The Miami Dolphins could use a long-term answer at safety opposite Reshad Jones and a long-term answer at cornerback opposite Xavien Howard.
But in order to land one of two dynamic, ball-hawking, sure-fire Ohio State defensive backs in April’s NFL Draft, an aggressive move up in the first round would be required.
Mike Tannenbaum, Chris Grier and Adam Gase?
The Dolphins braintrust seems just aggressive enough to consider it.
And once you’ve seen film of safety Malik Hooker or cornerback Marshon Lattimore, you’ll understand why.
Hooker has extraordinary athleticism, range and instincts. Those are attributes that result in Hooker’s mock projections on NFL.com as: 7, 5, 6 and 7.
A dramatic move from the Dolphins’ position at 22 to say, 7, could require the yielding of a future first-round draft choice or multiple second- and third-round draft choices, a lofty price.
But it could be worth it.
According to a scouting report by NFL.com, Hooker has “fluid movements of a basketball player in space,” “can range over the top to challenge the deep ball” and “can disguise coverage and hustle back into position.”
Hooker is a play-making center fielder, something Miami could really use. The Dolphins signed safety Nate Allen to a one-year deal, but were setback by an unfortunate injury to Isa Abdul-Quddus, waived due to a failed physical and not expected to play football again.
Hooker tied for the national lead in interceptions with seven and Pro Football Focus says Hooker “has the natural speed, athleticism that can’t be coached” and has “elite range and tracking skills.”
Hooker, 6-feet-1, 206 pounds, answered many questions at the NFL Scouting Combine about his relative inexperience as a starter and a torn labrum in his left hip and left and right sports hernias.
“Any ball that’s in the air, it’s my ball,” said Hooker, who added he should be healthy enough to participate in rookie minicamp. “I feel like I’m a play-maker. Any time I had a chance to make a play or change momentum of a game, I took it upon myself to do so.”
Hooker has been compared to former Miami Hurricane Ed Reed and former Florida Gator Reggie Nelson.
Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore, like Hooker, has little college experience but superb athleticism.
According to the NFL.com mocks, Lattimore is projected at: 5, 6, 3 and 6.
So a dramatic move up in the draft by Miami could require significant compensation.
But again, it could be worth it.
Miami is hopeful Xavien Howard will stay healthy in his second season and Tony Lippett continues to make progress as a converted wide receiver.
But Miami knows Byron Maxwell could be a salary-cap casualty after the 2017 season. And Lattimore could potentially be a starter opposite Howard for years to come.
According to a scouting report by NFL.com, Lattimore is an “uber-athlete,” “plays with explosive hip flip that jump-starts him into top speed when forced to turn and run,” “has balance and footwork to remain in phase with target throughout the route” and has “electric, flat-footed closing burst.”
Lattimore, 6-feet, 193 pounds, has been compared to former Dolphin Vontae Davis, former Florida Gator Janoris Jenkins and Desmond Trufant of the Atlanta Falcons.
Pro Football Focus says Lattimore is physical, yet committed only two penalties all of last season. PFF added Lattimore: “mirrors well underneath and gets his body in the way of the route, physically making those short routes awkward,” “plays slant routes as well better than any cornerback in this draft class,” “routinely blanketed receivers out of the play” and is a “sure tackler.”
Like Hooker, Lattimore answered many health questions at the NFL Scouting Combine.
In particular, Lattimore has had trouble with his hamstrings. Lattimore more enthusiastically answered questions about Ohio State’s long tradition of producing excellent NFL defensive backs.
“Making plays, doing what we do, doing it to the best of our ability,” Lattimore said. “We’re very great friends, everyone on the team really. It’s a tight group play together and play off each other’s energy. Why I feel like we did our best this past year.”
Miami could sit at 22nd in the NFL Draft and consider a cornerback like Gareon Conley of Ohio State, Tre’Davious White of LSU or Chidobe Awuzie of Colorado if one were available.
Or, Miami could consider a giant leap toward to the top of the draft. But only if the organization viewed Hooker or Lattimore to be a future All-Pro type talent.
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