The Miami Dolphins' struggles on the offensive line are well documented. Injuries and lack of depth are part of the reason this group allowed 45 quarterback sacks last season and a league-high 184 sacks since 2012.
But the Dolphins took a huge step in the right direction when they drafted OT Laremy Tunsil at No. 13 overall. The team did not expect it would have a chance at Tunsil -- he was the No. 2-rated player on its board -- but an unpredictable set of circumstances that included a leaked video of Tunsil smoking through a gas mask led to his stock plummeting.
The Dolphins were happy beneficiaries to get one of the top-rated players in the draft.
“I was ecstatic,” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said. “I tried not to watch the [draft]. It has always been kind of a work weekend for me. I’ll sit at the desk, but I’ll have it on in the [office] and watch. The further he dropped. ... I kind of started feeling myself get a little knot in my stomach.”
According to Dolphins vice president Mike Tannenbaum, the pick was universally approved within the building. The team also has received mostly good reviews from local and national media.
But here is where things get tricky: Miami didn’t need an offensive tackle in this draft and already has two solid starters in Branden Albert and Ja'Wuan James. Here is my prediction of how Miami’s offensive line will look at the beginning of the season.
Left tackle: Albert
Why: Albert is a 10-year veteran and coming off a solid season as a Pro Bowl alternate. He’s earned the right not to play out of position this late in his career. Albert is making $8.45 million in 2016 and could be playing his final year in Miami after the team selected Tunsil to potentially be the left tackle of the future.
Left guard: Tunsil
Why: The rookie is strong enough and athletic enough to make the adjustment. The reason I have Tunsil at left guard is because that side a more important as the blindside for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is right-handed. Dallas Thomas struggled mightily at left guard last year, and Tunsil will be a major upgrade, despite playing out of position. Tunsil also can seamlessly move to offensive tackle if there is an injury at that position, which has been the case for the past two seasons.
Center: Mike Pouncey
Why: Pouncey has been a consistent force on the field and in the locker room for the Dolphins. He was elected to his third Pro Bowl in 2015 but didn’t participate due to injury. This also presents a scenario where Tunsil will have two veterans (Albert, Pouncey) next to him, which will be a solid learning opportunity for the rookie.
Right guard: Billy Turner
Why: This is the toughest position to predict. There will be various players competing for this spot. But Turner is the incumbent as the 2015 starter and early leader. I’m not sure Jermon Bushrod can make the transition to guard late in his career and Dallas Thomas has had enough blown opportunities as a starter. Kraig Urbik is a sleeper with starting experience to keep an eye on.
Right tackle: James
Why: The 2014 first-round pick will be considered to move inside to guard. But I predict the Dolphins will keep him at his natural position of right tackle because James isn’t stout and strong enough to play inside. James is a pretty good right tackle when healthy.