May 19, 2016

Miami Dolphins: 'Zero' concerns about Laremy Tunsil's ankles

Miami Dolphins brass were not just puzzled but borderline angry over a Bleacher Report, um, report that first round draft pick Laremy Tunsil has a pre-arthritic ankle condition which caused some teams to back away from him on draft day.

And so the team made that clear (to me) privately on Thursday morning and then much more publicly on local radio WQAM-560 in the afternoon.

I was told the team was a bit frustrated that Tunsil was being portrayed as a player with multiple issues when, according to sources, the recent issue about the ankle really isn't one.

Asked if there is concern about the ankle on the radio, general manager Mike Tannenbaum publicly pushed back against the crux of the report.

"None. Zero," Tannenbaum said. "He's full go. He's fine. We never had concerns about his ankle."

While the team is not doubting someone around the NFL might be saying things about Tunsil's ankle, the team tells me it is completely comfortable with the situation and even pointed to the fact Tunsil -- who was highly scrutinized by multiple teams atop the draft was never mentioned as having any sort of ankle issue.

Tunsil also was not asked to return to Indianapolis for a re-check of his combine physical -- often a sign teams have lingering questions about a player's particular health issues.

Doubtless, there are other issues that Tunsil must settle. Read about those here and here.

But a previously unreported ankle injury is not one of them, according to the team. 

Miami Dolphins a seven-win team in 2016?

They hired a new coaching staff (for the most part). They have redone the roster, jettisoning not just reserves but starters such as Olivier Vernon, Brice McCain, Lamar Miller, Brent Grimes and others. They have addressed the crisis at guard. They added solid players in free agency, including Mario Williams. They are expecting a return to health from Cameron Wake. And they drafted eight green rookies, several of which already figure prominently in the team's plans.

And for all this change and remaking of themselves, the Miami Dolphins are going to be a seven-win team in 2016?

7-9?

One game better than last season's disastrous 6-10?

Well, that is what the bookies online betting site experts at Bovada.lv believe. The site has set the over-under for Dolphins wins in the coming season at seven.

Seven.

Last year, it was seven.

The year before it was seven-and-a-half.

This year it is ... seven.

Bovada has a view of the Dolphins and that is of an organization running in place.

What's more, the seven figure is the lowest in the AFC East. So the Dolphins, who finished last in the division last season, are expected to finish last again this season, according to the gamblers. The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills come in with an over-under of 8. The New England Patriots come in with an over-under of 10 1/2.

Seven is less than all those numbers.

And here's what's really troubling: The number is hard to dismiss because, well, the numbers from the site have been relatively accurate the past few years. It's not like the site set the number at five last year (as ESPN recently predicted for the '16 Dolphins) and the team blew up with a 10-6 record. It's not like the site set the bar at 12 in 2013 after the Dolphins did so much work on the roster -- remember Mike Wallace and Dannell Ellerbe and Dion Jordan were added -- and then missed it by four games.

The site has typically been within a game either way of the actual number of wins the Dolphins hit. Depressing, right?

So after doing all that work on the roster this offseason, are the Dolphins going to make fools of the gambling experts? Or was all that work much sound and fury signifying nothing?

May 18, 2016

Miami Dolphins sign second round pick Xavien Howard

The Miami Dolphins this evening signed second-round pick Xavien Howard, leaving three rookies yet to be signed from their eight-man 2016 draft class.

Howard follows the signing of first-rounder Laremy Tunsil, sixth-rounder Jakeem Grant, sixth-rounder Jordan Lucas, and seventh-rounder Brandon Doughty.

Howard is expected to compete for a starting job. He has said that. The team hopes that.

That is what he must do and quite quickly for the Dolphins to be any good. (Go ahead, debate me on that).

Third rounders Leonte Carroo and Kenyan Drake and seventh-rounder Thomas Duarte have yet to sign. The team is not concerned about getting all the deals done in time for training camp. Everybody signs these days.

Not an issue.

Despite not yet having deals, both Carroo and Drake have been in the team's strength and conditioning program because they signed insurance waivers to ward against injuries. Duarte is the lone rookie not at the team's offseason and conditioning program because UCLA is on the quarters system and thus the player's class has not yet graduated.

The NFL prohibits players from attending their new teams' offseason camps and programs until their classes graduate. UCLA's graduation is in June.

May 15, 2016

Miami Dolphins DC Vance Joseph explains reasons for 4-3; PLUS other stuff

Vance Joseph is a confident man, and if you doubt that please check out my column in today's Miami Herald about the Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator who already has very strong feelings about ...

His unit's strength...

His unit's weakness...

How his unit will play...

And how he matches up against the more experienced offensive coordinators in the AFC East.

So go to the column for that. Here, I want to discuss a couple of issues that didn't make it to the column for space reasons but nonetheless are of interest.

