Starting left tackles are a premium in the NFL. Outside of the QB, with the way the modern NFL operates - LT is the next most important position on any football team. The Miami Dolphins currently have two tackles on their roster who the team have invested first round picks in the past three years.
The Dolphins have Ja'Wuan James at RT, the teams number 19 overall pick in 2014. Laremy Tunsil (a top-3 talent) fell to Miami at pick 13 last year following a bizarre social media incident on draft night. Tunsil will play LT in 2017 and was part of a talented group in 2016 that included Ronnie Stanley (no.6) Jack Conklin (no.8), Tunsil (no.13), Taylor Decker (no.16) and Germain Ifedi (no.31).
The 2017 NFL Tackle class is pale in comparison. The only players I currently have with first round grades are Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk and Utah's Garett Bolles. After this you have Alabama's Cam Robinson who some scouts seriously doubt whether he has the athleticism to play left or right tackle and might end up being a guard. After this you have Troy's Antonio Garcia, FSU's Roderick Johnson and a number of small-school tackles. This clump of players I have going anywhere from round 2 to round 5. With an exceedingly large drop off between this classes two top tackles and the rest of the pack. Are the Dolphins ideally positioned to trade down to a tackle-needy team?
Tackle landing spots
Numerous teams could be in the market for a new left tackle in the 2017 Draft. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (no.19) and Denver Broncos (no.20) could both be in play for tackles to upgrade their offensive line and protect their young quarterbacks. The Buccaneers will most likely take a play maker on offense or defense over an offensive lineman. I believe the Broncos will pick either Bolles or Ramczyk - depending on who they have ranked higher on their board.
The Detroit Lions pick next at no.21, however, they shelled out just under $76.5m on protecting Mathew Stafford this past offseason. The Lions also invested the no.16 overall pick in Taylor Decker last season. He started all 16 games at left tackle.
The Miami Dolphins pick next at no.22 and despite making the play offs last season, this is not a roster that is just one piece away from another play off push. The Dolphins have clear needs at OG, TE, DE, OLB/ MLB and FS. They could also stand to gain another quality, long cornerback. The Dolphins are ideally located to trade down as all the teams picking after Miami are in need of either left or right tackles.
The New York Giants (no.23) need a quality right tackle who might also compete with Ereck Flower for the LT job. Donald Penn is a quality starter for the Raiders at LT, however, the departure of Menelik Watson leaves a clear hole at RT and Penn will turn 34 later this month. The Houston Texans at (no.25) need quality at the tackle position and will clearly be in the market - IF they do not go quarterback with pick 25. The Seattle Seahawks have had one of the worst offensive lines in football the past three seasons and need to add quality pieces to keep Russell Wilson upright and allow the 'hawks to implement the strong running game we associate with Seattle.
Clearly any one of the next four teams could be in the market for a left tackle to either start straight away, or play right tackle while the teams starter ages. Bolles or Ramczyk would be welcome additions to either of the four mentioned above. The Dolphins are not in the market for a tackle and present a promising trade partner to any of the four teams. Because the Dolphins and the lions are not in the market, Miami becomes all the more enticing as they are the furthest back and directly ahead of the closest competitor for any of these four teams looking at a tackle.
If the Dolphins traded back with either New York (scared the others might leap frog them) or the other three teams looking to pick ahead of the Giants, Miami could still select a quality player AND get another future pick to help improve this teams roster. Based on the NFL trade value chart created by Mike McCoy while serving under Dallas Cowboys Head Coach, Jimmy Johnson, here is what the Dolphins would get in return for trading down with one of the four teams.
Miami Dolphins pick no.22 (R1) → New York Giants pick no.23 (R1) + pick no.167 (R5) or pick no.207 (R6)
Miami Dolphins pick no.22 (R1) → Oakland Raiders pick no.24 (R1) + pick no.129 (R4) or pick no.168 (R5)
Miami Dolphins pick no.22 (R1) → Houston Texans pick no.25 (R1) + pick no.130 (R4) or pick.142 (R4)
Miami Dolphins pick no.22 (R1) → Seattle Seahawks pick no.26 (R1) + pick no.106 (R3)
Does this make sense for Miami?
If the Dolphins traded with the Giants, Raiders, Texans or Seahawks - the Dolphins would gain anywhere from a 3rd round compensatory pick to at worst a 6th round pick. The average comes out at a 4th to 5th round pick which would solidify Miami's draft picks as the team currently has the 22nd (R1), 54th (R2), 97th (R3 comp), 166th (R5), 178th (R5 comp), 184th (R5 comp), 223rd (R7).
In terms of the first round, the Giants and Texans could potentially be in the market for a QB while the Giants, Raiders and Seahawks could all benefit from adding a RB. The team that should most worry Miami's front office is Oakland. Seattle will most likely go CB or safety, but the Raiders could stand to add a talented player in the front seven to improve their woeful pass rush. If Miami trades back behind Oakland then a talented LB like Hasson Reddick, Jarrad Davis or a pass rusher like Charles Harris, Takkarist McKinley or Taco Charlton could end up going to Oakland.
However, the Dolphins could still get there guy at pick no.26 if they traded back from no.22, depending on how the board shakes out. Even if the Dolphins do lose a pass rusher or Linebacker to Oakland, the players in play at this point could still be DE Jordan Willis, DE Charles Harris, DE Taco Charlton, LB Jarrad Davis, LB Zach Cunningham, LB T.J. Watt or a talented corner like Quincy Wilson, Marlon Humphrey or Tre'davious White.
With the Dolphins new 4th or 5th rounder, Miami could select a talented guard. I believe that in every draft class there is always a Pro-Bowl calibre guard to be found in round 3 to 5. In this years class I believe Miami could target Jermaine Eluemunor (Texas A&M), Pat Elflein (Ohio State), Danny Isidora (Miami), Branden Smith (Auburn) or Jordan Morgan (Kutztown) with their new draft pick. The Dolphins could also go linebacker depending on who is available. Prospect I believe will still be there on day 3 but can still be great contributors and future starters are Alex Anzalone (Florida), Elija Lee (Kansas State), Ben Gedeon (Michigan) or Tyus Bowser (Houston - poor man's Hasson Reddick!).
Due to team needs and the way the slate has aligned, the Miami Dolphins could be poised to trade down and reap the rewards of a poor tackle class. This is all about supply and demand - however, I do have three red flags. These are players I believe the Dolphins should not trade down if they are available to take at no.22 - they are simply too valuable to risk gambling for. Alabama LB Reuben Foster (scouting report here), Tennessee's Derek Barnett and Temple's Hasson Reddick are too good to risk trading down and missing out on. If any of these players are available then Miami should stay put. I have obviously used common sense here as if a 'Laremy Tunsil' happens to Myles Garrett or Jamal Adams/ Malik Hooker, then the Dolphins should certainly select them. I believe the Dolphins are in a good position to wheel and deal in the first round. A trade back could still net them a valuable starter late in the first round but also give the Dolphins ammunition further on in the draft. What are your thoughts on the idea of Miami trading down?