Imagine you're the personnel director of an NFL expansion team and you have the opportunity to pick any player from the Dolphins roster for your new squad. Cornerback Sam Madison is one of the best in the league at his position, and wide receiver O.J. McDuffie led the league in receptions a year ago; either would be a good choice. But when it comes to being the best Dolphins player, middle linebacker Zach Thomas is the meanest fish in the tank. The defensive spark plug many NFL insiders considered too small at five feet, eleven inches and 235 pounds has led the team in tackles every season since being drafted in the fifth round in 1996. What Thomas lacks in size, he makes up for in intensity and versatility. How many players have the power to go head-up on Steelers running back Jerome Bettis -- a guy nicknamed "the Bus" for his bruising running style -- flatten him like a pancake, and still possess the speed to cover Raiders wideout Tim Brown on a deep crossing pattern? Thomas' teammates and coaches consistently recognize him as one of the hardest workers on the team. His character, fire, and athletic ability make him the heart and soul of a nasty defense that has come to be known as one of the stingiest in the NFL. While other players may be involved in one or two plays per drive, the Dolphins' middle man usually contributes on every down, thus continuing Miami's tradition of gritty defensive field generals.