You know Joseph came from a background where teams he worked for played both the 3-4 and the 4-3. And I was intrigued to find out why it is Joseph has decided to go with a base 4-3 for the Dolphins. The Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl with a 3-4 last year as did the New England Patriots the year before that.

But Seattle has won with the 4-3 of late, also. So both win.

"Both win," Joseph told me. "And I've been a 3-4 guy most of my career. But when you come to a place like this and see the defensive personnel you've got, and, in my opinion, it's not broken, you can't all of a sudden go to 34 where you have to re-draft to a defense. That takes time. That takes too much time.

"And I don't want to be a guy who as a coordinator, I'm a 34 guy with 43 personnel driven team. I'm not going to say, 'Well, let's change it,' and set us back two or three years. That's not smart in my opinion. That's not coordinating. If this team had 34 personnel, we'd be a 34 defense. I can do both. For me, it's not a big deal to be a 34 or 43 defense, it's just numbers. It would be a shame to come to a place that's close to being good on defense and then flip it, then you're three years away again. I didn't want to do that."

This is a departure from the approach Kevin Coyle took in 2012. The Dolphins had run a 3-4 defense for seven years when Coyle changed it back to a 4-3 upon his hiring. No knock on Coyle, just stating a fact of what happened.

More interestingly, Joseph thinks the Dolphins were close to being pretty good on defense before he took over?

"Absolutely," he said. "Because in spurts last year, you could see they put up good stats against good people. But in spurts they also didn't look very good. But it wasn't because of effort or I wouldn't say even scheme. I don't know what it was. You watch the film and they did some really good things last year. A couple of games it got out of whack. But between Cam and those guys, you have good, solid NFL players here. So we're capable of playing good defense. And I expect we'll play good defense."

May 12, 2016

May 12 means Miami Dolphins free agency options on table

Do you know today's date?

It is May 12, in the year of our Lord 2016. And while the year is not important and I just threw it in there for the sake of completeness, the date is meaningful to NFL teams.

Today is the day after which, by NFL rules, unrestricted free agents signed do not figure in the formula for determining 2017 compensatory draft picks. And as you've read in this space previously, the Dolphins are very much about collecting compensatory picks for 2017.

Although it is easier breaking down the genome of mankind than reading the formula for being awarded such picks, I was told by a highly placed Dolphins source the team is hoping it is awarded a third-, fourth- and seventh-round pick next year after losing Olivier Vernon to the New York Giants, Lamar Miller to the Houston Texans and Rishard Matthews to the Tennessee Titans.

Those picks are figured by weighing the unrestricted free agents a team loses versus the ones it signs. And now you understand why today is important -- because the Dolphins didn't want to add UFAs that potentially could upset the balance between players lost and players signed.

After today, that no longer matters.

So ...

Who are we signing, Miami Dolphins?

The Dolphins have $18,506,331 of salary cap space -- the most of any team in the AFC East by far, with the Buffalo Bills coming in at $14,200,567.

(OK, for the curious among you, I might as well share that the New England Patriots have $9,789,989 and the New York Jets have $4,043,923).

These numbers, per the NFL Players Association.

Anyway, ask the Dolphins who's getting signed and ... silence. Ask what the plan is and you get the courtesy "We're always looking to upgrade our roster anywhere we can and any way we can."

Great. We're going to have to do this ourselves.

The team showed significant interest in running back Arian Foster in late March and early April. Foster was not completely healthy at the time, which is not surprising because, throughout his career he has not been completely healthy.

Arian's visit was before Dolphins coaches got a load of Jay Ajayi in the voluntary minicamp. Coach Adam Gase came out of the minicamp praising Ajayi for showing shiftiness he didn't think he had.

That was also before the Dolphins added Kenyan Drake in the third round of the NFL draft. Drake now factors in as a third-down back complement to Ajayi.

The Dolphins also added Daniel Thomas and Isaiah Pead to the roster. Why, don't ask me, but they did.

So the questions that must be asked have multiple layers. Is Foster, still unemployed, healthy now? And recognizing he's not exactly a priority guy anymore, would he be willing to sign for relatively little money because he may or may not even make this team if Ajayi and Drake are what the Dolphins hope they are in training camp?

Another layer: Would the Dolphins be willing to add a player who is potentially a progress stopper for either or both Ajayi and Drake?

And another layer: Is it possible Foster, if healthy, is better than all those guys?

That last question is important because, after all, the point of this exercise is to improve the team, no?

The Dolphins recently addressed the much-discussed offensive guard spot when they drafted Laremy Tunsil in the first round. Yes, he's destined to be an offensive tackle some day, but not the first day he steps on the field for Miami, based on what I'm told and who said it. He's going to slide in as a starting guard, probably a left guard.

And that means the Dolphins have 2,582 players vying for the right guard spot. So it is hard to fathom the team adding another guard during this period. Indeed, Matt Slauson, who football czar Mike Tannenbaum drafted and Gase coached last season, was briefly available in free agency and phfffftt.

