Dolphins Draft Pick Patrick Paul Deep Dive

April 29, 2024

What film study reveals about Miami Dolphins second-round pick Patrick Paul, where he shines, where he needs work and what his potential role might be as a rookie

Patrick Paul

The 2024 NFL draft is over, and the Miami Dolphins are hoping their seven-player class can help them take that next step and get over the hump in the playoffs.

Miami’s draft featured a first-round pick for the first time since 2021, a second-round pick and five picks on Day 3, including a trade to get them back into the fourth round.

Here’s a series of film study breakdowns of those seven draft picks, starting with Chop Robinson, to give fans a look at what these rookies can bring to the Dolphins’ roster.

Today, we’ll cover OT Patrick Paul, whom the Dolphins selected at No. 55 overall out of the University of Houston. Paul was one of the most experienced offensive linemen in the class, starting 44 games across four seasons with the Cougars and playing 2,754 total snaps, with most coming at left tackle.

Is Paul Miami’s solution to the future left tackle problem? Let’s dive in and see what the film tells us.

Paul’s Pass Protection

Paul’s best traits in pass protection all revolved around his size. Simply put, it’s hard for some defensive linemen to get around someone who is 6-foot-7, 331 pounds with 36 1/4-inch arms.

To put it in perspective, Paul’s arm length ranks in the 97th percentile among offensive tackles since 1999, and his weight lands in the 87th percentile. He’s a load to deal with for any defensive lineman.

In his best moments, Paul uses his elite length to lock out pass rushers before they can even begin their pass-rush plan. This makes for some easy reps where Paul is barely challenged.

Paul can rely on his natural anchor to maintain the pocket’s integrity if they get into his chest. Trying to push someone who weighs 331 pounds back into the quarterback is not easy. The clip above is an excellent example of that at work. The Texas rusher gets into Paul’s chest, and he just stands his ground.

His size ended many reps before they even got started, which is why he only gave up one sack last season. All of that is good, and Paul deserves credit for hanging on the field for as many snaps as he did.

That said, Paul’s pass-protection technique is a mess, especially his hand usage. His most important weapon is his arm length, yet he struggles to use it consistently.

Paul’s initial hand strike is almost always outside the opponent’s chest plate, leaving him grasping at their shoulder pads. Against college players, this didn’t matter a ton. Paul was so big they still couldn’t get around him.

NFL rushers will not have the same problem. If Paul gives up his chest like in college, NFL rushers will beat him with various moves because they’re so much better with their hands. Paul is constantly leaving himself open to push-pull moves and club-rips.

Another product of outside hand placement is holding penalties. Paul only had three penalties last season, which is a good sign. However, he had 18 penalties across 2022 and 2021. Holding is called differently at the NFL level, and one of the first things referees look for is where the offensive linemen’s hands are.

If they’re inside, they’ll usually let it go. But if they’re caught with outside hands, a flag will get thrown more often than not.

Besides his hands, Paul’s foot speed leaves something to be desired. He didn’t face a lot of elite speed rushers in the AAC and Big-12 across his career, and he still lost some reps because of slow feet.

Paul’s size is an advantage in many areas, but he looks pretty slow when challenged by NFL-caliber speed on the edge. Again, that will only get worse as he moves up a level.

Paul was a consistent presence on Houston’s line, and there’s no doubt he has the size, strength, and length to survive at the NFL level. Still, he needs significant development in his technique before the Dolphins can rely on him.

Paul’s Run Blocking

There are some impressive flashes of run blocking on Paul’s tape. He’s got the natural strength and power to bully defense linemen and create some big running lanes.

He does his best work when collapsing the line of scrimmage and working double teams. Houston ran off of Paul’s left side a decent amount and had some success. His length and physical demeanor set a decent floor for his play in this area.

However, quite a few things are holding him back from being a quality NFL run blocker. The first is his lack of consistent pad level and balance. Paul’s size makes it difficult for him to maintain leverage when blocking.

This leads to defensive linemen using swim and push-pull moves to shed him to the ground and get into the backfield. Some of Paul’s run-blocking reps, especially in 1-on-1 situations, are rough.

He’s got a bad tendency to duck his head, leaving himself unbalanced and much easier to discard. He’ll never win the leverage battle consistently because of his size, so he deserves some grace there.

Though, he can do a much better job. Again, Paul’s hand usage is a significant problem in this area. His hand placement is wildly inconsistent, allowing players he should bully to move him around like he’s half his size.

Paul is an average mover for his size but struggles to block in space a good bit. He doesn’t always reach his landmarks in time, and his angles at the second level aren’t ideal.

Given how Miami wants its offensive linemen to move around, it’s odd that they view Paul as a scheme fit. The Dolphins are likely banking on his pro-day numbers more than anything else.

That’s understandable, but Paul’s tape does not show a player who consistently lives up to those testing numbers, especially in the run game.

The Bottom Line With Patrick Paul

Paul was selected because the Dolphins believe he can develop into a starting left tackle by the time Terron Armstead retires. Armstead flirted with retirement this offseason, and his injury history is well documented.

There’s a good chance Paul gets on the field this season if he ends up as the Dolphins’ primary backup at tackle, though he would have to pass Kendall Lamm to earn that role. If he does play in 2024, Paul’s size, length, and physicality are all NFL caliber, which is an excellent starting place.

He can move some defenders in the running game, and given how quickly Miami’s offense gets rid of the ball, his length will make him hard to beat in pass protection.

That’s the path to success for Paul.

With all that considered, there are significant roadblocks to Paul becoming Miami’s long-term left tackle.

The popular narrative for many Dolphins fans — and the team itself based on comments following the pick — is that Paul is a raw ball of clay just waiting to get molded into something better.

The same sentiment is out there about Chop Robinson, who the Dolphins selected at No. 21. However, their profiles have some massive differences.

For starters, Robinson has played just more than 1,000 total snaps in his career and is just 21 years old. He’s raw because he’s young and hasn’t played that much football thus far.

Paul has played almost 3,000 snaps and will turn 24 in November. It’s easy to sit back and say, “His technique just needs to be cleaned up, and he’ll be good.” We’d argue it’s more prudent to ask why his technique hasn’t improved in four years of consistent play.

Yes, NFL coaching is typically better than college coaching, but Paul should not be as raw as he is after playing so much football — it’s a red flag in his profile.

The Dolphins believe they can develop him, and perhaps they can. Offensive line coach Butch Barry had some success with Austin Jackson last season (though Miami’s scheme helped a lot).

Let’s assume Jackson and Paul follow the same developmental track— their college film is equally raw, after all. Jackson is 24 years old now and took four years of NFL experience before turning into a solid player.

Assuming Paul needs the same amount of work, he wouldn’t have his first good season of play until he was pushing 29.

While this sounds overly negative, it’s not meant to be. Unlike Robinson, Paul is not the quintessential “high-upside, raw” developmental prospect. That doesn’t mean Paul will be a miss, but it does mean the window for his success is narrower than for someone like Jackson or Robinson.

Overall, Paul is a considerable risk for a team with immediate and future needs on the offensive line. If it works out, they’ll look like geniuses. Getting a high-end starting left tackle in Round 2 would be incredible value.

Although, for that to happen, Paul would have to be a somewhat significant outlier.