We’ve already focused on the linebackers, and safeties, but today we go to the trenches, where the 300 pound behemoths lurk, the ones in the line of fire, whose sworn duty is to protect #17, the QB, Ryan Tannehill.
A lot of people point to the Dallas Cowboys as the blueprint for success for Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin. They point to what Jason Garrett did in his first full 3 years (8-8), and then to his breakout year last year with the Cowboys (12-4). Not that the Dolphins roster is structured exactly the same as the Dallas Cowboys at this juncture, but one could easily point to their 1st RD draft choice, OG Zack Martin as the move that enabled the Cowboys to be what they were last year. Martin solidified the O-line, and this allowed the Cowboys offense to perform on an entirely new level. LT Tyron Smith (1st RD ’11)) – LG Ronald Leary (UDFA ’12) – C Travis Frederick (1st RD ’13) – RG Zack Martin (1st RD ’14) – RT Doug Free (4th RD 2007) So you see, the Cowboys have used THREE 1st RD picks to out this excellent line together, along with a 4th RD pick, and UDFA.
The Dolphins line, if projected right now, with what we currently have on the roster, and assuming Brandon Albert is ready to start the season healthy is this . . . LT Branden Albert (1st RD ’08) – LG Billy Turner (3rd RD ’14) – Mike Pouncey (1st RD ’11) – RG Shelley Smith (6th RD ’10) – RT Ja’Wuan James (1st RD ’14). Billy Turner played in 2 games, and did not start either game. Shelley Smith played in 11 games, started 3. Both OG spots, at least as far as I’m concerned are question marks. If Albert is healthy, he’s our LT, Pouncey goes back to C, and Rookie standout Ja’Wuan James goes back to his natural RT spot. The question is, do we need to draft a G in the first RD? Not necessarily, but . . . . If La’el Collins is there at #14, and he likely will be, do you take him?
My reasoning behind why I might do it, is this. We all say we need the O-line fixed, because we were lousy at pass protection, and we couldn’t convert on short yardage plays. We also, unfortunately, don’t know if Branden Albert will actually be healthy enough to start game 1 of the ’15 season, so then not only do we have 2 holes to fill at both OG spots, but now we don’t have a LT either. My thought is that if Albert can’t go early, Ja’Wuan James once again mans the LT spot as he did after Albert went down, and La’el Collins plays the RT spot until Albert comes back. Once Albert is healthy, James goes to RT, and Collins plays RG. Collins is a fierce run blocker, and I think he would help immeasurably on all those short yardage conversions we’ve failed on the last couple of years, as well solidify the line as a pass blocker.
Let’s look at the options available in this years draft . . .
The best OL prospect in the ’15 draft, Scherff will almost certainly be off the board before the Dolphins pick at #14, and most likely, in the top 5 picks. Scherff is real road grader, easily the best run blocker in this draft. He isn’t, however a great pass protector. He’s as powerful as they come, but he doesn’t always get his hands out on defenders, and doesn’t move laterally well, and may be forced to play either RT or even move inside to OG in the NFL.
NFL.com’s Lance Zeirlein rates him tops at 6.45, and clearly, his pass blocking is what keeps that grade down. He will likely be impressive at the combine, as he is a real gym rat and is a very impressive weight lifter, and his leg strength is tremenedous.
NFL comparison – Reilly Reiff
Andrus Peat – OT Stanford 6’7” 316
I know, I know, never again should we take an OT from Stanford! Peat is not Jonathan Martin, so therefore, you have to look at him as an individual, and not from the school he comes from. Peat is most likely the 2nd highest rated OL on most boards, and NFL.com has him as #2.
As opposed to Jon Martin, Peat is a powerful run blocker, and a pretty good pass blocker as well. At LT, Peat struggles with speed rushers. He may, like Scherff, need to move to the right side as a RT in the NFL. NFL.com has him rated at 6.2
NFL comparison – Charles Spencer
La’el Collins – OT LSU 6’5” 321
Collins is a brawler, a mean run blocking machine. He loves to intimidate opponents, and is a real finisher who plays to the whistle. Like all prospects, he has his struggles, and even though he played LT at LSU, he too will most likely have to play RT, or even move inside to OG in the NFL. I look at Collins, and think of all those short yardage plays we were pushed back. I also like that he’s a big insurance policy for us if Branden Albert isn’t ready, or even worse, if he has a setback. I know some guys say Jason Fox, or this guy, or that guy, but all of those guys didn’t help us last year, and we saw what Ja’Wuan James did last year, and look over to Dallas, and see what Zack Martin did. Sometimes, you get what you pay for. I’m not saying if we draft Collins we’re set for the next 10 years, but we might be. The main reason why I wont be opposed to another 1st RD OL, is because it’s a legitimate need. Yes, there are other OG’s in this draft who may suffice, or maybe even other OT’s, but I love the versatility and meanness that Collins brings.