Miami didn't show much interest and he ended up in San Diego.

I got no problem with that as, again, the Dolphins have Billy Turner, Dallas Thomas, Jamil Douglas, Jermon Bushrod, Keith Sims, Larry Little, Bob Kuechenberg and others wanting to play right guard. Adding a back-of-free-agency option isn't going to really add a player any better than any of those guys, barring a significant surprise.

Cornerback is another story.

Yeah, it's always about cornerbacks with me. When you don't have enough good ones, it should be always about cornerbacks because it is a prime position and they're hard to come by.

The Dolphins added two cornerbacks in the draft. They picked Xavien Howard in the second round and Jordan Lucas in the sixth round. And logic says Howard has a very good chance to be a starter some day. Logic says the Dolphins hope he can be a starter as soon as possible because they need him for the start of the regular season.

But what if logic screws up?

Unlike many first-round picks, second round picks are often not starters right away. And if you're talking good, effective starters, the number is even smaller.

Do I have to give you the list? Do I?

Fine. Jamar Taylor, Jonathan Martin, Daniel Thomas, Pat White, Chad Henne, John Beck, Phillip Merling, Eddie Moore, J.J. Johnson, Andrew Greene, Aubrey Beavers. All those guys were picked in the second round. Not one of them was a good NFL player. Some started. But none were good at it.

And even second rounders who were really, really good, didn't start right away. Pat Surtain did not. Jarvis Landry didn't. And both those guys were or are excellent players. Both Pro Bowl players who couldn't get on the field immediately.

The Dolphins need a cornerback immediately.

And so does this team look into, say, Antonio Cromartie?

Cro was not good for the New York Jets last season, despite starting 15 games. The Jets cut him this offseason as a cap savings move. So did the guy who played very, very well in Arizona in 2014 but stepped back for the Jets, show that he's falling off the table at age 32 (now)? Or was it simply a down season?

Look, he's 6-2, which is what the Dolphins love. He can still run when healthy. And he could probably use the money because he and his wife just had their third and fourth child together and Cromartie otherwise has a total of 12 kids with eight different women, according to the New York Daily News.

So, child support.

Could he be a training camp insurance policy in that the Dolphins sign him for around the veteran minimum -- which is $985,000 for a player with 10 years experience -- bring him to camp and make a decision before the final cut? If he's won the starting job, he stays. If he did indeed lose it last year or Howard wins the starting job, Cromartie's gone and the team is none the worse.

(Of course, that assumes Cromartie would take a deal with little or no guaranteed money).

There is another cornerback option. Slot cornerback Leon Hall, who interested the Dolphins earlier this offseason, is still on the market.

I explained to you the reasons Hall was not yet signed here so we won't repeat. But suffice to say the team's slot cornerback situation right now is Bobby McCain as the starter and ... equally unproven folks behind him.

Hall is 31. He's solid. He has a history with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.

So if he is healthy (he had back surgery this offseason) and his price has come down (obviously it hasn't so far) he might also be an option. By the way, Hall has also visited Atlanta, the New York Giants and Oakland Raiders so there is some interest in him.

Just not at his price so far.

May 10, 2016

Contract status update on Miami Dolphins rookies

So when Adam Gase decided the Miami Dolphins wouldn't actually be practicing on the field during their recently completed rookie minicamp, that could have given football czar Mike Tannenbaum's contract department a reprieve in getting the rookies either signed to a contract or injury waiver because, again, no practice.

Except Tannenbaum's negotiators didn't take the reprieve. Four of the team's draft picks are signed, including first-round pick Laremy Tunsil. And the four who have not signed deals yet -- second-round pick Xavien Howard, third-round picks Kenyan Drake and Leonte Carroo, and seventh-round pick Thomas Duarte -- signed injury waivers.

And so all these rooks are now able to work in the team's offseason conditioning and strengthening program as long as their class at their respective universities have graduated. (That's the NFL rule).

I'm told four of the eight picks are already in the program. Jakeem Grant, who signed a four-year, $2.48 million deal with a $140,380 signing bonus, has graduated from Texas Tech and so he's in the program. Running back Kenyan Drake is not signed as of this writing but is participating because the University of Alabama graduated its 2016 class last week. Cornerback John Lucas is also in the Miami program for the same reason. Quarterback Brandon Doughty's class graduated two years ago -- as he was granted a sixth year of eligibility at Western Kentucky -- so he's in the program.

Xavien Howard, who is still not signed but whose representatives have made significant progress with the Dolphins on a contract, will be in town this week and enter the Dolphins program next week after Baylor graduates this weekend. First round pick Laremy Tunsil, who is signed, said last week he was staying in town but he has to wait until next week to enter the Dolphins offseason program because Ole Miss graduates their students Saturday.

Leonte Carroo, who is not signed, has to wait until after May 20 to enter Miami's offseason program because Rutgers doesn't hold graduation exercises until then.

