Miami Dolphins: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

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DAVIE, Fla. -- It was one of the worst-kept secrets in the NFL draft that the Miami Dolphins desperately needed to fix their offensive line this week. Miami’s weakest unit allowed a franchise-record 58 quarterback sacks and could have as many as four new starters next season. Major changes were needed.

But the first pick of the Dennis Hickey era felt like a reach Thursday night when the Dolphins selected right tackle Ja'Wuan James at No. 19 overall. Most draft experts did not rate James as the 19th-best player in this draft. James said himself that some people told him he was projected to go in the second round. There was a solid chance the Dolphins could've landed James later in the first round by trading down to acquire more picks, which seemed like the best scenario.

However, Hickey said James was the best available player on the Dolphins' draft board. (I have yet to see a general manager willing to admit the opposite.) James was a player Miami did extensive homework on and fits many of the characteristics the team is looking for.

But the big question remains: Did Miami get the right value for this pick?

“We had a couple calls [for trades], but we were just excited about picking Ja'Wuan James and adding him to our roster,” Hickey said. “He’s a guy that definitely fits in from a talent aspect as well as a person, and brings what the Dolphins were all about.”

The draft board did not fall in Miami's favor. The Dolphins were put at a disadvantage when top-tier offensive tackles Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan and Zack Martin were all taken off the board in the first 16 picks. That left the Dolphins with the option of picking the fifth-rated offensive tackle, which is their biggest need, or another position. Miami passed on higher-rated players by the general consensus such as safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerback Darqueze Dennard.

On the positive, James could be a Day 1 starter for Miami. The Dolphins' offensive line was ravaged this offseason due to the loss of offensive tackles Bryant McKinnie and Tyson Clabo in free agency and guards Richie Incognito and John Jerry with last year’s bullying scandal. James started 49 career games at Tennessee in the competitive Southeastern Conference and comes to Miami with plenty of college experience.

“I’m a tough, smart offensive lineman,” James said on a conference call with the Miami media. “I pride myself on being smart and not making many mistakes. I bring athleticism to the table, strength and a lot of experience.”

The Dolphins held the No. 19 pick only twice before in their team history. Miami selected two solid players: offensive lineman Vernon Carey (2004) and defensive end Kim Bokamper (1976) with those picks. Perhaps James can join the aforementioned pair as a quality contributor for the franchise. If that's the case, no one will care several years from now where James was taken. But Hickey's first draft pick in Miami lacks sizzle.
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Thursday from around the Web:
  • Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald reports the Dolphins will ship their seventh-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens to complete last year’s Bryant McKinnie trade.
Morning take: Miami has only six picks remaining in May’s NFL draft. But the team got a starting left tackle for 10 games. It was a quality short-term rental.
  • Richmond Webb and Keith Sims talked to the Dolphins' team site about Miami’s current offensive line.
Morning take: The Dolphins could use both offensive linemen in their prime. Two holes remain at guard and right tackle.
  • Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post reports the Dolphins are hoping to bid for a Super Bowl in 2019.
Morning take: Miami is a destination city but an outdated stadium is hurting its chances. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is willing to finance stadium renovations in exchange for property-tax relief.
  • Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel writes about 10 possible draft picks for the Dolphins, including Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Morning take: Clinton-Dix would be a solid value at No. 19. However, the Dolphins signed free agent Louis Delmas, which eliminates safety as a major need.

Walker's Dolphins Draft Watch: 1.0

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
1:30
PM ET
The NFL draft is months away. But it's never too early to discuss how the Miami Dolphins must improve their roster.

There will be months of evaluations, workouts and stocks going up and down among college players. But here are ESPN.com's Dolphins page's early top five matches for Miami with the No. 19 overall pick.

1. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

Analysis: Miami starting offensive tackles Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie are both free agents. Jonathan Martin, a 2012 second-round pick, also is not expected back following Miami's recent bullying scandal. That makes a first-round tackle like Kouandjio a target for Miami. It's hard to go wrong with an Alabama offensive lineman. Alabama's run blocking and pass protection has been arguably the nation's best for the past three years, and Kouandjio was part of that.

2. Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State

Analysis: Miami's running game was 26th in the NFL last year. Hyde is the top running back prospect in the draft. It's a natural link. Hyde was productive for Ohio State last season with 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is a big, physical runner, which Miami lacked last year. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas were not the answer for the Dolphins last year.

3. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

Analysis: Martin doesn't have the physical gifts of Kouandjio. But Martin gets the most of his ability and fits the mold of a "Joe Philbin guy." He's a hard worker and former team captain at Notre Dame. Martin may have position versatility to play guard at the NFL level, as well. The Dolphins' coaching staff values players who are good at multiple positions.

4. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

Analysis: Miami starting safety Chris Clemons is an unrestricted free agent and replaceable. The Dolphins need a playmaker on the back end to pair with Reshad Jones, and Clinton-Dix has that potential. Clinton-Dix has good instincts, awareness and also can cover well, which the Dolphins lacked at safety last season. Re-signing corner Brent Grimes and drafting Clinton-Dix would make for a stronger secondary for Miami in 2014.

5. Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

Analysis: If you can't tell by now, the Dolphins need offensive tackles. Moses is another prospect with potential, but he's more of an unfinished product than Kouandjio and Martin. Moses may be better suited at right tackle than left tackle. But it doesn't hurt that Miami offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was part of the coaching staff that recruited Moses to the University of Virginia.

Periodically, we will update this with our 2.0 list as we continue to get closer to the NFL draft.

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