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2017 NFL Draft: Taylor Moton among best guards available to Dolphins

When Taylor Moton hit his growth spurt as he approached high school and suddenly found himself towering over his classmates, his grandfather immediately steered him toward football. That suggestion might prove to be worth millions of dollars.

It’s been a much more gradual growth for Moton as a player, but he went on to an excellent career at Western Michigan and has positioned himself as one of the best offensive line prospects in this year’s NFL Draft class.

“I wasn’t really a very huge kid in elementary school, or middle school,” Moton said. “My grandfather played football in college a long, long time ago and he loved the game. He never really pressured me to do it, but I knew I’d make him proud if I went into it. That’s really what drove me to do it, and I haven’t looked back since.”

Moton played tackle and guard at WMU, which makes him an attractive option to a lot of teams, including the Dolphins. Their picks in the first two rounds almost certainly will be spent on the defensive side, but their third or fifth-round picks would be good spots to look for help at guard.

Miami coach Adam Gase prioritizes players who can work at multiple positions, as Laremy Tunsil and Kraig Urbik did last year, as well as Jermon Bushrod transitioning from left tackle to right guard, and the Dolphins conveyed that when they spoke with Moton.

“Some teams look at me more as a guard, some teams look at me more as a tackle,” said Moton, who clearly has the size for either spot at 6-foot-5, 319 pounds. “I tell them I can do both. I’ll do whatever position you need. Wherever I go, I know I’ll go in there and fight for a starting job right away.

“I know (Mike) Pouncey and Tunsil are both great offensive linemen, and I know going in there it would be great to have guys like that.”

Most draft analysis has him as a guard, but jumping around hasn’t been much of a problem for Moton. He started out at right tackle, then moved to right guard in 2015 before coming back to right tackle last year. That might sound inconvenient, but he believes it will help him going forward.

ESPN ranks Moton the No. 2 guard overall, and some draft websites have him as a potential second-round pick. At the NFL Combine last month, he was third among offensive linemen with a 30.5-inch vertical leap and placed fifth in the 20-yard shuttle with a time of 4.58 seconds.

“As you watch his movements and skills, it’s pretty impressive,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “He can play outside.”

The Dolphins are solidified at tackle going into this season, with Tunsil on the left side and Ja’Wuan James on the right. Pouncey will be at center as long as he’s healthy.

Bushrod returns at right guard after a season in which Pro Football Focus rated him 69th at his position, but Gase said he had the second-highest playing grade of the unit. Miami also signed journeyman Ted Larsen, who will turn 30 this summer, to play left guard.

When asked if those five are set in stone as the starting offensive line, Gase said it’s up for debate.

“Whether it be in the draft or if somebody shakes free, we’re always gonna try to see if we can create competition throughout training camp and in the spring,” he said last week. “Things are so fluid that you’ll hit June and all of a sudden somebody will pop free. You’ll be on vacation and somebody will pop free and you’ll have to talk about it. Then training camp rolls around and some unexpected opportunity could possibly happen… The next thing we have is the draft. We’ll see how that shakes out.”

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