Duarte, who is not yet signed, will be the last rookie to get into Miami's weight room as UCLA is on the quarter system and doesn't graduate until June.

By the way, if you want to do a comparison on how quickly the Dolphins are working on getting all their rookies signed this year consider that ...

  1. For some reason, deals are not getting done as quickly this year as last year league-wide.
  2. Tunsil is done so the Dolphins have one of the seven first-round picks already signed as of this writing.
  3. There are only six (as of this writing) second-rounders signed. Howard, as you just read, is inching toward a deal with Miami.
  4. There seems to be a crawl league-wide to get third-rounders signed and that is affecting Miami as it has two rookie picked in the third round -- Drake and Carroo. I'm told the reason for the slow nature of these deals getting settled is because agents are trying to negotiate guaranteed money structure and cash flows.

Obviously, the days of rookie holdouts have passed so all these players will be signed before training camp, if not much sooner. But even if they wait that long, they can work out because they all have put signatures to injury waivers. 

The Dolphins are at $17.332 million in salary cap space this morning. That is most in the AFC East.

May 09, 2016

Miami Dolphins are all about Ryan Tannehill

Have you noticed what has happened this Miami Dolphins offseason?

Well, a lot of things have transpired since the end of 2015. Players have come. Players have gone. Coaches have come, coaches have gone. And in the exchange that is the rebuilding process for the 2016 Dolphins, one thing remains an over-arching theme that cannot be denied:

It's all about Ryan Tannehill.

From the very top of the organization to the bottom, direction defining moves have been made with the quarterback in mind.

Let's take them in reverse chronological order, shall we?

The recent NFL draft was supposed to be all about defense for the Dolphins. Defense, defense, defense.

Except ... It was about offense. Six of the eight draft picks play on offense.

The first round pick is offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil and he is going to be a starting guard, if the current plan doesn't get adjusted by the start of the season. And that will address the single most glaring weakness on offense the past four years while Tannehill became the most sacked quarterback (184 sacks) during that span.

Third round pick? Running back and most likely a third-down back at that, so a mismatch Tannehill is supposed to be able to employ out of the backfield.

Another third rounder? Wide receiver.

So this draft, unintended or not, is supposed to greatly help Ryan Tannehill.

The hiring of a new head coach? Adam Gase was hired because he's dynamic and young and comes with a great history of getting quarterbacks right. He comes having helped lift Peyton Manning to a TD throwing record in 2013 -- Gase's first year as the Denver Broncos offensive coordinator.

Gase arrived, having rehabilitated Jay Cutler last season in Chicago from an aloof, seemingly unhappy guy who made a lot of mistakes, threw a lot of interceptions, and didn't have a lot fun playing, to a guy who can once again be considered a franchise quarterback in the Windy City.

The Dolphins hired a Quarterback Whisperer for Ryan Tannehill.

Tannehill under Gase gets a coach who is going to have his back. I wrote that over a month ago. Indeed, if you want to catch up on all the columns I've written, go to the Armando Salguero page at The Miami Herald, bookmark it and go there daily for updates on my latest work. (Yeah, come here too, of course).

But I digress.

You know Joe Philbin, who once wanted to draft Derek Carr to replace Tannehill, didn't always have Tannehill's back so there's that.

Tannehill is going to get to audible this season. Yippie for Ryan Tannehill! He never complained publicly about not having the full range of that option under Philbin but Tannehill privately hated the constraint the past couple of years. Now, those chains are going to be coming off as the offense progresses.

It's about Tannehill, folks. And the degree that is true stretched all the way to the team's building philosophy for 2016. When the team set about to rebuild for '16, the fact Tannehill is here played a key role in determining what that rebuild philosophy would be.

"What we're trying to do is get better. We're trying to win," owner Stephen Ross said when I asked what outline the team was following this offseason. "I think we have a lot of great players. When you have a fifth-year quarterback, you shouldn't be rebuilding."

[Update: A reader reminds me that getting rid of Brent Grimes was, in part, caused because the cornerbacks wife made Tannehill a constant target of her social media criticisms and the team didn't want that. So that move was to a degree for Tannehill.]

The Dolphins are doing everything they can to help Tannehill. Dan Marino is constantly around the building and available to lend advice, watch tape, whatever Tannehill wants. Peyton Manning recently visited the team's training facility to look in on Gase and, I'm told he spent time with Tannehill, as Barry Jackson also noted.

The point is ...

The head coach is here for Tannehill.

Hall of Famers are available to help Tannehill.

The draft balanced out for Tannehill.

The first-round pick is about protecting Tannehill.

The offseason philosophy for building the team was done with Tannehill in mind.

What else is there?

This team has done everything imaginable to make it work for Ryan Tannehill.

 

May 07, 2016

Cameron Wakes gets extension from Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins and defensive end Cameron Wake have agreed to a one-year extension.

