Dolphins head to combine for look at prospects, many who train in South Florida, to fill needs at O-line, DB and edge rusher

AVENTURA — NFL teams and draft prospects alike converge on Indianapolis this week for the scouting combine.

The Miami Dolphins will have executives, coaches and scouts present with an eye on players in the draft. Those prospects will go through a series of speed, agility and strength training, from the 40-yard dash to the bench press. Team representatives will get a chance to interview them, interactions that could leave lasting impressions when draft picks are made April 25-27.

General manager Chris Grier generally takes a best-player-available approach to his selections, and there’s no shortage of positions for the Dolphins to scout.

They could be looking at interior offensive linemen, with their starting center, Connor Williams, and three guards, including starting right guard Robert Hunt, all heading into free agency — plus Williams coming off surgery on an ACL.

They might be in the market for defensive backs, with cornerback Xavien Howard to be released once the new league year begins in mid March, a need around star Jalen Ramsey with safeties DeShon Elliott and Brandon Jones bound for free agency.

They may need an edge rusher, with Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb coming off season-ending injuries, Andrew Van Ginkel a free agent and Emmanuel Ogbah released.

Or a third pass-catcher behind Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, whether at wide receiver or tight end. Or a defensive lineman if they don’t retain Christian Wilkins with a new deal or franchise tag. Or an inside linebacker or offensive tackle. You get the point.

Many of the positional needs for the immediate future will be settled in free agency in March, but Miami is also an organization that hasn’t brought in young talent in recent years, essentially punting on the past two draft classes outside of last season’s rookie phenom, running back De’Von Achane.

The Dolphins, who haven’t selected in the first round since 2021, have a first-round pick, a second-rounder, a fifth-round selection, two in the sixth and a seventh. Grier, though, did not commit to keeping that first-rounder at his end-of-season news conference, and it could once again be traded for a proven veteran talent.

For the draft prospects, they have been preparing for their moment at the combine for the better part of the past two months — in some cases, nearly three months if they also opted out of bowl season in December.

South Florida always produces draft prospects from its rich homegrown talent, but many of college football’s best players also come down to South Florida in the winter months to train.

At Bommarito Performance Systems, trainer Pete Bommarito has 25 draft prospects heading to the combine and a series of others who aren’t combine invites but are training for their pro days at their respective colleges or any other opportunities to prove themselves in a transition from college to the professional level.

“I live for this time of year,” Bommarito told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “This is what I do. I live, breathe and die this process. This is the funnest time of the year, not just from a business standpoint, but from a personal standpoint. There’s nothing better than NFL draft prep.”

Much is made from the outside of combine testing not representing what the tape shows of players on the field, but this is where objective data is presented to teams.

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“When you want to actually compare player to player, trainer to trainer, facility to facility, numbers are numbers,” Bommarito said. “Either you’re going to hit the numbers or you’re not. There’s nothing better than competing at the highest level with the best athletes in the world.”

Prospects from heavy linemen to speedy wide receivers flock to Bommarito’s north Miami-Dade facility this time of year. Last Tuesday, they went through a mock combine, many either running their 40-yard dash or the first 20 yards if they’re working more on their takeoff and acceleration.

Among players training with Bommarito, Michigan running back Blake Corum, who is honing in on his arm whip and staying low in the 40 to produce the best time. Guards Christian Mahogany of Boston College and Matt Jones of Ohio State are among others, along with Miami Carol City High grad in Louisville cornerback Jarvis Brownlee and Miami Hurricanes center Matt Lee.

“Just be myself, show them what type of guy I am in terms of character, football IQ,” said Corum of the mental aspect of the combine, which could become burdensome with the slew of interviews.

He is coming off a national championship with the Wolverines and a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns in the title game.

“It definitely shows I’m a leader,” Corum said. “I was a captain, someone that can lead a team and bring a winning recipe, mindset.”

Bommarito combines training with his medical background and an emphasis on nutrition at his facility. The medical side of things was key for North Carolina wide receiver Tez Walker.

“That was No. 1 in my book,” he said.

A speedster who believes he’ll compete for one of the fastest times at the combine, Walker may interest the Dolphins as a complement to Hill and Waddle. He has a 6-foot-1 frame and long wingspan.

“I like the Dolphins, their pieces, their offense,” Walker said. “They got a lot of fast guys, a lot of guys that have the same type of speed, and I feel like I would fit well in that offense.”

The combine also serves as a league-wide meeting point two weeks before the start of the new league year and free agency at 4 p.m. March 13, with a legal tampering period starting at noon two days earlier. Coaches and general managers of various teams will conduct media interviews that should reveal insight into what clubs are thinking as they begin shaping their rosters for the 2024 season.