Walker's Fab 40: Nos. 25-28

January, 27, 2015
Jan 27
ESPN.com’s Miami Dolphins page continues to rank the team’s top 40 players.

Next up we have Nos. 25-28.

No. 28: Derrick Shelby

Position: Defensive end

2014 stats: 26 tackles, three sacks, one interception

Analysis: Shelby is a player who continues to hang around and be a valuable contributor for the Dolphins. He’s the third defensive end in the rotation and often gets high grades from the coaching staff. Shelby’s steady play is one of the reasons former No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan doesn’t get many reps in the base defense. Despite less physical talent, Shelby understands leverage and technique and has earned the trust of the coaching staff. Shelby did run into some off-the-field trouble last season that is still being resolved. He was briefly suspended and then reinstated.

No. 27: Jimmy Wilson

Position: Safety/nickel cornerback

2014 stats: 59 tackles, one interception

Analysis: Wilson’s versatility came in handy this season. He started a career-high 13 games for Miami due to various circumstances. Dolphins starting safety Reshad Jones was suspended for the first four games of the season and fellow starting safety Louis Delmas missed the final three games of the season. Wilson also played nickel cornerback and earned six additional starts when Miami began the game with that defensive alignment. Wilson is a jack-of-all-trades player who has some value. He finished fifth on the team in tackles and is set to become an unrestricted free agent in March.

No. 26: Knowshon Moreno

Position: Running back

2014 stats: 148 yards, one touchdown

Analysis: Moreno is a difficult player to rank. He would have been much higher had multiple injuries to his elbow and knee not derailed his season. But durability and production are big parts of this equation. So Moreno comes in at No. 26 after playing parts of just three games with the Dolphins. He was dominant in Week 1 against the New England Patriots with 134 rushing yards and one touchdown, which showed promise for a big season. But injuries forced him to miss 13 games and he’s about to hit free agency.

No. 25: Cortland Finnegan

Position: Cornerback

2014 stats: 44 tackles, zero interceptions

Analysis: Finnegan had an up-and-down season for the Dolphins. There were positive flashes, such as his performance against the Chicago Bears. But there also were poor performances, such as his game against the Green Bay Packers. Finnegan’s biggest contribution was his steady influence and professionalism on younger cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis. The Dolphins may ask Finnegan to take a pay cut or release him in the final year of his contract this offseason.
This offseason the Miami Dolphins have 16 free agents, 12 of which are unrestricted.

ESPN.com’s Dolphins page will examine pending free agents and their chances of returning. On Tuesday, we take a look at Miami’s backup quarterback.

Player: QB Matt Moore

Status: Unrestricted

2014 stats: 2-of-4 passing, 21 yards, zero touchdowns, zero interceptions

Analysis: Moore, who is a former starter for the Dolphins, had an uneventful past three seasons backing up quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Miami's starting quarterback is very durable and has made 48 consecutive starts for the Dolphins. That’s left Moore with little game action. In talking with Moore, I get the sense he wants to explore his options. He’s one of the top backup quarterbacks in the entire NFL, but Moore wants a chance to compete for a starting job, which he hasn’t had the opportunity to do in Miami for the past two seasons. The Dolphins paid Moore $4 million last year, which is an example of how much they value their No. 2 quarterback. But with tight cap room and bigger needs on the roster, Miami could seek a more affordable backup via the draft or free agency.

Chances of returning: 35 percent

Walker's Fab 40: Nos. 29-32

January, 27, 2015
Jan 27
ESPN.com’s Miami Dolphins page continues its series ranking the top 40 players on the team.

On Tuesday, we rank Nos. 29-32.