That means Wake, 34, will likely finish his career with the Dolphins but more importantly it shows the team's confidence in the player's return from a ruptured Achilles in 2015.

More details as they come in ...

This is the first contract extension under Adam Gase as the head coach of the team.

And I'm told the deal has "real guaranteed money," suggesting this was not just a way to lower Wake's salary cap number this year while also setting him up for getting cut next year.

[Update: The deal includes $10 million fully guaranteed.]

The Dolphins tried to address Wake's contract in February. It failed.

It seemed at the time the team was intent on lowering his $9.8 million salary cap this year without making a long term commitment (read guaranteed money) in the future.

But I reported in March the Dolphins would take another run at getting a deal done. This deal will both lower Wake's cap number this year -- to a number not currently available until the contract is available for public inspection -- and also giving Wake a sense he is valued by the organization this year and beyond.

"We are pleased that we were able to reach an extension with Cam,” said Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum. “He sets the right example both on and off the field, working his way up from an undrafted college free agent to a four-time Pro Bowl selection. We are excited how he will fit in this new defense and continue to be a key contributor.”

Wake had seven sacks in seven games in 2015 before he suffered his season-ending injury in October at New England.

Miami Dolphins coordinators talk ball during rookie minicamp

The Dolphins on Saturday made their coordinators available to the media for the first time since the NFL draft and here are some highlights from the availabilities:

Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen wasn't in the draft room when the Dolphins were on the clock during the draft. He watched on TV from his office at Dolphins camp. And as he saw offensive lineman Jeremy Tunsil drop, he started getting more and more interested.

"I was ecstatic," Christensen said. "It's always kind of a work weekend for me and I had it on and watching. And the further he dropped, it felt myself getting a knot in my stomach. And I'm thinking, 'don't get your hopes up, you know better than to do that. Don't get your hopes up, there's five [slots] to go.' And even when there was one spot away, I'm going, 'Someone's trading up, do not let yourself get your hopes up. You don't this before. It's no fun. You'll be disappointed.' And when it did happen, man, I couldn't believe it happened. What a great way to start the time here for the new staff and the franchise."

Why was Christensen so excited?

"Just because he's such a good player," he said. "He's a good athlete. He has a great disposition for an offensive lineman. He's been impressive in this camp with how he's attacked his learning. Even with the adversity, how he handled it, that could shipwreck you."

(I must say this: Tunsil was completely at ease during his presser today, which was a significant departure from the defensive, shellshocked kid that was introduced the day after the draft. Tunsil admitted his allergic reaction that day was because of mahi-mahi, which he says he's not be eating again.)

Christensen said the Dolphins thought Tunsil was "the best lineman in the draft."

Christensen says he's not in evaluation mode with quarterback Ryan Tannehill yet. "We're in a teach period," Christensen said. "Evaluation will come in training camp. Training camp we have to be able to apply this stuff."

Special teams coordinator is very excited about some of the rookies, particularly Jakeem Grant and Kenyan Drake as returners.

"Drake has actually played a lot of core teams as well," Rizzi said.

Both rookies will get the opportunity to be both punt and kick returners. Grant didn't do it in college games, but did it in practice all the time. Drake had a big kick return for Alabama in the national title game and will get a look-see on punts as well.

The past couple of years the Dolphins have felt a need to use starting receiver Jarvis Landry as both the punt and kick returner. Not optimal, considering Landry's increasing value as a receiver.

"I'm a big believer in collecting guys and having options and in the past years we haven't had as many options as we've wanted particularly in the return game," Rizzi said. "If he's our best option, then yes, [he's doing the jobs]. He'll be back there. I always use the Antonio Brown example. If he's the Pittsburgh Steeler best punt returner and one of the best receiver in the league and he's still back there returning punts and making game-changing plays.

"I'd like to think moving forward, guys like Grant and Drake and other guys we're bringing in are going to know be options for us and make the decision at the end, 'Can this guy do what we want?' Having more options for me and the football team in general is the best scenario."

With Grant and Drake onboard, there are no options. But, Rizzi said, if Landry is better than either or both, he probably continues returning kicks.

Incumbent kicker Andrew Franks doesn't have the job locked up for 2016.

We develop more options, that will make us more dangerous as a team," Rizzi said. "

Rizzi said Matt Darr "can be an elite NFL punter if he's not already. Some things Darr will be working on this year? Net punting, location, hang time.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said second round pick Xavien Howard will be competing for a starting job, but "I can't guarantee" he'll be a starter.

Joseph said Howard, 6-foot and 201 pounds, has size and movement. "He's a six-foot guy with 5-10 corner movement skills," Joseph said. "That's special."

Joseph realizes he didn't get but two players out of the draft -- Howard and fellow cornerback Jordan Lucas -- but he said he looks as the addition of Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell from a draft trade down with Philadelphia as major addition from this draft.