NFL.com has Collins graded at at 6.16,the 3rd best OL, and most teams boards probably do as well.
NFL comparison – Maurkice Pouncey
TJ Clemmings – OT Pitt 6’5” 309
Clemmings was possibly a top 20 lock before the Senior Bowl, but his stock may have dropped a bit, after struggling in some individual drills in practice. Regardless, he’s till probably top 5 on most boards.
Clemmings is a very athletic OL who really moves well. What may elevate him still is the fact that he may be the best true LT prospect in this draft. He has the speed, and athleticism to handle the speed rushers, and although he’s not overpowering, he delivers a jolting hand punch, and he plays with a mean streak, so he has potential. Like most prospects, he’s a work in progress.
NFL.com has him rated at 6.14
NFL comparison – Duane Brown
AJ Cann – OG South Carolina 6’4” 311
Cann is the first true guard prospect we’re looking at. Although some are projected to play G, Cann is a 4YR starter at G. Had the agility to be a LG prospect. He is a good drive blocker, but also is excellent at neutralizing the defender, and staying with blocks. One of his weaknesses is once he gets to the second level, he doesn’t always maintain control, and sometimes gets his weight too far forward in pass protection, which many prospects do.
He’s the highest rated OG on NFL.com at 6.0. Most likely to be a starter from day one.
Flowers is a big boy, and plays with a nasty demeanor. L
ike some of the other prospects I’ve discussed, he’s a great run blocker, but his pass blocking is what most likely insures he’s only a RT, and not LT prospect. Keep in mind though, he did play LT at Miami. He could probably start at RT, but would need work to be an NFL LT. He’s another OL that finishes his blocks in the run game. For those of you who want to improve Tannehill’s protection, not sure Flowers is the man. I await flak from D-Bolt about that!
NFL.com has Flowers rated at 5.97
NFL comparison – Anthony Davis
Laken Tomlinson – OG Duke 6’3” 330
4 year starter, and an intelligent player. Not a very athletic guard, but excellent in his pass blocking technique. Get this, he did not allow a sack in the last 2 years! Projecting to the NFL is the big issue, because although Tomlinson did very well on the college level, scouts think he might struggle with the speed in the NFL.
He’s rated at 5.6 on NFL.com
NFL comparison – Chris Watt
Ali Marpet – OG Hobart 6’4” 310
The real knock on Marpet is the level of competition he played against at Hobart (Div. III). He is, however, a very good OL. He was a 4YR starter at LT. Has good foot quickness and a strong leg drive. Technically sound blocker who can get lower than his opponent giving him better leverage. Looked great at the Senior Bowl, played with a chip to prove he belongs with the better competition. Most likely too short, both in height and arm length and will project better to OG.
NFL.com has him rated 5.45
NFL comparison – Eric Kush (Marpet says Justin Pugh)
Cedric Ogbuehi – OT Texas A&M 6’5” 305
Very smooth athlete who moves well, good foot quickness. Is able to slide step well to meet opponent and maintains good balance. Ogbuehi’s achilles is his playing strength. While he moves well, he doesn’t have the power to beat more powerful opponents, he works hard to sustain blocks and uses his hands well. He played both OT and OG at A&M, and played both well, against stout competition.
He’s the 2nd highest rated OG on NFL.com at 5.9
NFL comparison – Eugene Monroe
If Ogbuehi hits the weight room for a year, he could turn out to be a great NFL player.
Rob Havenstein – OT Wisconsin 6’8” 333
Havenstein is a big, big dude. He’s probably going to have the longest arms at the combine, and at OT, that’s a real advantage. Moves better than expected for a guy his size. Excellent drive blocker who has good control at the second level, maintaining his balance and hitting targets. Obvious difficulties are he rarely gets lower than his opponent, and he has stiffness in his knees, which Doctors will undoubtedly look into thoroughly. He’s a 3 year starter, who most likely will have to play RT in the pros.
NFL.com rates him at 5.77