May 07, 2014

Local kid made good Shazier definitely on radar

Bill Parcells once told me he never wanted to tip his draft picks so he would work them out late, often the week of the draft, to get the latest intelligence and also slip under the radar of combine workouts and all the Pro Day and other visits and meetings.

Looks like Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey is applying some of that strategy this week.

On Monday afternoon the Dolphins met with Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier for approximately 90 minutes, an NFL source confirmed Tuesday. The Sun-Sentinel's Steve Gorten was the first to report the meeting, citing Shazier's high school coach.

Teams meeting with Shazier is not huge news. A lot of them -- Atlanta, Green Bay, Buffalo, Denver and Carolina -- have either met with him or worked him out. He is a latter-part-of-the-first round value player, by all accounts.

And a total of 29 teams attended Shazier's Pro Day in part because Ohio State has talented players coming out and in part because he hadn't worked on the field at the Indianapolis Combine because of a hamstring issue.

At the Pro Day Shazier turned in a 42-inch vertical leap but pulled up during his 40-yard dash with another hamstring issue. But that was as he was turning in an eye-popping sub-4.4 time in the sprint -- while pulling up!

Hard to believe for a linebacker and obviously it was an unofficial time. But suffice to say Shazier is very fast by any standard.

He's also a playmaker and a great kid -- which is a truly special combination. He was an Ohio State team captain and led the Buckeyes in tackles two consecutive years -- joining Pepper Johnson, among others who accomplished that feat.

Character? Shazier's father, Vernon J. Shazier, is the Dolphins' team chaplain and the apple does not fall far from the tree.

None of this guarantees the Dolphins will pick Shazier at No. 19 in the first round if they cannot trade up or out of the pick. But Shazier is definitely among the handful of players the team deems worthy of taking in the first round.

Good pick?

This is what Nolan Nawrocki says about Shazier in his NFL Draft 2014 preview (triumphbooks.com):

"Highly productive, disruptive playmaker vs. the run and pass. Shoots gaps and plays behind the line of scrimmage (compiled 39.5 TFL the last two seasons). Agile to slip blocks. Quick, strong hand to shed. Knifes gaps and flows very well laterally. Striking tackler -- uncoils on contact. Excellent speed and range -- opens up his stride in space and really covers ground."

The problems?

Well, Shazier projects as a weakside linebacker in the 4-3. So Miami takes him in the first round and that automatically projects him to start, or at least it had better because that's what first-round picks are supposed to do regardless of what team personnel will predictably say to cover their, ahem, selves.

So the starting LB corps is Koa Misi at MIKE, Dannell Ellerbe at SAM and Ryan Shazier at WILL? 

Perhaps the Dolphins brush aside the Misi in the middle offseason experiment, as they have previous offseasons, and leave Ellerbe in the middle then play with Shazier at WILL and Misi at SAM.

Either way the odd man out is obviously Phillip Wheeler, who had a terrible 2013.

Fine. But ...

Would this solve Miami's run defense issues? Remember the run defense? Increasingly terrible the past two years? The No. 24 run defense in the NFL? Hard to believe that unit was No. 3 against the run in 2011.

Anyway, Shazier has a history for making plays so perhaps the thinking is he upgrades the run defense. He is, however, an three-down linebacker.

One thing one scout pointed out to me a while back about Shazier: "He had to learn to play before he started to make an impact and in the NFL he's going to have to learn to play at that level before he makes an impact. The light might not come on the first day or even the first season. He'll get it eventually, though."

Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell has heard critics say Shazier is built like a wide receiver from the waist down and won't be durable as a result. He also has heard scouts wonder about Shazier's ability to shine early in his NFL career.

"He's just scratching the surface on his abilities," Fickell told the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel. "That's the thing with Ryan. He could play in any type of system. He could move around. He's not some little, frail speed guy. He can hit you. He can do all the different stuff. He'll be a 240-guy no problem."

Shazier is already in New York as one of the prospects invited to attend the draft by the NFL. It's possible his name is called when the Dolphins pick. 

May 06, 2014

How will scandal-stung Dolphins weigh character concerns?

Part of the fallout from last Fall's harassment scandal in Miami is that eyes are on the Dolphins to see what type of players they add to their locker room now. Teams traditonally have varying degrees of pain thresholds when it comes to players with character flaws or histories of trouble and the Dolphins have steered clear of some of those while embracing others.

The Dolphins had cornerback Aqib Talib off their board in 2008 and wanted no part of cornerback Jimmy Smith in 2011. But they were fine with Davone Bess in 2008, Vontae Davis in 2009 and Jimmy Wilson in 2011.

And, yes, they added Richie Incognito in 2010 when he had washed out of multiple college programs and the St. Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills wanted nothing further with him.

The Dolphins also kept Incognito in 2012 and '13 until the harassment scandal broke, even after they were aware of his infamous team golf outing battery on a female volunteer prior to the '12 season.

As Nick Saban once told me, "I'm not running Father Flanagan's home for boys here. I'm running a football team and guys sometimes have troubled pasts you have to accept."

And most teams accept them and aren't really questioned for that. Even the New England Patriots can go out and sign or draft players with problematic pasts and no one seems to question them -- even though they had a player on their roster who is in jail awaiting trial on murder charges.

But because the Dolphins were such a focus of national attention during the bully scandal, because the Commissioner has made such a point of stressing locker room conduct, and because the team itself has perhaps overreacted in pledging to aggressively stress a good work environment, the Dolphins are under the microscope now.

So will they still draft players with questionable backgrounds? Or will they flag them and take them off their board?

Will they stress finding good citizens to the extreme of losing sight of finding great players? Or will the Dolphins be able to walk the fine line between getting good players who may have character blemishes that can be managed?

It's an interesting dynamic that the team is currently managing.

Consider that several players the Dolphins have shown interest in this pre-draft period come with some character concerns. Some have drug pasts. Some were suspended in school. Some committed crimes.

So what will the Dolphins do with their interest in those players? It will be interesting to see.

Here are some players the Dolphins have shown interest in that have some sort of character concerns:

CB Walt Aikens: He played at Liberty but that was after he transferred from Illinois where he got kicked off the team by coach Ron Zook after he was arrested and pleaded guilty to burglary.

WR Martavis Bryant: He was suspended from playing in the Dec. 31, 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl game for academic reasons. He apparently was habitually absent from study hall which is not a big deal except that it speaks to meeting responsibilities and being on time to meetings. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said this of Bryant at the time: "At some point, enough is enough. Martavis is a good young man. We have study hall rules that you have to follow here. And when you are just kind of habitual in breaking those rules it gets in my hands and that is kind of where it’s at. He just hasn’t done what he needs to do from a team standpoint and academically. It was a decision that was made and hopefully he will learn from and decide that he wants to be a student."

CB Phillip Gaines: He was arrested in 2011 for possession of marijuana and, of course, that's a long time ago. But he was also suspended by Rice from the 2013 season opener for violating team rules, the details of which were not specified.

OT Seantrel Henderson: Despite his great athletic gifts, his University of Miami career is more known for suspensions, missed meetings, benchings, missed classes and marijuana use than his on-field play. He confessed to marijuana use at the Indianapolis Combine. Good thing because, according to ESPN, he tested positive for marijuana at the Combine.

TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins: He was suspended for the 2013 season opener after he was arrested and pleaded guilty to a drunk driving charge the previous July. The tight end had a blood alcohol level of .18 which is more than twice the legal limit. He was sentenced to 365 days in jail of which 364 were suspended. The Dolphins had the player in for a visit but it is unclear if that was discuss the arrest or re-check a fractured foot that showed up during the NFL Combine or both.

CB Marcus Roberson: He was arrested in 2011 when he was a sophomore for underage drinking. He was 18 at the time and the legal drinking age in Florida is 21. Roberson was also suspended in November of 2013 for violating unspecifided team rules. He missed one game. There are also "character" concerns, according to one scout I talked to. He would not be specific.

Other players in this draft with character concerns, according to scouts:  Michigan OT Taylor Lewan, South Carolina CB Victor Hampton, LSU RB Jeremy Hill, Alabama State RB Isaiah Crowell. This by the way is not a complete list.

 

NFL writers mock the draft's first round

In the previous post you learned what happens when so many good players go off the board in the coming NFL draft and the Dolphins, scheduled to pick No. 19 in the first round, cannot trade out of the slot.

Well, this is the actual mock draft of that exercise that compelled me to pick Ja'Wuan James of Tennessee for the Dolphins. This mock was put together by experts in each city who cover the teams they made the selections for.

1. HOUSTON TEXANS

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Analysis: The Texans need a quarterback and a pass rusher, but they'd like to trade the first choice to a team that'll swap first-round picks and surrender additional selections in second and third round and a No. 1 pick in 2015. Good luck trying to get that. If they trade down, depending on who's available, they like Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Khalil Mack. They have 11 picks and also need an RT, NT and RDE.

2. ST. LOUIS RAMS

Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

ANALYSIS: With Clowney gone, my guess is that the Rams will try to trade out of the No. 2 spot, but not too far. That's why they're currently playing out this Johnny Manziel smokescreen, to try to get a trade partner. If they're stuck at No. 2 overall, the most logical option is offensive tackle. The Rams are a couple of injuries away from being a disaster area up front. At this point, it's not certain if Jake Long (ACL) will be ready for the season opener. Rodger Saffold, re-signed in that strange now-you're-Raider/now-you're-not scenario, has a history of injuries (and the Rams want him to play guard anyway). Center Scott Wells has missed 13 games over his two seasons in St. Louis with injuries. The Rams need a starting guard, with Chris Williams have signed with Buffalo. The right tackle, Joe Barksdale, is so-so and entering the final year of his contract. So with Clowney gone, it's a close call between Jake Matthews and Greg Robinson.  I'm going with the bloodlines. He's ready to go from Day 1, and can play guard the first year if need be. Jeff Fisher coached his father, Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, so familiarity helps. (I'll be back at No. 13.)

3. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Analysis: The Jaguars emphasized defense – DE Red Bryant, DE Chris Clemons, DT  Ziggy Hood and OLB Dekoda Watson – in free agency and have made improving their woeful offense a priority in the draft.  Briefly, on defense, Gus Bradley wants to add another pass rusher and a cornerback at some point. For all the talk about Buffalo LB Khalil Mack, he makes absolutely zero sense – a 3-4 college LB expecting to play DE in a 4-3 – but who knows. On offense, receiver is a priority because WR Justin Blackmon remains suspended and the early guess is that he will miss at least the first half of this year. WR Cecil Shorts is a decent No. 2, but needs help. I expect the Jaguars to take multiple receivers in the first four rounds. The Jaguars re-signed QB Chad Henne in March, but expect them to take a quarterback at No. 39 overall (if not sooner and they use some of their extra picks to trade up). The guess here is LSU’s Zach Mettenberger or Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo. Later on, they need a right guard (they don’t have one right now) and a center (Brad Meester retired and they couldn’t get Alex Mack from Cleveland)?

4. CLEVELAND BROWNS

Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

Analysis: National analysts don’t have the high regard for QB Brian Hoyer that everybody in Cleveland has, including the new regime of GM Ray Farmer and HC Mike Pettine. Hoyer, a local kid, revived the team last year in Week 3, won 2 games as Brandon Weeden’s replacement, and then tore his right ACL in Game 5 v. Bills. The sample size is small, for sure, but Hoyer had an ‘it’ factor and also performed before the freak injury on a faulty slide. He is ahead of schedule and participated in minicamp with a brace. He is expected to be totally unlimited for start of training camp. The question is his durability over 16 games; he’s never played a full season due to lack of opportunity and the injury. The Browns are not enamored with the QB crop, but they will select at least one. I see it as a developmental guy. They signed Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen for camp. Even though the previous regime stocked up last year on OLBs – Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard (converted from DE), Barkevious Mingo and Quentin Groves – I feel Pettine loves Khalil Mack. It was the only pro day Pettine has been confirmed to attend. If Mack is there, I don’t see them passing on him. Otherwise, I sense they would be open to moving down a little. Greg Robinson/Jake Matthews also a possibility.

5. OAKLAND RAIDERS

Greg Robinson, T, Auburn.

Analysis: This is not going well, with the Raiders’ need for playmakers and Clowney, Watkins and Mack all gone.  Oakland would try and trade down and failing that would take the best player available, which in this case looks to be an offensive tackle. Oakland won’t take a quarterback here even though they need a young franchise one to build around. The Raiders brass didn’t fall in love with any of the top QB prospects over the last few months, and as intriguing as Johnny Manziel is, he reminds Dennis Allen and Greg Olson too much of Terrelle Pryor, as far as abandoning designed plays, not going through his progressions and not seeing and throwing to open receivers. I think the Raiders will address the QB need in Round 2 or 3. Which takes us back to the choice at hand: tackle Greg Robinson or Taylor Lewan. I think Lewan might be readier to play from Day 1 and has a nastiness that Reggie McKenzie wants but his off-field issues are also a concern. Robinson has more upside and might even be able to move around more on this line next season. (The Raiders are currently looking at starting veteran Donald Penn and last year’s second-round pick, Menelik Watson, at the left and right tackle spots, respectively, after letting Jared Veldheer walk as a free agent.)

6. ATLANTA FALCONS

Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan.

ANALYSIS: With Robinson and Matthews off the board, the Falcons will elect to fortify their offensive line, which was a swinging door to the quarterback last season. Lewan would bring the nasty type of attitude to the unit that it has been looking forward. He could likely start out as a right tackle and eventually be switched to the left side.  The Falcons would be looking at some of the top remaining pass rushers in the second round and would be interested in Dee Ford and Kyle Van Noy. They could also take a flyer or Texas DE Jackson Jeffcoat later in the draft. The safety position will also be addressed along with running back. 

7. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

Analysis: This is the first draft for new coach Lovie Smith and new general manager Jason Licht. They addressed a lot of the team’s biggest needs in free agency, where they grabbed a pass rusher in RDE Michael Johnson, a CB to replace Darrelle Revis in Alterraun Verner and a left tackle to replace Donald Penn in Anthony Collins. The Bucs also picked up a QB in career backup Josh McCown, who was immediately named the starter. The team still has several holes, however, particularly at receiver, where Vincent Jackson is the only legitimate starting-caliber player on the roster, and right guard. The situation at left tackle may not be ideal either, because Collins has never played a full season at that spot. Smith and Licht are convinced, though, that he’s a hidden gem. They are also convinced that Johnson is more the player who recorded 11.5 sacks two years ago than the one who had only 3.5 sacks last year. They better be right, because outside of Clowney, this draft is not flush with pass rushing talent. The Bucs have only six picks in one of the deepest drafts in recent memory so Smith and Licht would really like to trade down and add a few more selections if possible. This draft: The Bucs are going to be under a lot of pressure from their fans to take Johnny Manziel here, but I just don’t see it happening. He doesn’t fit what Lovie Smith wants in a QB and his presence here will give the Bucs a chance to trade down, which they would love to do. Barring a deal, the Bucs will take Evans.

8. MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

Analysis: Johnny Football is tempting here because he could be the guy that people are kicking themselves for not taking years from now. Of course, he also could just as easily be the humiliating blemish that never disappears from a resume. I just can’t envision Mike Zimmer or Rick Spielman wanting to head down that path, even with Turner there to help control and mold Manziel. Zimmer’s concerns about Manziel, which he revealed during the draft preparation process, doesn’t appear to be smokescreen material. I think he truly is spooked by the guy. Mosley and CB Justin Gilbert also are tempting, but the lack of a young, franchise quarterback has been at the root of this team’s problems for years. Brett Favre isn’t coming back and Cassel is only a band-aid. So while there is no clear-cut quarterback who stands above the rest in this draft, it’s hard to picture the Vikings waiting until the second or third rounds to take their swing at the position. Blake Bortles seems to have most of what the Vikings are looking for. Size, mobility, pocket poise, a good arm and a personality that’s centered on football appear to make him the safer pick over Manziel . Teddy Bridgewater is more NFL-ready, but I think the Vikings may like Bortles better.

9. BUFFALO BILLS

Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina.

Analysis: The Bills enter the draft with no glaring primary need due to the fact they filled a lot of holes in free agency. Their offense needs a receiving weapon with size. They traded for Tampa’s Mike Williams, who provides some, if he stays out of trouble. They love WR Sammy Watkins (who doesn’t?). They may try to move up for Watkins. Failing that, their options at No. 9 would be OT (Jake Matthews or Zack Martin) or the best big weapon (Mike Evans or Eric Ebron). Toss a coin. The OT is the more conservative pick. 

10 DETROIT LIONS

Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA.

Analysis: They're sticking with the 4-3, but are trying to diversify their pass rush to fit with new coordinator Teryl Austin, who came from Baltimore. Barr would play LB and some DE  in passing situations. The Lions have made no secret about their love for a couple of the draft's top prospects, Sammy Watkins and Khalil Mack. Obviously, they'd have to move up to land either, and there's no sense that'd they'd do so at any cost. If they stick at 10 and Mike Evans is there, he certainly could be the pick. And if one of the top offensive tackles is on the board, they could go that route out of sheer value. Last year, they wanted to tackle up top, but were happy when Ziggy Ansah fell in their lap. They had a good draft last year, with Ziggy and RG Larry Warford becoming immediate starters, and they expect CB Darius Slay to start this year. If the draft plays out this way, my sense is they'll be picking from a group that includes Anthony Barr, Justin Gilbert, Odell Beckham and Aaron Donald.

11. TENNESSEE TITANS

Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

Analysis: The Titans don’t have a glaring need. That’s not to say they don’t have holes/issues, but it’s not like last year when they needed a guard and Chance Warmack was a no-brainer when they were on the clock. So they’re in a position where they could go just about anywhere. I’ve taken Anthony Barr in most my mock drafts, but he goes off the board here at No.10 in this one. So the Titans will have options. They like Fresno State QB Derek Carr, but getting mixed signals on whether they’ll pull the trigger at 11. I personally think they’d like to move back and try and recoup the third rounder they gave up last year. The top corners are on the board now and they also like Alabama LB C.J. Mosley. But I’m going to give them Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald, who would be a good fit in a changing defense.

12. NEW YORK GIANTS

Zack Martin, T, Notre Dame

Analysis: The Giants offensive line was a mess last year with injuries and age catching up to them. Last year, they selected right tackle Justin Pugh in the first round and he started all 16 games. Left tackle Will Beatty did not have a good year in 2013 even before breaking his leg in the final game of the season. Left guard Chris Snee is coming off hip surgery. The Giants signed free agent guard Geoff Schwartz and free agent center J.D. Walton. I've heard they are hoping that Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan makes it to No. 12. They also really like Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans. In this mock, the top three tackles, Evans, North Carolina TE Eric Ebron (the Giants need a pass catching tight end) and Pitt DT Aaron Donald are all gone. All those players would be possible choices if they were on the board. So, I'm going to give them Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin, a versatile player who can also be projected as a guard or center. The Giants could certainly use an offensive lineman who has that kind of versatility where they could just insert him where they have the greatest need on the line. Even though they would be taking a tackle in the first round for the second year in a row, Martin's ability to  play multiple positions is attractive to the Giants.