"We're fine," Joseph said. "It was a great team draft. Our team got better last weekend and that's a plus."

Interestingly, Joseph said neither Howard nor Lucas are awed by the jump to the NFL.

"It won't be too big for those two kids," Joseph said. "They want to come in and play. Most guys come in and they're wide-eyed. These two kids are not. They're ready for prime time."

Joseph says the team won't be certain about Cam Wake's status until training camp. He added, "my guess is he's ready to go Week One."

Wake is recovering from October 2015 surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles. 

Joseph called middle linebacker Kiko Alonso  a "long, tall MIKE backer with great instincts."

"He covers a bunch of ground, he has great eyes," Joseph said. "He's been a great leader in the huddle. And that's been surprising. He's been very vocal. And that's very good to see from him."

May 06, 2016

Rookie minicamp Day 1: What they said and did

The Miami Dolphins had the start to their rookie minicamp Friday and it was about getting to know everyone and feeling out what being a member of the team is about.

“What we basically did this morning was football," coach Adam Gase said. "They were in the classroom and then we got them with (Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Dave) Puloka in the weight room and kind of their introduction there. Then this afternoon will be a lot of things, whether it’s dealing with kind of how to go through the adjustment. Dealing with (the media) is different than what it is in college and how accessible they are. The Sports Science Department we have is … We have a big group and there are a lot of things that they offer. And then a lot of the things that (Director, Player Engagement) Kaleb (Thornhill) brings to the table with the player engagement stuff.

"So there are some different things set up. We’ll bring in a speaker on both days to kind of inform our players and let those guys understand kind of what it takes to be a pro. And then at night after dinner, we go back to football. For the coaching staff, they have the flexibility since there are so few guys and there’s a lot more one on one time … we’re able to have in the bubble. We can go over to the bubble and (Wide Receivers Coach) Shawn Jefferson (can) get those guys out there and say, ‘OK show me this formation,’ and ‘Line up in the correct splits.’ The thing that we were just trying to avoid was the offense vs. the defense. I think for what we’re looking to do, (which is) to get these guys caught up to speed with the veterans, we felt like this gave us our best chance.”

First-round pick Laremy Tunsil become the second 2016 first-round pick to sign a deal and he's with his fellow rookies.

What is Gase looking for out of him?

“I think with all of our guys, we just want to see them attack this playbook," Gase said. "(We want them to) try to use the people that we have in this building to their advantage. The people in this building are going to try to help them become pros as fast as possible and that transition is a lot harder than what people realize. The good thing is we have such a good support staff. If they lean on the people that work in this building, they’re going to have success.”

The Dolphins made multiple players available to the media, and Jakeem Grant stole the show. So check out the post on him as I start praying he makes the team.

Second-round pick Xavien Howard believes he's a system fit for the Dolphins.

“Yes, I feel like I fit the scheme they have going on,' Howard said. "(I’m a) press corner. I’m six (feet tall). I’m a physical corner, a ball hawk, and I feel like I fit the scheme that (Defensive Coordinator) Vance Joseph has going on.”

The Dolphins hope Howard is good enough fast enough that he can be a starter. They need him to be a starter fairly quickly. But Howard isn't viewing it that way.

"I really don’t look at it like that," Howard said. "I’m just coming in here to make plays and hopefully be a starter. I love that they’re talking about it but I’ve got to live up to my expectations that I have for myself."

“I need to chill out with a lot of penalties that I had in college and really my technique. (I need to) get better in my technique. Not false stepping and stuff that my coach used to tell me in college. That’s really, basically it. I’m improving on everything around but I (have) good ball skills and being physical but I (have) to clean stuff up and make me an NFL corner."

The Dolphins are hoping to get more out of running back Kenyon Drake than carries from scrimmage. They want receptions because he can be a matchup problem. They think he'll help playing special teams. He might even get a chance to return punts.

"I don’t necessarily have to be in the backfield to make a play. I can be lined up out wide in the special teams game, not necessarily just (to) return the ball, but kickoff, run down, (and) make a tackle on kickoff. I feel like I try to make the most of every opportunity that I have on the field (and) play every play like it’s my last play. I give every effort – my maximum effort – in every play and just go with it.

"I want to come here and definitely display my versatility. Not necessarily in my game specifically, but if I can cause a mismatch and make a defense play to me, that leaves somebody else open and we have a multitude of weapons on this field that can be utilized. That just opens (up) a game plan even more for everybody else.”

Drake played for former Dolphins head coach Nick Saban at Alabama. I asked Drake if he had any good stories about Saban and that apparently struck a nerve for this young man.

"Next question," he said.

Someone should inform Drake he's in the NFL now. He's been liberated but obviously doesn't know it yet.

The Dolphins handed out their numbers today to their rooks. Take a look ... Rookie numbers

Jakeem Grant: The Mighty Ant roars

Jakeem Grant is a short man and a tiny football player at 5-foot-6 and 161 pounds. But the Dolphins rookie sixth-round draft pick roars confidence and spews quotes like a giant.

