The Miami Dolphins have been a team toiling in obscurity for the better part of two decades. Then, they decided to tear it down and rebuild. For that rebuild to be successful, they need to find the overlooked players that possess high potential. The diamonds in the rough, so to speak. Players like fifth-round draft pick Jason Strowbridge, who has quality potential if he can polish some aspects of his game.
The North Carolina offense grabbed most of the headlines for the Tar Heels, and for good reason. Mack Brown returned to the college ranks and is building a formidable offense with the likes of Sam Howell, Dazz Newsome, and Dyami Brown. But it was the Tar Heels defense that the Dolphins turned to with their selection of Strowbridge to boost their defensive line depth.
Taking a chance on a talent like Jason Strowbridge
Strowbridge is the epitome of a late-round pick. He’s a guy with a great athletic profile who never seemed to live up to his potential. A player who flashes incredible ability on tape at times, but who also has some significant question marks in his game.
The NFL Draft is a game of risk management. Some risks are more worth taking than others. The risk of taking an athletic specimen in the fifth round who needs time to develop? That’s a risk worth taking, and the Dolphins agreed.
What was it the Dolphins saw in Strowbridge to believe in his potential? Where does Strowbridge need to develop before he capitalizes on that potential? Let’s take a look at his RAS to help paint the picture.
Jason Strowbridge’s Relative Athletic Score (RAS)
When you’re drafting a player on the third day of the NFL Draft, you’re typically getting one of three types. The first is an ultra-productive player who either played at a small school with lesser competition or had poor athletic testing. The second is a player who is coming off an injury, but who shows promise when healthy.
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Then you have the third: A player who is a freakish athlete but doesn’t necessarily have a set place or position in the NFL. Such is the case for former North Carolina defensive tackle. Potential is the name of the game with Strowbridge.
Strowbridge came into the NFL Combine and put up some staggering numbers. With an overall RAS grade of 9.48, Strowbridge was able to achieve “Great” marks in each of the three categories that comprise a RAS grade: Explosion, Agility, and Speed. That speaks to the incredible amount of potential there is in Strowbridge, waiting to be unlocked.
Some questionable RAS numbers for Strowbridge
However, it’s not quite all sunshine and rainbows in Strowbridge’s RAS. Strowbridge oozes potential, but there are some areas that prove worrisome, such as Strowbridge’s size. Coming in at just 275 pounds, Strowbridge scored a 1.0 in the weight category. Only 137 defensive tackles have come in lighter at the combine or their Pro Day than Strowbridge since 1987.
Strowbridge’s performance in the bench press is also a cause for some concern. He was only able to put up 26 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine. While that’s a respectable number, it’s only good for a 6.24 RAS score and is an area Strowbridge will need to improve upon if he is to reach his full potential.
Jason Strowbridge has potential
Potential is great, but it also gets people fired. Dolphins coaches aren’t going to care about the potential with Strowbridge – it’s about what he can do when he sees the field. What are his strengths? Where does he need improvement? Is he too far away to be worth the wait? Those are the questions he’ll need to answer in a hurry. It’ll be even more pressing this year with the potential elimination of pre-season games to display his skills and continue his growth.
For a snapshot of what the Dolphins are getting with Strowbridge right now, we turn to Pro Football Network’s senior NFL Draft analyst, Tony Pauline. In his pre-draft scouting report of Strowbridge, Pauline described Strowbridge as an “explosive three-technique prospect who plays with incredible athleticism. Bends his knees, plays with proper pad level and consistently gets leverage on opponents. Fires off the snap, works his hands throughout the action, and keeps his feet moving.
“Quickly changes direction, nicely redirects to ball carriers and makes plays in every area of the field. Flows down the line to get outside the box and covers a lot of area. Instinctive, gives effort in all areas, and wraps up tackling.”
Is Jason Strowbridge a diamond in the rough?
Strowbridge has potential – that’s clear. But the NFL is littered with players who had potential, were incredible athletes, and washed out of the league anyway. The game doesn’t care about your potential, it cares about what you can do on the field. That’s going to be the question for Strowbridge going forward: How quickly can he capitalize on his potential and see the field as anything more than a rotational piece?
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If Strowbridge is going to be a contributor, let alone a vital piece to the Dolphins’ rebuild, he’s going to have to bulk up significantly. His weight simply isn’t going to cut it at defensive tackle, and he doesn’t have the skill set of an EDGE rusher. The Dolphins are likely going to ask Strowbridge to put on a good 15-30 pounds before he sees the field.
If Strowbridge is able to put on that weight and improve his functional strength, it will go a long way towards endearing himself to the coaching staff. If he can do that while maintaining the speed and explosiveness that makes him a special athlete, Miami may have found a diamond in the rough.