By: Chip Turner
This is the second of two articles on 2021 Dolphins draft pick Larnel Coleman. For the first part, go here.
For years, going on a decade, the Miami Dolphins offensive line justifiably has been an area of concern, ridicule, and at times outright catastrophe. Starting in 2020, Chris Grier and Brian Flores have spent considerable resources to remedy this. They’ve added numerous free agents, and spent not one, not two, but five draft picks on the offensive line in two years. Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt, Solomon Kindley, Liam Eichenberg, and 2021 7th round pick Larnel Coleman out of UMass. So what does Larnel Coleman bring to the party?
The easiest and most probable answer is simply depth. And that’s not a bad thing; remember that there were times during the Philbin and Gase tenures when the team was literally signing free agents mid-week and having them start on Sunday. Quality, dependable depth on the offensive line is a far, far better option.
A closer look, however, shows that Coleman might be a bit more than that. The other thing the Grier/Flores regime has consistently done is draft high-upside, athletic players. I’ve covered that ad nauseum, so I won’t rehash it too much other than to say that Coleman fits that description quite well. He ran a 5.1 40, measured a 84-7/8” wingspan, and put up 23 reps on the bench. As a guy with fairly long arms, I can attest that they certainly don’t help on the bench.
At 6’6” – 307 pounds, he’s had problems with bull rushes, but his long arms allow him to get his hands on attackers quickly. He shows quick feet and good body control, unsurprising for a high school basketball star. And while he clearly needs work on his technique (His knee bend and hand fighting in particular), and he will have to add some weight, it’s difficult to find negatives on him aside from those faults.
As far as positives, it’s difficult to not root for him when you hear what his former coach had to say about him. Fm a masslive.com article, “Whoever gets him is getting a player who is nowhere near his ceiling as an offensive lineman,” said former coach Walt Bell. “He’s got unbelievable football intelligence; he learns at a really high rate…Larnel has been a professional long before he’s had a chance to be a professional. That’s one of the things that makes him so special.”
As far as Coleman himself? At rookie minicamp, he said, “Everybody’s here to work. We’re all here to improve and be the best we can for each other, the team and the organization.”
As spring turns to summer and training camp begins, we’ll have the opportunity to see just how much Coleman can progress, and how quickly. As with the other rookies and free agent signings, he’ll have the opportunity to impress and land a spot on the offensive line.
While it’s hard to say at this point if Coleman makes the final 53, I certainly wouldn’t bet against him. And as a long-term, high upside prospect whom everyone seems to love? Smart money will be on Coleman to develop quickly for the Miami Dolphins.