Miami Dolphins

Dolphins’ offensive line draft strategy reveals much about their vision on offense

Miami Dolphins take Wisconsin Badgers center Michael Deiter as 78th overall pick.

General Manager Chris Grier comments on the Miami Dolphins taking Wisconsin Badgers center Michael Deiter as 78th overall pick in the NFL Draft Friday, April 26, 2019.
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General Manager Chris Grier comments on the Miami Dolphins taking Wisconsin Badgers center Michael Deiter as 78th overall pick in the NFL Draft Friday, April 26, 2019.

The Dolphins could have drafted any offensive lineman not named Jonah Williams at 13.

Just two guards were off the board when they were on the clock at 48.

But they passed on linemen each time, waiting until pick No. 78 to finally address their front five, which three weeks ago was probably their thinnest position.

Why?

Christian Wilkins had a higher grade than any other player available in Round 1, and the Dolphins were determined to trade down in Round 2, acquiring a second-rounder in 2020 and then trading for Josh Rosen with the 62nd pick.

But perhaps there’s another explanation: the limited amount of functional game tape for the year’s best collegiate offensive linemen.

“A lot of college offenses throw the ball, so you want to find some guys that are skilled in run blocking,” Dolphins offensive line coach Pat Flaherty explained. “You never get a lot of guys that [are] overall developed in both areas. We want smart, tough, physical guys and that’s what we were looking for in the draft.”

Deiter checks all those boxes.

Wisconsin’s do-everything offensive lineman started a ridiculous 54 straight games in college.

And the Badgers are no finesse team.

Wisconsin averaged 43.9 rushing attempts in 2018, compared to just 23.4 passing attempts.

So while there were more talented options available to the Dolphins before taking Deiter in the third round two weeks back, there might not have been a better option.

“We’re going to be a tough, physical team,” Brian Flores said during rookie minicamp.

The Dolphins drafted like it.

They took Deiter (6-foot-5, 309 pounds) in Round 3, Ohio State tackle Isaiah Prince (6-6, 305) in Round 6 and fullback Chandler Cox (6-1, 242) in Round 7.

All three have the same instructions:

Use your strength and size to move defenders out of the way.

“We must be able to run the football and get four-plus yards a carry and then we have to be able to keep the pocket clean and protect the quarterback,” Flaherty said. “Pressures are going to happen. Hits and sacks, that’s a bad word, bad words in our room.”

Assuming all goes to plan, Deiter will be responsible for protecting the blindside of whichever quarterback wins the starting job — Josh Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick.

While Dolphins coaches plan to cross-train Deiter, the Dolphins have started him out at left guard, which is his natural position.

“The biggest thing is come in and learn,” Deiter said. “You have to learn what the offense is and although it’s similar, the verbiage is a lot different and there’s definitely way more that you have to know. Then, the competition is way better. Every day, you’re going against probably one of the best you ever saw in college and that’s a day-in and day-out grind.

“You still have to earn the trust of the guys in the locker room and the guys around you,” he continued. “It’s different because there is a constant competition. In college, there’s less competition so guys can be a little more friendly; but here I want to be friends with everyone, compete with everyone and make it a friendly competition. The biggest thing is just going to be the playbook and then competition.”

Of the three offensive tone-setters drafted by the Dolphins last month, Prince probably has the longest shot to play, at least right away.

The Dolphins have two veteran right tackles on their roster (Jordan Mills and Zach Sterup), which is good, because Prince probably needs a year or two of NFL seasoning before he’s ready to help.

“When you’ve got a guy that long with that much size, it’s hard to get around a guy like that,” Flores said. “I think that definitely benefits him. Again, he’s another guy who definitely needs development. He’s a guy who we’re looking forward to working with at a few different positions. He’s a smart kid. He’s talented. There’s no doubt there. We’re interested to see how he can help us and what he can do.”

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