around for both of these players. Hooker’s interception reel is as impressive as any safety that most professionals have scouted. He’s rangy with instincts and ball skills rivaled by none.
Adams, on the other hand, is the alpha type that brings the lumber and an intensity matched by few. NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks made a comment on the Move the Sticks Podcast that several personnel department folks told him that when Jamal Adams enters the room, he changes the temperature. By that, he means that he commands the attention of everyone in the room.
Those skills, leadership qualities and outstanding tape for the Ohio State and Louisiana State products puts them out of range for Miami sans a trade-up.
Jabrill Peppers – Michigan
Games: Colorado, Penn State, Illinois, Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio State
After watching Peppers’ games live, I was convinced he was a tweener that would have a difficult time carving out a niche in the NFL. After re-examining the tape post-season, my eyes were opened. Peppers was known as a Swiss Army knife at the collegiate level playing offense, defense and special teams.
At the scouting combine, to go along with the possibility that he’s an elite return man the minute you draft him, he worked out as both a linebacker and safety. The athleticism, fluidity and ability to play further off the line of scrimmage was evident.
His turnover production was essentially nil at Michigan, but that’s more of a function of the role he was asked to play. He was a force stopping the run and well as a havoc wreaking zone blitzer. His pre and post snap recognition usually gets him in the right spot and he arrives with force.
His burst, quick twitch and instincts jump off the tape. He registered 16 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in 2016 and his absence in the Orange Bowl left the Michigan defense in shambles.
Scheme Fit: I think this is becoming more and more of a foregone conclusion. If Peppers is on the board when the Dolphins pick, he’s the choice. He can give this defense a much needed 800 plus snaps as a rookie doing the things mentioned above playing next to Reshad Jones and potentially stealing some snaps from Bobby McCain.
Budda Baker – Washington
Games: Arizona State, California, Oregon, USC, Washington State, Alabama
I’ve been told by people I trust that he isn’t a similar player to Peppers, but I can’t help by recognize so many similarities. That alpha presence is apparent in each, the short area quickness, the compact build that allows them to dip in and out of breaks quickly provides tons of explosion.
Baker has sideline to sideline ability evident by his high school state title as a sprinter. He will cover every blade of grass on the field and is willing to stick his nose in, in run-support. That’s not to say he’s not without his warts – he could improve as a tackler.
He can drop into the deep portion of the field but he’s also adept at playing in tight press coverage. He has the hips and quick feet required to play the toughest position in the NFL – slot cornerback. His ball skills jump off the tape, his recovery speed is exquisite and even though I’ve used this term on every player in this piece, he’s an alpha-male.
On a Washington Huskies defense that features more NFL talent than not, Baker stood out each and every Saturday.
Scheme Fit: Like Peppers, he gives you a variety of options. The one caveat to the mention of Peppers being the pick is that the team could very well choose Baker. His recovery speed and sideline to sideline ability might be the thing that sways the Miami scouts to fall more in love with the former Husky than Wolverine.
Round 2 and 3 options coming soon…