13. ST. LOUIS RAMS

Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Analysis: OK, Johnny Manziel still on the board here, so once again Rams trying to trade out of their spot. (Hello, Jerry Jones?) But with no trades allowed in the mock, the Rams address a glaring need in the secondary. They really have only 2 corners on the roster with any kind of NFL experience: Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson. I don't think they like either of the safeties here: (Pryor and Clinton-Dix). So the pick is Dennard, who is not as fast as Justin Gilbert, but looks like a better football player on tape.

14. CHICAGO BEARS

Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

Analysis: With a locked-and-loaded offense, the Bears almost certainly will be looking to fortify a defense that ranked 30th overall and 32nd against the run in 2014. The addition of DEs Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston in free agency was a good start, but they still need a lot of help at every level of their defense. DT, “the engine that drives” the Bears defense according to GM Phil Emery, is a priority, but with Pitt’s Aaron Donald off this board, it is more likely the Bears would trade down to acquire more picks and still get their guy — Timmy Jernigan, perhaps — later in the first round. Emery has been a wild-card in the draft in two seasons as an NFL GM — reaching, on paper anyway, for DE Shea McClellin at No. 19 in 2012 and OL Kyle Long at No. 20 last year. Be that as it may, the Bears’ most acute need is at safety, where FS Chris Conte is coming off a bad season and an injury (he could start the season on the PUP list after offseason shoulder surgery) and SS Major Wright was not signed in free agency. So with the 14th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select … Clinton-Dix.

15. PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Analysis: The Steelers have gone from old and slow on defense to young and unsung with holes and depth issues. Ike Taylor will be 34 and they need corners. Ben Roethlisberger is 32 and they need to give him another big receiving weapon to pair with Antonio Brown after losing three of their top four in FA the past 14 months (Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery).  They have only one real starting DE and no depth. They have two starters at OLB who have yet to really prove themselves, Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones and no depth. They have only one real starter at ILB, Lawrence Timmons, and no depth. They are looking strongly at taking CB-WR one-two in the first two rounds. They feel they can get a good WR in round two, but if they are going to get a top-flight corner, No. 1 is the time to do it, therefore…

16. DALLAS COWBOYS

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Analysis: They need defense, defense and more defense. The defensive line is their top priority. I would be shocked if they drafted a safety in the first round. They did not have Clinton-Dix or Pryor in for visits, which is usually a tip off for them as to who they will or won't take. They do like Jimmie Ward, but not until the second round. Their top target is Aaron Donald, but they would have to trade up to get him. I could see them doing that. Anthony Barr also is another player they like and had in for a visit. It is too early for Shazier, Ealy or Lawrence, all of whom they had in for visits. I could see them trading down for one of those guys. They like Zack Martin, and I could see them drafting him if the defensive players are off the board. HOWEVER, Johnny Manziel still is on this mock draft. I do not believe that Jerry Jones will pass on Johnny Football, and the marketing opportunities he presents. He loves Johnny Football. Johnny was Jerry Jones' guest in his suite at the Final Four. They are a match made in football heaven. Despite their defensive needs, despite having signed Tony Romo to a contract extension last year with $55 million guaranteed, I can't see Jerry passing on Johnny Manziel.

17. BALTIMORE RAVENS

C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

Analysis: The Ravens need to upgrade an offense that ranked 29th in the NFL overall with the 30th-ranked running game and has running back Ray Rice facing a potential suspension under the NFL personal-conduct policy. The Ravens upgraded the wide receiver position during free agency by signing Steve Smith and also signed tight end Owen Daniels to go with tight end Dennis Pitta. With Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin and Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix off the draft board, the Ravens would probably like to trade back. If the Ravens stand pat, they would be unlikely to reach for Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses or Louisville safety Calvin Pryor. The Ravens are likely to go for the best player available and draft someone who complements middle linebacker Daryl Smith.

18. NEW YORK JETS

Odell Beckham, WR, LSU.

Analysis: With Dix off the board as the top safety, they do have interest in S Calvin Pryor, who visited with the team. Justin Gilbert would be a possibility at corner if the draft falls this way. With Mack and Barr off the board, that takes away the top two OLB pass rushers for the team’s 3-4 defense. The way this is falling, the need and the pick appear to gravitate toward wide receiver, where the Jets are still looking for a No. 1 after releasing Santonio Holmes. … John Idzik gets to work from a position of strength in this year’s draft, an unexpected set of circumstances when you consider what he inherited when he took the job after the 2012 season. He parlayed last year’s trade of Darrelle Revis into Sheldon Richardson, the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. Idzik was very selective in free agency this year, passing on a chance to re-acquire Revis and choosing not to get into a bidding war for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Key additions were WR Eric Decker, QB Michael Vick and RB Chris Johnson. That’s a major upgrade at all the positions, but there is still work to be done. Vick is considered a backup – for now – to Geno Smith, but he will be given a fair shot in training camp. If he outplays Smith decisively, figure him to get the job. If it’s even, Smith sticks as the starter. Defensively, they did not shore up the cornerback position after releasing Antonio Cromartie and deciding not to re-sign him on the cheap. Calvin Pace is back after a strong year, but they still need an outside pass rusher, since Quinton Coples is looking more and more like a disappointment. Safety continues to be an area of need, as evidenced by the fact that fossil Ed Reed was signed last year and was immediately penciled in to start.

19. MIAMI DOLPHINS

Ja'Wuan James, RT, Tennessee

Analysis: With the four top tackles off the board and the possibility of upgrading the run defense gone with Baltimore's pick of Mosley, the Dolphins are desperately looking to trade down. Cleveland is a possible trade-down partner as are the 49ers. But with no such possibility here, the Dolphins are going to address the right tackle spot with a player they'd probably be more comfortable picking with their second-round pick (50th overall). The Dolphins are drafting a right tackle who has played against good competition in college (SEC), has started for three years and is a plug-and-play guy to address their biggest need … GM Dennis Hickey has 18 years of NFL personnel experience but will be running his first draft as a general manager, replacing Jeff Ireland. That means the Dolphins, predictable in the type of players they liked the past six years under Ireland, are no longer as easy to gauge. It also means Hickey has no qualms about addressing positions that Ireland previously addressed but didn't get the intended results. So what does that mean? Well, the Dolphins will clearly be looking for a starting right tackle because they have no one at the spot. If the season began today Miami could not line up as they have no starting right tackle on the squad. They're actually in need of a starting guard as well because all the options on the roster are backup types and Ireland projects, such as Dallas Thomas, a third-round pick a year ago who seemed overmatched most of the year. It is clear the Dolphins have to invest heavily in the line because the team allowed an NFL leading and franchise record 58 sacks a season ago. The Dolphins also have to do something about the running game -- both on offense and defense. Offensively, that means not only addressing the OL but also adding a running back later in the draft. On defense, Miami's 2013 investment in free agents such as Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler and committing a franchise tag on defensive tackle Randy Starks didn't pay off. The Dolphins run defense got worse for the second consecutive year. They were No. 3 in rush yards allowed in 2011, sank to No. 13 in 2012, and finished at No. 24 last season. So the club is hoping to move Ellerbe from the middle to an OLB spot that is a more natural position for him. The cornerback situation is in the hands of veterans Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan with a couple of youngsters behind them but a playmaker there would be welcomed. Safety is another position seemingly held together by a string as oft-injured Louis Delmas signed a one-year deal after being cut by Detroit.

20. ARIZONA CARDINALS

Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

Analysis: Oddly enough, the most pressing needs are on defense. They need a safety. The SS from last year, Yeremiah Bell, is unsigned and likely retired. FS Tyrann Mathieu is coming back from two torn knee ligaments and could miss the start of the season. There are some guys on the roster but the Cardinals could use a playmaker. They also could use help at DE and OLB. There is no young DE behind Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett. Dockett turns 33 this month and 2015 is the last year of his contract. We know how that adds up. They also could use an OLB who can rush the passer. John Abraham led the team with 11.5 sacks a year ago, but he turns 36 Tuesday, May 6. Sam Acho, Lorenzo Alexander are returning from injuries. Offensively, the right guard and right tackle spots are open but there are people on the roster who could probably do OK. Adding a tackle is a possibility but I don’t see it in the first round, unless one of the main guys slip. The team could also use a tight end. Rob Housler continues to tease with athletic ability and inconsistency. Jake Ballard and John Carlson are decent but have had injury issues. I could see TE in the second round. In this scenario, they could go Ealy, Shazier, hell, or anyone.

21. GREEN BAY PACKERS

Ryan Shazier, ILB, Ohio State

Analysis: The Packers would give careful consideration to Clinton-Dix and Pryor for several reasons. One, their safeties didn't intercept a single pass last season. Two, SS Morgan Burnett had a poor season, and other starter MD Jennings wasn't offered a contract and signed as a street guy with the Bears. Three, the only other legit candidate on the roster is CB Micah Hyde, who played about three games at S for Iowa and was mentioned as a possible conversion by McCarthy. At TE, Finley hopes to play again but is UFA and no one knows if Thompson/McCarthy will pass him after a cervical fusion late last year. Otherwise, there's kind of a  void there. They signed Julius Peppers to help the rush opposite Clay Matthews, but he is 34. At ILB, another ex-Buckeye, AJ Hawk, calls the defense but lacks speed and athleticism. The other starter is mediocre Brad Jones. Shazier fits a need and can run like the wind.

22. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Analysis: They will go best player available. I expect it to be either a corner (Darqueze Dennard if he's still on the board, or Kyle Fuller), a wide receiver (Marqise Lee or Kelvin Benjamin), an outside 'backer (Ryan Shazier) or an offensive lineman (Cyrus Kouandjio). Given the way this draft has gone, my selection is. . . Kyle Fuller.  He's got size (6-0, 190, 33 inch arms), can play press coverage and is a good tackler.

23. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Analysis: The Chiefs have a number of holes, but they desperately needa fresh dose of youth and talent at WR. Dwayne Bowe will soon turn 30, and No. 2 receiver Donnie Avery offers the speed Chiefs coach Andy Reid likes but needs to be more consistent. A.J. Jenkins and Junior Hemingway are young receivers with upside, but the Chiefs' failed pursuit of Emmanuel Sanders made it clear this is a position they feel they need to upgrade. Reid prefers receivers with good hands who can beat press coverage, but a player with a vertical skill set like Lee would be intriguing. Other positions to watch include OL, CB, S, OLB and yes, QB. However, WR is the most certain to be addressed, and this is the safe pick, especially if the Chiefs are comfortable with Lee's medical.

24. CINCINNATI BENGALS

Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

Analysis: The speculation will run rampant here if the Bengals will take the bait on Teddy Bridgewater, but they are likely to disappoint the media masses. The team needs to take out an insurance policy in case Andy Dalton¹s future can¹t be solidified. Likely they would attempt to do so with a Friday pick, but this could tempt them with the board falling this way. They¹d prefer Shazier, Mosley or one of the top two corners slide to them. If they do stay put they need to find a way to get younger in the secondary. Leon Hall is coming off his second Achilles injury in two years, Adam Jones cross the 30 barrier and Terence Newman is approaching 36. With CB Dre Kirkpatrick, 2012 first-round pick, lingering closer to the bust line, one of the top corners would improve the team looking into the future. Cincinnati would be open to listening to trade offers from Houston, Cleveland or any of the other teams who didn¹t get their QB at the top of the round. If they want to move up to grab Derek Carr or Bridgewater, the Bengals would talk. If they are picking, though, they go for the position of need.

25. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Analysis: The Chargers might be open for business here. Cornerback arguably is their top need, and four are off the board. Unless they're enamored with TCU's Jason Verrett, Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III or an edge rusher like Auburn's Dee Ford, they may not see value here. A team will anticipate the Browns, after passing on QB at pick 4, are targeting the position at 26. If it wants to trade up, the Chargers will listen. Alas, this is a gentleman's mock draft. No trades allowed. That spins us back to Verrett. Yes, he's 5-foot-9. Yes, he'll miss OTAs because of March labrum surgery. But his film is nails, and he is expected to be fine coming training camp. Verrett can play football. In this mock, it's for the Chargers.

26. CLEVELAND BROWNS

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville.

Analysis: See Pick No. 4.

27 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Analysis: My job was really easy here since I’ve been projecting the Saints might even trade up to try and get a WR like Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks or Marqise Lee. They could really use a dynamic speed WR like that. Outside of those guys, though, I’m not sure if I would have taken another WR (like Latimer, Benjamin, etc.), since the WR class seems so deep. I’ve mostly been projecting a good CB to fall to the Saints based on the way most mocks go – someone like Fuller or Verrett. That’s another top need for them. … If Grossi would have taken Cooks, I probably would have gone with a pass rusher like Kony Ealy as the “best available player.

28. CAROLINA PANTHERS

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

Analysis: The Panthers have some huge holes to fill on offense after left tackle Jordan Gross retired in February and franchise receiver leader Steve Smith was cut in March. They also could use a cornerback after losing two of the three corners from their rotation last season. But receiver is the most glaring need. In addition to Smith, the Panthers lost three other wideouts in free agency. And the three free agents they signed -- Jerricho Cotchery, Tiquan Underwood and Jason Avant -- are all complementary receivers. General manager Dave Gettleman loves big guys (he calls them 'hog mollies') and doubled down on DTs Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short with his first two picks last year. But with such a deep WR group, Gettleman should be able to find an impact wideout even drafting late. This mock couldn't have worked out any better for the Panthers, who like Benjamin's size and big-play potential. Benjamin is raw -- not unlike Cordarrelle Patterson last year -- but he'll get a chance to develop with the help of the veteran receivers the Panthers signed.

29. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Stephon Tuitt, DL, Notre Dame

Analysis: Nick Caserio said last week that the Patriots would feel pretty good about their lineup if they had to go play a football game today, and they don't have many lineup holes to fill after splurging for Darrelle Revis, Julian Edelman, Brandon Browner and Brandon LaFell in free agency. Seemingly locked in an arms race with the Broncos, the Patriots need some depth pieces across the board, but are loaded with veteran starters and don't have many glaring needs. They could use a youth infusion along the defensive line, which currently has four key players over 30 (Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Rob Ninkovich, Will Smith), depth at linebacker to replace Brandon Spikes, a tight end to pair with Rob Gronkowski, depth at guard and safety and at least one running back -- all three of their running backs are entering the last year of their contracts. Bill Belichick sprints to the podium to draft Tuitt, who would give the Patriots a young, strong, disruptive and versatile player who can play anywhere along the defensive line.

30. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS.

Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana

Analysis: Look for the 49ers trade up for a receiver or a cornerback they like, with LSU's Odell Beckham or Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller possible targets. If they stay put at No. 30, a pass rusher like Kony Ealy or Dee Ford is a possibility as well. … Cornerback is arguably the 49ers' biggest need after longtime starters Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown both went to Oakland via free agency this offseason. But with the top five corners off the board at this point, and with the 49ers having two picks in the second round (perhaps the strength of the cornerback draft), I think they'd take the best wide receiver on the board here. One starter, Michael Crabtree, is entering his contract year and may be difficult to resign. The other, Anquan Boldin, has two years left and is in his mid 30s. I think they'd like a big-bodied receiver to replace one of those two and Cody Latimer (6-2 ½, 215), has the right physique. Unlike Crabtree and Boldin, he also has speed. Best of all, he has the necessary grit for the rough-and-tumble NFC West. He was Indiana's top skill player last year but still played on special teams coverage units.

31. DENVER BRONCOS

Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

Analysis: The Broncos don’t have a starting middle linebacker in their 4-3 at the moment. They have people on the roster who could play there, but they don’t see it as a situation they’re worried about given they spend the majority of snaps in the nickel. Elway has used his first pick of the last three drafts on a defensive player – Von Miller and Sylvester Williams in the first round of the 2011 and 2013 draft. He took defensive tackle Derek Wolfe in the second round in 2012. The Broncos would consider a trade down if they could stay in the upper third of the second round, especially if all of the CBs they like are gone. In this scenario, having just signed a DT Monday they think it healthy after back surgery last season – Marvin Austin -- the CBs are gone and the strength of the board would be in the OL, so they would look at edge players on defense and guards. Think they would look to get out and trade down, but defensive guys want help so will give them. PICK: DE Kony Ealy, Missouri.

32. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State

Analysis: I looked at OL types but in the end, Lawrence and Minnesota DT/DE Ra'Shede Hageman were the finalists for my pick. I thought the outside pass-rush guy could carry appeal with Chris Clemons gone and Bruce Irvin's positional future not really settled. The Seahawks could be a good candidate for trading back if a team wants to get a QB at No. 32 while taking advantage of the fifth-year option available for first-round picks. The Seahawks do not have a third-round pick. I'm not sure they could get a third by moving back from No. 32, but that is a consideration.

May 05, 2014

James or Moses at RT for the Dolphins?

As is tradition, with tradition being defined as something I've done for five years or so, I participate in an annual writers mock draft that includes some of the brightest minds covering professional football today.

(I have no idea why I'm part of this exercise.)

Nonetheless, in today's edition I represented the Miami Dolphins and when pick No. 19 came up, my choices were limited.

C.J. Mosley was gone. The four consensus first-round offensive tackles -- Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan and Zack Martin -- were gone. Cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard and Justin Gilbert were gone. There are no trades allowed.

I picked Ja'Wuan James.

I picked the 6-6, 310-pound right tackle from Tennessee because he's going to be the starting right tackle for someone from Day One. "He's a plug-and-play guy," one scout told me. "He' has some issues, particularly in the running game, but nothing catastrophic. He's going to be a good NFL right tackle and maybe in a pinch he will be able to play left tackle in a year or two."

In defending his "plug and play" comment the scout referred me to the number of starts James has at Tennessee. The number is a whopping 49. And that against Southeastern Conference Competition.

I know this is not a popular pick at No. 19.

I assume the Dolphins would rather trade down if they're planning to make this move and I've been told the Cleveland Browns, who own the 26th overall selection, have been inquiring around about possibly moving up from that spot. Apparently, other teams are looking to get ahead of the Browns to take a QB so the Browns may be feeling the need to rise to stay ahead of those teams.

Another right tackle that is similarly inviting to the Dolphins is Virginia's Morgan Moses.

He also looks the part at 6-6 and 315 pounds. He also is very experienced with 43 career starts. He is also probably better in pass protection than run blocking.

And, this should not be overlooked, Moses played for Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor when the coach was at Virginia from 2010-12. Moses started at right tackle and left tackle for Lazor and I'm told the coach truly does like Moses.

So that, I'm assuming, had weight within the walls of the Dolphins facility.

One thing to consider about Moses, he had some sort of left shoulder injury at the Indianapolis Combine.

I don't see Moses as a No. 19 value pick, either. But if the Dolphins trade down?

James or Moses, folks.

Dennis Hickey talks first NFL draft as GM

Dennis Hickey is three days away from his first NFL draft as the Dolphins general manager.

You love him now. He's a good guy. He doesn't mind kidding around at a press conference, as he did during his pre-draft meeting with the media. His move so far have been met with approval for the most part.

But will you love him by Saturday night when the draft is over?

That's the question.

Here is what Hickey said about the upcoming draft during his pre-draft presser:

(Dennis Hickey Opening Statement) –“Welcome guys. I appreciate everyone coming out. I’ll start us off with a special word of thanks. This is an exciting time of year for the whole organization. One, we’ve had our players in here for several weeks in the offseason program really preparing. We now know our schedule and who we open up with. We are very excited about the 2014 season. As you interact with our coaches and players throughout the building, they really excited about this 2014 season and what we’re building here. That’s exciting. Also what this press conference is for, the 2014 draft upcoming, the draft is about the future. We are excited. It’s a cumulative work of a lot of people whether it be from out coaching staff, our scouting staff, our IT department, our football administration department, our medical staff, it’s really the whole building have done a lot of work in preparation for Thursday night and continuing through the weekend and even once the draft is over as college free agency begins. It’s a lot of work. I know we are very excited. We are prepared, we are confident about this weekend coming up here. We are ready to go."

