2014 NFL Draft: Miami Dolphins Wouldn't Be Blamed For Selecting Zack Martin With 1st-Round Pick

By Cody Strahm
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Since the dawn of draft season — the near three-month period of incessant speculation pertaining to what NFL teams will do with their numerous draft selections — pundits have, almost unanimously, pegged Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin as the Miami Dolphins‘ most likely choice with the No. 19 overall pick.

Those Dolphins fans who follow the team much more meticulously have, almost unanimously, expressed discontent with Martin to Miami. Those opposed have conveyed that while Martin is a very good football player the Dolphins can find more value their first-round pick.

Perhaps an instant upgrade at linebacker will be available like Alabama‘s C.J. Mosley or, better yet, a difference-making pass catcher like North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron or Oregon State‘s speedy receiver Brandin Cooks.

A prototypical left or right tackle who possesses the ideal measurables Martin lacks would also hypothetically provide Miami with more bang for its buck. Michigan‘s athletic big man Taylor Lewan falling to No. 19 overall is a scenario that is no longer considered impractical, and the Dolphins could also “reach” for a tackle with a late first/early second-round grade if Lewan is snatched up within the first 18 picks.

By measuring in at 6-foot-4 with 32 7/8-inch arms at the NFL Combine, Martin fostered doubts about his physical makeup at tackle. Pro Football Weekly’s Nolan Nawrocki describes Martin as a “dependable college left tackle whose length dictates a move inside.”

Despite Martin’s physical shortcomings at tackle, which remains the Dolphins’ most vital void, there are still many experts who feel Martin is qualified to play inside or outside.

According to CBS Sports draft analyst Rob Rang, “Though Martin lacks the prototypical size of a modern NFL tackle, he has exhibited impressive technique and better-than-average strength, and after a strong Senior Bowl showing, many scouts believe he could not only play on the outside at the next level, but could do so very well.”

Although he doesn’t have the wingspan most tackles who consistently shut down edge rushers embody, few scouts have been able to identify any weaknesses in Martin’s game. He’s one of the most polished offensive line prospects in the entire class and his versatility to play multiple positions along the line makes him more enticing.

Suppose Martin is the Dolphins’ first-round pick. Best-case scenario: Martin becomes a reliable right tackle who eventually takes over for Branden Albert at left tackle. Worst-case scenario: Martin struggles at tackle, but is moved inside where he becomes an effective starter. Guard, like tackle, is a critical need for the Dolphins.

The imminent backlash for selecting Martin is certainly understandable. It’s the boring pick. Mocking Martin to the Dolphins ruins some of the pre-draft fun derived from enigmatic speculation simply because it’s so predictable. In a deep draft for offensive line prospects, there is expected to be quality tackle and guard options available in the second round whereas other positions could see more significant drop offs in talent.

Still, nobody could blame the Dolphins for drafting Martin. Not after what happened in 2013.

After conceding a club record 58 sacks and stumbling to the 26th-ranked rushing attack, the Dolphins deemed nearly a complete overhaul along the offensive line mandatory. Without one, the offense will sputter, overall improvement will be curtailed and Ryan Tannehill will continue to face a steep uphill battle in his effort to surface as a legitimate franchise quarterback.

There is simply too much riding on rookie GM Dennis Hickey‘s first major project with the team — the constructing of a capable zone-blocking and dependable pass protecting front. This is something the Dolphins must get right. If they don’t, Tannehill could remain a mystery after three seasons. And that simply can’t persist.

The Dolphins need to know if they should continue investing in Tannehill as the future or find a new candidate for that elusive distinction next offseason. Adding Martin would equip them with the means to answer that perplexing question.

I hold the opinion that there will be a quality right tackle on the board at pick No. 50 overall — Miami’s second-round choice — and that a player from a higher impact position should be the selection in round one. But I understand why the Dolphins wouldn’t feel comfortable waiting until the second round. The void may be too pressing to risk putting off.

Martin to Miami. A boring pick, yes. A bad pick? Far from it.

Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.

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