No. 32: Daryn Colledge

Position: Guard

2014 stats: 13 starts

Analysis: The Dolphins needed help on their offensive line last summer and head coach Joe Philbin went with a familiar face in Colledge. Philbin coached the nine-year veteran in Green Bay. Colledge made 13 starts for the Dolphins and turned out to be a decent one-year rental. Colledge brought veteran leadership and work ethic to Miami’s offensive line. But he played his best football in the first half of the season. Colledge suffered head and back injuries and wasn’t the same player down the stretch. Miami likely will look to get younger at the guard position this offseason.

No. 31: Jason Trusnik

Position: Linebacker

2014 stats: 49 tackles, one interception

Analysis: The veteran linebacker continued to be a valuable part-time starter and contributor on special teams. Trusnik started six games due to various injuries at linebacker. He also was a captain on special teams. Trusnik had his best game against the Patriots where he recorded nine tackles and an interception off New England quarterback Tom Brady. Trusnik, a pending free agent, is versatile and his leadership is valuable inside Miami’s locker room.

No. 30: Dion Sims

Position: Tight end

2014 stats: 24 receptions, 284 yards, two touchdowns

Analysis: Sims was one of Miami’s most improved players. He quadrupled his reception total from six in 2013 to 24 last year. Sims also is the best blocking tight end on the roster. He also started two games in place of injured starter Charles Clay. It remains to be seen whether Miami feels Sims is ready for more responsibility. The Dolphins have an interesting decision to make with Clay, who will be an unrestricted free agent in March. Their decision with Clay will greatly impact Sims’ role in 2015.

No. 29: Dion Jordan

Position: Defensive end

2014 stats: 20 tackles, one sack

Analysis: It was another rough year for the talented, but unproven, Jordan. The former No. 3 overall pick in 2013 was suspended six combined games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse and performance-enhancing policies. Jordan’s regular season began in October and he contributed most on special teams and sub packages. It’s been two years and the Dolphins still don’t know what to do with Jordan’s skill set. Miami’s coaching staff has discussed using Jordan as an outside linebacker next season. That may be the best way to get production out of the former first-round pick.
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Tuesday from around the Web: Morning take: Landry and Beckham were college teammates and roommates. They communicate often and push each other to be better players.
  • Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel has a plan for the Dolphins to create $40 million in cap room.
Morning take: Miami has a tight cap but plenty of veterans are expected to be released. The casualties will begin in the next few weeks.
  • Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post does a seven-round mock draft for the Dolphins.
Morning take: Predicting seven rounds is ambitious. There are a lot of scenarios that can take place in three days of drafting. Abramson has an interesting selection in the first round.
  • Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes the Dolphins aren’t performing to the salary cap.
Morning take: Back-to-back 8-8 seasons are not good enough for the Dolphins. This is a team that was expected to make the playoffs.

Walker's Fab 40: Nos. 33-36

January, 26, 2015
Jan 26
Continuing the top-40 rankings of Miami Dolphins players with Nos. 33-36.

No. 36: Jason Fox

Position: Offensive tackle

2014 stats: Two starts

Analysis: Fox dressed in nine games, but his two starts at the end of the season were most telling. Fox started in Weeks 16 and 17 against the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets and held his own. Fox will be an unrestricted free agent and could be a valuable backup as the first tackle off the bench if Miami chooses to re-sign him. The last two games helped his stock before he hits the open market.

No. 35: Philip Wheeler

Position: Linebacker

2014 stats: 45 tackles

[+] EnlargeJamar Taylor
AP Photo/Alan DiazDolphins cornerback Jamar Taylor will be in the mix for a starting job in 2015.
Analysis: To put it bluntly, Wheeler has been a bust since signing a $26 million free-agent contract with the Dolphins in 2013. His second season was worse than his first. With zero sacks, zero interceptions and plenty of missed tackles, Wheeler failed to make any impact for Miami’s defense. Wheeler is best known for giving up the game-winning touchdown against Green Bay Packers tight end Andrew Quarless in a Week 6 loss, but that was one of many gaffes. He is on the books for $3 million next season and could be a salary-cap casualty as the Dolphins look to upgrade.

