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Draft Watch: Jackson Powers-Johnson belongs on the Round 1 radar

The Miami Dolphins can solve a handful of problems by selecting Jackson Powers-Johnson No 21 in the 2024 NFL Draft.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Washington Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The 2024 NFL Draft is still two months away, but since the season has ended, it’s tempting to overanalyze and fall head-over-heels for the latest updates. This week’s Reese’s Senior Bowl (which includes juniors and underclassmen) is the last chance to view prospects ahead of the draft.

The Miami Dolphins first pick is No. 21 overall, and based on Senior Bowl buzz, Oregon center Jackson-Powers Johnson could solve plenty of the team’s headaches. The team had 12 different starting offensive line combinations, and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s league-low average of 2.1 seconds between the snap and throwing the ball or pressure among all starters — an upgrade is needed.

Powers-Johnson, 21, was a unanimous All-American in his junior season, starting 13 games at center for the Ducks. He showcased some versatility as a sophomore, allowing just two pressures and no sacks while playing 350 snaps at right guard and another 50 at center. JPJ played in 10 games as a backup offensive lineman as a freshman — before switching to the defensive line for Oregon’s Alamo Bowl matchup against Oklahoma.

Dolphins’ left tackle Terron Armstead is considering retirement. Left guard Isaiah Wynn suffered a season-ending quad injury. Center Connor Williams tore his ACL in December. Right guard Robert Hunt will become a free agent in roughly a month — only right tackle Austin Jackson, who signed a three-year extension late in the year, is currently the only 2024 starter written in pen.

Miami sits $50 million over the 2024 salary cap, and while a path to slide under that number exists, general manager Chris Grier needs to hit on cheap talent. As of now (and while this is expected to change), Tyreek Hill, Jalen Ramsey, Xavien Howard, and Bradley Chubb are each projected to earn more than 10 percent of the team’s cap space. Even if there are some restructuring and adjusting — the Dolphins will be limited in adding free-agent depth.

Grier selected Jackson in the first round of the 2020 Draft, the first time Miami picked an offensive lineman in the first round since Laremy Tunsil fell into its lap in 2016. Additionally, Jackson’s extension marked the first time a first-round pick re-signed in Miami since De’Vante Parker signed a two-year deal to stay with the team in 2019.

Bleacher Report’s Brandon Thorn ranked JPJ as the second-best interior lineman and projected him as a late first/early second-round pick with the potential to start as a rookie. There’s no such thing as a safe pick, but considering Miami has swung for the fences at premiere positions in recent years, it’s time to — not patch — but develop the offensive line.

Plenty will change between now and the April 27 draft. JPJ’s success at the Senior Bowl could send his stock to the moon, or someone else could rise and steal the show. At least for now — Jackson Powers-Johnson belongs on the Round 1 radar.