With the NFL draft taking place in April, teams have shifted their focus to those players leaving college having declared for the draft.
Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing a series of these articles looking at the potential prospects available for the Miami Dolphins to select. The focus will be on positions of need for the Dolphins and will not look at those areas where there is already good depth.
The aim of this article is to look at the strengths and weaknesses of players declaring for the draft, and analyze whether they are a potential fit for the Dolphins.
The following players are offensive tackles available for selection in the early rounds of the draft.
Anthony Castonzo, Boston College (1st Round) - 6’7’’ 305 lbs
Having first protected Matt Ryan as a right tackle, Castonzo is now seen as a left tackle. This may be more suited for him as he struggled against power defensive ends, and this could be one reason the Dolphins opt against drafting him as Jake Long occupies that slot in Miami.
The Dolphins have met with Castonzo, and are doing due diligence on him in case he does become available when they pick in the first round. He would revert to right tackle if chosen.
However, Castonzo has a long frame, with excellent balance, and quick feet in pass protection. As a result he mirrors the pass rusher, a.
Although he can struggle with leverage against smaller defenders, he does a good job against bigger defenders. Against the run, leverage is also an issue. Although his first push is good, he struggles to sustain it, but he continues to work hard to improve his game.
He has decent speed to make blocks on moving targets, and his athleticism is a plus for scouts, who expect him to only improve as an athlete. His quickness off the snap is decent, and he is usually able to secure the edge. His quickness also helps him turn opponents in the run-game, and that helps him in that area. He works to land downfield blocks as well, and his effort will not go unnoticed.
Having started every game in his career, he is reliable and durable.
He hopes to one day conduct cancer research, and his attitude will be popular among teams. However, he is unlikely to end up a Dolphin, as his future lies on the left side of the offensive line. With Long already a franchise left tackle, it is the right side that requires depth, and for this reason it is hard to see Miami using a first-round pick on Castonzo.
Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin (1st Round) - 6’7’’ 315lbs
Carimi is one of the most athletic tackles in the draft, and has played at tackle and guard, which would appeal to the Dolphins.
He has excellent feet and agility, which makes it difficult to beat him as a pass rusher, and his agility allows him to explode downfield on run plays to open up a gap. He is a willing blocker downfield, and takes good angles on blocks in the open field. The Dolphins are clearly considering whether to select him as the future right tackle.
In pass protection, he is difficult to beat, and has been known to block two pass-rushers at once (one with each hand). However, his biggest flaw is bending at the waist while blocking, which sees him end up on the ground too often, and this will need to be addressed in the NFL.
He is a strong blocker in the run game, and plays with good leverage and power, but his tendency to bend at the waist again causes balance issues. His quickness could play against him, as defenders can knock him off balance or take him upfield despite his elite first step. He has the footwork to move behind the line, and can sustain blocks in space, which will be a bonus for Miami too.
His work ethic will please scouts, and his intelligence (both academically and in football terms) will be a big selling point. He has struggled with some injury problems, including an MCL sprain and a tear in the same MCL scarring, but is happy to play through maladies.
Carimi lined up at guard and tackle in the Senior Bowl, so his versatility may appeal to Miami. If he is on the board he will be considered, perhaps to start at guard before eventually moving to right tackle as Vernon Carey’s replacement. He may be available in the 20-25th picks of the first round, meaning Miami could trade down and still select him, although he would also be worthy of consideration with the 15th pick If Miami cannot trade down.
Tyron Smith, Southern California (1st Round) - 6’5’’ 285 lbs
Athletic and full of potential, Smith started all 24 of his games at USC at right tackle.
Due to his inexperience, he is by no means the finished article and it is unknown how this will affect his draft stock. Some claim he is the top tackle in the draft, and an unfinished article. Others believe there are better tackles in the draft, and those tackles of proven quality should be taken over Smith.
A player who only turned 20 on December 12 could be a force in the NFL for up to 15 years if he fulfills his potential, although he obviously needs to improve to become a top tackle in the pros.
He is not strong enough in the run game to drive defenders back, and often creates a pile instead of opening up a hole for the running back. However, he enjoys the contact, and is good in short-yardage situations with his initial push. He doesn’t finish blocks consistently due to his adequate strength, and as a result is still not great at helping the team make medium-to-long gains on the ground.
Smith is a good positional blocker though, and mobile enough to pull. His balance and speed allows him to get to the second level, where he puts in good effort to block, and looks for a target to hit, but he can struggle to redirect at this level, and may miss blocks or draw holding calls.
