PHILADELPHIA (CBSMiami) – It’s becoming clear that the Miami Dolphins wanted to build up their defense in the early rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft.
After taking Missouri defensive end Charles Harris in the first round on Thursday night, Miami addressed another defensive position of need when their pick arrived in round two.
With the 54th selection, the Dolphins drafted Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan.
The former five-star prospect and Hinesville, Georgia native led the Buckeyes in tackles in each of the past two seasons.
During his three years with Ohio State, McMillan racked up 275 career tackles including 18 for a loss and six quarterback sacks. He also forced two fumbles.
“He is a guy that we absolutely love,” said Dolphins general manager Chris Grier. “This guy is a two-time captain, came out as a junior at Ohio State. This is a guy who made all the calls there. [He is] highly intelligent. We love his football intellect. We loved talking with the kid. This guy really understands football. He has leadership skills and he is a tackling machine. He is a big body in the middle that can take on blocks. He is a good player.”
A 2015 finalist for the Dick Butkus award for the nation’s top linebacker, McMillan was a second-team All-American last season as a junior.
He won the Butkus award while in high school in 2013.
McMillan showed off his speed at the NFL Combine, running an impressive 4.61 40-yard dash.
A decent-sized linebacker at 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, McMillan is considered intelligent and quick.
“People want to talk about whether he can run or not,” Grier said. “The guy can run.”
McMillan joins a Dolphins linebacking corps that includes Kiko Alonso, Lawrence Timmons, Koa Misi and Neville Hewitt.
He will compete for the third starting spot alongside Alonso and Timmons, which is currently wide open.
“Any position that they need,” McMillan said when asked what LB spot he’d like to play. “They said I can play any linebacker position. Wherever they need me to play, I can play it.”
The 20-year-old fought back tears while speaking to the South Florida media.
“It’s just a blessing,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot in my life. It’s my dream.”
The emotional outburst came as a surprise to Grier, who had spoken to McMillan just moments earlier.
“He’s a very calm and flat-line personality,” Grier said. “It’s probably all the hard work, the culmination of everything that hit him. Because when we were talking to him, I was telling him, ‘Get excited, man,’ and he was like, ‘Yes sir, I’m really excited to come to Miami.'”
Miami selected McMillan over Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham, who was still on the board when the Dolphins made their pick.
As the NFL Draft continues, Miami holds one 3rd round pick (97th overall), three 5th round picks (166th, 178th and 184th) and one 7th round pick (223rd).