(On how he would assess the depth of offensive tackle in this draft) – “I think with this draft there is a lot of talent throughout at a lot of different positions. Like every other draft, certain areas of draft whether it be higher in the rounds or lower as you get through it will have different hot spots of talent. This draft is no different."

(On how he sees offensive tackle shaking out) – “I’m not going to comment on specific positions. Obviously there are some really good players at the offensive line position. There are some really good players at all of the other positions, defensive line, linebacker, defensive backs, receivers, all of those things. We are prepared, and we evaluated a lot of players, gone through, and we are ready for that."

(On how seriously he’s considered making trades in the top two rounds of this draft) – “We definitely explore all avenues that we feel like we can help. Obviously we are in contact with other general managers and just seeing where they stand and what their ideas and thoughts are going into the draft. Obviously once the draft gets started, it starts afresh. Yeah, we are exploring all avenues, trading up, trading down throughout the draft. We’ll be prepared for that."

(On philosophy between need and best player available) – “This whole process, and we are a process-driven scouting department. It starts way back in last May, and obviously I’m jumping in the middle of the cycle and implementing a lot of different things. With that, it is all about evaluating each player independently, not only evaluating the players’ talent but the player’s makeup adding into the medical evaluation. With that we come up with a ‘Dolphins Value’, and that’s how we rank according to that ‘Dolphins Value’. That’s how we will pick players."

(On what he wants out of whatever player he drafts) – “Obviously we want talented players that help us to win on the field, but we want good teammates and guys that will contribute to our community and all of the things we stand for, tough, smart, disciplined. And really it can be summed up by being a good teammate. That’s kind of how we look at it."

(On what he considers important qualities for offensive linemen) – “There are so many things. With each position, we generally have five major factors that go across positions and generally we have 10 specific factors. There are a lot of things that go into what makes a player good, and different guys compensate with different areas of their skillset to make them good. To just narrow it down, obviously we want tough, we want smart and we want productive players. But that would be it."

(On if it is easier, harder or the same to project offensive linemen in the draft as opposed to other positions) – “I think more so it goes back to the individual players. Those players were talented. They were good players on and off the field, so I think it just goes back to the individual players there judging them and evaluating them. That’s our focus, evaluating each player on his own merits and ranking them accordingly."

(On how much time he spent when looking at players the organization recently drafted) – “Primarily I focused on the players on this team and then just focusing on the evaluation of the players that can potentially be on this team via the 2014 Draft."

(On how he would describe the assessment of how the team did in recent drafts) – “I’m focused on the 2014 Draft. Obviously we always, and in Tampa we were the same way, we always want to be reflective, learn from whatever mistakes, try to judge and improve your processes as part of that. That’s what we’ve done, and those are the processes that I brought to the Dolphins here."

(On how the draft room in Tampa Bay was run when he was there was there one voice or many voices and will it be the same in Miami) – “Yes, most of the decisions, and I’ve talked about this several times before, I’m a big believer in pro-active decision making and making decisions leading up to the draft. The draft day should be calm. The only variable should be the trade element. That’s what we try to make decisions and work through players leading up to it. That’s part of the process that has been going on for the last three or four months here since I’ve been on the job, just working through that. That’s a part of it, and we want to make a decision based on players there."

(On if he expects a small group in the draft room during the draft) – “Yes.”

(On any good or bad decisions in Tampa that have changed his thinking going forward in future drafts) – “You always look at your process and as you reflect back whether the picks were great, whether the guys ended up being Pro Bowl players or maybe they weren’t what you expect. You always go back to the process and was there a breakdown in the certain part of the process? Then you make adjustments accordingly that way."

(On if he feels it is better to have more picks or higher picks in this draft) – “It’s a little bit hard to say, but I always like more picks. I always want to have more picks."

(On how he weighs value versus need) – “Those are the decisions we made leading up to it with the proactive decision making. Basically we have levels of players. When I talk about the ‘Dolphins Value’, that’s where we are placing them considering there are a lot of variables that’s obvious during the player evaluation but there is always the character makeup and the medical evaluation which is all very important part. You bring it all together and at the end of the day this is where we would take this player, and that’s the ‘Dolphins Value’."

(On what his vision is in analytics and how he has used it so far) – “We’ve always kind of used in on a smaller level, but we are looking to expand that. Again, analytics to me is a tool to aid in the decision making. There is a lot of data out there that we have access to that we are just looking at different ways to extrapolate that out and help us in a decision whether it is separating two closely ranked players. It’s a tool. Still the most important part is going back to the tape, what these players have done on the field versus the 11-on-11 with the scoreboard running. That’s the important part for me, going back to the tape."

(On how he uses the numbers in football for analytics) – “There’s a lot of different numbers whether it be measurables or whether there would be different aspects of getting quantitative data that we are able to use. Again, those are things that we are exploring as we look forward to putting that department together."

(On an example of how he evaluates players with analytics) – “I never said I use that to evaluate a player. I use it as a tool to help the evaluation process. I evaluate the player by watching the player, watching him live, watching him on tape, those types of things. There are different tools to say with the analytics using measurables and different aspects. There’s a lot of different aspects. A lot of the things you can probably see on the Internet with different websites, but we want to put our own spin on it. I have my own vision of it, and some of those details it’s kind of a competitive advantage for me."

(On his general guidelines for players picked in the first round compared to the second and third rounds) – “Every player is different. It’s important as we evaluate these players talking with the coaches and talking with our scouts is outlining what our plan and vision for these players are. It’s important that we want them to contribute, but each person is unique. Each player is unique, and we just want them to help contribute to us to make us a better team, and that’s both in the short-term and the long-term."

(On if it is fair to expect starters to come out of this draft at positions of need) – “We want to get good players and the starting element, that plays itself out. We want to build a competitive environments, bring guys in, but again that plays itself out. We just want to get good players in here that fit the criteria that we are looking for."

(On his thoughts on the draft being moved back two weeks) – “It’s changed it a little bit, altered it. Obviously it is what it is, so you just kind of adjust your schedule accordingly. We’ve had to pace a little bit. Certain times there has been a lot more opportunities for like injured players that maybe in the past that maybe if it was a week ago they maybe wouldn’t have been able to work out and that they are healthy enough to work out. That’s probably been the biggest change with that with the advent of more pro days and visit structure, those types of things."

(On if he likes the idea of seeing more pro days and injured players because of the draft moving back) – “Yeah especially with the injured player. I want players to be successful and get opportunities, so sometimes the health depending on their medical situation, maybe they aren’t able to work out prior to the draft, gives them a couple of extra weeks. There are pros and cons to it, but it is what we deal with and we control what we control."

(On if NFL teams should be aware of their local talent more specifically than other areas) – “I think one of the great advantages I think that we have here in Miami is the great amount of talent that comes out of this area every year. It was evident when we had our local day. We had over 50 quality players in here. Not only were they talented, but wow, they really represented themselves well just in a lot of things, just taking care of business and being on time, just being professionals. It was really impressive. There is so much talent, it is definitely an advantage to us. We would love to keep a lot of that home-grown talent here in Miami."

(On it is a reflection on returning talent if a wide receiver or cornerback is drafted in the first three rounds) – “It’s about the individual player, and that is what I keep going back to. The important thing as we prepare for this draft is evaluating the individual player and placing the value that we see on them."

(On if he feels the quarterback unit is competitive enough with the four quarterbacks currently on the roster) – “Yeah, I do think it is competitive. Those guys are working hard. The last couple of weeks are big now that they get an opportunity to start learning the new offense. They do a great job, and we are excited about that group."

(On if he has a system on draft day to evaluate trade offers while on the clock) – “We have a couple of (draft point charts). Those are just kind of guidelines, just ballpark figures to kind of see how the value stacks up. That’s more of the general feel about how you feel how many players you really like are available and if you are trading back what are the chances you will be able to get them, what the drop-off is if you do trade back. All of those things are taken into account, and again we try to prepare for as much of that as possible before."

(On if the draft board is set up) – “I would just say the board is setup for the most part, especially in the early rounds. We are still working for later in the draft and with college free agency, we’ll keep working at it. There may be minor tweaks here and there, but again, there are still always players out there, so we still want to keep digging for potential guys that will help our team."

(On if Koa Misi has been approached about moving to middle linebacker for the upcoming season) – “I believe that question was asked earlier I believe at the owners’ meetings. Again, we are always looking to get our best 11 players on the field and put them in position where they can be successful and we can be successful. Obviously the offseason is a time where you experiment with a lot of different things. This is no different. We are just experimenting with different things. The linebacker room has been great under Dave Corrao and Mark Duffner, who is our new head linebackers coach. It is a great room. They are working really hard. We are really excited about them."

(On if he has seen the Draft Day movie) – “I have not. I’ve been a little busy. That’s probably more an offseason, maybe I’ll watch that. I haven’t had much time for that."

(On who would play him in a movie) – “This will probably come across wrong, but Leslie Nielsen I guess with the grey hair. I don’t know (laughs). A serious Leslie Nielsen, not ‘The Naked Gun’ Leslie Nielsen."

(On if he knows that fans on the Internet call him ‘Silver Fox’) – “(Laughs) No, I was not aware of that."

(On if he’s had any clarity on Mike Pouncey’s availability for Week 1) – “With those kinds of deals, obviously we exercised the option on Mike (Pouncey). We are excited to have him back. We had a lot of good conversations. In regards to the league, that is something we always will work in conjunction with the Commissioners’ Office and with Mike and his representation. Mike is having a great offseason He’s real excited about the future of this team and the 2014 season."

(On if there are positions where they feel that they do not need to draft) – “No, we are always looking for good players. Again to refer back to some other comments, this year’s need is next year’s surplus and vice versa. You always want to build for short-term, but you also want to build for the future, and that is about getting good players and adding good players to what I feel is already a really strong roster. Again I can’t tell you how excited I am just walking through the halls, watching, interacting with these guys and just talking with them. The look in their eye, they are so hungry and excited for that 2014 season."

(On if he is more excited or nervous as the draft approaches) – “I’m excited. This is a great opportunity, again we are always trying to add good players and this is the next process. Obviously free agency is still on-going, it’s not as active as it once was in the process, but this is the next opportunity and really I am fired up about the players we are going to add to this team."

(On if the injuries concerns of the wide receivers factor into his evaluation of this year’s class of wide receivers) – “It doesn’t factor into the evaluation of the receivers that we have, we try to keep that separate. Now when you say the needs, but those guys are doing well in their rehabs, real excited seeing those guys in the training room, they are progressing well and we are excited about them this fall."

(On he figures out how aggressive he needs to be if he has a player he wants to move up for) – “Again you identify and place a value on the player and then you kind of measure it against what you may have to give up and what type of player that you would be potentially losing out on. It’s a feel thing, it’s a balance that you go through and a lot of it depends on the player, how good the player is."

(On if his department does a mock draft and if so is he good at it) – “I don’t know, it’s more of a preparing for, just preparing for all type of contingencies. Again, thinking through projections, we will have 12 players drafted or these are the guys still left on the board, how do we feel about which players if they are still on the board would we trade up for? Which players, if it gets to our pick would we trade down and still feel like we have a chance of. So in that way we do that, just to go through that, almost a walkthrough so to speak of trying to decide and think through those decisions."

(On what his day will be like on May 8th, the first day of the draft, leading up to 8 p.m.) – “Yeah, we are still making those final, it kind of depends on a lot of things. Most of the things will be done by then, again the goal of draft day is to be calm. To be measured, and that (we will) already go through the tough decisions and we will feel good about. We will feel prepared. We will be confident and ready to go and eight o’clock can’t get there soon enough."

(On when he expects to arrive to work at his usual time of 6:00 a.m. on May 8th) – “Probably. I won’t be sleeping much the night before."

(On if he puts into stock the position coaches’ evaluations) – “Part of the process, that’s one of the first things we did when I got here that week, sitting down with Coach (Bill) Lazor and Coach (Kevin) Coyle and just walking through for each position what are the traits we value and how do we rank those traits? What does the player look like, what are we going to be asking them to do and what are the traits that are important for us? That was kind of the start, and that is important for us to understand that. Then you evaluate the player (and) then you kind of marry those two things, the fit for the scheme. It’s important to know those things, but that was almost the start getting that baseline of what the scheme is going to ask our player to do."

(On his favorite Leslie Nielson movie) – “Airplane, it’s hard to beat Airplane.”

May 02, 2014

Quickie reaction to Dennis Hickey draft presser

Well, you know there was no news made at Thursday's Dennis Hickey press conference when the topics of Zack Martin, Cyrus Kouandjio, or Teddy Bridgewater didn't come up but there were extended conversation and multiple questions asked about Leslie Nielsen playing Hickey in an imaginary draft day movie.

It all started when Hickey said he'd pick Nielsen to play him in that move.

"The serious Leslie Nielsen," Hickey said, "Not the Naked Gun guy."

Shirley, Hickey won this presser.

On a serious side Hickey says the Dolphins board in the early rounds is set up. there might be minor tweaks made there before Thursday's start of the first round. The team is still working on later rounds and priority free agents.

The Dolphins have been with the rehabilitation of their injured wide receivers, Hickey said, adding that he's been "pleased" with the manner Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson and Armon Binns have looked in the offseason conditioning program.

Hickey said he orobably prefers more picks to earlier picks. No idea if that's in this draft or as a philosophy, but to me that suggests he'd be wide open to a trade back.

And if you combine the fact the higher rated RTs -- Jake Matthews, Zack Martin -- will likely be gone by the time the Dolphins are on the clock at No. 19, I believe that suggests Hickey will try to trade back.

“We definitely explore all avenues that we feel like we can help the team," Hickey said. "We’re in contact with other GMs to see where they stand and what their ideas and thoughts are going into the draft. We’re exploring all avenues – trading up, trading down – and we’re prepared for that

May 01, 2014

Mayock, Polian agree Dolphins should reach for RT

Mike Mayock is highly respected among media and many NFL personnel people. So you have to value his opinions.

Bill Polian, a former NFL Executive of the Year who built multiple Super Bowl teams in Buffalo and Indianapolis (and did a pretty good job in Carolina as well), also is highly respected.

And both seem to agree the Dolphins need to address their offensive line problem in the first round of the coming draft.

Polian was addressing the Dolphins possible problem finding a first-round quality right tackle at No. 19 in the coming draft when he said on Thursday night that Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey probably should address the need even if it means reaching a bit on value.

"Miami has to get lined up. First thing you have to do as a general manager is get lined up," Polian said. "They need offensive line help. Trade up or if you have to take [Joel] Bitonio take him there. They need smarts. They need toughness. Get it done! "The job of the draft is to find football players not get value from the pick. Get football players that help the team. They need offensive linemen."

NFL Network's Mayock seems to agree to a degree.

"In my head, Zack [Martin] is going to be gone," he said. "There's no way in the world he gets close to 19. That means that the last first-round tackle I have is Cyrus Kouandjio. I have him later as far as on my board, but I think he's the guy they probably have to take at 19. They have to make over that offensive line. He would be the highest-rated guy left."

So while both Polian and Mayock disagree on which over-valued tackle they would take, they both agree the Dolphins should take an over-valued tackle.

Anyway, below is the rest of the conference call Mayock did with the media Thursday. And remember to come back here for updates from the Dennis Hickey press conference Friday afternoon:

 

 Q. So many mock drafts with a dozen different guys projected. It seems like Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans will be gone. What do you think the best-case scenario is if they stay at 10?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I think if they stay at 10, there could be a whole lot of different ways they go. I've done a bunch of different mock drafts on my own. Last night I did a dual mock draft where I picked two picks for every team. One of them I had Darqueze Dennard, another one I had Zack Martin.

From my perspective defensively, they need a back-end guy, a safety or a corner, and offensively the highest rated O-line men was a wide receiver. I really believe that Watkins is going to be gone. There's a good chance Mike Evans could be gone so they have to be ready in case those guys are gone to look at the highest rated corner or offensive lineman on their board.

Q. Two Virginia Tech players, Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum, who projects more as a safety. What can you tell me in detail, especially about Exum?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Exum is being looked at both as a corner and a safety. He's a bigger guy. Had some injury issues. That's going to hurt him a little bit.

Right now I have him projected in the fourth round in my safety category. Some teams are looking at him, zone teams, as a corner. He's a physical, big guy that I think if he stays healthy and plays special teams, has a good future in the league.

Kyle Fuller is one of my favorite players in the whole draft. What's interesting about the corners is that most of the personnel guys have [Bradley] Roby and [Justin] Gilbert as their highest rated corners just because they have better movement skills. Most of the coaches like Fuller and [Darqueze] Dennard because they're better football players today. You know what you're getting.

Fuller is my number one corner, first-round corner. He has it in his DNA. He can play on, off, he can play man or zone. I think you have a first rounder in Fuller and probably a fourth rounder in Exum.

Q. When you look at the Ravens, a lot of people thought Zack Martin or Taylor would be there for them. There seems to be uncertainty what they might do with pick number 17. What is your perspective on that, a surprise?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Well, they're one of the best drafting teams in the NFL. You got to give Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta and their staff a ton of credit. They rarely stay at their number. They're at 17 this year. Whether they move up or back, there's a pretty good possibility of that happening.

If they have to squat at 17 and can't go anywhere, the first thing I look at is, is there a safety there that might make some sense that would complement Matt Elam. I think Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will be gone. I'm not sure [Calvin] Pryor is the complement to him. The way these guys look at the draft, they're at 17. They want a guy on their board who is 10, 11, 12, somewhere in there.

The second best wideout is going to be gone. There could be a guy like a Bradin Cooks sitting there. So Bradin Cooks, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, I think the tackle board is going to be decimated. If you want a tackle, the next guy in line will be Cyrus Kouandjio. I think the tight end [Eric] Ebron is gone.

The other person that might be of interest is Mosley, the inside linebacker from Alabama.

If they stay, they're the kind of names you're going to hear. More often than not, they move down.

Q. BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy, do you see him staying around for his senior year helped or hurt him and your overall assessment of his extension and weaknesses heading into the draft?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I think it helped him. He became known as one of the best all-around linebackers in college football. There's been a buzz about him the last month or six weeks. The buzz has been he does everything well. I'm not sure he has one outstanding trait where you go, Wow, that's awesome. But he does everything well. He did rush. He can drop. He can play inside, outside. People are trying to figure out where best to play him.

His versatility is a huge plus. I've got him as a solid second rounder right now and I think he's going to be a real good NFL player.

Q. Howie Roseman said the safety class is not that great and actually falls off after the third round. As number 22, Clinton-Dix and Pryor are going to be gone, what do they do after that if they want a safety in this year's draft?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Well, I think Clinton-Dix will definitely be off the board. Pryor may or may not. I'm not sure Pryor fits what they do.

