With the first wave of free agency essentially over, we are left to examine the one unit that everybody that watched the Miami Dolphins last year thought needed the most attention.
Most Dolphins fans expected a move that could land an Andrus Peat, Graham Glasgow, and/or a big ticket item such as Joe Thuney or Jack Conklin. Of them all, there is only some circumstantial evidence that they approached Glasgow (he was locked into Denver early) and that interest in Thuney was strong till the Patriots tagged him.
So we were left with the signings of Ereck Flowers to play left guard, and Ted Karras to play center. A modest improvement, but these are moves that are based on hope /projection rather than accolades and reputation. Ereck Flowers, as has been said in print on these pages, and on the Three Yards Per Carry Podcast, is a guy that has essentially played a very good 8 games in his 5 year career. Karras is a guy who found himself at center for 15 games for the 2019 New England Patriots, and has remarkable “counting stats” (2 penalties, and 1 sack allowed in 15 starts for the Patriots). Both can be good, if all goes well, but we know it hardly ever works out that way.
Ereck Flowers in 2019
Weeks 1-8: 5 penalties committed, 1 game with a pass blocking grade over 70.0
— PFF MIA Dolphins (@PFF_Dolphins) March 16, 2020
So what do they have in house as of now, and what do they need? Let’s start with the two signees. If these two are not hopeless busts they are at the very least, upgrades over what they had there before, so lets pencil in Flowers at LG and Karras at Center. That leaves Jesse Davis as the possible RG, or even the returning starter at Right Tackle. Michael Dieter is now displaced from his LG spot, and is now interior line depth and the likely backup at center, where he can receive further development. Shaq Calhoun, Julian Davenport, and Danny Isidora can only be considered camp bodies and bottom of the roster guys, so let’s go shopping shall we?
TRADE FOR ONE
Trade for Trent Williams. He’s available. You have the assets. So what’s the holdup? Well, it is as easy as snapping your fingers, since his agent is requesting that Washington release him, so if you pony up an asset, the Redskins will likely part with him. The Dolphins had inquired this past season, and no deal could be had due to what was reported to be a pretty fat ask of what was at the very least a 2nd round pick. The other hold up I can foresee is that he wants to get paid. $20 million a year on a 3 year deal is not out of the question. You can make the case that (if healthy), Trent Williams is easily a top 3 Tackle in the NFL, and you can make a pretty good case that he might be the very best at left tackle. Trent is also versatile, and capable of making a switch to Right Tackle, just in case Miami drafts a left handed Quarterback in the first round. At #5 or higher. From Alabama. Via ‘Ewa Beach, Hawaii. Trent makes too much sense.
DRAFT ONE, OR TWO, OR THREE.
This is the harder part of the equation. There are 4 strong tackle prospects in this draft that all figure to go before the Dolphins use their 2nd pick of the first round at #18. They are, in no particular order: Andrew Thomas (Georgia, LT), Mekhi Becton (Louisville, LT), Tristan Wirfs (Iowa, RT), Jedrick Wills (Alabama, RT). You gotta think that the decision is made rather easy at #18 if any of these four drop to you. But let’s operate on the assumption that all four get taken before #18 (likely), and the Dolphins don’t have the appetite to package picks to move up (also likely). I have two “VONTAE MACK, NO MATTER WHAT” guys. One for the first round, and one for the second round, and possibly for that #26 pick.
JOSH JONES, HOUSTON LT, 6′-5″ 319 lbs.
Josh Jones is a dancer, and an athlete playing tackle in the mold of former Miami standout Laremy Tunsil. The advanced metrics love him as evidenced by the video above, and his senior bowl week was top notch. Jones has consistently improved almost game for game leading up to his last at Houston, despite having 4 Offensive Line coaches in 4 years. He is quick out of his stance, and moves effortlessly to the second level in the run game. A tell tale sign for these guys on tape in the run game is if they can find guys to hit, or do they tend to wander aimlessly when they are asked to make those reach blocks. Jones always seems to find his man. Jones is asking for coaching, as his technique is not as polished as you would like for a day 1 starter, but if his current “arrow up” trajectory means anything, he will take to NFL coaching and be a starter in year 1 in the NFL. I take him at #18 without hesitation (if the “big 4” are gone).
LUCAS NIANG, TCU RT, 6′-6″ 315 lbs.
Ok, this is probably a reach at #26, but in the 2nd round, you can find yourself regretting it down the road if you pass on him at #39 or #56. Now, he is coming off a Hip Injury/Surgery as he only played in 7 games in 2019. I can hear you grumbling. He is expected to make a complete recovery and be ready for workouts as soon as this summer. Niang is a very aware people mover, that plays with a great deal of intelligence and technique. He drops to anchor and stonewall the bull rush consistently on tape. He is also the type to find people to hit and he finishes blocks in space which is impressive for such a big man. He has had success against the bigger names he has faced throughout his career. What pops immediately as you watch Niang is how aware he is, and his professional demeanor. The best way I can put it is this: “Lucas Niang, plays like an adult.” Easy take for me with either pick in the 2nd round, strong debate at #26 if there is a run on tackles.
Alfredo Arteaga (@Alf_Arteaga) is one-third of the trio that hosts the Three Yards Per Carry (@3YardsPerCarry) podcast.