After months of waiting, the NFL Draft is now just a little more than 72 hours away. For the Miami Dolphins, the countdown clock is running with the Fins having the 19th overall selection in the first round.
Miami’s need heading into the draft is obvious: the offensive line. No team saw as much turnover along the offensive line from last year to the upcoming season. The Dolphins lost four out of five starting offensive linemen from last year, which based on how the year went, isn’t a bad thing.
The Fins lost starters Richie Incognito, Jonathan Martin, and John Jerry to either trades or not re-signing them after the harassment scandal blew up around the team last year. The Fins has also not resigned left tackle Bryant McKinnie or Tyson Clabo from last year’s squad.
Instead, the Dolphins spent big in free agency signing Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert to be quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s blindside protector. Albert joins fellow Pro Bowler center Mike Pouncey on the rebuilding offensive line.
The Fins also signed career backup Shelley Smith as a free agent who could possibly move up to a starting guard position with the new line. The Fins also has Dallas Thomas listed as a guard/tackle, but he was horrendous on the field last year and if he hasn’t made major strides in the offseason, probably will be nothing more than a backup.
So, assuming Smith, Albert, and Pouncey are starters, it leaves Miami two offensive linemen short heading into Thursday’s first round of the NFL Draft.
The offensive tackle class in the 2014 NFL Draft isn’t very deep and with Miami picking 19th, it’s hard to assess who may be available. Most mock drafts have slotted Notre Dame offensive tackle/guard Zack Martin to the Fins at 19.
However, Martin’s stock is reportedly flying up draft boards across the NFL as he’s considered a safe pick on and off the field. Martin is projected by some to be gone in the first 13 picks of the draft. If that’s the case, he will join Greg Robinson, Taylor Lewan and Jake Matthews as the top four tackles taken.
In other words, if Miami wants to get its hands on one of the four top tackles, it will likely need to trade up in the first round to do it. Fins fans may be having déjà vu because that’s what happened last season, but instead of grabbing an offensive tackle, former general manager Jeff Ireland instead opted to trade up to the number three pick and draft defensive end Dion Jordan.
Among the players the Dolphins passed on last year, tackle Lane Johnson, guard Jonathan Cooper, guard Chance Warmack, tackle D.J. Fluker, and guard Kyle Long.
Still, Miami could opt to stay put at number 19 in the first round. If Miami goes this route, pegging the pick is still just as tough.
The Fins’ most pressing needs past offensive linemen are at tight end and linebacker. At the tight end position, only one player is carrying a first-round grade in most analysts’ view, and that’s North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron.
While not the conventional blocking tight end, Ebron can put his hand in the ground and help the running game. He’s better running down the seam and creating mismatches for defenses. Last season, Ebron had 55 catches for 895 yards and three touchdowns.
Past Ebron, the Dolphins can look at inside linebacker C.J. Mosley. The Alabama prospect runs a 4.6 yard 40-yard dash and is coming out of arguably the most pro-like defense in college football under the tutelage of Nick Saban.
Miami is toying with the idea of moving Koa Misi around and eventually getting rid of either Danell Ellerbe or Philip Wheeler, most likely next season. That could open a hole that Mosley could easily fill starting immediately.
The Dolphins could also look at adding a starting guard in the first round and select Xavier Su’a Filo out of UCLA. The former Bruin is likely to step onto any team’s practice field and become an immediate starter.
Past the top tackles in the draft, the list narrows to former Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjio. The former Tide tackle reportedly has injury issues and was inconsistent in his senior year in Tuscaloosa. However, if a team is cleared on his health; he could be a steal in the late first/early second round area.
The only other two tackles with first/second round grades are Morgan Moses from Virginia and JaWuan James from Tennessee. At guard, the names to watch after Martin and Su’a-Filo are Joel Bitonio and Gabe Jackson. Bitonio is arguably more athletic and has been flying up draft boards since the combine.
Needless to say, the Fins have a lot of directions they can go and plenty of ammunition to move wherever they want to this year. New General Manager Dennis Hickey will be running his first draft this season, which makes the Fins even more unpredictable a little more than 72 hours out from the draft.