From my perspective, they're looking for a guy that can play strong or free safety, has to have both those skill sets. Jimmie Ward could do that. Lamarcus Joyner from Florida State, both of whom are going to go in the second round. In the third round, the only safety I have is Terrence Brooks from Florida State. After that there's a bunch of guys, Brock Vereen that can play corner or safety. Dontae Johnson from North Carolina State can play corner or safety. Those guys would be appealing to the Eagles.

Q. What about Deone Bucannon?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I love him, but he's a little bit more of a box safety than he is a free safety. He's a really good football player that's going to go in the second round. He could work.

But, again, I think what they like is they want somebody to pair with Malcolm Jenkins that can play free and strong.

Q. I want to ask you about the second tier of receivers in this draft. Everyone talks about Watkins and Evans. Who do you see coming out of the second tier of receivers?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I think there's a chance six wideouts go in the first round. After Watkins and Evans, the next two are going to be wideouts people would say wouldn't go so early, Odell Beckham from LSU and Bradin Cooks from Oregon State. Beckham is an explosive kid with return skills. Gets in and out of breaks as well as any receiver in this draft. Has good size.

Cooks is a smaller receiver, but maybe the most explosive of the entire group. He's tough. He also is a good route runner. I think their value is going to start somewhere in that 13, 14 area. I think they'll be gone by plus or minus 20.

Then Kelvin Benjamin and Marqise Lee come into play after that. You could see up to six wideouts go in the first round.

Q. People talk about the '96 class. Any other draft that comes close to it?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Not that I can think of. It's not just because of the guys we just talked about. It's because we can drop down in the third round and talk about guys. We can talk about the fifth round and drop some names that I think can be some productive NFL players. It's quality at the top and depth throughout.

Q. If the Chargers were to pass up a wide receiver in round one, who are some of the deep threats that would be available later day two, three of the draft, somebody with size?

MIKE MAYOCK:

In round two at wideout, Davante Adams from Fresno, a guy that's really moving up a lot of boards, Cody Latimer, a big guy that ran 4.4, coming off a foot injury from Indiana. A one-year wonder from Clemson, Martavis Bryant. You want to talk about a guy with ability, almost 6'4", ran in the 4.3s, jumps out of the gym, an explosive talent. He's a one-year production guy, which I think scares people. But his physical skill set is so awe-inspiring, he's probably going to go into two.

Allen Robinson in the third round from Penn State. If you're looking for a speed guy, Paul Richardson from Colorado. He flies.

One of my favorite players in the draft is Jarvis Landry from LSU, not fast but one of the toughest players in this draft. I think he's a value in the third round.

Q. 25th pick, there's a cluster of guys. Can you assess that pick?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I think they have to get a corner. I think there's five corners going in the first round. I think they're praying that one of them gets to 25.

The fifth guy, [Jason] Verrett from TCU is special, but the only problem is he's 5'9". Literally the only knock on this kid. He competes, he's tough, but he losing the jump ball throws to bigger receivers.

The edge draft isn't great this year. If you're looking for a defensive tackle, defensive end, it's not real good. Dee Ford could still be available at that point, though.

Q. I wonder where you have Zack Martin. You had him fourth among the tackles. Has that changed at all? Could you give an assessment of him?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I love the kid. Even though I have him fourth as a tackle, he'd be my number one center or my number one guard. I believe that he is the only player in this draft that could start and play at a high level at all five offensive line positions. I think as we get closer to this draft, he will be the fourth offensive lineman off the board.

I think he's coming off the board somewhere between nine and 13. He's too good. He's too safe. There are too many offensive line needs out there. There are a bunch of teams that look at him and say, He could start at right tackle day one, maybe we move him inside to guard or center the next year.

He's awesome. He's about as safe a player as there is in this draft. If you want him, you better get him early.

Q. With the Jets at 18, people think it's going to be corner or receiver. What do you think of that decision and what their most viable options would be at 18?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Yeah, it's really interesting because right around that point there's a bunch of corner and safety needs coming up, starting with the Jets and moving through 25 on San Diego.

From a corner perspective, the Jets could get a Kyle Fuller, a Bradley Roby perhaps. Everybody has different flavors at corner. From my perspective, Fuller, Dennard, Gilbert and Roby.

Verrett for them is more of a nickel. They don't need a nickel right now. It's those four corners they'd be looking at versus who is the highest rated wide receiver on the board at the same time.

I did a mock last night just sitting around here. I had Odell Beckham going to them, which I think would be the third wideout off the board, really good value for them.

Q. In terms of what the Ravens can get, you mentioned a lot of the top guys should move back. If they were to move back four or five spots, do you feel there are a cluster of guys that make sense for their needs and they would like talent-wise?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Yeah, the way they approach this draft is they understand league value. They're looking for clusters. If it approaches 17, there's three or four guys on their board they really like, any one of which they're happy with, they'll trade back in a heartbeat. If on the other hand there's one or two guys, you're at 14, 15, their guys are disappearing, that's when they get a little nervous.

So, again, from the Jets' perspective, if they move back five or six spots, they're at 22 or 23, maybe the Eagles want to come up and get a safety. Now you're sitting down at 22. Is Mosley still there, the linebacker who a lot of people love, but inside linebacker is not a high priority for people.

Aaron Donald, I think I have number 12 on my board, but it's hard to find a spot where he doesn't go. If he doesn't go to Chicago or Dallas at 14 or 16, he could fly down in those areas.

Yeah, I think they're opportunistic and the odds of them sliding back typically are pretty high.

Q. It's been kind of quiet, but the Steelers have really shaved some age off their defense the past couple years. Does that affect how they approach this draft because they're so much younger on defense?

MIKE MAYOCK:

In which way do you mean that?

Q. Do they look past defense because they're getting a little bit younger or do they still need to approach that as a first-round type of possibility?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I think the way Pittsburgh historically approaches the draft, it's the best player at the position of need. Defensively they're number 14 in points allowed, offensively number 16.

Basically I think as they get close to number 15 here, I think first and foremost they've got to see if a corner matches up with what they want to do on defense. Ike Taylor is going to be 34 years old, making $7 million. William Gay is probably better as a nickel. Are any of those other guys ready to step in and play? I think they need a corner, and at 15, I think they can get one. Whether it's Fuller, Dennard, Gilbert or Roby, it depends on what Dick LeBeau wants and how Kevin Colbert lines them up.

My perspective is I think they need a corner. I don't think Eric Ebron would be there. If he was, I think he'd be a heavy consideration also.

Q. With no running backs selected in the first round last year, possibly none this year either, some of the struggles like Trent Richardson, do you see the position being devalued? Are the days of a running back being picked among the top few picks dwindling? In your mock drafts, who do you have going to the Raiders at number five?

MIKE MAYOCK:

In one of them I had [Johnny] Manziel and the other one I had [Khalil] Mack. This is just me messing around last night. It's not official. It's just me trying to run through a whole different group of permutations.

As far as the running back position, I don't think there's any doubt it's been devalued. I just think it's become a pass-first league. Because of that, it's flipped upside down. 30 years ago tailbacks were the most important thing controlling the football, controlling the clock. Now everybody is throwing the ball 40 times a game.

I think it's really intriguing. Football is a cyclical game. I think it's intriguing the two best teams in the last year, Seattle and San Francisco, in my opinion, what was their recipe for success? They played great defense, they ran the football, they asked their quarterbacks to make a less percentage of plays than Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. The two best teams in the league utilized the tailback and the run game. I wouldn't be surprised to see that come back en vogue.

Right now I don't have a running back that I think is going to go in the first round. There might be a couple with first-round grades, I don't think any of them are going in the first round.

Q. We might be splitting hairs, but with Evans and Watkins, in terms of NFL readiness, how they were used in college, whose college résumé caters to them, making a smoother transition knowing the challenges young receivers face.

MIKE MAYOCK:

At wideout, the way I look at those two kids, it's vanilla and chocolate. They make different flavors for different reasons.

The Watkins kid is explosive. He's a great route runner, great hands, tremendous run after catch. More than anything, he's a competitor. In addition to all the natural gifts he has, he has an edge about him every game he plays, and I love that.

Mike Evans is more a product of what today's NFL environment is. Today's NFL environment, with the advent of the back shoulder throw, has opened up the game for the big wideouts, the 6'5" wideouts. Why? They basically can play outside the numbers and they don't have to run as many routes and they don't have to get in and out of breaks like the smaller ones.

They're running a bunch of outside the number fade routes that become converted back shoulders. Any time you get a one-on-one with a defensive back with his back turned, you get a big, superior athlete, the odds favor the wide receiver.

Mike Evans I think, along with Kelvin Benjamin, some of these other guys, are what today's NFL is all about. They're outside the number guys and red zone guys.

However, I happen to think that Watkins is a better football player and that's why he's rated higher.

Q. The 49ers appear to have a need for a nickel corner. They have preferred bigger body types. If you feel it's accurate, why would you make a case that Jason Verrett might be a good fit for them or a smaller guy like Lamarcus Joyner?

MIKE MAYOCK:

You want me to make a case why those two guys would fit?

Q. Yes. The 49ers appear like they need a nickel corner, but they prefer bigger body corners. If you feel strongly with those guys, why would the 49ers make an exception for them?

MIKE MAYOCK:

First and foremost, I still believe with 12 picks they're going to trade up. I think they're either going to target a corner or a wideout. I don't expect to see them on the clock at 31, mostly because the corner and wideout board will be wiped out by then.

However, if they're sitting at 31, and you're talking about Verrett on the board, I think he's by far the best value you can talk about at that point. I do think they have some other issues at corner. I mean, Culliver is coming off an ACL, they signed Chris Cook. They need starting corners in addition to nickels. That to me is critical.

But Jason Verrett competes on the outside, he competes on the inside. He gets beat up a little bit on the jump ball situations. But I would hesitate most of the time with guys that size. But because he's so fast and so competitive, I believe he's a first-round pick and I think he's a natural nickel.

Q. You talk about the 49ers wanting to trade up. They did that last year with the Cowboys. How likely is it that the Cowboys could trade back? If they stay at 16, who do you like there?

MIKE MAYOCK:

If they stay at 16, I think there are a couple different possibilities. Defensively they were number 26 in the league in points allowed. They were last in the league in yards allowed. They got to get better on defense.

A couple different opportunities. I think number one could be Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety. They need a free safety type very badly. I think he's one of the top free safeties to come out in the last several years.

Obviously they made a couple signs up front at defensive tackle, most significantly Henry Melton. They're going to try to play Tyrone Crawford inside. He's coming off an Achilles. Could they still take Aaron Donald, the defensive tackle from Pitt? Absolutely.

At the end of the day would it surprise me if they traded down? Not at all. They don't have enough picks. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they traded down. I think the last kind of wild card for them is the quarterback situation. You have a 34-year-old quarterback coming off a second back surgery. I'm not suggesting it has to be the first round, but at some point they're going to have to invest a fairly high pick in a quarterback.

Q. How would you compare Anthony Barr and Ryan Shazier? Your thoughts on the Cardinals taking one of those two players with the 20th pick?

MIKE MAYOCK:

They're very different players. Barr is an outside linebacker set for a 3-4 defense, where Shazier is the prototype 4-3 will.

Barr would make a ton of sense for Arizona, but I don't think he'll be on the board. Shazier, if he was going to be an Arizona Cardinal, he would have to play the will inside linebacker position. They already have a tremendous one in Daryl Washington. I don't think he's a fit. I don't think Barr will be there.

Q. Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff, the offensive tackle from McGill. What do you think of him? Also Virginia D tackle Brett Urban and Oregon linebacker Bo Lokombo.

MIKE MAYOCK:

The Tardiff kid is intriguing. I saw him at the East-West game. He weighed 323 or 321. He lost 23 pounds for his pro day. His pro day numbers were outstanding. They collectively would put him in the top four or five tackles in the entire draft as far as measurables.

Obviously he's a raw with the Ph.D. background, lack of practice time, etcetera. He's gone from a priority free agent to a sixth or seventh round guy to be somebody I think is going to be a fourth or fifth round pick with a physical skill set to become a starter in the NFL. He's raw. He's going to have to redshirt a year. But I do think somebody is going to invest a fourth or fifth round pick to develop him.

The kid from Virginia, Brett Urban, he's what's called a natural five technique, which is the end in a 3-4 defense. His tape early in the year is pretty good. I heard some second and third round grades on him early in the year. He got hurt at the Senior Bowl. Didn't have a chance to really distinguish himself. I think he'll probably go in the third round, worst case in the fourth round. But he's a big, strong guy that should start for an NFL team at the five technique.

The Oregon kid, Lokombo, he's got the speed that the 4-3 teams are looking for. He's a 4-3 will. He flies. I think he has to learn to be a little tougher as far as consistency with his tackling and being able to get off blocks. A little bit undersized. But he does have the speed. If he's willing to play special teams, gunner, jammer, et cetera, I think he can make a living in the NFL.

Q. The Buccaneers, what do you see them doing at seven? Trading down? If they keep it, what is it best for them?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I think they're in a good place. A lot of the teams in the top 10 are talking about trading down because it's such a good draft, blah, blah, blah.

I think Tampa Bay is in a pretty good place to get a really good football player. One of the two mock drafts I did last night, Sammy Watkins fell to them. From my perspective, what a great pick that would be at seven. You pair him with Vincent Jackson and all of a sudden you help both your quarterbacks, whether it's [Josh] McCown or [Mike] Glennon or whatever.

If Watkins would fall to them, I think that would be phenomenal.

The tight end, Ebron, I think his interest starts right here in Tampa. He's going to go somewhere I believe between seven and 13.

So either way, whether it was a Watkins or Ebron, if you have a play-maker to help that offense, I think it would be awesome.

They're in a good place to sit and get a play-maker.

Q. You talked a lot about the wideouts today. What do you think about the three guys the Panthers have signed at free agents. Also, is this the year, if you're a team like Carolina, to look to get that kind of franchise guy even as low at 28?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Franchise guy where?

Q. In terms of a wideout, a big-time wideout.

MIKE MAYOCK:

Are you saying you want to move up?

Q. No. I guess what I'm asking is, you talked about the depth. Even at 28, is it possible to get a guy who you could plug in there and sort of take Smith's spot and be a guy you could count on for a number of years?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I'll tell you what's interesting is, again, last night messing around with these mock drafts, I couldn't get one of the six wideouts to Carolina at 28. I had Marqise Lee going at 27 to New Orleans. He was the sixth one. I can see Carolina taking Morgan Moses, the tackle, which is another need for them obviously.

So do I think Kelvin Benjamin or Marqise Lee could get to them? Yeah, they could. But it's a little bit of a crapshoot right now. All six first-round wideouts could be gone before 28. I think all five tackles could be gone by 28. So they could be looking at a Morgan Moses or a Davante Adams at wideout.

You asked me about the guys they signed. Cotchery is a better slot. Tiquan Underwood is kind of an X, an outside wide receiver with good speed. Jason Avant is a player that I saw a lot of in Philadelphia that I have a ton of respect for. He's tough, smart, great in the locker room. He's not overly gifted, but he comes to play every Sunday.

Q. Do you have any thoughts on the 40-yard dash? Do you like the attention it gets these days? How significant is it? Do you think the attention is appropriate?

MIKE MAYOCK:

It's an interesting question. I think sometimes the biggest mistakes are made by teams that concentrate too heavily on the measurables. Now, having said that, there are certain measurables that are important for NFL teams, and the 40 is one of them. When they run at the combine, everybody is on the same surface with the same type of spikes, whatever, it's an apples-to-apples comparison. That's important to these guys. You've watched nine million tapes, you're trying to say is this wideout as fast as I think he is, why did this wideout run 4.42 when it looks like on tape he's 4.45.

I think we make mistakes. The Oakland Raiders have traditionally been a height, weight, speed team. They've made a bunch of mistakes, especially at wide receiver because they've picked big, fast guys. You can go throughout the league and pick mistakes.

I think the best drafting teams are the ones that put the heavy emphasis on the tape and use the measurables just as a cross-check to make sure they've got everything where they want it.

Q. The Eagles only have six picks, but Howie Roseman said today the team would still be willing to trade picks to move up as long as the value of the player is right. Are there any players that you could imagine the Eagles trading up picks for?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Let's face it, if possible they need defensive impact players. If [Anthony] Barr from UCLA were to start to slide, I think he'd be a guy they could trade up for. They need a 3-4 outside linebacker edge type. I think if Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, the safety from Alabama, started to slide, he'd be another consideration. They're the two that would make the most sense to me if they started to slide.

Q. Anthony Barr, you've mentioned a couple times you don't think he's going to be there in the early 20s. It seems like lately he's a guy who is sliding. What do you think accounts for that?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I don't think he's sliding. I think that's more of a media perception. I think he could go as early as 11 to Tennessee. I think Dallas would love him at 16.

This draft is not deep in edge rushers. The bottom line with Barr is I think his best football is ahead of him. You might have to wait two years. He only played the position for two years. He needs to get stronger at the point of attack, he needs to learn the position from a perspective of learning how to pass-rush. Every rush can't be a speed rush.

But the kid has great talent. He's the prototype 34 outside linebacker. I don't think there's any way he gets into the 20s.

Q. About quarterbacks, do you think the fact that some teams had success with non-first-round quarterbacks and/or the mistakes that were made in 2011 will cause any sort of market corrections that teams might not reach for quarterbacks high in the first round as much as they have in the past because of those things?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I don't think there's any doubt that last year was the first time we saw true value at the quarterback position in a bunch of years. Only one quarterback was drafted in the first round. Rather than push quarterbacks up higher because of need, I think teams put them on their boards and stay true to their boards.

I think because of the second and third rounders playing well, Russell Wilson, [Andy] Dalton, [Colin] Kaepernick, Nick Foles, because those guys have played well, it opens the door even more and reinforces that philosophy.

I think it's going to be intriguing this year to see how these quarterbacks are spread out. I have 10 quarterbacks with first, second or third round grades this year, which is more than I've ever had. It's mostly because I'm getting feedback from teams that believe in that many kids. The average number of quarterbacks that go in the first three rounds over the last five years has been five. Yet I have 10 with those kinds of grades.

It's pretty intriguing. Philosophically it's going to be interesting to see if that holds up.

Q. If Zack Martin is off the board at 19, who would you have in the mix for Miami?

MIKE MAYOCK:

"In my head, Zack is going to be gone. There's no way in the world he gets close to 19. That means that the last first-round tackle I have is Cyrus Kouandjio. I have him later as far as on my board, but I think he's the guy they probably have to take at 19. They have to make over that offensive line. He would be the highest-rated guy left.

Q. If that's too high for them, is there another person that would pique your interest there?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I think a wide receiver would pique my interest there. At that point a Beckham or Cooks. You'd have to take a look at those two players and say are they significantly more highly rated than Kouandjio is. If so, you pull the trigger on the wideout.

Q. You mentioned Marqise Lee for the Saints a minute ago. Who else do you see for them as a possibility for them at 27? Do you think at that point they would reach for a need or try to take the best player on their board?

MIKE MAYOCK:

They're a pretty good football team. Number four in defensive points allowed, number 10 in points scored. It's a solid football team.

I think when you get to the bottom end of the first round, it's really important to take good football players and not reach too deeply for need.

For instance, I do believe they need a corner. They signed a 36-year-old Champ Bailey, but they need a corner. If those five corners are off the board, could they look at a Stanley Jean Baptiste from Nebraska? Yeah. He's a long corner that fits today's game with an exciting skill set. I could bet on that kind of guy. That's not too big a reach.

