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Mel Kiper Mock Draft 3.0: Dolphins bolster offensive line

NFL Draft Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins were handed a gift last year when other teams were scared away from Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil due to a video that was released just as the NFL Draft was beginning. In the video, Tunsil was seen using a gas mask to smoke a substance believed to be marijuana, leading to one of the top rated players in the 2016 selection process to fall to Miami with the 13th overall selection. The Dolphins did not miss their chance to snag Tunsil, who gave them an heir apparent for Branden Albert at left tackle, while sliding Tunsil inside to left guard for the 2016 season.

Jump ahead to this year’s NFL Draft, and the Dolphins are now looking for a replacement for Tunsil at left guard following the trade of Albert to the Jacksonville Jaguars, a move that will slide Tunsil out to left tackle. According to ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr., who released his 2017 NFL Mock Draft 3.0 on Wednesday, the Dolphins will use their first-round selection to grab that player.

With the 22nd overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Kiper has Miami selecting Western Kentucky guard Forrest Lamp.

Of the selection, Kiper explains:

Laremy Tunsil's expected move to left tackle leaves an opening at guard, and Lamp is the best guard in the draft. He also could move over to right tackle or slide in at center, and his versatility is a plus. Though Lamp (6-4, 309) played in Conference USA, he has the traits to step in and play immediately next season. Miami also could be in play for a linebacker, even with Kiko Alonso locked into a new deal. Florida's Jarrad Davis makes some sense.

If Miami were to use the 22nd pick on an offensive lineman, it would be the third time in four years they had selected someone from the position group in the first round, joining last year’s selection of Tunsil and 2014’s selection of right tackle Ja’Wuan James. Center Mike Pouncey was a 2011 first-round pick as well. Presumed starting right guard Jermon Bushrod, a 2016 free-agent signing who re-signed this offseason, would be the only non-first-round selection on the offensive line; the New Orleans Saints selected Bushrod in the fourth-round of the 2007 Draft.

The selection by Kiper does make sense for Miami, though it does ignore some other needs that would have to be addressed still, particularly on defense. This year’s Draft is said to be thin on offensive line prospects, so the Dolphins may have to use an early pick if there is a guard they want, simply because there may not be an immediate starter available for the team on the second- or third-day of the Draft. The way Kiper has the projection unfolding, many players who have been mentioned as possible Miami picks have already come off the board by the time the Dolphins are making their selection, for example Takkarist McKiney was selected ninth to the Cincinnati Bengals and Haason Reddick was eleventh to the New Orleans Saints, or were not selected in the first round, including Zach Cunningham or the aforementioned Jarrad Davis.

In Kiper’s scenario, the Dolphins seem to be betting that they can draft quality defenders in the second- and third-day of the selection process, choosing to get the starting caliber offensive lineman when he is available. Is it the right move? Of course, without the second-, third-, and subsequent-rounds available, it is impossible to know for sure. Maybe Miami would move up to grab someone like Cunningham near the start of the second round. Maybe someone would fall all the way back to them with the 22nd pick in that next cycle. Whatever the case, Miami adding an offensive lineman, while continuing a trend of picking “non-skilled” players in the first round, could be the exact way this year’s Draft unfolds, and could be the exact right way for Miami to attack this year’s Draft.