Dolphins Predicted to Replace $100 Million Departure With Rare 6-Foot-5 Talent

Dolphins predicted to replace Robert Hunt with Graham Barton in NFL draft.

Getty The Miami Dolphins still must find a replacement for starting guard Robert Hunt.

The Miami Dolphins have done a great job replacing most of their early free agent departures, but two big-name exits remain unaccounted for.

At the start of free agency, the Dolphins lost defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and guard Robert Hunt on both sides of the trenches. General manager Chris Grier has brought in a few depth signings at these two positions since then, but he has yet to find players that can truly step in and have a similar impact.

With free agency beginning to narrow, Grier might look to fill these two holes in the draft. And both ESPN scouting expert Mel Kiper Jr. and NFL Network counterpart Daniel Jeremiah recently predicted that Miami would spend their 2024 first-round selection on a new right guard.

“Miami has lost a few starters over the past few weeks as a result of its salary cap situation, including guard Robert Hunt,” Kiper stated on March 19, projecting Duke’s Graham Barton as the pick at No. 21 overall.

“I still like the pairing of Barton and the Dolphins… because of the way he could improve the middle of this O-line,” the ESPN analyst explained. “Barton played mostly left tackle in college, but he has the traits to move inside and command the game. Miami ranked 31st in pass block win rate (49.2%) last season, so it has to improve.”

As Kiper alluded, most expect Barton to convert to either center or guard at the NFL level, and that’s part of what makes him so unique.

“Barton has legitimate five-position flexibility [on the offensive line],” Jeremiah noted as the major selling point in his write-up.

It may not be the flashy choice but considering the Dolphins’ run-first offense and the importance of keeping quarterback Tua Tagovailoa healthy long-term, a Barton selection might be the most prudent.

Potential Dolphins Draft Target Graham Barton Viewed as ‘Day-One Impact Starter’ & ‘Explosive Drive Blocker’

It can be difficult replacing a $100 million man in one offseason, but Barton has the skill set to do so. The Draft Network called him a “day-one impact starter” that has “consistent all-pro potential.”

“Graham Barton is an instant upgrade at virtually any spot along most NFL offensive lines,” the scouting website praised, touting the Duke product’s “identity as a finisher.” They also noted that the 6-foot-5 blocker “has a knack for overpowering opponents and displacing defenders with the help of some impressive physical traits.”

Similarly, NFL Network scout Lance Zierlein wrote that “Barton’s technique, toughness and athleticism are exactly what teams will be looking for from an early starter with Pro Bowl potential.”

“Reviewing Barton’s tape is a pleasurable experience in offensive line evaluation, as his tenacity and know-how are on full display throughout,” Zierlein continued. “Barton is an explosive drive blocker with the body control and leg drive to keep opponents centered and finish the job. His hands are sudden, accurate and strong in both phases, but a lack of length will create occasional challenges on the next level. His fluidity creates an advantage as a second-level climber, and he’s highly capable in the screen game.”

Barton was a three-year starter inside a run-heavy offense according to Bleacher Report scout Brandon Thorn. He’ll need some fine-tuning at guard inside Mike McDaniel’s system, but other than that, the blocker feels like the perfect fit to take over for Hunt in 2024 and beyond.

Dolphins Must Prioritize Trenches in NFL Draft

The thought of adding another wide receiver or defensive playmaker is tantalizing, but what Miami really needs in the draft is more big boys. Even after all of their signings, losses like Wilkins and Hunt tend to hurt — and Grier must prioritize the trenches rather than overlook them.

So far this offseason, the Dolphins have spent the most money on positions like linebacker and cornerback/safety. Not to mention they already spend a lot on wide receiver, cornerback and offensive tackle overall.

Financially speaking, defensive tackle and guard have not been the priority in recent years because of Wilkins and Hunt, among others. In April of 2024, that must change if Miami hopes to carry on as a team that can win one-on-one battles up the gut.

Read More