No. 34: Jamar Taylor

Position: Cornerback

2014 stats: 31 tackles

Analysis: Taylor improved in his second season. He played in 12 games, including three starts, and showed flashes of what the Dolphins expected as a former second-round pick. Taylor’s coverage and play speed both improved in Year 2. With a strong offseason, Taylor should be in the running for a starting job opposite Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes.

No. 33: Brandon Gibson

Position: Wide receiver

2014 stats: 29 receptions, 295 yards, one touchdown

Analysis: Following a serious knee injury in 2013, Gibson deserves kudos for returning to play 14 games last season. However, Gibson wasn’t the same player. He began as the Dolphins’ slot receiver but quickly lost his job to rookie Jarvis Landry, who led Miami with 84 receptions. Gibson also could be a cap casualty considering he’s scheduled to make $3.26 million in 2015. That simply doesn’t match his production.

Final notes from the Senior Bowl

January, 26, 2015
Jan 26
The 2015 Senior Bowl is in the books. Some final Dolphins-related notes from the Senior Bowl trip:
  • I have no doubt the Dolphins will be looking closely at defensive linemen in this draft. I noticed on two separate occasions head coach Joe Philbin and assistant general manager Eric Stokes taking up-close looks at defensive line prospects as they were practicing. There might not be a target there at No. 14 – especially if Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton is off the board – but the position could be of interest to Miami in the second or third rounds.
  • Keep an eye out for Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis Jr. He flashed often during Senior Bowl week and caught the attention of scouts. His size and athleticism are good for the NFL. Davis just needs to be coached up. But outside of Shelton, he was the next best defensive tackle I saw in practice.
  • I’m curious to see if the Dolphins grab any homegrown talent in this draft. All four University of Miami players performed well this week. The Dolphins need a linebacker (Denzel Perryman) and most likely will need receiver help (Phillip Dorsett) once they decide on who stays and who goes between Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson. A tight end (Clive Walford) and cornerback (Ladarius Gunter) also are possibilities in this draft. The Dolphins have let plenty of homegrown talent get away in the past.
  • Finally, this was a great week for slot receivers. Kansas State's Tyler Lockett, Duke’s Jamison Crowder and Dorsett were all smaller receivers who made an impact in practices. The Dolphins, who have Jarvis Landry, are not in the market for slot receivers. But these college seniors should be able to help out other teams in need of a receiver to play inside.

Walker's Fab 40: Nos. 37-40

January, 26, 2015
Jan 26
Beginning the top-40 rankings of Miami Dolphins players with Nos. 37-40.

No. 40: Chris McCain

Position: Defensive end

2014 stats: Five tackles, one sack, one blocked kick

Analysis: McCain came out of the gates strong last season. He recorded a blocked kick and a sack on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in Miami’s Week 1 victory over its AFC East rival. But McCain was never able to build off that success. The undrafted rookie had some injuries and personal issues that set him back most of the season. McCain must earn his way back into the rotation with a strong offseason. He certainly has the physical ability to contribute.

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
AP Photo/James D SmithSecond-year cornerback Will Davis made 17 tackles before a season-ending knee injury.
No. 39: Will Davis

Position: Cornerback

2014 stats: 17 tackles, three pass defenses

Analysis: The jury is still out on Miami’s third-round pick in 2013. He has good quickness and man-to-man cover skills. But a season-ending knee injury derailed his second season. Davis flashed for the second consecutive training camp but wasn’t able to stay healthy long enough to turn that into a lengthy and successful regular season. Year 3 will be big for Davis to establish himself as an NFL cornerback.

No. 38: Terrence Fede

Position: Defensive end

2014 stats: 10 tackles, one sack, one blocked kick

Analysis: Fede came to Miami as a raw prospect from a small school (Marist). But the seventh-round pick continued to work hard and improved as the season progressed. Fede’s biggest play was his blocked punt in Week 16 against the Minnesota Vikings that produced the game-winning safety. Fede also had a sack and was productive on special teams. He has good size and athleticism and must continue to develop to find a bigger role in 2015.