You also have to look at the rest of the board. If we have Baptiste as our 28th or 29th guy, there's somebody sitting here who is our 15th best player on the board, we better pull the trigger at 15.

I think keeping an open mind and making sure you're drafting good football players, it's important all the time, but it's especially important at the bottom end of the first round.

Q. The mock draft you were talking about, the two picks, how did it look for the Eagles? Do you see them going more defense or offense?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Here is the premise I'm operating off of. They made the playoffs last year with an offense that was number four in the league in points scored. I give Billy Davis a ton of credit for bringing a defense along that in August was horrific, and they got better and better every day. But they didn't have a whole lot of talent.

They've done a good job in free agency with Malcolm Jenkins, Nolan Carroll, those kinds of guys. They have to get better at defense. At 22, it's kind of a funky place. The safety they want could be gone. The corner they want could be gone. The edge rusher could be gone.

If any one of those positions at 22 is a guy they like, I think they have to pull the trigger.

However, if those positions at 22 don't make sense, I think they have to look at the wide receiver position, not because they lost DeSean Jackson necessarily, but because it's deep and there's talent available. When I sat here last night and did my mock draft, I kind of struggled with should I give them the fourth or fifth wideout or give them a guy who I think is a really good football player like Kyle Fuller from Virginia Tech. I gave them Fuller.

The bottom line is, the decision they have to make is, is the highest rated defensive player on our board better and worth more than what the highest-rated wideout is on or our board? I think that's the conversation they will have if they stay at 22.

Q. I'm not sure at this point if you looked at the specialists. Curious about Boswell and Leone.

MIKE MAYOCK:

I feel horrible to tell you this, but I don't even look at it or talk about a kicker until the week of the draft, then I call my buddies around the league that are special teams coaches and say, Who do I need to know? To me they're like golfers. I could look at them all day long, but it's about their stroke. It's about stuff I don't understand, and I'd be lying if I did. I apologize.

Q. Phillip Gaines had a good combine. Where do you see him right now? Is he a corner that could make his way up a little bit higher?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Yeah, he's kind of intriguing because he's got length and he's got speed. There were some injury concerns about him. There's also some teams trying to figure out whether or not he can play safety.

But I think his workout from a measurable perspective was outstanding. I wouldn't be surprised if he went in the fourth or fifth round, whereas coming out of the East-West game teams were thinking about him later.

He helped himself. I think because of his length and speed he's intriguing.

Q. We talk about the Lions. How much value is that 10th pick? Is it worth a lot for them to consider moving down if the guys they want are already gone?

MIKE MAYOCK:

What's interesting, in the last couple years, there used to be this trade chart that all the teams had. It assigned a point value for every pick in the draft. If you went from the 10th to the 14th spot, it was worth X points. Therefore, that team had to give you a similar value in points.

The last two or three years, that's gone out the window with the CBA when those top 10 or 12 picks changed. There was a whole different financial perspective for those topics.

You could see, for instance, Oakland, when they traded back from whatever it was last year, three I think it was to 12 or 13, they didn't get anywhere near the value. I think they picked up a second-round pick, but to me it made sense.

Teams are doing more things that make sense functionally from a football perspective and they're throwing the trade chart out the window.

If Detroit is there at 10, the one or two guys they really wanted are gone, even if they move down five or six spots and got one pick, to me that's a bonus. Why not? You're going to get the same guy at 14 as you get at 10. If you get a third-round pick, it's awesome. I don't think it's going to be something they know until they get on the clock.

Q. Who do you think has a better pro career, Zach Mettenberger or Aaron Murray and why? Do you see anyone else getting drafted from Georgia?

MIKE MAYOCK:

From Georgia, no. Regarding Murray and Mettenberger, that is complete opposites. It's really intriguing. The common denominator is they're both coming off ACL injuries late last season. Both had great pro day workouts.

Mettenberger has as strong an arm as anybody in the draft. I'd be surprised if he didn't go second round. Looked like he recovered from the ACL, which is amazing 13 or 14 weeks out. When you draw up a quarterback, physically I think he looks like what you want. I think he's a little heavy-footed. I'd like to see him a little bit more athletic, but he has the hose that every team wants.

Now Murray I thought probably knows how to play the position than any quarterback in the draft. He's got anticipation and timing probably because he's had to since he was a young kid because he was never that big, overpowering arm quarterback.

They're completely different. I think Mettenberger goes in the second, I think Murray probably goes in the third. Murray's arm strength isn't as good as you'd like it. But, man, accuracy, timing, anticipation, it's what that position is all about. With the second and third rounders making it more recently, he's in a lot of conversations with a lot of teams about the potential of a starting quarterback.

Q. Bridgewater, when you saw him live and the pro day was disappointing by all accounts, what has been your process when you go back to the tape? To the question of the face of the franchise, when you talk to teams about this in your own experience, how do you define as a quarterback what the face of a franchise should be?

MIKE MAYOCK:

They're good questions. I'm struggling myself internally with this whole Bridgewater thing. I'm a coach's son and I've always believed the tape tells everything. I struggle with this a little bit because I like them on tape. I think it was four games prior to the combine. I saw him throw live and I didn't like it at all. Went back and watched three or four more games.

To be honest with you, it's from a different prism. I am questioning arm strength, I am questioning accuracy. I watched him take three sacks consecutively against I think it was the University of South Florida. His stats were outstanding in that game. He threw the ball well, but he took three sacks I couldn't stand.

It bothered me that he took those sacks. Did it bother me more because I was at his pro day? Maybe. I didn't think he was as athletic. He's a narrow-framed guy.

So it was one instance where I struggle tape versus live, and I think a bunch of teams feel the same way. I've talked to teams that have been unnerved by it.

As far as the face of the franchise, sometimes that's not definable. I look at Johnny Manziel. Whatever it is, he has it. I know on Saturday, Sunday, whatever day you play on, he's going to show up with an edge about him thinking he's the best guy on the field and he's going to elevate the play of those around him. I believe that. I also struggle with him a little bit with his off-the-field antics.

With Bridgewater, I don't feel an 'it' factor. I see a really good kid. But I don't know if he's ready to be the guy. Because of that, I think he's going to need at least a year to get used to that environment. He needs a redshirt year, in other words. If you need a redshirt year, you're probably going to get drafted at a different level.

So that's a long way of saying that the Bridgewater thing has confused me, it's confused teams. But I'd be surprised at this point if he goes in the first round.

Q. Talk a little bit about Trai Turner, a guard from LSU, not expected to come out but came out.

MIKE MAYOCK:

Yeah, he's a big, good-looking guy. I would have loved to have seen him stay in school because I think he could have been a borderline first-round pick had he.

When I put his tape on after he declared, I was like, Wow, he's big, he's square, he stays square, he shoots his hands pretty much inside. I think the teams that like the bigger, mauling-type offensive linemen will like him. I think he has to learn some things in pass protection.

The composite is he's got the size and natural athletic ability. He hasn't been hurt. He started the last two years consecutively.

Worst-case scenario, he's going to go in the third round. I believe he's going to be a second-round guard. He's got some things he's going to have to learn because he's very raw, but he's got the natural ability to be a starter.

Q. Going back to the running back class here. Where do you think Jeremy Hill fits in that mix? Who do you think maybe has a need for him? What has he done well in terms of passing and catching to put himself in that position?

MIKE MAYOCK:

He's a big, talented kid. He's a little bit like the Ohio State kid [Carlos] Hyde, where you're talking about a 230-pound tailback with really good feet. That's what's atypical about both those guys. They have great feet for their size.

The important thing is that they're both three-down backs also. Hill catches the ball well. He has to learn a lot more about pass protection, both about what it is, identifying who to block, then wanting to make that block so you're on the field for three downs.

The biggest issue with him is not any of that, it's off-the-field stuff. It's going to follow him, and justifiably so. Teams have questions and concerns. It could affect his value.

If he went in the third round, it wouldn't surprise me. But from a talent perspective in this draft, I have him in the second round.

Q. What is keeping A.J. McCarron from being a higher pick in the draft?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I think the competition level at quarterback is most significant. I also think that he kind of lost an opportunity to take a step forward when he decided not to play in the Senior Bowl. A guy like [Jimmy] Garoppolo stepped into his shoes, impressed people, got a little bit of enthusiasm going on his campaign. Garoppolo takes off. People wait to see what happens with [Zach] Mettenberger. He rips it on his pro day. Same with [Aaron] Murray. Here comes Tom Savage. There are all these players gaining momentum.

A.J. had a solid career. He's better than the 'average Alabama quarterback,' but in this particular draft he's going to be a second or third-round pick. I don't think it's a bad thing. I think that's probably where he belongs. He's going to have an opportunity at some point to become a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Q. Your thoughts on Marcus Roberson of Florida, and Lamarcus Joyner of Florida State.

MIKE MAYOCK:

The Joyner kid I find really intriguing. He's a different kind of guy. I've got him in my safety grouping actually because the only thing negative about him, there was a conversation going around at his pro day, was his height. Corners and safeties that are 5'9", they get knocked on. This kid is quick, he's explosive. I think he's probably your starting nickel day one. I think there's value there.

I have him in the second round. Some teams have him in the third round. But I think the kid's going to be a special teams player and worst case a starting nickel.

Your other question was Roberson. For me, he's a six-foot corner which is important, but he didn't run well. He ran in the low 4.6's. All three of those Florida corners are grouped in similar places. I think Roberson is probably going to come off the board in the fourth round and I think the lack of speed really hurt him.

Q. You mentioned Jimmy Garoppolo earlier. You won't have as much developmental times as the usual quarterback. What kind of timetable should he be on from an organizational standpoint? What tells you that he could be successful in that role?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I kind of feel like out of all the quarterbacks, the only two quarterbacks that could potentially step in and play day one, and I wouldn't want either one of them to, is Johnny Manziel because his style is so different, and maybe Murray from Georgia, even though I'd be worried about his knee, because he understands the game so much.

I think just about every other quarterback in this draft class needs a redshirt year, including Garoppolo. I like the kid. I knew he had a quick release and good feet. That's what really just kind of hit me the first time I saw him drop back to pass. Really good feet, quick to release. I think he fits a West Coast offense.

I think speed of play, the East/West game he got a little bit better each day, Senior Bowl he got better each day. I think this is a smart kid that is going to get better and better. He's just going to have to learn a little bit about the game. I think he's a certain scheme fit and I think West Coast offense is where he belongs.

Q. What is your best guess on what the Redskins will do with their first pick in the second round and where do you think Logan Thomas best fits?

MIKE MAYOCK:

You're talking about a position or a team?

Q. Team.

MIKE MAYOCK:

I have no idea who is going to draft him. You're talking about a guy that's not going to go until at the earliest the third round and probably the fourth round.

I'm intrigued by him. I am totally intrigued by this kid. Somebody is going to want to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. He's got great tools. He's got some good tape, but mostly really bad tape. He needs a year or two to get everything straightened out. I have no idea where he's going to end up, but probably late three to mid four.

As far as the Redskins picking first pick at number 34, boy, O-line and D-line to me is pretty important. I don't think there's a safety there. There could be a corner that makes sense for them. But with Jay Gruden, knowing Jay pretty well, Jay loves the offensive side of the ball. Again, they were number 30 in points allowed. I really believe they've got to pick the top-rated defensive player on their board unless a wide receiver is sitting there.

Q. A question about a small school prospect, tight end, Joe Don Duncan. What are your thoughts about him, where he might be selected?

MIKE MAYOCK:

The bad tight end class. I really wanted to see that kid play at the Senior Bowl, and he got hurt. He was used all over the place at Dixie State, mostly out wide. He has surprising movement skills for a guy his size.

He runs well. He catches pretty well. I would have liked to have seen him make more one-on-one or fully 50/50-type catches whether it's him or a corner or him or a safety, especially at that level of football. Because of his height, weight, speed, because it's a poor class, I think he probably ends up in the fifth or sixth round somewhere.

Q. Could you evaluate Troy Niklas, what you make of him coming out early, how you think he'll do in this draft, and maybe some of the later-round Notre Dame guys, who you think might be a value pick there.

MIKE MAYOCK:

Niklas to me is an in-line wide. If he wants to become the best blocking tight end in the NFL, he will be. He only played that position two years at the collegiate level. If you put the Stanford tape on, he kind of got schooled by Trent Murphy, an outstanding linebacker from Stanford. From a technique perspective, he has a lot to learn.

If I was him in my heart and soul I'd want to become the best blocker at tight end because that would guarantee me a 10-year career. He also catches the ball well, both short and intermediate.

Some of the guys down the line a little bit, Prince Shembo is intriguing to me. Too short to be an edge guy, which is where his natural fit is. I think some of the 3-4 teams are looking at him inside. I like him inside. He stood up in the East/West game and had a heck of a week. I think he'll be a value in the fourth or fifth round.

Bennett Jackson, corner/safety, little bit of a tweener, I'd like to see him at safety. I want to see him be more physical. I think he's going to get drafted late, play special teams.

George Atkinson, the tailback, one of the fastest players in the draft, he's 215 pounds. He might be the second or third best kickoff returner. He's going to be late draftable, his ticket is going to be returning kicks, playing special teams, and secondarily trying to earn some time as a tailback.

Q. If running backs are being devalued, what kind of value does a guy like Charles Sims carry?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I like him, his ability to catch the football is what is important. I have him in the fourth round. I think the combination of catching the football, being a big enough back to pass protect, and some natural running skill sets really helps him. He's a solid fourth-round guy that provides versatility.

Q. You touched on Aaron Donald earlier. A lot of the mocks have him going to Chicago. Do you think that's where he ends up? Could you see him going higher than that?

MIKE MAYOCK:

If I have eight or ten favorite players every year, he's one of them this year for me. I'm a little worried about it just because sometimes guys slide a little bit because they're not a fit for particular teams, not because they're not really good football players.

He did everything you could do to become a top 10 or 15 pick. Great college career. Tremendous Senior Bowl week where he dominated, ran like crazy at the combine. He did everything. He should be a top half of the first round, and I hope he is. 14 Chicago, 16 Dallas. You would hope somewhere right in there.

I don't think he's going much higher. There are some concerns. I don't buy into it. There are teams who say he's too short, too small. If he doesn't win immediately with quickness, he's done.

I hope he does not fly. He's too good a football player, too good a kid, but it has to be the right fit. It should be somewhere in the middle of that first round.

Q. I know you touched on the Redskins earlier, but could you talk a little bit about maybe a right tackle who could fit them? Some have talked about Cyrus Kouandjio and Morgan Moses.

MIKE MAYOCK:

Yeah, when you're talking about number 34, they're the two most logical guys. I happen to think Kouandjio is going to be gone. Moses could be. He's extremely long. At first I didn't like him because he's got very average feet. What I've learned is sometimes those really big, huge, long right tackles with average feet end up being pretty good football players. The Vikings have one at right tackle named Phil Loadholt. That's a little bit what this kid is like. He's so darn long, he's difficult to get around.

A guy that nobody is talking about that I love is Joel Bitonio from Nevada. Most people assume he's a guard. I watched him handle Anthony Barr from UCLA. I watched him against Florida State. I watched him against Boise who has a good edge kid in Demarcus Lawrence. I think Bitonio will start day one at right tackle and I think he'll be there at 34.

Q. I have a question about Taylor Lewan from Michigan. Is there any way he could slip up to two passing the other two tackles?

MIKE MAYOCK:

It seems like no matter how I cut this thing, most of what I look at, he ends up in Atlanta at six. That makes a ton of sense. If Atlanta trades up for [Jadeveon] Clowney, all bets are off. I don't think he's going to pass either tackle. I think he's going to be the third tackle off the board. Some teams might even like Zack Martin better. He's going to be the third or fourth tackle, but I believe the third tackle off the board.

If there's no movement in the top six, I think [Greg] Robinson and [Jake] Matthews will go earlier. Atlanta who needs an edge rusher on defense on a tackle on offense would then take him at six.

Q. Can you put more emphasis Cody Latimer and Martavis Bryant.

MIKE MAYOCK:

Latimer is interesting. The first tape I watched was I believe Illinois where he had 11 or 12 catches, looked like Superman. I purposely put on Michigan State and Ohio State because they're the two best corners in the Big Ten. Against Michigan State he struggled to separate against press coverage. That's normal for a young receiver. You don't see that kind of quality press coverage in college football.

He's a big, 6'2", 220, blah, blah, blah, it's all beautiful, but he's a little bit stiff and he's got a lot to learn. People are talking about him in the first round, I don't see it. I think he's a second-round guy with a significant amount of upside.

The other one you asked me about is Bryant. Boy, is he gifted. Watching him at his pro day, it was he and Watkins putting on a show. He's got great hands. Even though he had a bunch of drops early in the year, he still has great hands. He's long, fast, he jumps. There's just a historical perspective that I get really nervous about taking a wideout in the first or second round that's a one-year wonder. Stephen Hill to the Jets. There's a bunch of those kind of guys. Bryant has some kind of immaturity off-the-field issues that have to be addressed also.

Q. Your take on David Fales, what kind of a round you could see him going in. Do you have concerns about his arm strength that a lot of people seem to have?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I like David Fales. He's smart. He throws with some anticipation and timing. I thought the Minnesota game showed he had enough arm strength to win. He pushed the ball down the field with strength and accuracy. Does he have a big arm? No. But he's a smart kid who understands the game.

I have him as about my 11th quarterback. Remember, I said 10 of them could have first three-round grades. I think Fales will go in the fourth or fifth round. I think he's one of those guys that will probably wear a baseball cap for 10 years and occasionally be able to compete for a starting job.

Q. Clearly everybody has their own opinion about different guys. The disparity of the opinion of Clowney is amazing. What do you attribute that disparity to?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Whenever a guy is blessed with as much ability as he's blessed with, and I've made the statement that he woke up this morning with more physical ability than any defensive lineman on the planet, and I believe that, anywhere on the planet.

With that ability comes certain responsibilities or perhaps expectations. There are times when he just kind of disappears. The Clemson tape, the left tackle from Clemson, Brandon Thomas, I thought got the best of him the entire game. If you're that good, why do you disappear for a full game? It's not as much technique, double-teaming or triple-teaming. It's just sometimes he gets blocked and he stays blocked. What I'd like to see is a little bit more of an edge about him.

When he was pissed off at Tennessee, their left tackle was chirping last year, he killed Tennessee's entire offensive line for the whole game.

I think when the kid is motivated, he's special. The downside to it is coaches are looking at each other saying, ‘Are we going to have manage that every day for four or five years?’ You'd like to see a self-starter and not somebody you have to start.

Q. Do you have any thoughts on two Georgia state players, Albert Wilson and Ulrick John, and their chances of getting drafted.

MIKE MAYOCK:

The kid that I know pretty well is the wideout, Albert Wilson. I watched some significant tape on him. He made a play against somebody, I forget who it was against, but it was a handoff, running back fumbled, defensive player picked it up, ran it in for a touchdown. This kid chased him down and stripped the football from him on the four yardline. It was a beautiful play.

He has some ability. I think he's a third-day player, somewhere in the fifth or sixth round. He has an ability to make people miss. I think the way he can move them inside and outside. I think there's some upside there.

The other kid I don't know. I haven't watched tape of the other kid so I'm not qualified to talk about him.

