Thursday, May 1, 2014
Gruden sizes up rookie offensive tackles
By James Walker
One of the worst-kept secrets in this year’s NFL draft is the Miami Dolphins will draft offensive linemen. There is a strong chance Miami will dedicate at least two of its six draft picks this year on fixing the position.
The Dolphins are in the process of completely making over the offensive line. Miami could have four new starters next season after the departures of tackles Bryant McKinnie and Tyson Clabo in free agency and guards Richie Incognito and John Jerry due to last year’s bullying scandal. Jonathan Martin, who began the 2013 season at left tackle, was traded after leaving the team in late October due to the harassment.
Miami could only do so much in free agency. The Dolphins signed starting left tackle Branden Albert and guard Shelley Smith. But another guard position and right tackle remain wide open entering next week’s draft.
Top prospects such as Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan are expected to be off the board when the Dolphins select at No. 19. Therefore, former NFL head coach and ESPN football analyst Jon Gruden shared his thoughts on this year’s second tier of offensive tackles in a recent conference call:
“Morgan Moses at Virginia is a very interesting guy to me. They've had a history of left tackles come out of Virginia. Moses is a kid that played one year at left tackle. He was a right tackle for a couple years. Joel Bitonio at Nevada is an interesting player. A fifth-year senior, been around, worked hard. I think he has some position flexibility, can play right, left or go inside. I like Zack Martin at Notre Dame. He might be my favorite linemen in this draft – 52-time starter, captain, really excelled at the Senior Bowl, drill work. Cyrus Kouandjio at Alabama, interesting player. Had some knee issues. I believe he's rounding into health. Massive person with experience on the left side. There's a number of interesting big people in this draft. I think last year we had three tackles go in the top five. So we got a lot of good quality offensive linemen coming into pro football here.”
The Dolphins are expected to have interest in all of these prospects. Martin is the top target at No. 19 of this group. But Moses and Bitonio also are possibilities in the second round.
Look for Miami to not only look for offensive linemen in the early rounds, but also in the middle and late rounds, as well.