No. 37: Dallas Thomas

Position: Guard, offensive tackle

2014 stats: Nine starts

Analysis: Thomas had another season of struggles at guard and offensive tackle. It’s not all Thomas’ fault. The coaching staff continues to move him around, not giving him a chance to firmly learn one position. But Thomas lacks the footwork and quickness it takes to be an offensive tackle, and it’s clear he is better at guard. Thomas should stay inside next season. But after two seasons, Thomas looks the part of a backup lineman.
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Monday from around the Web:
  • Alain Poupart of the Dolphins' team site writes Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes and defensive end Cameron Wake played well in Sunday's Pro Bowl.
Morning take: Both players were part of the winning team led by Hall of Famer Michael Irvin. Grimes nearly won MVP honors with an interception and several pass breakups.
  • Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post wonders if the Dolphins' structure is good for the team.
Morning take: Increasingly, teams are setting up things where more people report to the owner. I tend to favor clarity on who is the boss.
  • Dave Hyde of the Sun Sentinel writes about the Dolphins' 12th-ranked special teams.
Morning take: It was feast or famine for this group. The best plays of the season were the five blocked kicks, which changed momentum in games.
  • Jameson Olive of Fox Sports Florida writes quarterback is not an issue for the Dolphins.
Morning take: Starter Ryan Tannehill is coming off a 4,000-yard season, which quieted a lot of critics. The Dolphins must continue building around him to take the next step.

Serena Williams, partial owner of the Miami Dolphins, talks about the top players in the men's and women's tennis circuits and picks which NFL position they would be best suited for.

Coming soon: Walker's Fab 40

January, 25, 2015
Jan 25
It's coming baaaaaack!

For the past several years, I annually ranked the top 40 players for the AFC North and AFC East divisions. In 2014, I ranked the top-40 Miami Dolphins players and will do so again with “Walker’s Fab 40.”

ESPN.com’s Dolphins page is narrowing its focus strictly to Miami's roster. So check back throughout the week for rankings of Dolphins players.

"Walker's Fab 40" begins on Monday.
MOBILE, Ala. -- The 2015 Senior Bowl practices are in the books, and it’s time to review all of my notes on who shined and who struggled throughout the week.

Here are seven awards after watching a full week of practices:

Best overall player: Washington DT Danny Shelton

[+] EnlargeDanny Shelton
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsDefensive tackle Danny Shelton showed off a high motor and nimble feet at Senior Bowl practices.
Coming into the week, I marked Shelton as a player I closely wanted to monitor because I figured he would be a strong target for the Dolphins at No. 14 overall. Miami's run defense was 24th in the NFL and struggled mightily in the final six weeks of the season. However, after the strong week Shelton had at the Senior Bowl, I’m not confident Shelton makes it to No. 14. Shelton is a legit stud at defensive tackle. He’s a little short (6-foot-2) but carries his 342 pounds well. Shelton also said he wants to drop a few more pounds before the combine, most likely to do the drills in Indianapolis. But his motor is strong, and he has surprisingly nimble feet. I have a hard time seeing 13 teams passing Shelton over. But the Dolphins shouldn’t pass if Shelton is there at No. 14.

Breakout player: University of Miami WR Phillip Dorsett

Scouts were fully aware of Dorsett’s speed. He averaged 24.2 yards per reception last season but only caught 36 passes. What Dorsett had to prove is he was more than a one-trick pony. He did a stellar job this week by showing off multiple routes and making tough catches against top competition at the Senior Bowl. Dorsett definitely helped his stock and was recognized by the Senior Bowl committee as one of the top practice players throughout the week. He's also interested in playing for the hometown Dolphins.