Q. Could you tell me what you saw in your evaluation about Jeff Janis and how you project he'll fit in the NFL?

MIKE MAYOCK:

He's an intriguing kid because he's got height, weight and speed. Because of that, I was really looking forward to seeing him at the Senior Bowl. I thought he struggled a little bit there. At that point people were saying if he's a 4.4 guy, that size, is he a third or fourth round pick? That's where the small school guys have to step up and embrace it. I thought he struggled at the Senior Bowl. He struggled against the two twins from northwest Missouri. I watched that tape.

Because of speed, natural hands, he has some upside. He's raw. Needs to develop it. I think he's going to go in plus or minus the sixth round and could spend a year on the practice squad unless he's a really good special teams player.

Q. You were talking about the Lions moving down earlier. You also mentioned Sammy Watkins moving to seven in one of your mocks. How high would they have to go up to get him?

MIKE MAYOCK:

To get Watkins?

Q. Yes. And do you think that's realistic?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Again, they've got two comp picks so they've got eight total. I'm not sure you want to go get anybody, in all honesty, in this draft giving up picks unless it's go get a Sammy Watkins where you don't have to give up much. If you have to give up a fourth-round pick or third-round pick, that's one thing. You start talking about a second-round pick or a number one next year, I wouldn't go anywhere near that kind of stuff. This draft has enough good football players.

I feel like people in Detroit are fixated on getting that wideout. I understand why. From my perspective, I have no problem with Michael Evans. I would take him in a heartbeat without having to give up another pick.

I think you have to think really hard before you start giving up picks to move up and go get somebody in this draft.

Q. University of Miami prospects are all over the place as far as predictions for the draft. No one is expected to go very high. Who do you think will be drafted among Miami Hurricanes? In particular, O-lineman Seantrel Henderson and Brandon Linder, and quarterback Stephen Morris and wide receiver Allen Hermes?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I think those two offensive linemen are heading in different directions. I think the most gifted player on their team is Seantrel Henderson. He's had off-the-field issues and on-the-field inconsistencies. He's a first round talent that will probably go in the fourth round. That's probably where he'll go, somewhere in the fourth round. Somebody might take him earlier just because he's so darn gifted.

But he's heading in the wrong direction, whereas their guard, Linder, the more the coaches get involved, the more they like him. He's not as physically gifted as some players in this draft, but he's smart and tough.

A lot of people thought he was a sixth or seventh-round pick. I think he's going in the fourth or fifth round. This is a pretty good guard draft.

The quarterback Morris, I saw him at the Manning passing academy, he's got a very strong arm. I like the kid, the person. Had some inconsistencies this year. But I think he's got a strong arm. I think he's going to need to redshirt. I think he's a late draftable, probably fifth or sixth round. I talked to some people that really liked him at the pro day.

Allen Hermes is a guy for me that doesn't have any one outstanding trait as a wide receiver. He has decent size, decent speed, pretty good hands, but he doesn't stand out in a wide receiver class that's very deep. He's going to be a late pick or a priority free agent.

Q. What do you think Seattle at the number 32 spot might be looking for? From the standpoint of when you're a Super Bowl champion, you have a set roster at a number of spots, do you feel historically that changes anything in what you might be looking for?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Well, what I think is a good chance of happening is if Houston doesn't take a quarterback at one, the entire league expects them to take a quarterback at 33. So depending on who is sitting on the board at the quarterback position at 32, I think they could get an awful lot of activity to move down. I think they're in a great spot because of that.

If I'm a Seattle fan, I'm rooting for Houston to take Clowney at one. I'm rooting for Mettenberger and Bridgewater and Garoppolo, all those guys, to still be on the board so somebody wants to come up ahead of Houston and Seattle to trade down a few slots. I really believe that has a good chance of happening.

If they sit there at 32, I'm a big believer of this, you just have to be versatile. Years ago when New England desperately -- coming off a Super Bowl, they desperately wanted a defensive player, that entire board, the defensive first-round board was wiped, they ended up taking a guard by the name of Logan Mankins. I think there's a story and lesson to be learned there.

You have to pick at 32, regardless of your needs, a good football player. I said the same thing to somebody else who called about New Orleans at 27. Picking good football players at the end of the round is paramount rather than trying to catch lightning in a bottle and taking less talent with great production.

They have to be versatile. They could end up with an interior lineman, but I think they're going to trade down.

Q. Regarding Spartans, can you talk about Max Bullough, safety Isaiah Lewis, are there any other Spartans that might get drafted like Fowler?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Fowler could get drafted. He ran fast at his pro day. He's a good-looking body guy. Again, it's a deep draft. I happen to like Isaiah Lewis. Again, I don't know if he's going to get drafted. I like him on tape.

When we start talking about these kind of guys, special teams, the core special teams players are the guys that win and play four, five, six years in the league. The guys that can cover kicks, they play four teams, punt, punt return, kick and kick return. That's where Isaiah Lewis fits in.

Bullough 25 years ago would have been a highly regarded guy, but the game has moved away from that. Teams are looking for inside linebackers that can run, that can play against tight ends that can run. Bullough drops down into the fifth round, plus or minus, as a two-down kind of thumper.

The backup linebacker that played in the Rose Bowl, he was fun to watch and will get a priority free agent job somewhere.

Q. The last couple years Florida International has produced three players that were drafted earlier than anybody expected. Do you see anything similar for (indiscernible) and Greg Hickman? Can you speak on the non-Bortles talent at UCF and the talent USF?

MIKE MAYOCK:

The non-Bortles talent is really Storm Johnson, the tailback, who is a big back, catches the football fairly well. Probably has fifth-round talent. At South Florida, Deve Lattimore, the defensive end, outside linebacker that transferred from Notre Dame, whose name is escaping me right now, Aaron Lynch. Lynch is a really gifted kid. I don't know why he lost all that weight and decided he wanted to be an outside linebacker. But he has a ton of talent. I'm not sure what he's thinking. I think he's probably going to go somewhere in the fifth round as a defensive end, outside linebacker.

As far as those FIU guys, you're right, good production out of there at a high level in the NFL. I think both those defensive tackles are probably priority free agents.

Q. What player is this year's Sharrif Floyd, a player predicted to go in the top five or ten who could fall later in the draft?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I think the obvious answer is the quarterbacks. There's more diversity of opinion on the top quarterbacks than I've ever seen. A Manziel or a Bortles, one or both, could slide. Once you get past the top eight, teams in the top eight need quarterbacks. There's a potential of 11 at Tennessee, 16 with Dallas. You could slide a while. So I think the two quarterbacks are the most logical candidates to slide.

Q. We've been hearing almost from day one that Tom Savage is moving up the board. What is the most logical round for him? What do you think about his receiver, Devin Street?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Savage is really intriguing because he throws the ball as well as anybody in this draft. I think he and Mettenberger, along with Logan Thomas from Virginia Tech, I think those three guys have the biggest arms in this draft. Savage has been to three different colleges. You'd like him to have better feet. He takes too many sacks. From an arm talent perspective, it doesn't get much better than Tom Savage.

In a draft that's deep at quarterback, if he went late third round, it wouldn't surprise me. If he slid into the fourth round, it wouldn't surprise me. But he's going to need to speed up his process, make decisions more quickly, get the ball out of his hands more efficiently.

Devin Street is a tall wideout, got some skills. I'd like to see him get a little bit stronger. But he can run. He's got size. If he could just beef up, get stronger, win some more of those jump balls, I think he's got a chance to play. He's probably going to go in about the fifth round.

Q. When you look at Bridgewater, your evaluation of him a couple weeks ago to now, the significance of pro day, is he falling on most analyst's boards because of that pro day or are they going back and watching tape or are we catching up to how NFL teams see him as a prospect? Where do you see that fall for him occurring?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I've said over and over that in addition to myself, I think NFL teams feel like they need to see quarterbacks throw the ball live. Of course, their scouts get out there during the year and do that.

From my perspective, watching him throw live was unsettling. All I wanted to see was him confirm what I saw on tape, was that he had adequate to good arm strength. I didn't see that in person. I didn't see the accuracy. I know he was nervous.

From my perspective, seeing him throw the football live was a cross-check that I needed to go back and watch more tape.

I think a lot of the NFL teams have done the same thing. I've talked to NFL teams that had a higher opinion of him four months ago than they do today. So I think that's why we have a process.

As far as the pro days are concerned, the only position where you have to see a guy live I think is quarterback. That's the only one in 10 or 11 years of me doing pro days where it made me go back and reevaluate a quarterback and change his grade.

Q. Garoppolo, obviously you've had a chance to see him in person. He's risen up as far as his draft stock is concerned. Where could you see him going and what team do you think could be a good fit for him?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Well, I think the way the quarterback thing lays out is interesting. In some way, shape or form, I think Manziel, Bortles and Carr are going to go in the first round. Then you get into a conversation of the next tier of guys. Different teams like different players.

In that next tier is Garoppolo, Mettenberger and Bridgewater, maybe McCarron. If you look at those teams that are in the top eight of the draft that don't take quarterbacks in the first round, they're going to be looking for them early in the second round or to trade back up into the first round.

If Cleveland at 26 takes Carr, if he's still available, or somebody tried to get up in front of them, Garoppolo is in the conversation at that point. Cleveland could be interested in him. I think a lot of those teams are going to be interested in him because, A, he's got a quick release, B, he's got good feet, C, he's the kind of kid that loves it, embraces it, and could be the face of your franchise.

Q. The Giants, it seems like over the last month they've gone from projecting to taking a tackle in Donald, a wide receiver in Evans, Ebron. Seems like they're going all over the place. Who might they be looking to target with a week to go? Who do you think they would take?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I think the logical three candidates for them are either Zack Martin, Eric Ebron or the wide receiver Evans. I'm not sure how this draft is going to fall. I know that you can take Zack Martin. Of course, they signed Charles Brown and John Jerry. But Martin could play guard, he could play center, he could play tackle. If he's there, and I don't think he's going to be, will the wideout Evans be there, I think there's a good chance he won't be.

I look at it and go where Eric Ebron goes. I think that would be a great pick. They need somebody in today's world, I don't care if it's wideout or tight end, I just want an offensive weapon, and that's what he is.

Q. It was said that the Bears are examining and cross-examining cornerbacks that could convert to safety, and they're doing this out of necessity. In your opinion, which corners this year do you think would be the best candidates to make that conversion to safety at the NFL level?

MIKE MAYOCK:

There's a bunch of guys that could play both this year. Marqueston Huff from Wyoming, potential third round corner safety. Dontae Johnson from North Carolina State, potential corner or safety. Lamarcus Joyner. I have a second-round grade on him from Florida State.

Then some guys who could be fourth or fifth round, Antone Exum from Virginia Tech, Dez Southward from Minnesota. All those guys are intriguing as corners or safeties.

Q. West Virginia, where does Charles Sims rank among the running backs in this year's draft? Also a quick question on Will Clarke, the defensive end. How much did the East/West and Senior Bowl help them?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Will Clarke I think is one of the fastest-rising players on draft board. He doesn't get much attention nationally because he's not a first-round pick. Heading into the East/West game, he was a late draftable afterthought. He had a good week there. He's got a frame at 6'6", a long defensive end that can put weight on.

In a draft that doesn't have a lot of edge rushers, he goes to the Senior Bowl, people saw him. He tested well. I have him in the third round right now. It's really helped him. The whole process has helped him.

As far as the running back, Sims, I have four in the second round right now, two or three in the third round, then I have him in the fourth round along with Ka'Deem Carey, Jerick McKinnon and Seastrunk from Baylor. I think he's going to fit right in that fourth round.

Q. Charles Ross, haven't heard a lot about him. Also the upswing of talent that's coming out getting into the NFL in the last couple years, James Casey, Jarett Dillard, Luke Willson, Vance McDonald. Just your thoughts on how they're doing and how it relates to the draft.

MIKE MAYOCK:

The big tailback is an interesting guy. I haven't heard any draftable grades on him late. He could be drafted late. But he's a big, strong kid with production. The running back class in general has been devalued. Typically only about 21 to 23 running backs are going to be drafted. There are a significant number of 225-pound backs, I kind of categorize them, the smaller backs, 218, 225, there's a bunch of those guys in this draft. I think he'll be a priority free agent with an ability to make a team.

As far as the Houston program, there's no doubt. You mentioned the names. It's kind of fun to see. I don't see any reason why it shouldn't continue.

Q. As far as the Texans are concerned, I heard you say you hope they take Clowney. In your opinion, should they do that? Should they trade down? Other than what you already said, is there anything differently you see them doing?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I didn't really say that. I think they could take him if they're forced to sit at number one. The comment I made from the combine forward, and I still believe, is that first and foremost they have to evaluate all the quarterbacks and make sure if they fall in love with a quarterback, you got to believe in him, you got to take him at one. That trumps everything else.

If you don't fall in love with a quarterback, and I think it will be difficult for them to say, Yeah, that's the guy, secondly I'd like to see them considering trading down. They're doing a good job showing people they're interested in Clowney, in Manziel, perhaps Mack, forcing people to come to them as far as a trade up or a trade down.

I think they ought to try to trade down. To me that would be the best thing for the Houston franchise, if they were able to trade down to four, five, six, get an impact player and extra picks. If you can't do that, I think they're going to take Clowney.

I think one of two things can happen if they do that. He either becomes part of your defense and you move forward, or you've controlled value at the top end of the draft and you may be able to trade him after that during the draft.

That's the scenario, and I think the best case for Houston would be to trade down.

Q. Could you evaluate some Notre Dame prospects, Chris Watt and T.J. Jones. As far as 2015 prospects for Notre Dame, who jumps out to you?

MIKE MAYOCK:

As far as next year, I haven't had enough connection with that group of players. I did the spring game. I don't think I'm qualified yet to talk about those 2015 guys until I see them practice this year.

As far as Chris Watt, love the kid, love watching him play. He and Zack Martin were tremendous on the left side of that offensive line the last three years. Two schools of thought. One school of thought is he's not a big enough bodied guard. Some of the teams don't like him as much because of that. Other teams love his toughness and athleticism.

He could play for a zone team. I think he could still play for a man team because he's so smart and takes great angles.

I have him in my third round, which might be a little bit rich for some teams. I think he's a solid fourth-round guard and I'd be surprised if he slid beyond that.

T.J. Jones I thought grew up a little bit last year. Had his best year. Became a leader. Learned how to play the position better. I think he provides value. I think he can play inside and out. I think ultimately inside as a slot is where he'll find his home. He'll have to play some special teams, be willing to compete and be physical early in his career.

I think T.J. probably goes in the fifth round somewhere. He's coming off his best year ever.

Q. As far as the 49ers are concerned, obviously there are question marks about Aldon Smith, his availability this season, even beyond this season. Which defensive end/outside linebackers do you see as being Aldon Smith like, somebody the 49ers might be able to pick up perhaps second or third round in this draft?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Aldon Smith like? You're probably not going to find that. There are some intriguing 3-4 outside linebacker candidates in the second and third rounds. DeMarcus Lawrence from Boise is one of them. Marcus Smith from Louisville. Trent Murphy, right in your backyard at Stanford, is an intriguing guy because he's engendered comments both positively and negatively. There's a lot of scouts and coaches, especially the 4-3 teams don't like him, fifth and sixth round grades, but the 4-3 teams like him.

The four guys I would focus in on if you don't get one in the first round would be those three plus Jeremiah Attaochu from Georgia Tech. They're the four guys that in the first hundred picks will be off the board for 3-4 outside linebacker teams.

Q. There are several Oklahoma Sooners who gave Stoops a lot of mileage. I don't see many of them moving up of the draft board. Do you have any Sooners on your radar?

MIKE MAYOCK:

The guy I'm intrigued by is the guy that got hurt last year, Millard. I thought he had a chance to be a third round pick, which is atypical for a fullback. Because of the injury, he's kind of fallen off the face of the earth.

Somebody is going to get a value on that kid. He's a point-of-attack player. He can catch, run, lead block. I think he brings something special to the table and I hope he goes in the fourth round or so because I really like him.

Ikard is maybe not as physically gifted as some centers are, but he's smart, takes great angles, he is keeps his hands tight. He understands the game. I would kind of not worry about where he gets drafted as far as round and worry that he got someplace with an opportunity because he's a really good football player.

The guy I really like, two names really, the wide receiver Saunders, really like this kid. I mean, I think he's one of the toughest players in the draft despite his size. He'll be a special teams player, a return guy, a gunner, a jammer. He can play slot. He's got long speed. The only thing holding him back is size.

I feel horribly for Aaron Colvin. I think he would have been a late one to mid two if he hadn't had the ACL. I think he'll probably go still in the fourth round and somebody is going to get a tremendous value on him.

Q. A question about the second and third day offensive tackles. Where do you see the value in that position and do you expect a run in the second day on that position?

MIKE MAYOCK:

It's a good question because it's not as deep a tackle draft as some people might have you believe. I think there's going to be a couple separate runs. The first is in the first round. I think you're going to see five tackles go.

Then I have four guys before kind of the ground falls away and there's a big drop. So Joel Bitonio, who a lot of people like inside. Morgan Moses. Mewhort from Ohio State, who a lot of people see inside. And Jiwan James from Tennessee, who I think is a starting right tackle. Those are the guys on the second day, second and third round guys.

Then there's a significant drop-off. So I do think there's going to be a run on those four guys.

Then the questions become, you know, Seantrel Henderson has first-round talent from Miami, but he's had so many issues off the field. Tiny Richardson from Tennessee. Schofield from Michigan. Cameron Fleming from Stanford. They're all right tackles. I think Hurst is a swing tackle from North Carolina. They're all a drop-off ability-wise with the exception of Henderson. I think there are going to be a couple tackle runs.

Q. You mentioned Dennard going to the Lions. But you also mentioned Kyle Fuller is your top corner. Could you expand a little bit on your thinking there, whether or not Fuller might be an option for the Lions at 10.

MIKE MAYOCK:

Let me explain the corners this way, and I mentioned this a little bit before. I personally prefer Fuller and Dennard. I think they're the best football players today.

They're not as naturally gifted as Gilbert from Oklahoma State and Roby from Ohio State. So it really depends what you're looking for. Are you looking for more upside? For instance, the kid Gilbert could go number 10 to Detroit. He's got return ability in the kick game. He's explosive. He's got beautiful hips. He can turn and run. He's got more upside than any corner in the draft. However, he's highly inconsistent.

I would say the same thing about Roby. Roby has had some off-the-field issues. But his hips, his turning ability, his upside is incredible.

I just happen to prefer football players that I trust more. I trust Dennard and I trust Fuller, either one of which I think would be a great pick at 10.

Q. Pete Carroll likes to play big at split end. If they were to go that direction, either at 32 or 64, who are some players that might fit into that category?

MIKE MAYOCK:

They're all over the place this year. I don't think Kelvin Benjamin will be there. I think he'll be off the board in the 20s. He's 6'5", 230. I think Davante Adams from Fresno is a possibility. Cody Latimer. It's interesting, the four guys I grouped in the second round are all big wide receivers. Matthews from Vanderbilt, and Martavis Bryant, in the back of my mind I think of him as a Seahawk because I think Pete isn't typically scared away from guys that have some minor character issues or immaturities.

Bryant has first-round talent, but one year of college production. I think in the back of my mind, Oh, my goodness, what if Pete got ahold of that guy?

