Miami Herald (Sunday)

Dolphins’ draft options at pick 21 begin to emerge

- BY BARRY JACKSON bjackson@miamiheral­

Offensive line is shaping up as the most logical potential target for the Dolphins with the 21st overall pick in April’s draft. That would set up Miami for a post-Terron Armstead era at tackle (possibly in 2025) or give the Dolphins a highly rated interior lineman if they can afford only one between free agent center Connor Williams and free agent guard

Rob Hunt, who could both command more than $10 million annually, according to a general manager.

Dolphins fans should keep in mind these linemen projected for that draft range:

Oregon State’s Taliese


Fuaga: Several draft analysts have him going much higher than 21, but Mel Kiper projects him for the mid-20s, calling him a dominant run blocker who could end up at guard.

He was a college right tackle who didn’t allow a single sack in 734 career pass-blocking snaps.

Washington’s Troy Fautanu:

A He allowed a total of only two sacks at left tackle the past two seasons. Kiper mocks him to Miami at 21: “It wouldn’t shock me if a team drafted Fautanu to play tackle, but I see All-Pro upside for him at guard.”

Southeaste­rn Conference

A right tackles JC Latham (Alabama) and Avarius Mims (Georgia): Latham wasn’t great last year but has high upside. Mims didn’t allow a sack in his Georgia career but started only eight games because of injuries and Georgia’s high-end talent.

Arizona’s Jordan Morgan:


ESPN’s Jordan Reid, who mocked Morgan to Miami last month, said: “Morgan has played 98% of his 2,313 career snaps at left tackle, but his balance, strength and awareness would allow him to fill multiple positions at the next level.”

Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton: A

He allowed just one sack over the past two seasons at right tackle. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has him going 22nd and calls him “one of the most athletical­ly gifted tackles in the class.”

BYU’s Kingsley Suamataia:

A He started 12 games at right tackle and 11 at left tackle the past two seasons. Kiper has him in the mid-20s, higher than most other analysts project.

Oregon’s Jackson PowersJohn­son: A He played all 829 of his snaps at center last season and remarkably, permitted no sacks and just one hurry in 497 pass-blocking snaps. He has experience at every offensive line position except left tackle.

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler has the Dolphins picking him, adding: “If this happened, it would be one of my favorite team-player fits in the draft. The Dolphins have obvious needs at guard and center, and PowersJohn­son is arguably the best interior blocker in this class. With his size, strength and athleticis­m, it is hard to find bad tape on him from this past season.”

So what makes sense at No. 21 if not an offensive linemen?

Jeremiah has an outside-thebox idea: a receiver. He mocks LSU receiver Brian Thomas Jr. to Miami.

Because of needs on the offensive line and cornerback (two deep positions in the first round), this pick is somewhat difficult to envision unless the Dolphins surprising­ly trade

Jaylen Waddle two years before he’s due for a big contract. On the flip side, he’s a big target who would address the Dolphins’ red zone issues and gives

Miami a player who potentiall­y could win his matchups when teams are blanketing Hill and Waddle.

Whether it’s a third receiver or a tight end who’s a seam threat, the Dolphins could use another weapon who can beat man coverage against good teams. “Miami elects to build on a strength,” Jeremiah said in explaining his Thomas pick. “I could see Thomas going much higher than 21st in the draft, but

Tua Tagovailoa reaps the benefit in this scenario. Thomas gives the Dolphins some size — without sacrificin­g speed — alongside Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.”

The 6-5 Thomas had 68 catches for 1,177 yards (17.3 average) and 17 touchdowns last season.

Several cornerback­s are projected for the early teens through the early 20s, including Clemson’s Nate Wiggins (three intercepti­ons and 17 pass breakups during the past two seasons), Alabama’s Terrion Arnold (five intercepti­ons this past season and versatile enough to play safety, too) and Iowa’s

Cooper DeJean (seven intercepti­ons the past two seasons and a top safety prospect, too).

Among edge players, potential options could include UCLA’s

Laiatu Latu (10.5 and 13 sacks the past two seasons; Brugler has him 11th), Washington’s

Bralen Trice (seven sacks this season), Alabama’s Chris Braswell (eight sacks) and Penn State’s Chop Robinson (5.5 and 4.0 sacks for Penn State the past two years).

It’s highly questionab­le if

Jaelan Phillips (torn Achilles’) or Bradley Chubb (torn ACL) will be ready for the regular season opener after their lateseason injuries.

Forget a tight end in the first round; Georgia’s Brock Bowers is expected to be off the board well before 21.


CBS’ Boomer Esiason, speaking off air on why the Dolphins need to give a longterm contract to Tagovailoa (which is the team’s intention): “What’s the alternativ­e? How many other guys out there can do what he did this year? Remember, he was on the MVP watch list literally for 15 weeks of the season, maybe until they lost the Tennessee Titans game and lost possibly the No. 1 seed in the AFC. I would definitely build around him.”

CBS’ Phil Simms told me: “I agree. I don’t think you really have a choice. Boomer said it right: What are you going to do? Who are you going to go out there and get?”

One reason we’re told it

A didn’t work out with UM and

Alonzo Highsmith, who left his “general manager” job with the Hurricanes to join the Patriots front office:

According to a source, Highsmith’s job consisted largely of watching tape, but the Hurricanes did not give him a significan­t role in decision-making. They listened to his input, but he did not have any kind of power or autonomy.

Amid ESPN’s Kendrick


Perkins imploring the Heat to trade Jimmy Butler, his agent

Bernie Lee said: “Put simply, he’s never going anywhere. Ever. He’s going to win a championsh­ip in Miami.”

Butler does not have a notrade clause and is due $48 million next season with a $52 million player option in 202526. A Heat decision looms if he requests another contract extension this summer. But keep two things in mind:

1) Miami has no interest philosophi­cally in “rebuilding” in a way that takes the team out of contention for a year or more. So trading Butler simply for draft picks and a “decent” player wouldn’t be considered.

2) Trading Butler for a cheap young player, expiring contract and draft picks wouldn’t give the Heat anything close to max salary cap space to sign a star player in 2024-25 or 2025-26 — not as long as Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Terry Rozier are under contract.

While this new Marlins


regime really likes outfield prospect Victor Mesa Jr., his older brother, Victor Victor Mesa,

might be at the end of the line.

Given $5.25 million by the Marlins in 2018, the older Mesa had only 40 total plate appearance­s for the first two months of last season, hit .189 and then abruptly left the Triple A Jacksonvil­le Jumbo Shrimp in June after the team bus arrived in Gwinnett, Georgia, for a series. He never returned and was placed on the restricted list.

He has hit only .233 (.289 on-base) with eight homers and 92 RBI in 290 minor league games. While he remains under contract, there are no plans for him to return this spring, if at all.

The younger Mesa, who signed for $1 million, will be at Marlins spring training but probably needs more time in the minors; he had 18 homers and 76 RBI and a .308 on base average at Double A Pensacola in 2023.

Barry Jackson: 305-376-3491, @flasportsb­uzz

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 ?? GARY COSBY JR. USA TODAY NETWORK ?? Alabama right tackle JC Latham (65) has high upside.
GARY COSBY JR. USA TODAY NETWORK Alabama right tackle JC Latham (65) has high upside.

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