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Dolphins need a RT, should pick a RT

The Miami Dolphins need a stating right tackle and I tell you in my column in today's Miami Herald why general manager Dennis Hickey would be fooling himself if he thinks Jason Fox can be that guy. The team needs to draft a legitimate starting right tackle.

But guess what?

Some of the players some mocks have slotted to the Dolphins as right tackle possibilities are actually left tackles. And, at the risk of being obvious, a college left tackle does not always translate to a good NFL right tackle and rarely is it seamless the player's rookie year.

Do the analysis (Or simply keep reading). College left tackles picked in the first round and asked to play right tackle almost always struggle that first year and sometimes never quite arrive at all.

This while the success rate of first rounders who played left tackle in college and are drafted for that expressed purpose in the pros is much, much better and among the best of any positions.

Take last season for example: Eric Fisher, Luke Joekel and Lane Johnson were all college left tackles and asked to move to the right side as rookies.

Disaster.

Johnson rated the No. 39 tackle in ProFootballFocus.com's tackle ratings, gave up 10 sacks and 39 quarterback hurries. He was the No. 4 overall selection.

The second overall selection, Joekel, broke his ankle in October after playing only five games. He gave up three sacks and 11 hurries (more than two per game) in those games that accounted for only 280 snaps. He didn't have one game where he graded out on the plus side, according to PFF.

Eric Fisher, the No. 1 overall selection by Kansas City obviously was not going to beat out Branden Albert at left tackle. So he moved to right tackle and, well, struggled. He was rated No. 70 among 78 rated tackles while giving up six sacks and 35 hurries and collecting six penalties.

All but Johnson are expected to move to left tackle this year.

The problem with this snapshot of 2013 is that it is representative of the past four drafts.

In 2010, four collegiate left tackles were selected in the first round. Two were asked to play their natural left tackle spot. Two were asked to move to right tackle. The two rookies who played left tackle -- Trent Williams and Russell Okung -- performed better and graded out higher than Green Bay's Bryan Bulaga and San Francisco's Anthony Davis who were asked to play other positions including right tackle.

Davis gave up 11 sacks and 37 hurries as a rookie right tackle. Bulaga gave up 12 sacks and 24 hurries. Both have since grown into their positions and Bulaga is now a left tackle and Davis is a good right tackle. But the point is the move to what is supposedly the easier right tackle spot was taxing that first year.

in 2011, five college left tackles were picked in the first round and four of those worked at right tackle as rookies. While Dallas played college left tackle Tyron Smith at left tackle and got very good results, Derek Sherrod struggled in Green Bay at right tackle, Gabe Carimi managed only two games at right tackle for the Bears and James Carpenter was able to get into only eight games for the Seahawks and in those eight games he yielded five sacks.

The only rousing success move from college left tackle to pro right tackle as a rookie that year was New England's Nate Solder who started 13 games at right tackle and three at left tackle and was the No. 33 tackle in the league as a rookie.

In 2012, Matt Kalil started all 16 games at left tackle after playing left tackle in college and he was outstanding. Meanwhile, Reilly Reiff went from left tackle to right tackle but could not crack the starting lineup for the Lions.

(As an anecdotal aside, you'll remember in 2012 the Dolphins asked college left tackle Jonathan Martin to start at right tackle. It was not good. But, of course, we're not getting too deep into that because Martin was a second-round pick and that other thing everyone is trying to forget eventually happened).

So what's the point again? College left tackles do not automatically make good NFL right tackles and rarely do so as rookies.

So with the Dolphins badly needing a starting right tackle, why are so many people thinking a college left tackle will do the trick?

Cyrus Koundjio? Forget the fact that some scouts I talk to laugh at the idea of him being a first round pick. He started 26 games at left tackle for Alabama the past two years so even if he's healthy enough to play, he's going to struggle at right tackle.

Taylor Lewan? I shouldn't even waste valuable cyberspace with this but he will not be there when Miami picks and he's a left tackle.

Cornelius Lucas out of Kansas State, who is a late rounder, was a college left tackle. He ain't a right tackle, folks.

Zack Martin of Notre Dame? Well, he's a college left tackle but he is one consensus pick to make a seamless move to either left guard or right tackle. He will not be around if the Dolphins pick at No. 19.

Jake Matthews of Texas A&M? Another college left tackle but he played right tackle prior to that and did it well. Doesn't matter as he will not be around if the Dolphins pick at No. 19.

UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo? He played left tackle and did so quite poorly. He's an NFL guard, maybe even a left guard, but he's not a value at No. 19. 

North Dakota State's Billy Turner? A college left tackle and a later round pick anyway.

Virginia's Morgan Moses? He has started each of his last 23 games at left tackle. The saving grace here is he started 13 games at right tackle in 2011 and had six more right tackle starts in '10. So this might work.

Tennessee's Ja'Wuan James? He started a whopping 49 games in his SEC college career. All of them were at right tackle. Ding, ding, ding, ding! This is what I'm talking about.

 

 

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