Offensive Linemen: Options for the Miami Dolphins

Sep 19, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley (78) prepares to block Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets linebacker Tyler Marcordes (35) at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 19, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley (78) prepares to block Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets linebacker Tyler Marcordes (35) at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports /

When the 2015 NFL season ended the glaring need for the Miami Dolphins was to address the guard position. Who could they consider in the upcoming draft ?

The Miami Dolphins have plenty of needs and while many believe the Dolphins will look at corner early, offensive line is just as important.

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The trades between the Titans and  Rams and the Browns and the Eagles  have significantly altered the landscape of the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft.  The Rams and Eagles are clearly hell bent on securing their franchise QB’s for the future but it has created an unparalleled unpredictability to the upcoming draft. It is feasible that another team trades into the top 10 to secure Paxton Lynch.

These moves are forcing other elite players down the draft board. Laremy Tunsil and Ronnie Stanley could conceivably  drop to the Dolphins at 13. It is the consensus amongst analysts that Miami will take a corner back if running back Ezekiel Elliott is off the board. That was before these highly expensive trades had taken place and of course the subsequent availability of the Carolina Panthers corner  Josh Norman.

The Dolphins would not have anticipated either player dropping to them. No one among us  is privy to the thoughts of the Dolphins executives but there may be a re-evaluation on the cards in Miami. Corner back is still a high priority but if Vernon Hargreaves is gone by the time the Dolphins pick, will the prospect of an elite tackle/guard prove irresistible ?

Tunsil and Stanley are widely viewed as the best offensive linemen in the 2016 Draft . The second tier includes Jack Conklin and Jason Spriggs. All four are generally accepted as 1st round talent.

It is far from an exact science evaluating draft prospects and how potential translates to the NFL pro. This is especially true of linemen. Offensive linemen require a combination of quick feet, balance, agility and power. The ones with all these attributes tend to be the most successful in making the transition. Technique can be taught, power can be achieved in the weights room but natural balance without over extending is not a skill, it is a physical gift.

Let’s consider the top prospects  and some others who may appeal to Miami in lower rounds.

  1. Laremy Tunsil. LT . Ole Miss . 6ft 5. 310lbs

Tunsil is regarded as the best O Lineman in the draft and by some as the best player overall. In 28 games Tunsil only allowed 2 sacks. Laremy Tunsil has all the necessary requirements to be a Pro Bowl tackle in the NFL. He is a strong, agile, light footed and powerful. He is equally adept at dealing with a bull rush as a speed rush. He will start from day one.

2.  Ronnie Stanley. OT . Notre Dame. 6ft 6. 312lbs.

Stanley isn’t as technically proficient as Tunsil but his athleticism makes up for it. He is the most naturally gifted lineman. He is extremely agile, nimble and seldom gets off balance. He mirrors his opponent extremely well and could,

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with coaching, prove to be the best lineman in the draft.  Stanley is also adept at staying aware. He watches the areas around him while he is engaged to assess and nullify the superior threat. It  is an  impressive quality in young linemen.

3. Jack Conklin. OT.  Michigan State. 6ft 6. 308lbs.

Conklin is not as nimble as Tunsil or Stanley. He does have a tendency to over extend and can struggle with speed rushers. Nevertheless, Jack Conklin is a very good player. He is physical and intuitive. He reads the game extremely well and is always looking to get to the second level when blocking without getting too far ahead of the play. Conklin may not appeal to the Dolphins at 13 but he is likely to be a very good pro. He may well prove his detractors wrong.

4. Jason Spriggs. OT.  Indiana. 6ft6 305lbs.

Jason Spriggs is the most intriguing lineman in the draft. Spriggs is a former tight end and it is apparent in his muscular, athletic frame. He doesn’t have the prototypical tackle’s build. This is most apparent when you consider his speed. He ran a 4.9 sec in the 40. That’s more appropriate for a linebacker or indeed a tight end. This doesn’t negatively impact his strength either. He had 31 reps at 225lb bench press. Spriggs has lateral speed, agility and balance. He is an accomplished pass blocker who handled himself extremely well against the likes of Ohio’s Joey Bosa. It is ,though, the run game that is even more impressive. He readily gets up to the second level and is always looking for someone to block. Not all linemen do this, many make a half hearted attempt , preferring to conserve energy. Jason Spriggs may ultimately be a steal if he lasts until the late 1st to 2nd round.

5. Taylor Decker OT/G Ohio State. 6ft 7 310lbs.

Taylor Decker is good solid player who will be a starter at the next level. He is very good in the run game and is an aggressive downfield blocker. His Achilles heal may be his height. In pass protection he can be undone by quicker , agile defensive ends and edge rushers who get underneath. This maybe his only flaw as his strength and reach make him difficult overpower head on.

Lower down in the draft there are 3 linemen who may offer great value if they slip due to various reasons.

1. Shon Coleman. Auburn. 6ft 5 307lbs

Coleman is 25 years old. He was diagnosed with leukemia in his freshman year and lost 2 years battling the disease. Thankfully he has completely recovered and is ready to step up to the NFL. Coleman has a massive frame and could potentially get even bigger. He is long, athletic and quite light footed for his size. He is an aggressive run blocker and is not easily shed or pushed back in pass protection. His flaws tend to be in technique, although he could add some strength too. These are correctable with coaching and time spent in the weights room. He may be better suited to play guard until his deficiencies are rectified. Suitors may be put off by his age and time needed for development but should he fall to the 3rd round he would be a valuable addition to the Dolphin’s line.

2. Joshua Garnett. Stanford. 6ft 4. 312lbs.

There is uncertainty as to where Garnett will be drafted.  He is a capable run blocker who can be dominant . He uses his bulk and long arms to great affect and is athletic enough to pull and get downfield. His pass protection is the concern. Stanford were so efficient at the pro style run game that the passing game was not a priority. Hence, Garnett is really a unknown quantity in that respect. Would he be a liability in a more balanced offense ?  This may be reflected on draft day but if he falls to the 3rd round he is well worthy of consideration for Miami.

3. Landon Turner. North Carolina. 6ft 4 . 330lbs

Landon Turner may offer the Dolphins a great value pick lower down in the draft. Most analysts project him as 3rd day pick. This may be a little unfair. Turner is a big , powerful guard. He isn’t as athletic as scouts would like but he is highly effective on the line of scrimmage. Put simply , no one will overpower him . He won’t be moved easily. His limitations are really downfield. He lacks the athletic prowess to be a downfield lane opener but he could  prove to be a handsome addition late on, especially for a Miami team lacking a dominant run blocker at guard.