A handful of former Notre Dame football players are preparing for the 2019 NFL Draft. Let’s take a look at why the Miami Dolphins would be a great fit for offensive lineman Sam Mustipher.
In recent years, offensive line production and Notre Dame football have almost become synonymous. With the success of All-Pros Zack Martin and Quenton Nelson along with players like Ronnie Stanley, Nick Martin, and Mike McGlinchey, it’s hard to argue with the statement that Notre Dame is currently OLine-U. Looking to add to the recent success of this group, team captain Sam Mustipher will be entering this year’s NFL Draft after finishing his fifth and last season with the Irish in 2018.
Since his academic junior season in 2016, Mustipher has been nothing short of a true anchor for one of the best offensive lines in college football.
In terms of Mustipher as an NFL prospect, he is consistently ranked as one of the top-10 centers in this draft and will most likely be a 4th-6th round pick. At 6-3, 305 pounds, his frame is on the smaller end in terms of NFL interior offensive lineman. The good news is that smaller, more athletic centers are becoming more popular in today’s NFL. Just look at Jason Kelce for the Philadelphia Eagles. The 6-3 295 pound Kelce is widely considered one of the best centers in the league and has made a career using his athleticism in space and to his advantage.
Mustipher is also a true center. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though often times interior lineman can increase their value if they can also play guard. Mustipher doesn’t have the skill-set or frame for guard, but he does have all the traits wanted for a center at the next level.
For starters, he has one of the most important traits, and that’s longevity. Mustipher finished his career starting every single game over his last three seasons — 37 straight starts. On top of that, his familiarity with running inside and outside zone running schemes will make him a great fit for the majority of the NFL teams that use variations of these schemes today. His ability to help move interior defensive lineman on double teams and get to the next level are all pros in his run blocking game. He has also proven his ability in pass protection, as he did not surrender a sack or quarterback hit in 889 offensive snaps in 2017. Lastly, Mustipher has faced NFL-caliber competition week-in and week-out over his career, which will undoubtedly be a positive in the eyes of NFL scouts.
Now, when looking at NFL teams that would be a good fit for Mustipher, there are a few things to consider. Does he fit with their offensive scheme? Is there a possibility for him to earn playing time and make an impact as a rookie? The first team that came to mind was the Chicago Bears. Mustipher would be a stone’s throw away from Notre Dame and be reunited with previous Irish Offensive Line Coach Harry Hiestand. He would fit well with their shotgun-heavy, inside zone run scheme, but would run into issues seeing playing time. Cody Whitehair, the Bears’ current center, has started all 48 games since entering the league in 2016 and has been their anchor next to guards and former first-round draft picks James Daniels and Kyle Long.
All things considered, the Miami Dolphins would be the best fit for Mustipher at the next level. Miami’s offense struggled last season, mainly because they couldn’t keep anyone healthy. The Dolphins finished 31st in the NFL in total offense and gave up 52 sacks. The inconsistency of the front-five was a problem all year, and one of their biggest needs heading into 2019 is an interior offensive lineman.
Mustipher makes sense here for a few reasons. One, Miami’s Offensive Coordinator is former Bears Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains, a man who leans heavily on inside zone running schemes and a shotgun-heavy offense. It is unclear how the direction of the offense will change after the firing of head coach Adam Gase, but if the blueprint carries over next year, the bootlegs, play-action, and inside zone runs will remain staples for this offense. Miami ran 65 percent of their total offensive snaps out of the shotgun last year, with 30 percent of their run plays coming out of shotgun — good enough for 4th most in the league. These are all schemes and plays that Notre Dame relied on in recent years that Mustipher is very familiar with.
Next, Mustipher would have a chance to come in and compete for playing time early. Miami’s offensive line was a game of musical chairs a season ago, and starting center Travis Swanson has battled injuries over the previous three seasons. It is unclear whether or not Swanson will be re-signed this offseason as well, but he is at best an average center in the NFL who provides depth for the Dolphins. A player like Mustipher would have a shot to compete for that starting job and could most importantly provide some consistency and stability in Miami’s trenches.
Finally, Miami has a draft pick in every round this year, so they can afford to address bigger issues in the early rounds before taking a low-risk, high-reward guy like Mustipher in the 4th or 5th round. He is an extremely smart, high-character player who also has experience playing in cold weather — something Miami has to do at least three times per year with their division opponents.
At the end of the day, wherever Sam Mustipher lands, that team is going to be getting a true Notre Dame man — a hard-working, smart player that comes from a rich offensive line pedigree. The Miami Dolphins make a lot of sense for a variety of reasons, but unfortunately we need to wait a few more months so see where he lands.