The Miami Dolphins‘ selection of North Dakota State offensive lineman Billy Turner in the third round could be remembered as GM Dennis Hickey‘s best decision of the 2014 draft in time.
Turner’s high ceiling is highlighted by ideal strength, athleticism and nastiness, and the versatility to play inside at guard or outside at tackle. He potentially killed two birds with one stone for the Dolphins, with the ability to be the immediate plug-and-play right or left guard the club was in search of and a candidate to kick outside to left or right tackle when either position becomes a need in the future.
With all that said, Turner enters the league with some noticeable rawness. Room to grow is evident in his technique at times, which can be expected considering he didn’t need polished footwork and hand placement to dominate FCS competition. But to immediately start and excel at the NFL level as a rookie, Turner needs to refine those elements of the game.
This summer’s training camp and preseason will be absolutely crucial for Turner’s prospects of cracking the starting lineup. Although he’s been seen at left guard during OTAs, he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of playing right guard once he’s mastered the playbook.
Regardless, Turner’s competition for a first-string spot is expected to be Dallas Thomas and Shelley Smith. Thomas, like Turner, was a third-round pick last season, but didn’t see playing time in year one after looking like a dear in the headlights during his rookie preseason at tackle. Now that he’s inside at guard, where his ceiling is at its highest, Thomas could be a handful for Turner.
Smith, meanwhile, is the veteran of the group, even with a mere eight starts in three seasons. His ability as an athletic run blocker, born to play in the zone-blocking scheme, is what intrigued the Dolphins the most in free agency. Past ineptitude in pass protection — which is specifically concerning after the 58 sacks the Dolphins allowed in 2013 — makes Smith susceptible to getting bypassed by the youngsters if either his struggles continue or Turner and Thomas steal the show.
It should be an interesting rookie year for Turner. FCS to the NFL is a gigantic jump, but he seems to possess the ability and demeanor needed to make it rather effortlessly. If he proves to be a quick study at camp, Turner should find himself in the starting lineup come Week 1.
Cody Strahm is an NFL Senior Writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.