With free agency now well under way and Pro Days having just wrapped up, dolphins.com continues its series of draft previews with the defensive line position.
The Dolphins have made significant moves at this spot in the offseason, the two most significant involving Robert Quinn and Ndamukong Suh. The Dolphins released Suh after three seasons and acquired Quinn, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams.
After acquiring Quinn, the Dolphins re-signed veteran defensive end William Hayes as an unrestricted free agent. Quinn and Hayes will be part of a very deep group of defensive ends that includes Pro Bowl regular Cameron Wake, Andre Branch and 2017 first-round pick Charles Harris.
At defensive tackle, the Dolphins are led by three talented young players: 2015 second-round pick Jordan Phillips, who is coming off his best season in the NFL; and 2017 draft picks Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor.
The other defensive linemen on the roster are ends Cameron Malveaux and Jonathan Woodard, and tackle Gabe Wright.
THE TOP PROSPECTS AT THE POSITION
DE Bradley Chubb, 6-3, 275, North Carolina State — Chubb likely would have been a first-round pick had he come out for the draft as an underclassman last year; now he's expected to be the first defensive player taken in the 2018 draft. Chubb closed out his collegiate career by earning the Bronko Nagurski (top defensive player) and Ted Hendricks (top defensive end) awards, as well as being named ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He finished with 10 sacks for a second consecutive season.
DE Marcus Davenport, 6-6, 264, UTSA — The Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, Davenport opened a lot of eyes during the Senior Bowl when he had a sack and a fumble return for a touchdown. Davenport set school records in 2017 with 17.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. Davenport has great physical gifts but is considered raw.
DT Vita Vea, 6-4, 344, Washington — Vea has rare athletic ability for someone his size, evidenced by the fact he played running back (as well as on the defensive line) in high school. Vea was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 when he finished with he had 38 tackles but more importantly helped Washington rank third in the nation in run defense.
Harold Landry, 6-2, 250, Boston College — Landry wasn't shy at the combine about proclaiming himself as the best pass rusher in the 2018 draft, though his stats suffered in 2017 as he battled injuries. Landry had five sacks while missing the final four games, but he was dominant the previous season when he had 22 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks.
DT Da'Ron Payne, 6-2, 308, Alabama — Among the strongest prospects in the 2018 NFL draft, Payne has lifted 545 pounds in the bench press and 635 pounds in the squat. It's no surprise then that he's an elite run defender, though he had to wait his turn at Alabama because of all the NFL-level talent on the roster. Payne earned second-team All-SEC honors in 2017 when he had 45 tackles and one sack.
BEST OF THE REST
DE Sam Hubbard, Ohio State — Hubbard, who was an all-state high school safety before converting to defensive end, closed out his career at Ohio State with 2.5 sacks against USC quarterback Sam Darnold in the Cotton Bowl.
DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan — Hurst is a clear first-round pick on talent alone, but he was sent home from the combine after a heart condition was diagnosed. Hurst later received clearance to participate in the Michigan Pro Day.
DE Arden Key, LSU — One of the more enigmatic prospects in the draft, Key had 11 sacks in 2016, but then took a leave of absence from LSU last spring and had four sacks in eight games in 2017.