The Dolphins made many of their rookies available to the media at the start of their rookie minicamp and Grant simply stole the show. He is the most interesting guy in this draft class.

Consider:

Grant's size is an obvious issue. He doesn't run away from it. He runs toward what he sees as a dividend. 

"I've definitely heard every joke in the book," Grant said. "I use that as fuel to my fire. You can say I'm short, I'm this, I'm that. But when it all comes down to it, you can't stop me. At the end of the day you can say I need to grow a little more, but dude, I stopped growing in middle school. This is all you're going to get right here. At the end of the day, if it's man to man, I'm going to win the battle."

The narrative is Grant is perhaps (big perhaps) going to be a return specialist in the NFL. Perhaps. Why perhaps?

The size issue, of course:

"That didn't knock me down one bit," Grant said. "That just put a bigger chip on my shoulder. People are saying, 'His career is not going to last too long in the NFL because of his size.' I say, you can't hit what you can't catch...

"I'm here on the big stage and no one believes in me until I put out the playmaking ability. Once I do that, all the critics will be like, 'Ok, now Jakeem is making plays.' I'm going to show the world that size doesn't matter. If you have the heart and the passion to play the game, that's all there is to it."

Whatever Grant lacks in size, he more than makes up in apparent confidence.

Examples?

  1. "I personally, I would say everything I did in college was special. Not just in the return game or as a receiver. I have to be great at all those things."
  2. "I love doing the impossible."
  3. He says he ran a 10.32 in the 100 meters in high school. The world record is 9.58 for men and 10.49 for women. And Grant wanted to use that speed to break Chris Johnson's 4.24 record at the NFL Combine. Unfortunately, Grant wasn't invited to the Combine. "I wanted to break Chris Johnson's record because he's one of my favorite players," Grant said. "And that 4.24, I told my mom, I'm going to break that record. And letting my mom down, I felt like I let her down because I didn't get invited. I wanted to break that record as bad as I want to be a good football player.

Grant doesn't see himself as a specialist. He says his college team ran plays for him and because Dolphins coach Adam Gase is "an offensive genius" he thinks the Dolphins might draw up some plays for him as his college coach did.

"I do want to play offense," Grant said. "There's a lot of competition there and I'm looking forward to it."

Fine, but if he's on offense occasionally, the thinking is Mighty Ant Grant must be a slot receiver, correct?

"What if you get a 6-3 corner and he wants to put his size on you," Grant explained. "You don't have size. So go with your strengths. Use quickness and technique. Give the illusion you're going somewhere you're not. That's how I feel. Just because I don't have size doesn't mean a 6-3 is just going to come down and jam me up. I'm going to use my strengths to maneuver around him."

"I want to be the best person on the field, it doesn't matter about running back or quarterback, Whatever position I'm at, I want to be the best man on the field. When you look on the field, offense and defense, I want people to say Jakeem Grant, that's the best person on the field."

Grant was at Texas Tech when former Texas Tech linebacker Zach Thomas (heard of him?) came to the school and spoke to the team. The undersized former Texas Tech receiver now with the Dolphins thinks he can pattern himself after the undersized former Texas Tech linebacker who played for the Dolphins.

"One of our Hall of Famers at Texas Tech was Zach Thomas," Grant said. "And knowing he played here, that motivates me to be a Hall of Famer, too. Being here, is a dream come true. Just walking in here and meeting the people, this is a great facility. You can't be at a better place than being right here in Miami."

"I want to be up there with him, recognized on the same level as him, because he is a Texas Tech player and so am I. It's like a dream come true."

And when he gets established, Grant hopes he can be an inspiration to smallish players as others have been to him.

"I feel like there's a lot of guys looking up to me, just like I looked up to Darren Sproles," Grant said.

"A lot of guys paved the way for me and I want to pave the way for them. I want to be great for them, it's not just for me. If I pave the way for them, it's because one day I will be looked at as a receiver, not just that I'm short. We won't be looked at as gadget guys. We'll be looked at as regular receivers."

[Come back later for more rookie minicamp posts.]

Miami Dolphins sign first-round pick Laremy Tunsil

The Miami Dolphins set a precedent last year when they signed their entire draft class before the start of their rookie minicamp and this year the team is continuing what is becoming a welcome business practice.

I am told the Dolphins have signed first-round pick Laremy Tunsil. Tunsil signed a four-year contract. He is only the second player selected in the first round to already sign his deal.

Second round pick Xavien Howard, third round picks Kenyan Drake and Leonte Carroo, sixth-round picks Jakeem Grant and Jordan Lucus and seventh round pick Thomas Duarte have not yet signed but the team continues to make progress on their deals.

Seventh round picks Brandon Doughty agreed to terms on Thursday. His deal is three years for $2.427 million with a signing bonus of $88,088.