His positional blocking in the run-game is good though, and he can turn his opponent well when he gets off the snap quickly. His quickness off the snap is inconsistent though, and while he is capable of being first off the line when required, he can also be last off the snap on occasions.
Pass blocking is his best area, where he has good quickness and balance, and mirrors defenders well. He has long arms and good hands to lock up defenders, but does forget technique occasionally to rely on his agility to stop the defender. As such a young prospect, teams will hope that Smith only goes from strength to strength. He could be worth an investment for Miami, and no doubt there will be interest as he played right tackle at college, although he is seen as a left tackle.
Although he missed a game in 2009 due to suspension, he has only missed part of one game due to injury, and has been used at left tackle in games, showing his versatility.
Even more intriguing to Miami is his special teams’ play, where he blocked two kicks in 2010.
His potential is great, and he could go on to be an elite tackle if he fulfills it. However, the question is whether he can fulfill it. If Miami believe he can, and he falls into the middle to end of the first round, he might be a target for the Dolphins, but some believe he will be off the board before then.
Nate Solder, Colorado (1st Round) - 6’8’’ 314 lbs
Solder won the Big-12 Offensive Lineman of the Year Award, and allowed just one sack as a senior playing every snap for the Buffaloes. His thin frame might worry some, but he works hard in the gym, and is likely to put on more muscle in the next few years. However, it is his athleticism that is the main drawing point for Solder, and this will interest many teams across the NFL; some are already predicting Solder to become a Pro-Bowl caliber lineman.
His athleticism means he is very difficult to get around to reach the quarterback, and he can push blitzing linebackers around too. He anchors well after a bull rush, although he plays narrow which can cause him to lose balance. His main issue comes against smaller pass-rushers, who are able to get under his pads and drive him back, or simply get around him if he fails to lock them up immediately.
Against the run, he has exceptional mobility, and good strength to manhandle defenders and move them away from the ball carrier. He plays with good leverage, especially for someone of that height, and seals the edge well. However, he can struggle on the inside, and this leads to inside runs being stuffed on occasions. He can also block into the secondary, but his height may work against him in this area. His agility allows him to block in open-field, and he is quick to move into the next levels.
His work ethic is outstanding, and he has won awards for his work in the weight room at college (the Iron Buffalo Award).
He isn’t the most vocal leader on the field, which will disappoint the Dolphins’ front office, but he plays with attitude. An excellent and intelligent student, Solder will have no trouble learning on the field and will work hard to improve his game. He could be considered by the Dolphins in the first round, although it is difficult to predict where in the first round he may be selected.
If he falls into the lower half of the draft, then he could be considered, but some see him more as a NFL left tackle.
Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State (1st Round) - 6’6’’ 312 lbs
A winner of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Award, Sherrod was a team captain for the Bulldogs. He recognizes defensive plays quickly, and gets good initial hits on his first target, before passing him on to deal with the blitzing defender. His recognition also allows him to run-block at the second level, something Miami is looking for.
He is top-heavy, which can lead to him being overpowered, and means he struggles to knock defenders off the line in the run game. However, his quickness and hand strength lets him turn defenders. This translates into the pass-game, and his agility helps him mirror defenders. His hand strength helps him control opponents, and he has good leverage and bend. He can become tired though, and leans into defenders, which sees him easily beaten, and that will be a concern for scouts.
He isn’t a great blocker in the open field as he is not agile enough to change direction in open field, and his shape and balance means he is open to spin moves.
However, his intangibles are unquestionable. He spent a lot of time with Mississippi’s youth at college, and organised a Thanksgiving food drive. His community work is excellent, and will make him popular within Miami’s front office, showing the sort of person Sherrod is.
On the whole, Sherrod could come into consideration due to his excellent character, and great size. However, his blocking is perhaps not as elite as other draft prospects, and this will count against him in a first round that has plenty of talent in the position. If Miami trade down, Sherrod should come under consideration, but he will require work to become an elite NFL tackle.
Jason Pinkston, Pittsburgh (2nd Round – 3rd Round) - 6’3’’ 313 lbs
Pinkston has the build of a guard at the next level, but does possess the agility to play tackle, meaning it is difficult to project where he will end up once he is selected in the draft. He protects the inside lane well, and has an excellent motor, both things which appeal to Miami, but there are concerns about his weight and his ability to handle NFL speed.
He possesses a strong initial punch, and is dominant when he locks onto the defender, but scouts believe he lacks great flexibility, and relies on his strength a little too much. He uses his size well and can take the quicker rush ends around the pocket, giving good effort to mirror his opponent. He can be susceptible to a second rush though, as he occasionally lunges in without good footwork.
