Could the Miami Dolphins really draft Jonathan Cooper in the first round?

US PRESSWIRE

The Miami Dolphins are positioning themselves to select the best player available in the first round of April's NFL Draft. But, could that player end up being guard Jonathan Cooper, and the team's third first round offensive lineman since 2008?

The Miami Dolphins have set themselves up with multiple options when it comes to the twelfth overall pick in next month's NFL Draft. The team could trade up to grab a player they really want, they could fall back in the annual selection meeting and adding more picks, or they could look to grab just about any player they want. One of those possible players, North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper, is becoming a more popular projection for the Dolphins.

But, does grabbing an interior offensive lineman make sense with the twelfth pick? Could Miami really pick an offensive lineman in the first round for the third time in six drafts?

Surprisingly, yes. Cooper could be exactly the right pick for the Dolphins. Guard is not a glamour position, and it's not one that teams like using a first round pick to select, let alone a top twelve selection. But, Cooper seems to be a prospect well worth the high price to grab him.

Cooper is being mocked even higher than the Dolphins' pick right now. He's going as early as seventh to the Arizona Cardinals in some first round projections, and some grades for Cooper actually place him ahead of Alabama guard Chance Warmack. The 6', 2", 311 pound Cooper is incredibly athletic and moves well in space. He's a good run and pass blocker, and he routinely gets to the second level of defenses to continue leading the way for running backs.

He anchors well, has a great base, and is projected to excel in a zone blocking scheme.

However, he is not as strong as he probably could be, something he will have to work on as he develops in the NFL, but it's not something that will bring his draft grade down. He had to have shoulder surgery prior to the 2012 season, but it should not have any bearing on his draft stock.

Seeing Cooper in Miami's zone block scheme, knowing he can pull and get out into the defense's second level is a huge positive, especially as he lines up next to Mike Pouncey, who does exactly those things. The Dolphins' offensive line is designed for a player like Cooper, and the team's needs along the offensive line could mean, if Cooper is still available when the Dolphins are on the clock, the team would have to consider the former Tarheels center.

How would fans react to the pick? Probably not well. Fans want to see play makers, touchdown scorers, guys who are going to touch the football, with a pick as high as Miami's. However, when you have already added Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson, and Dustin Keller to the offense, and are looking to second year quarterback Ryan Tannehill to take the next step and lead Miami, protecting your franchise quarterback and opening running lanes for second year running back Lamar Miller, is going to be important.

If given the opportunity, the Dolphins may select Cooper with the twelfth overall pick, knowing they will be a better team with him. We, as fans, just have to accept that offensive line could, once again, be the pick for the Dolphins.

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