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To draft the top left tackle, or not draft the top left tackle? That could be a question the Miami Dolphins will spend some time debating ahead of the 2021 NFL draft later this month.
The Dolphins own the No. 6 and No. 18 picks in the first round of the draft, where Oregon’s Penei Sewell may be the best offensive tackle available in the top 10, while Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater could challenge that billing.
Sewell or Slater could displace Austin Jackson, the Dolphins’ No. 18 pick last year, at left tackle, but Jackson has played right tackle before.
Those moves could put last year’s rookie right tackle Robert Hunt inside at right guard. Or, the Dolphins could shuffle around any one of their starting offensive linemen from a season ago like Ereck Flowers, Solomon Kindley and Jesse Davis to either of the guard positions.
The Dolphins may not need to spend such valuable picks on an offensive lineman with other glaring needs at receiver, edge rusher and running back.
But the franchise could consider drafting a center or right tackle with a later pick.
The Dolphins offensive line was one of the NFL’s weakest units during coach Brian Flores’ first season in 2019 after Miami traded away former franchise left tackle Laremy Tunsil.
It may not be one of the NFL’s best, but the position group now has talent, depth, size and youth thanks to Flores and general manager Chris Grier. And those are all positives for a unit tasked with keeping Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa upright as he prepares for his second season.
Jackson, Flowers, Kindley, Hunt and Davis all started games last season alongside former center Ted Karras, who was replaced by former Baltimore Ravens starter Matt Skura this offseason.
Skura was one of four centers in the NFL to be ranked in the top 10 in win rates while run and pass blocking. He was 10th, winning 72% of his run blocks, while fourth winning 96% of his pass blocks, according to ESPN.
Overall, Skura should help improve Miami’s rating in those areas, where the Dolphins were 23rd winning 69% of their run blocks and 27th winning 51% of their pass blocks.
Skura, 28, could be a viable piece on the Dolphins offensive line, especially if Miami is unable to select one of the best centers available in the draft like Alabama’s Landon Dickerson, Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey and Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Quinn Meinerz.
Flowers, a former first-round pick making $10 million next season, should start again at left guard, while Kindley, Davis and Hunt could be in a competition for the right guard and tackle positions this season.
Former third-round pick Michael Deiter, who can play guard and center, highlights the other offensive linemen on the Dolphins roster, which include guard Durval Queiroz Neto, tackles Adam Pankey and Jonathan Hubbard, and centers Tyler Gauthier and Cameron Tom before the draft.