Biggest surprise: (Tie) Yale FB Tyler Varga and Delaware TE Nick Boyle

The biggest surprises came from small schools. It was hard to separate Varga and Boyle since both consistently stood out. So I rated this category a tie. Varga showed some quickness and very good hands out of the backfield. He’s a combo fullback/part-time tailback who can also get yards on the ground. Fullbacks are dying breeds in the NFL, but Varga could bring some value as a late-round selection. Boyle entered the week as a relative unknown, but he was the second-best tight end in practices behind University of Miami’s Clive Walford. Boyle is a big body who blocked well and caught the ball well. He told me he molds his game after Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller.

Most improved: Utah OLB Nate Orchard

The Utes had a good defense last season, and Orchard was one of their top stars. But it took a little while for Orchard to warm up at the Senior Bowl. The college defensive end was asked to do a lot of new things as an outside linebacker, such as stand up and drop in coverage. But things began to click for Orchard in the second and third practice. Orchard made more plays and turned out to be one of the North’s better defensive players by the end of the week. Orchard projects to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but he still needs time to learn the position.

Biggest disappointment: Quarterbacks

If you’re a team looking for a quarterback and don’t have a shot at drafting Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota, good luck. The Senior Bowl proved there are slim pickings at quarterback this year. Alabama's Blake Sims, East Carolina’s Shane Carden, Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson and Baylor’s Bryce Petty all had shaky moments. I saw a lot of fumbled snaps, errant passes and interceptions on both teams this week. None of the quarterbacks was able to separate from the pack in what was a golden opportunity. Teams are looking for quarterbacks all the time, and one of these players could have drastically improved their stock behind the "big two." But questions remain with this group.

Second biggest disappointment: Notre Dame TE Ben Koyack

The Fighting Irish have a strong tradition for producing NFL tight ends, and Koyack is the latest to come down the pike. So I expected to see more from Koyack, but he mostly struggled in Senior Bowl practices. Koyack wasn’t dynamic enough in the passing game or physical enough as a blocker. Boyle was the best tight end on the South team during the week. Maybe Koyack simply had a shaky week in practice and will perform better in the game.

Safest pick: Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett

Predicting the NFL future of college prospects can be a crapshoot. We also excluded Shelton since we made it clear that he was the best player at Senior Bowl practices. With that said, there’s something about Lockett that screams “NFL ready.” He’s smart, a good route runner, has dependable hands and great speed. These are all qualities you look for in a rookie. Therefore, Lockett is a safe pick to help some team as a slot receiver and in the return game immediately. He’s projected to go in the second or third round. The only concern is whether his 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame can handle the physical pounding of the NFL. Lockett most likely will need to add at least 10 pounds of muscle.

That wraps up my 2015 Senior Bowl coverage. Check out the Dolphins blog for plenty of coverage of the draft and free agency this offseason. Also, follow me via Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL.
As expected, the New York Jets hired Miami Dolphins defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers to be their new defensive coordinator on Friday.

This move has been in the works for at least a week after the Jets hired head coach Todd Bowles. Rodgers is good friends with Bowles and the pair coached together in Miami from 2008-11.

Rodgers was one of Miami's most respected assistants. Defensive linemen such as Pro Bowler Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon, Randy Starks and Jared Odrick all developed under Rodgers' tutelage. The Dolphins also registered 39 quarterback sacks last season.

Miami is now in the market for a new defensive line coach to replace Rodgers.
The Senior Bowl practices are in the books. Hundreds of scouts, general managers and talent evaluators will go back to their team headquarters and review their notes.

One player who improved his stock was Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett. The 5-foot-11 speedster did well in the slot and was hard to cover. He is also expected to return kicks in Saturday’s game.

ESPN.com's Dolphins page caught up with Lockett to get his thoughts on Senior Bowl week:

Q: A lot of cornerbacks tried to jam you at the line of scrimmage this week. How was that experience?