In the third round, Allen Robinson from Penn State is a big guy with real good run after the catch. Donte Moncrief from Ole Miss. Those guys are all 6'2" plus with the ability to run and separate.

Q. What do you think of Donte Moncrief and what are some possible team fits for him?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Moncrief is a guy that drops the ball too much, double catches it a little bit too much. I get nervous. When I see a wide receiver with drops and double catches, I get nervous. He's got to convince teams that he can be a consistent catcher of the football. He's a little bit straight line fast. He's got to learn how to run routes.

I have him late third round. I think the West Coast teams will like him because he could run the slants, throw it into his body. Any of those teams that focus on the West Coast offense would make sense for him. I'm hoping his best football is ahead of him as he continues to develop the craft of playing wide receiver.

Q. You see a lot of talk about how there's so many wide receivers available in the draft. How closely do you think teams will consider character issues, whether they're a locker room fit, that type of thing? Why do you think it seems to be more of an issue with that position in general?

MIKE MAYOCK:

I have no idea why wideouts are considered divas other than the fact that history tells you they are. Maybe it's because they score a lot of touchdowns, score a lot of points. I don't know why that's the case. It just historically has proven to be true.

I'm not sure if this year is different than any other year. I think you're obliquely referring to DeSean Jackson in this question. When DeSean Jackson came out of Cal, there's a reason he didn't come the first round. He didn't go first round because he was a pain in the butt in college, too.

Teams are going to look at off-the-field stuff. They're either going to take you off the board or they're going to put you in a lower round just because it's less risk for the reward. So I'm not sure how else to answer that one.

Q. Colts question. Two years ago Ryan Grigson had first or second pick. Last year he got a couple guys who contributed. Is that reverting to the mean? Do you have any thoughts on the huge disparity between the two years?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Obviously is when you start with a franchise quarterback, it makes everybody better. The Andrew Luck thing was huge.

Secondly, Ryan Grigson is a grinder and came up the right way and he understands talent. This guy found some talent all over the board. There are a couple of guys buried on that roster. What's the name of the kid that was the rugby player?

Anyway, my point is Ryan is a grinder. I believe the way he grew up in this business, he's always going to be slightly ahead of the curve. He's going to draft well. He's going to stay consistent. He's not going to panic.

I think the answer to your question is Andrew Luck.

Q. A quick question on the Patriots, what do you think about them at 29?

MIKE MAYOCK:

Yeah, 29 is interesting. Obviously they've had some age and injury issues on their interior defensive line with Wilfork and Tommy Kelly. I also think a tight end would be intriguing there. A guy like Jace Amaro from Texas Tech, who I have a second round grade on, kind of gives them another option at tight end with Gronkowski, I find that intriguing, kind of playing that Hernandez role.

I think the safety situation at some point needs to be addressed. As you know with Bill, you never know what's going to happen except for the fact he's probably going to move down and around.

Players Dolphins like: Wide receiver edition

The Dolphins have paid a lot of attention to the wide receiver spot this pre-draft period and there has been speculation that's because general manager Dennis Hickey is wanting to trade someone or expecting to cut someone either this year or next year.

I've been told the reason for the due diligence is Dennis Hickey does his due diligence on every position and you can never have enough good wide receivers.

Hickey's looking at these guys with the idea of being prepared if the right one is available to add to a position that always begs more talent. Period.

Remember that last year the Dolphins got not one but two starting-caliber wide receivers hurt. Had the team made the playoffs, Mike Wallace and Rishard Matthews would have been the starting wide receivers in the playoffs and the No. 3 and No. 4 roles would have been pieced together somehow.

Joe Philbin doesn't want to be caught in that uncomfortable situation again.

And having said all that ... it is hard to fathom Miami going WR in the first round. Not with LB C.J. Mosley (my favorite) possibly there to help the terrible run defense. Not with such a huge need at right tackle. Not with the possibility that a trade down scenario would occur.

Still, here are some of the wide receivers the Dolphins have shown they like:

WR Odell Beckham  LSU: He's not really a deep threat with 4.5-4.45 speed depending on the track and the stopwatch. But he is a very good slot receiver prospect or No. 2 flanker prospect. He's got decent size at 5-11, he knows how to sink his hips and create separation with his body and has experience in a pro style offense (run by LSU offensive coordinator and former Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron). But his production was not consistent and while he's likely going to become a good player, there is not one thing about him that screams star.

WR Martavis Bryant  Clemson: His 6-4 height stands out but because he's very lean he doesn't offer the kind of physical target one might hope. He obviously is not as physical as shorter (6-1) teammate Sammy Watkins. Bryant feels like a second or third round player because he showed lapses in concentration (read drops) and often had to double-catch passes. He's got plenty of vertical speed 4.40.

WR Robert Herron  Wyoming: The Dolphins have been grinding on Herron the past couple of days with meetings and workouts with the player. He has solid (4.48) but not blazing speed yet is no stranger to the big play as he had five catches of over 40 yards last year and had one that went for 93 yards. He's only 5-9 and he's supposedly not a big fan of venturing across the middle of the field. He's not a first or second day player but fifth-sixth round? You betcha.

WR Aaron Hurns   Miami: Hurns has height but is another one of these kids that need to eat a sandwich every day to put on some bulk. He only runs 4.5 but having watched him at the University of Miami he seemed to play faster than his speed. He has a knack for making himself available to the quarterback and that is a good thing. Rounds 5-6-7.

WR Marquise Lee  USC: He comes from the tough part of town and is open about making decisions that siblings failed to make, thus costing lives. Lee is 6-foot so he's neither tall nor short. And he isn't necessarily the fastest guy on a track but has elite "football" speed in that no one ever seems to catch him on the field. He struggled some last year but USC was a turnstile for coaches. Is he another USC receiver flop? Or is he the real deal? Some teams have him graded in the first round, others in the second.

WR EriK Lora   Eastern Illinois: He's a faster Wes Welker type. I didn't say he'd produce like Welker but he's built similarly. He puts up big numbers last year with 123 catches for 1,544 yards and 19 TDs. He strikes me as a slot receiver. Some teams think he can play flanker. He's from Miami, Florida, so you know he can ball. He's a 6th-7th round prospect.

WR Donte Moncrief Mississippi: He's quite possibly the fourth or fifth best WR in the draft and might be the third best behind Watkins and Mike Evans in a couple of years. He's 6-2 and has a whopping 39.5 inch vertical leap. So he can play above the heads of defenders but for whatever reason (ball skills or desire or muscle) he doesn't win a lot of 50-50 passes. He does. however, combine his ability to get vertical with an ability to, well, get vertical up the field (as in behind the defense). His 4.40 speed at 6-2 is outstanding. He's a late first or second round pick.

April 30, 2014

Players Dolphins like: Guard edition

NFL teams have drafted 12 guards in the first round since 2000.

So 14 drafts have netted a dozen first round guards and those relatively modest numbers have nearly doubled the past two drafts when five guards were picked in the first round.

Of those 12 first-round guards, only four have become multiple Pro Bowl players -- Mike Iupati, Ben Grubbs, Steve Hutchinson and Logan Mankins.

NFL teams ignored the guard position in the first round altogether in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2008, and 2009 and had only one first-round guard picked in 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011 when the Eagles picked Danny Watkins. Yeah, that Danny Watkins.

(By the way, the Dolphins picked Vernon Carey in 2003 but I think we all know he was a tackle most of his career and the only reason he played guard early in his career was short-sighted coaching decisions).

The point is with only one true guard, UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo, showing enough promise to suggest value in the first round, it stands to reason the Dolphins are probably not going to fill their need for a guard in the first round.

No source. Just a hunch.

But in later rounds? Maybe the third or on the third day of the draft? Fans should hope so because the team has a definite need at the position and, my opinion, it would be a mistake to bank on the guard possibilities currently on the roster -- outside of Shelley Smith who was signed as a free agent to be a starter -- to find another starter.

So who and what are the possibilities? Today we continue our look at the players the Dolphins have shown interest in and focus on guards.

Consider:

G  Joel Bitonio Nevada: He's 6-4 and 302 and played some tackle in college but several NFL teams see him as a guard. He's likely a second round pick, probably before the Dolphins pick in that round at No. 50. That might be too early for Miami to trade up to. Trade back in the first and get him and and another pick?

G Kadeem Edwards Tennessee State: He's 6-4 and 308, extremely long arms (34 1/2) but needs to improve his upper and lower body strength, projected third day of draft player.

G Jon Halapio  Florida: He's 6-4 and 323, projected round 4-5.

G Brandon Linder  Miami: He's 6-6 and 311, better suited for zone blocking than man, which obviously is in the Dolphins wheelhouse. Here's the thing, though, the Miami offensive line that was so big and so experienced the past two years was also something of a dud. Projected 3-4 rounder.

G Spencer Long  Nebraska: He's 6-5 and 320 and is the best OL prospect on team but had reconstructive knee surgery in October. He may not be ready for training camp, which makes him a later-round possibility. I got to say, the Dolphins need to start drafting healthy players because drafting the ailing players was a tremendous bomb last year.

G-OT Zack Martin  Notre Dame: He's 6-4 and 308 and is a very solid right tackle candidate but some teams think he needs to project as guard. That's fine, except the kid would rather play tackle and his experience at guard is comparatively limited. "Clean" player. Ready to start. Can fill in at RT in a pinch.

G Justin McCray UCF: He's 6-3 and 321, local kid from Southridge High School, was selected first-team All-American Conference. Third round type.

G Jordan McCray UCF: He's 6-2 and 322, the twin to Justin, also first-team All-American Conference pick, slightly stronger than his brother and better punch, not quite as quick. Third round type.

April 29, 2014

Players Dolphins like: OT edition

The Dolphins lost two, count 'em, two games last year when the tragic combination of poor coaching and bad right tackle play got together.

Miami lost to Baltimore and Buffalo -- two home games -- because coaches trusted right tackle Tyson Clabo to block a premier rusher in the final few minutes of a game one on one. And Clabo, inexplicably matched one on one against Terrell Suggs and Mario Williams with no tight end or running back help, gave up sacks that led directly to Miami's losses.

Clabo, a tough competitor and good man, took responsibility for losing the Buffalo game while coaches (Mike Sherman and Joe Philbin) defended the idea of putting him on an island in the game's most important series.

And so you're wondering how important it is that general manager Dennis Hickey find a good starting right tackle in the draft?

Well, as it is possible the coaching decisions might not change because Philbin is still in charge, the player at right tackle must be much better because who wants a repeat of 2013?

And so it is with that perspective that starting today we break down some of the key positions the Dolphins must address in the May 8-10 draft along with some of the players they have shown interest in selecting.

I'll tell you the players, some strengths, some weaknesses, where they might be available and how they might fit Miami's plans.

Today we start with offensive tackle.

Consider: 

OT Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff McGill (Canada): He's 6-5 and 298 and that is a little troubling because he is seemingly under prototype bulk. Although he competed well at the postseason All-Star games, there has to be some worries about the level of his competition as he played in Canada. He's very smart -- studying to become a doctor -- but that can work both ways, depending on whom one speaks. It takes the right kind of mindset to feel enough desperation to succeed. Some people that have other careers they can fall back on -- such as medicine -- don't exhibit that kind of full-fledged commitment. Projected 5-6 rounder.

OT Seantrel Henderson  Miami: He's 6-7 and 335, was a prep star but has never lived up to the billing, suspended or benched multiple times at Miami. Never made full use of his gifts. Often overweight at Miami. Projected 4-5 rounder.

OT Ja'Wuan James  Tennessee: He's 6-6 and 311, very fluid, senior with 49 games of experience, was in the shadow of teammate and LT Antoine Richardson until 2013 when he outplayed Richardson. He's a legitimate second round player and his experience in the SEC suggests he'll be ready to start right away. Dolphins would be lucky to have him available at No. 50.

OT Cyrus Kouandjio  Alabama: He's 6-7 and 322, has bigger reputation based on exposure than his play suggests he should have. Lingering knee questions that he denies exist. Strictly a right tackle. Likely a late second round or third-round pick.

OT Cornelius Lucas  Kansas State: He's 6-7 and 316 pounds. He's got prototype size but he's got a medical red flag in that he's nursing a stress fracture in his foot that prevented him from participating at the Combine or in private workouts. He's got the wingspan of a jetliner. He's very athletic and actually played tight end for a while. And although he plays with aggressiveness at times, there were questions about his motivation prior to last season.

OT Kevin Pamphile Purdue: He's 6-5 and 310, some see him as a guard while others say he can play tackle and is more valuable there. Either way, he's new to the offensive line, having switched from DT to G in 2011.

OT Garrett Scott Marshall: He's 6-5 and 307 and is a likely late-round project, although scouts say his stock is lately rising. His durability is a bit of a question because he missed mutliple games last season with an ankle injury and was slow to return. Second team All-Conference USA as selected by coaches witin the league.

OT-G  Billy Turner  North Dakota State: He's 6-5 and 315 and also is considered a guard-tackle tweener by some. I listed him as a guard on Monday but because he's interesting I want to discuss him here. He struggled early on in Senior Bowl practices at both guard and right tackle, showing poor leverage. By the end of the week of practices, however, Turner was fully integrated and didn't seem out of place or overmatched. He has very good punch. Good balance. Good quickness for his size.

It seems if the Dolphins want to target James they can trade down in the first round, add perhaps an extra third or fourth round pick and still get the Tennessee right tackle to be their starter in 2014.

Kouandjio is not a value pick at No. 19 and probably not in the first round. That's what many NFL scouts believe despite a local newspaper reporting that the "Dolphins like Kouandjio in the first round."

Maybe later in the draft.

But not at No. 19.

 

April 28, 2014

Players who have interested Dolphins

How about that NFL draft over the weekend, huh?

Yeah, the NFL has truly done itself no favors by being so committed to Radio City Music Hall as its only suitable venue for the draft. The reason the draft this year is two weeks late is because Radio City booked a show for the dates that overlapped with the NFL's draft, which is held at the venue.

So the NFL looked for other locations and found none. That forced the league to move the draft back two weeks. It was not a grand plan to increase attention or extend the draft's footprint.

The irony is the show that caused the NFL to move its draft back to May 8-10 never played.

It did not happen.

So pundits have two extra weeks of mocks and rumors and smokescreens. And teams have two extra weeks of paralysis by analysis and visits and workouts.

Below you will find my list of players the Dolphins have shown interest in during this pre-draft marathon period. That means some of these worked out for the team, met with the team, or visited the team.

Offensive tackles

OT Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff McGill (Canada).

OT Seantrel Henderson  Miami. 

OT Ju'Wuan James  Tennessee. 

OT Cyrus Kouandjio  Alabama.

OT Cornelius Lucas  Kansas State

OT Kevin Pamphile Purdue.

OT Garrett Scott Marshall.

Guards

G Joel Bitonio Nevada.

G Kadeem Edwards Tennessee State.

G Jon Halapio  Florida.

G Brandon Linder  Miami.

G Spencer Long  Nebraska.

G-OT Zack Martin  Notre Dame.

G Justin McCray  UCF.

G Jordan McCray UCF.

G-OT  Billy Turner North Dakota State

Center

C Jared Wheeler  Miami.

Quarterbacks 

QB Stephen Morris   Miami

QB Aaron Murray   Georgia

Running backs

RB James Baker Idaho

RB Devonta Freeman FSU

RB Tre Mason  Auburn

RB Terrance West  Towson

RB James White Wisconsin

Wide Receivers

WR Odell Beckham  LSU

WR Martavis Bryant   Clemson.

WR Robert Herron  Wyoming

WR Allen Hurns  Miami

WR Marquise Lee   USC

WR Eric Lora  Eastern Illinois

WR Donte Moncrief Mississippi.

Tight ends

TE Asante Cleveland  Miami

TE Junior Delpe     FIU

TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins Washington. 

Defensive tackles

DT Ken Bishop  Northern Illinois

DT Isame Faciane  FIU

Linebackers

LB Carl Bradford  Arizona State.

LB Max Bullough  Michigan State.

LB Rodney Lamar Northern Michigan.

LB C.J. Mosley Alabama. 

Cornerbacks

CB Walt Aiknes Liberty

CB Brandon Dixon   North Missouri State 

CB Phillip Gaines Rice

CB Marcus Roberson Florida

CB Sammy Seamster Middle Tennessee. 

Safety 

S Eric Pinkins    San Diego State

 

 

 

April 25, 2014

QBs available so what will Dolphins do?

How much do the Dolphins need a quarterback?

The question is pertinent because, based on conversations I've had with multiple scout sources over the past several days, they expect 1. The Dolphins to take one in the draft and 2. There will be some big-name talent on the board when the Dolphins pick in the first round.

That's right, the people I talk to say at least one and perhaps a couple of the so-called first-round quarterbacks -- out of the group that includes Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater -- will be available when the Dolphins pick at No. 19 in the first round.

A pause here for perspective:

These are the same people that said weeks ago when everyone was predicting Zack Martin to the Dolphins that Martin probably would not be there at No. 19 and would require a trade up to acquire. Since then, multiple reports have emerged that Martin, a clean and experienced prospect, will probably be gone when Miami picks. Hmmm.

Secondly, and before everyone goes into a frenzied conversation about the Dolphins wanting to replace Ryan Tannehill ... that's not the idea. Tannehill is this team's starter and I doubt that's going to change regardless of what quarterback the Dolphins add.

But adding a quarterback at some point in the coming draft is a smart idea because the quarterback room could use some infusion of youth and potential. Matt Moore, 30 in August, is the backup but he's in the final year of his contract so what about next year? Are the Dolphins going to invest $4-$5 million next year to have him ride the pine again? Pat Devlin is third string but he's mounted no challenge to either Tannehill or Moore in three years with the team and he's an unrestricted free agent next year as well. So the Dolphins are going to commit to him perpetually?

You'll remember last season it was something of a 50-50 proposition when Devlin made the team on the final cut coming out of training camp.

So the Dolphins can use more competition and some fresh blood at the QB position.

And the team has shown interest in potential middle round pick Aaron Murray and potential later-round pick Stephen Morris.

But would that interest rise to the level of a first-day pick if Johnny Football or Bortles or Bridgewater are sitting there at No. 19?

Only general manager Dennis Hickey and a short list of other Dolphins folks may know the answer to that. (For whatever reason I don't quite understand, they're not telling me).

Personally, I don't think Bortles will be there. I do think there's a very, very good chance either Manziel or Bridgewater or both will be there.

Then what?

My opinion ... the Dolphins would pass on Bridgewater and I would agree. I simply do not see him as a first-round QB. I see him as a second-day quarterback based on his smarts, and toughness. But I don't see a strong arm, I don't see great accuracy and I don't see a prototype body built to carry 225 pounds.

The former Heismann Trophy winner, meanwhile, is another story. I love this kid. I think he's a winner. I think he's a playmaker. I think Johnny Manziel will be a shorter, more slightly built Colin Kaepernick at some point.

I think he needs to sit for a while and learn and fix some mechanical issues.

But I think when he gets on the field and gets experience, good things are going to happen for his team.

Is that worth a first-round pick to a team that has a quarterback and so many other needs -- right tackle, guard, middle linebacker, cornerback, running back, maybe wide receiver?

We may see on May 8. 

April 23, 2014

Miami Dolphins 2014 schedule here (free)

So the Dolphins open the season against the Patriots at home and end the season against the Jets at home.

