If momentum can be garnered this late on the draft-season calender, Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier has certainly been picking up steam lately. For whatever reason, draft analysts have been singing his praises in recent days. As a result, a large contingent of Miami Dolphins fans have followed suit.
As for the team? GM Dennis Hickey and company reportedly view Shazier as a candidate for their first-round pick. “He’s emerging as one of several real possibilities for the Dolphins at No. 19,” the Miami Herald‘s Barry Jackson recently reported. Of course, it’s important to take any “leak” with a grain of salt this time of year, as misinformation runs rampant before the draft.
Assuming the report is accurate for the sake of evaluation, though, would Shazier be a good acquisition for Kevin Coyle‘s defense?
Obviously, no one can definitively claim he would or wouldn’t be. There are many respected members of the scouting community who hold a very high opinion of Shazier, though. “Watching tape again on Shazier,” former Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM turned ESPN analyst Mark Dominik tweeted on Monday. “He should be drafted ahead of (Anthony) Barr and (C.J.) Mosley. He’s a great tackler and playmaker who has all the tools.”
Dominik, who coincidentally worked alongside Hickey in Tampa Bay, isn’t alone in his sentiments of Shazier. “I’m going to say Ryan Shazier from Ohio State is a player that could have an immediate impact from this draft class,” NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah said in late April. “Shazier can blitz and he can cover. That’s what he does really well and he’ll be successful.”
Shazier, as a prospect in general, is as physically gifted as they come. He’s a bit undersized for an NFL linebacker, but his speed — clocked as high as 4.36 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day — is off the charts. His athleticism isn’t far behind, either, with jaw-dropping gauges of athletic ability, like a 42-inch vertical leap and a 133.0-inch broad jump.
Turn on the film, and Shazier’s pursuit prowess jumps off the screen. No front seven member gets to the ball-carrier quicker when Shazier has a clear path. But as impressive as Shazier’s speed is, he still has flaws. Taking him in the the top 20 would be more about his potential than his current polish — as is the case for many prospects. But there are reasons to believe Shazier doesn’t fit the prototype of what Miami is said to need at the position.
If the Dolphins are looking for an immediate contributor who is capable of improving 2013’s 24th-ranked run defense, Shazier likely isn’t that guy. Although he’ll be asked to bulk up, his undersized frame could lead to struggles against the run at the next level.
“He’s great in the pass game, but he’s got to do a better job disengaging from blocks,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said of Shazier in March. Shazier can wreak havoc when he’s kept clean, but he’s often pushed around when offensive linemen get to the second level. When opposing offenses go into pound-the-rock mode, Shazier may become a liability; he just doesn’t have the size or physicality to consistently hold up in those situations.
That isn’t a huge indictment in today’s pass-happy NFL. But for Miami, a team that’s perceived to covet improvement versus the run, Shazier is no quick fix.
Shazier would almost assuradly be an upgrade from Philip Wheeler in coverage and in the sense he would likely produce more game-changing plays at the “Will” spot. But he isn’t the run-stuffing linebacker the Dolphins are thought to need. Alabama‘s C.J. Mosley, a complete defender who is equally adept in traffic as in space, would be the better fit from that standpoint.
Who’s to say the Dolphins must address linebacker exclusively for that reason, though? Run stopping is only one aspect of playing the position, after all. Attaining the best player available could be the route Hickey and company take. If so, a case can certainly be made for Shazier. 237-pound linebackers who run sub-4.40 40s don’t come along every day. His ceiling is through the roof.
While Shazier probably wouldn’t drastically improve the Dolphins’ run defense, his rare athleticism would likely improve the team’s defense as a whole in many other ways. And that makes him at least worthy of consideration, if not the pick, when the Dolphins are on the clock Thursday night.
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