The NFL has a problem, and it's one that the Dolphins and their fans are intimately familiar with.
It's draft season and, as all fans who are paying attention know, that means mock draft season. The one that we did for the PhinManiacs podcast was a particularly good one and our own Matthew Knowles made some interesting choices in his that are worth thinking about.
I've participated in three mock drafts in the last couple weeks, myself, and though each taught me something, none was more interesting than the one I did for the Next Fan Up podcast where fellow PhinManiacs writer Ron Canniff represented the Dolphins.
When the draft rolled around to pick 13 Ron found himself in a bind. There were no cornerbacks or linebackers worthy of the pick and it was far too soon to pick top offensive guard Cody Whitehair. So he chose what he thought was the next best option. He took Jack Conklin, a tackle out of Michigan State who was at the top of his board (and mine) at that point.
Why would Ron take an offensive tackle for the Dolphins? They already have Ja'Wuan James still on his rookie deal at right tackle and Branden Albert isn't going anywhere this year on the left.
The reason is because Ron didn't look at Conklin as a tackle. He saw him as a guard. The Dolphins are arguably in need of not just one, but two players at the position. And they're not alone.
21 of the 32 NFL teams need offensive line help going into the draft. At least 11 of those need a guard and in some cases two. The position has been becoming more and more valuable over the last decade as teams have worked harder to make sure that their quarterbacks have a clean pocket to step up into.
I know that there's a thought that you can pick up linemen late in the draft, particularly guards. But if you think there are at least 11 starters buried in this year's selection process, the odds are good you aren't breathing pure air. This is about to become a serious problem all over the league. No position will be more over-drafted next week except quarterback and tight end. And that's debatable.
And that's why Ron's choice is so interesting.
There was a time in the not too distant past when teams selected tackles in the NFL draft knowing that if the player busted out, they could always move him to guard. Classic examples include Mike Williams (Buffalo) and Robert Gallery (Oakland). But it seems the tables have turned as teams move to fill a desperate need at the spot with talent that just isn't there.
So what's a team drafting at 13 to do? You hope for a miracle and that a guy like Ezekiel Elliott falls. You hope for a top cornerback or that you love a pass rusher that no one else seems to value that high. You hope that you don't have to make the tough choice.
But in the end even the tough choice is no choice at all. You take the offensive lineman at the top of your board and you call him a guard. This year you definitely won't be alone.
This column was written by Tom Shannon. Follow him on Twitter: @bearingthenews
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