It would be a surprise to see Pinkston in aqua and orange next year; without really projecting as a tackle or a guard in the NFL. With the Dolphins converting John Jerry from tackle to guard last year, and then watching him lose the starting job a few months later, they may be cautious of doing the same thing again. As a result, it would be a surprise to see Pinkston as a Dolphin, as they will likely look for a true tackle, or an experienced guard.
Marcus Cannon, TCU (2nd Round) - 6’5’’ 350 lbs
A huge figure, Cannon is quite agile for his size, and is projected as a right tackle in the NFL (although some see him more as a guard as he is similarly sized to current Dolphin, John Jerry). His good work ethic and character will also interest Miami, and he can use his large frame to hold off defenders, although he is susceptible to speed on the outside.
He does not have great quickness, and is often last off the line and can get beaten outside if quarterbacks do not release early.
His feet do allow him to create holes inside, though he is limited as a pulling guard. His size limits his reactions too, and he sometimes fails to pick up blitzers or land blocks downfield. However, he can drive defenders off the line, and seals the edge well with his size. He does not consistently deal with smaller players either, and lacks an explosive first step, although this may be better if he was moved to guard.
Although he will struggle with speed on the edge, he is difficult to get around, and has good footwork. He lines up in two-point stance and this will be a concern to scouts, as he struggles to maintain contact with defenders. His feet are good though, and he can react to cut moves nicely.
Overall, he has great size, but is limited by this against fast pass rushers. He is seen more as an interior lineman by many, and might interest Miami more in this regard than as a tackle. If Miami do select Cannon, expect them to move him inside, but Jerry’s struggles mean that they might think twice about converting another similar prospect from tackle to guard.
DeMarcus Love, Arkansas(3rd Round) – 6’4’’ 315 lbs
Love was initially projected as a late-first-round pick, but his stock has fallen considerably following poor Senior Bowl practices, and there are concerns that he will have to be moved inside to guard in the NFL due to his lack of agility and balance. However, this could also project him as a right tackle, and as a mid-round pick, he has enough potential to be a good selection for an NFL team.
He has good size and strength in the run game, with good hands and power, but struggles with his balance when asked to redirect. In pass protection, he has good quickness off the snap, but lacks balance and agility, and would struggle with explosive speed off the edge. If he gets his hand on defenders, he can dominate them, but his lack of quickness is an issue on counter moves.
He struggles as a pulling blocker too, and is not a top second-level blocker as he does not redirect well. He does give good effort, and is a nasty lineman who takes no prisoners. He looks for the emphatic pancake, and likes to smash defenders into the turf, resulting in some huge blocks, but can lead to lunging at defenders in the open-field, resulting in missed blocks.
Love is a two-time team captain with no injury problems and 37 starts. He has a degree, and his character would make him popular among the Dolphins’ front office. However, there are concerns over his play, and Miami may look for a more reliable right tackle, or a pure guard, in the draft. If Love did continue to slide down draft boards he could offer a tempting prospect, as a player who some considered as a first-round talent, but it would be reasonable to expect the Dolphins to look elsewhere.
James Carpenter, Alabama (3rd Round) – 6’4’’ 321lbs
Carpenter is a quality athlete with good potential, and he may interest the Dolphins on the second or third day of the draft. He lacks the elite footwork needed to play at left tackle in the NFL, but would be a good right tackle prospect, particularly when you consider his excellent technique. He plays with his good knee-bend, hand-placement, and footwork in pass protection.
He is powerful, and capable of moving defenders, but he also has stiff hips which means he doesn’t change directions well. This means he is vulnerable to double moves, and may struggle against pass-rushers with a good array of rushing techniques. Another concern is his quickness off the snap, which is inconsistent, particularly when he plays in front of loud crowds.
Despite these worries, he has the ability to anchor, trap, pull and seal the edge, and has played in a NFL-style offense. He is a tough, durable player, who never missed a start, and he is capable of running to make a block at the second level, although he does dive a little too much.
Carpenter has the potential to become a solid right tackle in the NFL, and with his good technique and attitude, he will improve. However, he has some flaws, and his struggle to contain quick defenders would be a concern in the NFL. His potential may intrigue Miami as he could be a future replacement for Vernon Carey, and if he falls below the third, Miami might consider him. Despite this, it would be a bit of a reach for the Dolphins to draft him before then considering their areas of need, and the fact that Carpenter is a project.
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