After surrendering a league-high 58 total sacks last season, the Miami Dolphins went out and spent big bucks on former Kansas City Chiefs LT Branden Albert to shore up franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill‘s blind side. But Miami was in a pickle after allowing the marquee free agent right tackles to sign elsewhere. New general manager Dennis Hickey decided to reach for a Tennessee Volunteer offensive tackle in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, just not the tackle you may have thought.
With the 19th overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, Miami selected Ja’Wuan James, who played his entire career on the right side of the offensive line for the Volunteers. James has a prototypical right tackle’s body at 6-foot-6, 317-pounds with 35-inch arms.
The knock on James’ game was that he has a very good pass protection skill set but is underdeveloped as a run blocker. Some even question whether or not he is a better fit as a left tackle than a right tackle in the pros.
Nonetheless, James will make an impact immediately for Miami stepping in as the right tackle of the future. James has been working on his craft with Albert, which is a great sign for Miami fans to see their stud left tackle teaching the new youngster the ropes.
James is a smart player who also possesses the leadership and maturity that the Miami locker room desperately needs. With Albert, third-round pick Billy Turner and James all entering the locker room, Miami has quite a group of mature big boys up front. Miami fans should expect a better and more mature looking offensive unit this season, especially under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and offensive line guru John Benton.
Was this a reach at pick No. 19? Sure, but we can debate that for years on whether or not it was a huge reach or just a marginal reach. The fact of the matter is that James was a pick that filled an immediate need by placing a potential future All-Pro on a revamped offensive line and offensive unit altogether.
James will provide instant protection for Tannehill, allowing the young QB to find targets such as Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Jarvis Landry, Brandon Gibson, Charles Clay and numerous others.
Look for James to instantly cement his name as the first-string RT and become battle tested after going head-to-head with one of the league’s best pass rushers in DE Cameron Wake.