Is Offensive Tackle the Dolphins' Biggest Draft Need?
There have been countless stories written over the past weeks about the Miami Dolphins and the top quarterback prospects in the draft, about trading up for Joe Burrow, about the risk of selecting Tua Tagovailoa, about liking Justin Herbert more than Tua, and on and on and on.
And there will be a lot more of those stories in the days ahead, until the 2020 NFL draft actually kicks off Thursday night.
But the reality is that landing a quarterback might not actually be the most immediate need for the Dolphins.
Let's quickly emphasize the term "immediate need."
Landing a franchise quarterback clearly is the priority for the Dolphins simply because they haven't had one since Dan Marino ended his Hall of Fame career after the 1999 season.
But if the focus is 2020 — assuming there will be a season — then it's most important for the Dolphins to come out of the draft with a blue-chip offensive tackle than a quarterback.
The reason is simple, and that's the Dolphins roster.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is back for a second season in Miami after earning team MVP honors in 2019 when he guided the Dolphins to a 5-4 record over the final nine games.
And he did that with what clearly was sub-par personnel — with few exceptions, such as wide receiver DeVante Parker, who enjoyed a breakout season.
Fitzpatrick also had a good 2018 season during his final year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so there's reason to be optimistic he can be a solid starter again.
That means whoever the Dolphins end up getting at quarterback — if they indeed get someone — doesn't have to come in and start right away.
The situation is different at tackle, where the Dolphins clearly need an upgrade.
Julien Davenport, acquired from Houston last year as part of the big Laremy Tunsil trade, ended last season as the starting left tackle and remains a work in progress.
Jesse Davis started the opener at left tackle before moving to right tackle, though he previously had played at guard and just might be better inside.
After the signings of Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras in free agency, the Dolphins appear set at left guard and center, but the other three spots are fluid.
Thanks to that Tunsil trade and that of Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Steelers, the Dolphins have three first-round picks and it would be surprising to see them use all three without addressing the tackle position.
There are four prospects considered at the top of the class — Tristan Wirfs from Iowa, Jedrick Wills from Alabama, Andrew Thomas from Georgia and Mekhi Becton from Louisville — and any of them likely would be Day 1 starters for the Dolphins.
The Dolphins have picks 5, 18 and 26 in the first round, and most of the projections have them taking a tackle with that 18th selection.
It's also entirely possible the Dolphins could pull a surprise and make a tackle their first choice at 5, and perhaps they might trade up from 18 after taking a quarterback at 5 to avoid the possibility of the four top tackles all being gone.
After the top four, the next group of tackles includes Austin Jackson from USC, Ezra Cleveland from Boise State and Josh Jones from Houston, and the Dolphins could go for either of them at No. 26.
There's a lot of uncertainty as to how exactly it's going to play out, but the Dolphins do have to come out of the 2020 draft with a tackle.