With free agency now well under way and Pro Days going on around the country, dolphins.com continues its series of draft previews with the linebacker position.
The Dolphins' most significant move at linebacker since the end of the 2017 season was the release of veteran Lawrence Timmons after one year with the team. He ended last year as a starter alongside Kiko Alonso and Chase Allen, although the Dolphins are hoping for a significant contribution next season from 2017 second-round pick Raekwon McMillan in his return from a preseason knee injury.
Stephone Anthony will be heading into his first full season with the Dolphins after being acquired in a trade with the New Orleans Saints in September, and the Dolphins also ensured the return of Mike Hull after extending him a qualifying offer as an exclusive-rights free agents.
Neville Hewitt, Lamin Barrow and veteran Koa Misi, who missed the entire 2017 season with a neck injury, remain free agents.
THE TOP PROSPECTS AT THE POSITION
Tremaine Edmunds, 6-4, 250, Virginia Tech — The son of former Dolphins Pro Bowl tight end Ferrell Edmunds, Tremaine Edmunds is among the most physically gifted defensive prospects in the 2018 draft. He earned first-team All-ACC honors last year after finishing with 106 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and one fumble recovery and one INT.
Roquan Smith, 6-0, 230, Georgia — A big reason the Bulldogs were able to reach the BCS title game, Smith was the Butkus Award winner and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 after recording 137 tackles, including 14 for loss, 6.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries. Smith is a bit undersized, but he's got tremendous instincts and always seems to be around the ball.
Rashaan Evans, 6-2, 232, Alabama — Evans ended up at the University of Alabama despite growing up in Auburn, Alabama, as the son of Bo Jackson's former backup. He played both inside and outside linebacker for the Crimson Tide and earned first-team All-SEC honors from The Associated Press in 2017 after finishing with 11.5 tackles for loss and six sacks.
Uchenna Nwosu, 6-2, 240, USC — Nwosu started only one year in high school, but he progressed enough as a player that he shared team MVP honors at USC last season with the player who might be the first overall pick in the 2018 draft, quarterback Sam Darnold. Nwosu really emerged as a pass rusher last year when he had 9.5 sacks and also had 13 passes defensed.
Leighton Vander Esch, 6-4, 245, Boise State — Vander Esch began his collegiate career as a walk-on and ended it by earning Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year. His 2017 season included 141 tackles, the highest total for a BSU player since 1988, along with four sacks, three interceptions and three forced fumbles. Vander Esch played eight-man football in high school.
BEST OF THE REST
Malik Jefferson, Texas — A three-year starter at Texas, Jefferson shared Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2017.
Lorenzo Carter, Georgia — Though overshadowed by Smith, Carter was the 2017 defensive recipient of Georgia's Charley Trippi Award, given to the most versatile player.
Shaquem Griffin, Central Florida — Griffin, who lost his left hand at the age of 4, is more than just a great story; he is a relentless defender who makes plays all over the field. He had 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in UCF's Peach Bowl victory against Auburn.