The Miami Dolphins, desperate for reliable pass protection opposite new left tackle Branden Albert, will undoubtedly target a right tackle early in May’s draft. Owner Stephen Ross recently admitted as much, saying “We’ll get a right tackle in the draft” at league meetings in Orlando.
But will that desperation force the Dolphins to compromise an obvious initiative of theirs with the No. 19 overall pick? Said initiative is the acquiring of high character players and leaders, which has transpired during free agency with signings like Louis Delmas and Cortland Finnegan, and is expected to carry over to the draft. Said compromise would be selecting a player like Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, who is supremely talented but comes with off-the-field concerns.
It was reported last Thursday that Lewan will be arraigned on three misdemeanor charges — two charges of assault and battery and one charge of aggravated assault — early next month, stemming from an altercation with Ohio State fans on Dec. 1. While Lewan claims he was simply breaking up a fight, Mlive.com reported that “it appears (Lewan is) the only who is going to be charged at this time.”
Any team should be wary when it comes to drafting players with troubled pasts, especially during the first round. But for the Dolphins, that sentiment rings true more so than ever. In light of the club’s bullying saga, which led to national outrage, firings and a suspension with potentially more suspensions looming, the Dolphins aren’t exactly in ideal position to take a risk on a prospect like Lewan.
Perhaps if Lewan played any other position but offensive line, criticism of his hypothetical selection wouldn’t be so inevitable. Selecting an offensive lineman who is perceived to have a hot temper mere months after the Dolphins washed their hands of the loose cannon that is Richie Incognito, who portrayed a stereotypical meat head jock whose vulgarities highlighted an obscene picture of the Dolphins’ offensive line as a whole, would surely be met with scrutiny. Most teams’ reputations could come away from the pick unscathed; not the Dolphins, who will be expected to painstakingly seek out model citizens in exchange for redemption.
Whether or not the Dolphins admit it, fielding a team full of saints isn’t the front office’s No. 1 objective — winning always has been and always will be. A losing team with high moral standing will always fall short of a winning team with questionable characters in regards to perception in the NFL. That might not be right, ethically speaking, but it’s accurate — at least in terms of filling empty orange seats.
Lewan would, in all likelihood, make the Dolphins a better football team. He’s ranked as the No. 3 offensive tackle by my most draft experts thanks to a fantastic combination of size and athleticism. Although many teams are undoubtedly high on Lewan’s ability to play left tackle, he would play on the right side if nabbed by Miami considering the aforementioned Albert will protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill‘s blindside for the foreseeable future.
Lewan’s projected adeptness to play left tackle makes him a more enticing pick for the Dolphins. Albert, at only 29 years old, should be able to hold down the fort at left tackle for at least the next few seasons, but Lewan would provide the Dolphins with his potential long-term replacement.
He’s not a perfect prospect, as seen in some technique issues and a concerning accumulation of penalties he put on tape at Michigan. And he certainly has some boom-or-bust qualities considering his stock is being propelled more by his potential than his current polish. But Lewan’s skill set will be difficult to pass on for those offensive tackle-needy teams. The Dolphins obviously fit the bill, but until now, they haven’t been thought of as a potential landing spot for Lewan considering most scouts peg him as a top-12 talent.
Given Lewan’s legal troubles, however, there is a chance, albeit small, that he’ll still be around when the Dolphins are on the clock. And if he is, he’ll likely be the best player available at Miami’s most pressing need. Whether or not Lewan would actually be the pick in that scenario will likely depend on how committed the Dolphins are to building a team stocked with trustworthy personalities. All things considered, it would be difficult to blame the Dolphins for passing on Lewan or taking the bait.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.