By now everyone is aware of the situation going on inside the Miami Dolphins organization. I’m not going to bore everyone with my rhetoric regarding morality versus masculinity in the paradigm that is an NFL locker room, so let’s move on to the more pressing matter at hand. The Dolphins will be without two starters on their already-beleaguered offensive line, potentially for good. How does this impact the team’s 2014 NFL Draft strategy?
There’s not much use for the team to pin their hopes on either player returning. Guard Richie Incognito is suspended indefinitely, with sources indicating he’ll never play again for the team. Right tackle Jonathan Martin is, well, just not really there anymore after having walked out and never returned. Who knows if he’ll ever play again, and if he does, will he ever be accepted back into this locker room? We can’t answer these questions, so we’ll assume both are gone from the team for good. What’s left on the offensive line is frightening.
Quite literally, they could be in the market for four new starters on their offensive line, with center Mike Pouncey being the only constant. RT Tyson Clabo and RG John Jerry both have expiring contracts, and LG Nate Garner and LT Bryant McKinnie aren’t viewed as long-term answers at their respective positions, either.
Will they be able to draft four new starters in one draft? Highly unlikely. But they could very easily get two new starters on the first two days of the draft.
As everyone knows, this year’s offensive tackle class is unbelievably deep. Potentially three, maybe even four tackle prospects could go in the top-ten. I think the Dolphins will have their first pick in the early teens meaning they’ll have just missed out on the likes of Jake Matthews (Texas A&M), Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama) and Taylor Lewan (Michigan). But they’ll still more than likely have the opportunity to select either Antonio Richardson (Tennessee) or Cameron Erving (Florida State), either of whom would start from day one for the Dolphins.
In round two I’m doing everything I can if I’m the Dolphins to make sure I get either Notre Dame‘s Zack Martin or LSU‘s La’el Collins. Martin has been a rock for four straight years for the Irish but could present the highest upside at the next level playing inside at guard. Collins, a high second round tackle prospect, has a plethora of experience playing both guard and tackle at a high level and should have similar versatility at the next level. In either scenario, both of these two prospects open up more options and flexibility for the offensive line moving forward, presenting solutions at both guard and tackle. If Martin and Collins are both off the board, then look to either the next best tackle (take a shot at Seantrel Henderson, perhaps?) or the next best guard (at this point probably Anthony Steen from Alabama).
Do the Dolphins stop there? Do they focus on other areas of need? Possibly, depending on how the board is laid out and what’s left. Secondary will be another area of need moving forward, with FS Chris Clemons and CB Brent Grimes’ contracts expiring and not enough depth in today’s pass happy league to sleep well at night.
But no unit on this team is in more need of attention than the offensive line. Even when Incognito and Martin were in the lineup this was still one of the worst lines statistically in the league. You can take this to the bank: Expect the Dolphins to focus early and often on the offensive line in the 2014 NFL Draft.