Football / Sports

Dolphins get offensive line help with right tackle Ja'Wuan James

Staff writer

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins got their man in Thursday's first round of the NFL Draft when they selected Tennessee right tackle Ja'Wuan James with the No. 19 pick.

And, no, there was no doubt who the Dolphins were going to select.

"He was always a targeted player for us," said Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey, who is conducting his first draft with the franchise.

That came as news for James, who started to believe the projection that he'd go late first-round or maybe in the second round pick.

"It definitely was a surprise," James said.

James (6-6, 311), a team captain at Tennessee, is the type of lengthy, long-armed player that fits the mold for NFL offensive tackles. He made 49 starts at Tennessee, all at right tackle. James joins Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey and Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert to form the foundation of a revamped Dolphins offensive line.

Rebuilding the offensive line was a priority for the Dolphins. They allowed a NFL-worst and franchise-record 58 sacks last year and finished 26th in the NFL in rushing at 90.0 yards per game.

James will face a growing number of fearsome pass rushers as the right tackle, but the Dolphins think he fits well into their zone blocking scheme.

"We had a conviction for the player and we're excited to add him to our roster," Hickey said.

Hickey, who said he first interviewed James at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., when Hickey was serving as Tampa Bay's director of player personnel, said James was the best available player on the board, not just the best bright tackle on the board.

Hickey said the Dolphins didn't seriously entertain trade offers.

"Sometimes you're on the clock and you get a lot of calls, sometimes you get a few," Hickey said. "We had a couple of calls but we were just excited about picking Ja'Wuan James and adding him to our roster. He definitely fits in from a talent aspect as well as the person and bringing what the Dolphins are all about."

Hickey said during James' visit to the Dolphins "he grabbed me and said, 'Hey, what do we have to do to get me here? I want to be here.' "

"I'm a tough, smart offensive lineman," he said. "I pride myself on being smart and not making many mistakes, I bring athleticism to the table and a lot of experience, too, being able to play that many games at the position in the conference (Southeastern Conference) I did."

James said he had "great" conversations with Hickey and offensive line coach John Benton, with whom he had a one-hour conversation after James' pro day workout at Tennessee.

"It just felt right," James said.

James also noted that his former Tennessee teammate, guard Dallas Thomas, a third-round pick last year, is also with the Dolphins.

As far as joining an offensive line that was rocked by a bullying scandal last season, James said it's not a problem.

"No, it's definitely not," James said. "I'm a tough-skinned guy and when I was down there they expressed that's not how their locker room is. They have a lot of signs around (saying) the team is built off respect, so that's definitely not going to be a problem at all."

James said he's ready to face big-time pass rusher.

"It's just another opportunity, another challenge," he said. "In the SEC I faced a lot of good pass rushers, I know at this next level there's a lot of great ones. As a tackle you've got to be able to pass block and run block. That's our job. I just want to come in and show I can do those two things and compete."

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