Lockett: I saw it every game in college. I saw it every single play. Out of the 80 plays we played, 72 plays -- maybe 95 percent -- I was getting press-man [coverage]. Teams understood if they just let me run off the ball they weren’t going to be able to stop me or it would have to be a guessing game. So a lot of times when we played teams and you look at my film, they put a safety over me. They pressed me and played Cover 2 or they doubleteamed me, all of that stuff. So every single play I had to work to get off the line.

Q: What NFL receivers do you model your game after?

Lockett: Of course I look at all the guys. Hopefully, I can go to a team that might give me a chance to run a couple plays on the outside. But Wes Welker ... I think he was the guy who allowed people like me and other receivers who are small to come in and play. I’ve been watching Antonio Brown. A lot of people kind of relate my game to him, especially coming out of college.

Q: What did you most want to prove this week at the Senior Bowl?

Lockett: I didn’t want to prove anything to anybody. For the most part, I wanted to prove things to myself, that I can be able to come out here and play against the top guys. I’ve been doing this since Day 1, so being able to have confidence in myself. Catching punts, it’s no different than in college. You just have to be able to feel comfortable. For me, it’s just seeing exactly where I’m at and being able to compete.

Q: What teams have you talked to this week?

Locket: I talked to a lot of the teams. It was probably 28 out of the 32 teams. The Dolphins talked to me. I talked to the Dolphins [on Wednesday]. I had a great conversation with them. It was more about getting questionnaires and stuff like that. If they’re more interested they will give me a call or I will see them more at the combine.
MOBILE, Ala. – The 2015 Senior Bowl is in full swing as the top senior talent in the nation audition for NFL general managers, scouts and front-office personnel.

One under-the-radar prospect that stood out in practices was Delaware tight end Nick Boyle, who is a player the Miami Dolphins also interviewed this week. ESPN.com's Dolphins page caught up with Boyle this week to get his thoughts:

Question: What did you want to prove at the Senior Bowl and do you feel you accomplished your goal?

Boyle: Yeah, for the three practices obviously in limited time. I can’t believe the three practices fly by like that. But I really wanted to come out here from a small school and compete with the bigger schools. That's what people have a knock on [me] about -- you're not playing and blocking the big ends and linebackers. But here is a chance to come block the big guys and do well at it, as well as catch balls.

Question: What teams have you interviewed with?

Boyle: A lot of teams I can say. I interviewed with the Dolphins. I really enjoyed that. But I really enjoyed interviews with a lot of guys. The questions get repetitive after a while. But then you can have a pretty interesting one where they film you and try to get you off guard.

Question: What type of traits will you bring to an NFL team?

Boyle: The one thing being a bigger-body guy, [physicality] is what I have to have. If I’m not physical, what am I going to be? I’m a big body. So it would be worthless. So, yeah, I like to be physical blocking off the ball. I like blocking with my hand down to the ground. Then, also being able to catch balls and run routes, being a dual threat and be able to do multiple things.

Question: What kind of feedback are you getting from NFL coaches?

Boyle: I picked up the playbook really well and coaches noticed my physicality. The one thing I need to work on is probably being more fluid in my routes, knowing the leverage of linebackers, and learning how to create separation a little better. But a lot of people had good feedback for the most part this week, and that's mostly what I wanted to prove. Coming from Delaware, it's not a difference at all. I think I did that this week.
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Friday from around the Web: Morning take: Miami general manager Dennis Hickey did a good job with first-round pick Ja'Wuan James and second-round pick Jarvis Landry. But the jury is still out on the remainder of the class.
Morning take: The Senior Bowl showed there is depth at plenty of positions. The Dolphins have a lot of needs to fill and need immediate contributors.
Morning take: The goal is for Albert to be ready by Week 1 of the regular season. The offensive line was at its best when Albert was healthy and productive.
Morning take: Someone in the Patriots’ organization knew something. It’s just a matter of the NFL completing a thorough investigation.