Barring an unexpected slide by one of the elite quarterbacks in next week’s NFL Draft, the Dolphins will shift into a search for someone with a less recognizable name.
One of those unheralded prospects worth keeping an eye on is Marshall’s Chase Litton, a player some expected to be prominent in next year’s draft before he surprisingly turned pro as a junior.
Litton’s wasn’t fully convincing as a quarterback in his time with the Thundering Herd and he’s got some question marks in his past off the field, but he remains an intriguing talent with great size and arm strength. He’ll likely be a Day 3 pick, perhaps lasting into the sixth round.
ESPN analyst Mel Kiper described him as a quarterback “that could be interesting if you put him on the shelf for a couple years.” The question for the Dolphins is whether they’re in good enough position to wait that long.
Miami has been adamant all offseason that Ryan Tannehill will be the unquestioned starter, but the team’s been far from definitive about how it plans to structure things behind him.
Veteran backup Matt Moore isn’t coming back, and the No. 2 job appears to be a competition between David Fales and Brock Osweiler at the moment. That would change if the Dolphins get a player who is somewhat pro-ready in the draft. If someone like Baker Mayfield slides all the way to No. 11 or they can get a second-tier quarterback at No. 42, that player would have a chance to bypass Fales and Osweiler.
Miami also must plan for Tannehill’s future, or lack thereof. His contract runs through the 2020 season, and if this year doesn’t go well, it might be time to get a replacement ready.
But Litton could be a valuable addition as a developmental project even if the Dolphins do select someone high. They waived Brandon Doughty after two years on their practice squad, and the remaining quarterbacks aren’t eligible to be stashed there.
The Dolphins have one sixth-round pick (No. 209) and two seventh-rounders (Nos. 227 and 229). Even with the holes on their roster, it’s probably worth spending one of those on Litton if he’s available considering he was likely tracking toward being a second- or third-round pick next year.
At Marshall, he completed 60.8 percent of his passes and had 72 touchdowns against 31 interceptions while averaging 245 yards per game, though he did that while facing mostly Conference USA opponents.
At 6-foot-6, 232 pounds, he’s got the ideal build to be a pocket passer. He’s not a big runner, but his 4.9 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine is passable.
Outside of football, Marshall suspended Litton for a 2016 game for an unspecified violation and The Tampa Bay Times reported last month that a former girlfriend filed a yearlong stalking injunction against him when he was a senior at Wharton High School. He was also arrested on charges of burglary and theft his sophomore year at Wharton.
Litton told The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, W.V., that he intended to be honest with NFL teams about off-field trouble and leadership issues while at Marshall, and his agent, Leigh Steinberg, told The Times that he’s grown up.
“He’s taken responsibility for things that happened in the past, and they are all learning experiences,” said Steinberg, an agent for more than 40 years. “I think teams will be quite comfortable with the fact that, like many young people, he had some bumps in the past but has grown from them and is mature with high character.”
Whether teams believe that, and whether they believe he’s got the potential to be an NFL starter, will determine how high Litton goes in the draft. For the Dolphins, he’s worth a serious look if he’s still on the board next Saturday.
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