In between?

The first three games include games against two playoff teams (Pats and KC) and at the team that swept Miami last season (Buffalo).

The Raiders game in London on Sept. 28 followed by the bye.

Cold weather and outdoor game at New England prior to the season finale.

The team will play two prime time games -- hosting the Bills on Thursday night Nov. 13. and at the Jets Monday night Dec. 1.

“Our organization is excited about the schedule and we look forward to playing our home opener in front of our great fans,“ said coach Joe Philbin. “We also start our season with two division opponents, travel to London and finish the year with two home games. As always, our off-season program and training camp will be paramount in preparing us for the upcoming season.”

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First leak of NFL schedule upon us

The Dolphins will play at the Detroit Lions in Week 10 of the NFL season, the Detroit Free Press just reported.

The full schedule will be announced at 8 p.m. and I assume some reporters (me included) are trying to get as much of the schedule as possible prior to the announcement.

Miami's opponents in 2014 posted a record of 103-103-2 in 2013.

The team will host Minnesota, Green Bay, Baltimore, San Diego and Kansas City as well as AFC rivals Buffalo, New England and the Jets.

The Dolphins will host Buffalo on Thursday, Nov. 13 for a prime time game.

The Bills will be Miami's second game of the season as the Dolphins will travel to Western New York on  Sept. 14 at 1 p.m.

The team will visit Detroit (in Week 10), Chicago, Jacksonville, Oakland (in London on Sept. 28), and Denver, as well as divisional opponents New England, Buffalo and the Jets.

The bye week will be Oct. 5 -- following the trip to London.

[Refresh as I will continue to update as more information comes in.]

April 22, 2014

Jordan beat teammates to offseason program

Amid rumors (so far unfounded and as I previously reported untrue) that the Dolphins are either shopping or willing to trade Dion Jordan, the player who is the hope of the team's pass rush in the future is taking his current status seriously.

Jordan, according to Joe Philbin, showed up at the team's training facility "a couple of weeks ago," the Dolphins coach told the team's in-house website Tuesday, to begin training for the 2014 season. The majority of the rest of the team showed up Monday for offseason conditioning and strength training.

(By the way, the Dolphins are not making coaches and players available to legitimate media during this period).

And so why is Jordan's early attendance to the offseason program notable?

Because Jordan played fewer snaps than just about any first round pick selected last season despite being No. 3 overall.

Because he had only two sacks and five quarterback hits along with 24 total tackles -- which did not meet anyone's expectations.

And because, I'm told, Jordan wants to be much, much, much better than that in 2014.

So the fact we are three months from the start of training camp and slightly more than six months before the start of the season and Jordan is already pushing to get better is great news. It speaks to his work ethic and his realization that better things must come in 2014.

It should be pointed out that Jordan missed the entire offseason conditioning program last year because, well, he was a rookie and even after being drafted he was still nursing a surgically repaired shoulder injury.

That issue also kept Jordan sidelined much of the training camp and limited him during the season.

So what you saw last year was a diminished player not fully healthy, not fully integrated into the Miami system and not fully prepared to compete. With a full offseason (and then some) of work between now and July, the Dolphins hope to see a different player -- the guy they drafted No. 3 overall.

On another matter, the Dolphins added free agent punter and kicker Matt Szymanski on a one-year contract today. Hear that Caleb Sturgis?

 

April 21, 2014

First day of offseason workout in the books

The typepad platform that supports this blog has been down for a couple of days and has been having trouble all the way back to Friday. As it now lends itself to updating, here we go:

The Dolphins began their 2014 offseason workout program on Monday. Only one player of note did not attend -- wide receiver Mike Wallace. I am told Wallace will be part of the program in the coming days, perhaps as early as Tuesday.

And that's good because, frankly, one of the areas quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the offense must improve in 2014 is the deep ball, particularly to Wallace who is the team's most explosive and dynamic deep ball receiver.

Any Dolphins observer paying attention in 2013 knows Wallace scored only five touchdowns but might have had two or even three times that many scores if the number of deep passes that went his way when he was open behind defenses had been on target.

They mostly were not.

Tannehill is accepting responsibility for this issue. As he told the team's website (as in the past independent media was not allowed to speak to players at the start of offseason conditioning) the deep pass and accuracy has been a primary focus and he has been working on it.

That work, however, has not included Tannehill and Wallace on the same field playing pitch and catch -- doing things to improve their timing or chemistry or anything else. Wallace has spent much of his time since the end of the season in Houston with his family. Tannehill has spent most of his time locally.

That doesn't mean the two aren't on the same page. "I love Mike," Tannehill said, "He's a great guy."

And it doesn't mean what is happening in the synching of this combo is unusual as many receivers and quarterbacks don't necessarily throw it around between February and April.

But it is clear Wallace and Tannehill have important work to do and that work should begin now so that there is no repeat of 2013's underachieving results.

Speaking of underachieving, last season the Dolphins did not get what anyone would expect from the No. 3 overall selection in the draft. Rookie Dion Jordan was at times an afterthought in the defensive game plan.

Part of that was Jordan missing much of the preseason because the team was managing his surgically repaired shoulder. Part of it was what seemed like a tough marriage of talents (Jordan seems suited for the 3-4 more than the 4-3) to Miami's defense.

The injury part of that must be worked out and defensive end Cameron Wake suggested in his interview with the Dolphins website that was happening. Wake told the website he had spoken with Jordan, who is taking part in his first offseason program with the team, and "he's ready to go with that wing," meaning his shoulder.

This means Jordan is telling teammates, including Wake, his shoulder iss healthy and ready for competition. That was never really the case in 2013.

So the bar of expectation that was set so high for Jordan last year might be actually something he can reach for now without it hurting his shoulder.

 

April 18, 2014

Opening the pages to the notebook

Here are some notes I've collected this week:

We already now the Dolphins are showing interest in former University of Miami quarterback Stephen Morris. Well, they're apparently somewhat keen on former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray as well.

A league source tells me Murray has met with some Dolphins representatives during the current draft process and there could be a future meeting that would suggest a greater desire by the team to understand what makes Murray tick.

Murray, it must be mentioned, is not expected to be selected high in the draft. Despite being a four-year starter at Georgia and throwing threwing 121 TDs and only 41 interceptions, the player who competed at the highest level against SEC competition is considered a likely third-to-fifth round draft pick, depending on varying opinions.

Murray suffered a torn ACL in November and did not compete at the Indianapolis Scouting Combine. But he was sufficiently recovered -- he'd say fully recovered -- to show his wares at the Georgia Pro Day.

Murray didn't seem to have any limitations at that workout --  which is stunning considering the knee reconstruction was done six months ago. But he did wear a brace for the session.

This is how NFL.com's Gil Brandt broke down Murray's Pro Day:

"Murray — who has 9 1/8-inch hands — threw 54 passes at the pro day, with just two that would be considered not catchable. He showed good velocity on the ball, but toward the end of the workout it appeared as if his arm got tired. His knee looked stable, but he did wear a brace on it.

"Murray — whose mother and father were both present to watch the workout — had a very good pro day. He’s a not-get-too-high or not-get-too-low type of player. If there’s a run on quarterbacks in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, he could wind up being selected in that round."

We'll see about that second-round prediction. Despite his NFL-caliber arm and production in college, Murray is not one of the new-thing running QBs. He's a pocket passer. And his size (6-1) is not prototypical. But then you come back to his production and, well, it makes a good case for him.

By the way, the fact the Dolphins are doing so much homework on Morris and Murray and other QBs should plant the seed that the team is seriously going to consider drafting a quarterback in this coming draft.

It may not happen early -- as Miami doesn't even have a complete offensive line to protect starter Ryan Tannehill so that's kind of sort of the priority -- but if a value pick in later rounds is available, new general manager Dennis Hickey may take him.

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As I posted a video highlight reel of Morris, here's one for Murray:

 

 

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The Dolphins have assigned numbers to all their new players.

Knowshon Moreno will wear No. 28.

Branden Albert will wear No. 71.

Louis Delmas will wear No. 25.

Cortland Finnegan will wear No. 24.

Earl Mitchell will wear No. 90.

Shelley Smith will wear No. 64.

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This blog has devoted much space to the coming negotiations for an extension between the Dolphins and center Mike Pouncey.

Well, Pouncey isn't the only one who will be in line for an extension. The team is aware defensive lineman Jared Odrick and tight end Charles Clay are going into the final year of their rookie deals. And as both are young and productive, it will be interesting to see how the team handles the issue.

By the way, how the team handles Odrick and Clay will be on the radar for younger players and their agents. They want to see if Hickey will reward draft picks worthy of keeping.

And so far, Pouncey, Odrick and Clay have shown they are worthy of keeping at the right price.

The Dolphins in the past gained a reputation in the agent community for rewarding free agents but being less likely to pay their own draft picks when they came up for their second contracts.

With the notable exceptions of Reshad Jones, Koa Misi and Brandon Fields, the Dolphins have often let their picks go without extensions or even eventually walk away in free agency. That's what happened with Paul Soliai, Jake Long, Sean Smith, Chris Clemons, Nolan Carroll, John Jerry, Chad Henne, Jason Allen, Ronnie Brown and others.

(I suppose one reason the Dolphins let so many draft picks walk is because they decided, after four years, that they weren't worth keeping even when other teams decided those players had value.) 

Regardless, how Hickey and Dawn Aponte approach Pouncey, Odrick and Clay will be watched by agents and, I suppose, players in the locker room as well. 

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Have a blessed Good Friday and a wonderful Easter on Sunday.

April 17, 2014

Latest Kiper mock shows recurring Dolphins issue

For years it has pained Dolphins fans to watch their team be built and rebuilt and rebuilt again simply because, well, the rebuilds never seemed to get it quite right.

Remember the use of a second-round pick to address the center spot with Samson Satele in 2007? And then the use of valuable salary cap space to replace Satele with Jake Grove in the spring of 2009? And then the use of a first round pick to fill the spot again with Mike Pouncey in 2011?

The Dolphins have felt the need to do this a lot at a lot throughout the roster. (Don't even make me go through the 17 quarterback names who have started since Dan Marino retired. Don't make me remind you of the investment at cornerback. Don't make me remind you about all the safeties and offensive tackles).

Well, the linebacker spot seems to be the latest and most likely spot for more rebuilding to follow the rebuilding that was done last year to replace the rebuilding that was done just before that.

You'll remember that last season the Dolphins signed Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler to big and curious free agent contracts. The curiousity was caused in that Miami had two high-priced free agents already playing the spots Ellerbe and Wheeler were signed to play.

The Dolphins, you see, had previously spent sizeable money and cap space to sign Karlos Dansby (in 2010) and Kevin Burnett (in 2011) to fill the jobs.

Well, here we are a year after Ellerbe and Wheeler replaced Dansby and Burnett and the Dolphins are apparently looking to replace either Ellerbe or Wheeler.

We already know neither player lived up to expecations last year. But it was apparently so bad the Dolphins have toyed with shaking things up. New general manager Dennis Hickey offered free agent D'Qwell Jackson a contract to play the middle in Miami. Under that scenario, Ellerbe would have been shifted outside and Wheeler would have had to compete for playing time with Koa Misi.

The team is also toying with the idea of moving Misi to the middle thus letting Ellerbe head to the SAM (strongside) or WILL (weakside) LB spot.

And Miami's desires to makes these shifts is apparently no secret league-wide. Today, for example, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper put out his latest mock draft and he has the Dolphins taking Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley with their first round pick at No. 19 overall.

Let that possibility marinate for a second.

One year after the Dolphins signed Ellerbe and Wheeler to contracts worth a combined $60.75 million with $27 million in guaranteed money, the team is needing to upgrade the positions those players were supposed to upgrade.

And that Ellerbe-Wheeler "upgrade" came on the heels of another $69 million "upgrade" made with Dansby and Burnett.

And the Dolphins may have to funnel resources to address that issue away from resources that attend to other obvious needs, such as offensive guard and right tackle.

This, folks, is the reason this team has been to the playoffs only once in a dozen years (2008 season) and hasn't won a playoff game since 2000. The decisions made to fix problems require almost perpetual adjusting, mending, revamping to fix the same problems again.

None of this is Hickey's fault, by the way. He's new. He's getting his first crack at his set of fixes.

So one cannot put it on him that he's studied the tape and feels Ellerbe would be better outside rather than in the middle and that Wheeler might be better off the field altogether if Ellerbe takes his spot.

That, by the way, was exactly what was coming had Jackson signed. That's exactly what would be coming if, as Kiper's mock suggests, the Dolphins select C.J. Mosley in the first round.

April 16, 2014

Former UM QB Stephen Morris on the Dolphins radar

While much of their draft focus is rightly on offensive line, it should be noted the Dolphins have a long list of needs, wants and must haves. And while quarterback is neither a need nor a must have, it definitely is a want -- one which the team might fill with a local player.

The Dolphins had University of Miami quarterback Stephen Morris at their facility last week as one of the "locals" visits they're allowed. Coaches also had dinner with Morris the night before the visit. And it should be noted that general manager Dennis Hickey and coach Joe Philbin attended the University of Miami Pro Day where Morris showed his skills two weeks ago.

Morris, I'm told, has impressed several Dolphins people -- including general manager Dennis Hickey -- with his maturity, intelligence and overall approach.

So does this mean the team is going to draft Stephen Morris?

That is not certain. But it means Morris is on the radar and the Dolphins are doing their due diligence on him. And that's a good thing because the Dolphins are going to have to draft a QB soon enough or find one through free agency or some other means.

Why?

Well, Ryan Tannehill is the starter. There is no controversy or question about that.

And Matt Moore is well-liked and appreciated as the backup while Pat Devlin recently signed his exclusive rights tender to be the No. 3.

But Moore is in the final year of his contract and while his experience is valuable, paying $4 million per year or more for a backup quarterback isn't the most efficient use of salary cap space. Devlin, meanwhile, has been in the Dolphins program for three years and it seems he's no closer to challenging for the backup job than he was in 2011 when he arrived.

Indeed, it has not been a competition for the No. 2 job at all.

So the Dolphins can obviously be improved by adding a young, talented quarterback with a Pro caliber arm (like Morris or someone else) to push Devlin for the No. 3 job but also to make a strong push for the backup job as well after 2014.

Maybe Stephen Morris is that guy.

Anyway, check out some 2013 highlights:

 

April 15, 2014

Tannehill much to prove, but not the most to prove

This is the time of year we get caught up in bottom of the roster free agent signings and the visits of college prospects that will be drafted on May 10 (in rounds 4-7) or picked up as undrafted free agents.

Can we be honest?

All that is well and good, but the difference for the Dolphins in 2014 will rest mostly in the hands, and right arm, of quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Entering his third season and first season away from the Mike Sherman offense he's known and sometimes but not always loved the past five years, Tannehill has a ton to prove. Is he ready to make a jump from mediocrity? Is he the future of the Dolphins franchise? Can he be a winner?

Tannehill recently told ESPN's Keyshawn Johnson that, "I've got to make a big jump."

So the Miami quarterback understands the grace period of the past few years is over. Fans want to see more from him -- in the pocket, in big games, on his deep throws, on the leadership front. And coaches, who are counting on him to produce so they can stay employed, are similarly going to ask him to raise his level of play.

But as with all things, the local focus clouds the reality that even though Tannehill is under the microscope in South Florida, he's not nearly under as much pressure as other quarterbacks around the league.

ESPN's NFL live today had a segment on quarterbacks with the most to prove in 2014. It was an interesting exercise. And it showed why Tannehill may feel the need to show significant growth ... but he's not under the kind of pressure other QBs are about to face.

Consider the Salguero list of QBs with the most to prove in 2014:

10. Tony Romo ... He's coming off back surgery and he has the weight of the Metroplex and America's Team on his back. His defense has been terrible and if he doesn't play well, his team will stink. Oh, and by the way, critics don't trust him in late-game situations and he hasn't gotten his team in the playoffs since 2009.

9. Joe Flacco ... That $120 million contract was a wonderful reward for winning the Super Bowl in Feb. 2013, but what did he do for an encore? Flacco's defending champions missed the playoffs last year and were actually eliminated from the playoff hunt in a game Flacco threw three interceptions. Flacco finished 2013 with 19 TDs and 22 INTs.

8. Jake Locker ... This is probably his final chance to prove he's a franchise quarterback before the Titans move on to finding a new franchise quarterback. Locker, going into his fourth season, not only must prove he's a good player but that he's also durable. He played only seven games last season and hasn't played more than 11 in any of his three NFL seasons.

7. Andy Dalton ... It's no longer about the regular season for Dalton and the Bengals, although he's had some notable failures there as well. But Dalton has been terrible in getting what is considered an otherwise very good NFL team to play well in the playoffs. And if you cannot play well in the playoffs, you aren't elite.

6. Eli Manning ... He had a terible season (27 interceptions) behind a terrible offensive line. And he's recovering from ankle surgery. The fact he recovered from his last terrible season with a Super Bowl win and has won the Big One twice is good enough to give Manning the benefit of the doubt for now. But keep playing poorly in 2014 and New York will turn on him.

5. Geno Smith ... Terrible quarterback play was a thing in New York last year. The difference between Smith and Manning is the Jets went out and got a guy to replace Smith in Michael Vick. So the job is Smith's for now, but he has to prove he's better than slightly terrible to keep it.

4. Josh McCown ... Remember him? He was in the Dolphins' 2008 training camp but became expendable when Chad Pennington decided he wanted to play for Bill Parcells. Well, last year McCown was the Godsend, this time to the Bears. He was amazing in throwing 13 TDs and only one INT. And now he's Tampa Bay's starter. But he has to stay on the course he plotted last year to keep the job. And given his career history, that will require hard work.

4, tied. Sam Bradford ... The Rams are committed to him as their franchise quarterback and are paying him $14 million this year as a result. But that takes a lot of faith because Bradford has been unable to stay on the field long enough to convince many people outside the Rams organization he's elite. Pressure is on to do that this year.

3. Colin Kaepernick ... He's been good and he's helped a very good team get good results. But he wants a new contract that pays around $18 million per year and doesn't have the benefit of a championship or classic QB style to drive home the point. So what's it going to be? Are you an $18 million QB? Are you championship caliber? Or not?

3, tied. Matt Schaub ... In 2009 he threw for the equivalent of 2.7 miles (4,770 yards) and was considered a solid if not spectacular starter. But last year, playing for a talented team with great receivers, a fine running back and behind a solid offensive line, Schaub became a human pick six machine. And that got him benched and eventually cut. He's been exiled to the NFL version of Siberia (aka Oakland) now were he must play well to simply stay in the league.

2. Johnny Manziel ... He's not even in the NFL and already he's a magnet for controversy. Does he have a bad attitude? Does he feel entitled? Or does he indeed have that magic he showed at Texas A&M and will it translate to the NFL? Is he the next Russell Wilson or Fran Tarkenton? Oh yeah, whatever QB needy team that takes him will be under immediate pressure to play him.

1. Robert Griffin III ... The Redskins in this draft will continue to pay the ransom of draft picks they gave up to get him and hope that after a terrible sophomore campaign, RG3 can return to his rookie form. The question is will he prosper under QB whisperer Jay Gruden? Will he stay healthy? Will he be more than a spread option, one-read thrower?

So you think Tannehill has a lot to prove? He's not even in the top 10.

It's all relative, folks.