Kelly: Paul’s potential must turn into productivity | Opinion

Patrick Paul’s stature is so inescapable the offensive lineman creates moving shade.

The Miami Dolphins rookie is a towering 6-foot-7, 331 pounder, whose 36 1/4-inch arms length rivals most NBA basketball players.

To put his size profile into perspective, Paul’s arm length ranks in the 97th percentile among offensive tackles since 1999, and his weight lands in the 87th percentile.

To understand where the Dolphins’ 2024 second-round pick checks in from a strength standpoint, understand that only five players at this year’s NFL Combine did more bench press reps than Paul, who lifted 225 pounds 30 times?

Only two Dolphins players on the current team — defensive lineman Zach Sieler and offensive tackle Terron Armstead — began their NFL career stronger from a bench press standpoint.

All this means Paul should be a load for any defensive lineman to handle when the former four-year starter for the Houston Cougars gets his technique polished and perfected.

“Everyone talks about length, athletic ability and size, and those things you can’t teach,” general manager Chris Grier said, explaining Paul’s selection. “He has that in abundance.”

And in time, the hope is that Paul will eventually show it for the Dolphins.

Armstead flirted with retirement the past couple of seasons, and with his injury history in the NFL — having never been healthy enough to play a full season, and missing 11 of 34 possible regular-season games the past two seasons in Miami — the Dolphins have the organization’s sights set on the future.

Because Armstead and Paul have worked with the same offensive line guru, Duke Manyweather, they have crossed paths before. While they haven’t trained together yet, Armstead has passed on a few pointers to the 22-year-old through the years.

Since Armstead, who turns 33 in July, doesn’t participate in the field work during the offseason program and sits out most of training camp and the exhibition season, Paul will inherit a smorgasbord of snaps that should help speed up his development.

Kendall Lamm’s presence allows the Dolphins to have Paul only work on the left side, giving him an opportunity to settle in on the side they hope he will eventually grow into a starter at.

“The negatives they have on me. A lot of those come from people just not knowing me as a player or knowing my work ethic,” Paul said, referring to how he was critiqued in the draft process, where he saw his first-round early evaluation slide a bit. “[The goal is] just coming every day and proving everybody wrong — anyone who doubts me — by working hard and trusting the coaching.”

Along with the eye-opening frame, and impressive strength, Paul’s footwork is impressive. It’s typewriteresque, which explains why he excelled as a pass protector on the collegiate level, allowing just one sack in his final two seasons.

But his movement is heavy, lumbering at times, which clarifies why he hasn’t been consistent in the run game.

He plays with high pads, and it prevents him from generating power from his lower base, which is needed to move defenders in the run game. But in time that will come, if it’s fixed.

“They need to make sure they have a guy like this, which has the tools to work with, and then [the coaches] will take care of the rest of it.” ESPN football analyst Louis Riddick said, evaluating Paul, whose selection many draftniks criticized because Miami passed on drafting an offensive guard more ready to play in the second round. “He needs to play more physical. He doesn’t play that way yet. They have to pull it out of him.”

The one main criticism made about Paul is his troublesome use of his hands, but the Dolphins are confident that offensive line coach Butch Barry can help him clean that weakness in his game up.

And Miami intends to be patient enough to wait on him developing.

“It’s rare when you get a guy that’s focused on being great at a size and length that has the quickness, balance and athleticism to play the position.” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said.

And it’s a fruitful investment of draft resources when, and if an organization can help him live up to his measurables, and turn that potential into productivity. That’s Miami’s mission with Paul in 2024.