MIAMI—The Miami Dolphins satisfied their greatest need Sunday by drafting a pass-rusher with their first pick. What remains to be seen is if they solved any of their problems with the selection.
The Dolphins pulled the surprise of first round by using the 16th pick to draft Eric Kumerow of Ohio State, a player considered by some to be no better than a middle-round pick. Kumerow is listed as both a defensive end and outside linebacker and is best described by the word ``potential.``
Many analysts did not rate Kumerow highly, and one, Mel Kiper, Jr., described Kumerow as an ``outstanding collegiate player who could have a tough time finding his niche in the NFL. He`s not strong enough yet to make the grade at defensive end and lacks the quickness necessary to cover the pass. He would be a decent middle-round pick, but would qualify as a reach if selected any higher.``
The Dolphins voiced no such doubts Sunday and pointed to the fact Kumerow was rated the second-best defensive lineman available by BLESTO, an NFL scouting service. Neil Smith of Nebraska was rated the best and was taken with the second pick by Kansas City.
``We feel (Kumerow) has got the bulk and size to line up as a defensive lineman and we feel he has pass-rush ability,`` Dolphins coach Don Shula said. ``He also has the ability to drop off on pass coverage. He`s a combination type guy. His size and that ability are what really sold us.``
A three-year starter in college, Kumerow was a two-time all-Big Ten selection at Ohio State and was named the conference`s defensive lineman of the year as a junior. He had 23 career sacks and 39 career tackles for losses.
The Dolphins had a number of options with their first pick. Still available when they drafted were defensive ends Scott Davis of Illinois, Dan Stubbs of Miami, and Aaron Jones of Eastern Kentucky, fullbacks Craig Heyward of Pitt and Brad Muster of Stanford, linebacker Clifford Charlton of Florida, and offensive lineman John Elliott of Michigan.
The pick came down to a decision of helping either the offense or defense. Shula decided the league`s 26th-rated defense needed immediate attention.
``We knew there were some highly rated offensive players on the board, and we gave them some consideration,`` Shula said. ``But we felt coming into the draft if there was a player there that could come in and help us be a better defensive football team, that was our top priority.``
The Dolphins stuck with defense in the second round, selecting three-time All-Southeastern Conference defensive back Jarvis Williams of Florida. In the third round they selected tight end Ferrell Edmunds of Maryland. Both Williams and Edmunds are highly rated and expected to contend for starting jobs. Williams would be a disappointment if he didn`t become an instant starter at safety, where the Dolphins plan to play him.
``We`ve had problems in the secondary and feel this guy can come in and help us immediately,`` secondary coach Mel Phillips said.
The Dolphins selected 315-pound offensive tackle Greg Johnson of Oklahoma in the fourth round and cornerback Rodney Thomas of Brigham Young in the fifth round. The remaining seven rounds of the draft will be completed today beginning at 10 a.m.
Shula said he was pleased with the Dolphins` Sunday selections.
``We feel this draft has a chance to strengthen us in the positions where we need help,`` Shula said.
The key to any draft, of course, is usually the first-round pick, and the Dolphins` top pick, Kumerow, will begin his pro career as a man without a definitive position.
Shula projected him as both a down lineman and a linebacker who could end up starting in place either Mark Brown at right outside linebacker or T.J. Turner at one defensive end position.
Kumerow is probably too light to play the strong (or tight end) side and is expected to play the weak side. John Bosa started at weakside defensive end last year, but will not be benched and could be flopped to Turner`s spot on the strong side.
Linebacker coach Chuck Studley worked Kumerow out at Ohio State and has no doubts as to where he`ll play.
``We`re classifying him as a defensive end,`` Studley said. ``He`s a real good pass rusher and I think he`s going to be a great one. I think all his football is ahead of him. We`re talking about a guy whose only played defense for about three years.``
Kumerow began his college career as a quarterback before asking to be moved to defense. Connor compared him physically and athletically to Duane Bickett, the Indianapolis Colts` Pro Bowl linebacker.
The Dolphins had the NFL`s second-fewest number of sacks last season (21) and Kumerow is expected to improve that figure. He was tied for third in the Big Ten in sacks last year with eight, but felt he could have had more.
``My biggest problem here is I can make the play, but I can`t always finish it,`` Kumerow said. ``I can beat the tackle and zero in on the quarterback, but he always seems to slip away. I missed about eight or nine sacks last year.``