2014 NFL Draft: Is Cyrus Kouandjio Really Miami Dolphins' 1st-Round Target?

By Cody Strahm

Some interesting Miami Dolphins tidbits surfaced on Friday evening, courtesy of a report by Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post, who reported what he was told by a source presumably close to GM Dennis Hickey. The Dolphins will apparently move Koa Misi to MLB, target a guard in the second round of the draft and look to snag a WR early in an effort to replace Rishard Matthews or Armon Binns in 2014, and potentially Brian Hartline in 2015.

But perhaps the most interesting “revelation”, at least to Miami’s immediate future, is that Hickey is supposedly enamored with Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio. According to the report, Hickey prefers Kouandjio to Zack Martin and Morgan Moses and potentially even Taylor Lewan, and will likely nab Kouandjio with the No. 19 overall pick of May’s draft.

Obviously, this is the season of misinformation, so any news that leaks regarding a club’s draft intentions should be considered a smokescreen aimed at leading other teams astray. But is there any reason to believe this story is a true leak and the Dolphins will select Kouandjio in the first round?

It’s difficult to speculate much on the leak’s origin or objective. If true, it doesn’t benefit the Dolphins at all, so we can assume it didn’t arise from a primary decision-maker. Those lower down the totem pole have access to draft discussions with Hickey and members of the coaching staff, but it seems unlikely that any scout or front office assistant would know, without reasonable doubt, Hickey’s plan for May.

Then again, the Dolphins’ haven’t exactly kept their cards close to the chest this offseason. In the days leading up to free agency, reports surfaced that the Dolphins preferred free agent tackle Branden Albert, who was signed, to Eugene Monroe, who most projected to be the target.

The draft is obviously much different than free agency as leaks are more frequent and reliable during the latter, but there are reasons to not rule out this latest report. The truth is, we just don’t know and won’t until the Dolphins pick. Thus, nothing has really changed.

As for if Kouandjio is worth Miami’s first-round pick, there’s good reason to believe he isn’t. When the evaluation process initially began, Kouandjio was considered Day 1-caliber and was actually mocked as the Dolphins’ pick quite frequently. Then, he tested poorly at the combine, which highlighted a huge concern: Kouandjio isn’t the fleetest of foot and could struggle to pass protect versus speed rushers at the next level.

Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net tabbed Kouandjio’s combine workout as “sluggish, slow and totally unprepared,” later mentioning that he heard from one scout that he can say “goodbye” to the first round. There was also the issue of Kouandjio’s knee, which he shredded during his freshman year at Alabama. “I’m told several teams have failed him on his physical,” NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported at the combine. “Arthritic knee from failed surgery. ‘Ugly.'”

Kouandjio has since been cleared by Dr. James Andrews, but it remains unknown if any issues will arise in the future. Despite the slow times and questionable knee, many remain high on Kouandjio and value him as a first-round prospect. “He had a bad combine, so that’s going to throw some people off him,” an unnamed NFC personnel man recently told NJ.com. “But he looked good on tape. He’s big, long, and he competes. I like that.”

“More teams might be looking at him as a right tackle than a left tackle, but I still like his potential and think he’s a candidate to be picked in the first round,” NFL.com’s Charles Davis recently said of Kouandjio.

While he’s been the subject of heavy criticism ever since a disappointing combine, that shoddy workout apparently didn’t completely deflate his stock. Kouandjio struggled with speed on occasion, but he isn’t nearly the concrete-footed mammoth some are making him out to be on film.

None of that means he’ll be the Dolphins’ first-round pick or that he should be. Miami, in my option, would be best served selecting a high-impact player in round one, then choosing from a likely still-impressive heap of tackles in round two. But after what happened in 2013, it would hard to blame the Dolphins for drafting a tackle they’re sold on in the first round. They could certainly do worse than Kouandjio.

Follow Cody Strahm on Twitter.

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