By David Dwork

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PHILADELPHIA (CBSMiami) – It was no secret that the Miami Dolphins were looking to upgrade their defense at the NFL Draft this year.

Almost three hours into the first round, Miami’s pick finally arrived and there were several strong defensive prospects available.

Ultimately, the Dolphins decision making combination of Mike Tannenbaum, Chris Grier and Adam Gase selected pass rushing specialist Charles Harris from the University of Missouri with the 22nd pick of the draft.

Harris isn’t the biggest guy out there at 6-foot-3, 253 pounds, but his combination of strength and speed is what turned him into a top-tier playmaking defender.

A late bloomer, Harris didn’t begin playing football until his junior year of high school.

After redshirting his freshman year at Mizzou, Harris’ breakout year came in 2015 when he led the SEC with 18.5 tackles for loss in addition to seven sacks, earning all-SEC honors.

He was voted second-team all-SEC in 2016, finishing with nine sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

“It’s a blessing; it’s an honor,” Harris said of being drafted. “It [doesn’t] mean a thing, because I still know what I’ve got to do. I’ve got to take advantage of this – being a first-round pick. No matter when I would’ve got drafted, I’m going to come into the league and I’m going to dominate. I don’t have the same mindset as everybody else. I’m not trying to just make it there, I’m trying to get there, stay there, dominate, feed my family – everything, for real.”

The Dolphins did not host Harris for a pre-draft visit, which was by design.

General Manager Chris Grier told the media they stayed away from Harris on purpose in order to try and mask the team’s interest.

Grier said Miami had two players they were targeting as of two months ago and Harris was one of those two.

“The love for football oozes out of him,” Grier said. “When you watch film and talk to the kid and ask questions to get to know him as a person to see if it matches what you’re told at the school, and it does. He loves talking football. It’s those traits we’re looking for, those guys that love ball and it’s the end all, be all for them.”

Miami’s defense allowed a franchise-record 6,122 yards last season and struggled at both stopping the run and rushing the quarterback.

The Dolphins ranked 30th in run defense last season while finishing tied for 19th in the league in sacks.

Harris will be expected to step in and contribute as a rookie under Miami’s new defensive coordinator, Matt Burke.

“He’ll be in the rotation,” Grier said. “We envision him being in the top four. Quickness, speed, explosiveness off the edge are what we see in him. He can be a disruptive player.”

That top four includes veteran defensive end Cameron Wake, Andre Branch and William Hayes.

Ideally, the Dolphins would love to see Wake take Harris under his wing and show him the ropes; teach him how to succeed at the NFL level.

Wake will be 35 years old during the upcoming season.  He has been selected to the Pro Bowl in four of the past five years, including last season when he finished with 11.5 sacks.

Harris wore number 91 in college, but that number is already taken in Miami…by Wake.

Needless to say, the rookie will be selecting a new number for his Dolphins jersey.

“I don’t care. Just give me a jersey, a helmet and some pads and some cleats,” Harris said. “Just give me some cleats, and I’m ready to go. I don’t care what the number is. I’ll make the name shine.”

The NFL Draft will continue on Friday night with the second and third rounds.

The Dolphins hold one pick in the second round (54th overall) and one pick in the third round (97th overall).


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