Last year the Dolphins signed their 2014 entire rookie draft class on May 7. As today is May 6th, I believe there's a word to describe the work the front office is doing:

Improvement.

May 04, 2016

Agent's mega-dealings with Miami Dolphins sometimes problematic

My friend Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com earlier this week put up a post making the point that because Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase and first round pick Laramy Tunsil share the same agent, the Dolphins surely felt more comfortable with making the pick.

And that is probably true.

Agent Jimmy Sexton, who is Gase's agent, did indeed call the Dolphins and did indeed try to give the entire organization a sense all was well with Tunsil despite the gasmask bong video released via a hacker of his social media accounts minutes prior to the draft.

I have no argument with the premise. The Dolphins obviously felt good enough about what Sexton was selling that they bought in to drafting his client.

My question is why would they be so comfortable with anything Sexton says?

Yes, Sexton is a well-respected and longtime agent representing scores of players and coaches. His reputation as a behind-the-scenes advocate for his clients is immaculate. But that's the point. Sexton isn't calling the Dolphins to do them a favor. He's calling them to do his client's bidding.

One of the players Sexton once represented was running back Cecil Collins. And Collins came to the Dolphins after a compelling pitch by Sexton to then-coach Jimmy Johnson.

Remember that?

Collins came to South Florida with a soiled reputation in college after having been suspended multiple times and kicked off not one but two teams -- LSU and McNeese State. He had been twice arrested for illegally entering dwellings occupied by women he was keen on. He claimed he was sleepwalking and had no recollection of entering the girls' rooms, so he got probation. But he got kicked off the LSU campus for that and later was dismissed at McNeese for violating that probation after failing a drug screening.

Despite that history, Sexton vouched for him before the 1999 draft.

And the Dolphins picked Collins in the fifth round. And before that season was over, Collins broke into the home of a neighbor at the Palm Trace apartments in Davie, where the Dolphins train, and was arrested when the woman in the dwelling called police. Collins said he simply wanted to watch the woman sleep.

He was convicted and as a result of that and the new violation of his probation, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison, for which he served 13. So, no, the guy Sexton vouched for didn't quite live up to the recommendation.

Sexton represented and still represents Nick Saban. So when the Dolphins went to Baton Rouge in January of 2005 to convince Saban to take their job after he'd turned down several other NFL head coaching opportunities, Sexton was there. And he helped consummate that marriage.

And less than two years later, he was helping Saban plan his divorce from the Dolphins.

Indeed, while Saban was saying, "I will not be the Alabama coach," Sexton was working behind the scenes to keep then Alabama athletic director Mal Moore on the hook, so to speak, and interested about wooing his client.

So Sexton, bless his heart, worked every bit as hard to get Saban out of the Dolphins organization in 2006 as he had to get Saban into the Dolphins organization in 2005.

After taking a mild break from Sexton clients in 2007, the Dolphins embraced Sexton's empire again in 2008, this time in resounding fashion. The Dolphins hired Sexton client Bill Parcells as their ruler of the realm. And Parcells hired Sexton client Jeff Ireland as the general manager and Sexton client Tony Sparano as their head coach.

Now, I love Bill Parcells. I have nothing but the highest respect for his football knowledge and Pro Football Hall of Fame credentials. To this day he is the Sherpa to many, many NFL coaches -- lending wise counsel when they call. And they call him often.

But I also recognize his faults. And one of Parcells's faults is that he never was able to stick with a job very long after he left the Giants in 1990. He lasted four seasons as Patriots head coach, three seasons as Jets head coach, four seasons as Jets GM, four seasons as Cowboys head coach.

When he came to the Dolphins, he came with a reputation as something of a mercenary. And then-Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga was a little concerned about that. (Not enough, but a bit, according to Huizenga himself).

"I knew his reputation," Huizenga told me in 2009. "And it was something we (the Dolphins) discussed. But after talking to Bill and his guy (Sexton) we were convinced he'd commit to us for an amount of time and we got comfortable with that. That situation was more about us committing to him."

How'd all that committing of commitments work out?

Commitment has been a thing for some of Sexton's Dolphins clients. The Ireland-Sparano dynamic was fascinating and sad and, yes, ugly.

You'll recall after the 2010 season, relatively new owner Stephen Ross wanted to test the waters with then-Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. So he asked Ireland, a Sexton client, to meet him in the Bay Area so they could interview Harbaugh. (Ireland didn't fly there with Ross as has been widely reported). This was done behind the back of Sexton client Sparano, who learned he was potentially about to be replaced via news reports.

And Sparano was angry Ireland never gave him a clue what was happening.

So did these two men -- Ireland and Sparano -- who came from the Dallas Cowboys together, who had been tied at the hip by Parcells, and shared Sexton as an agent, talk about this rift?

Was there, you know, communication?

Nope.

Did Sexton mediate between the two men to try to salvage a relationship, their jobs, the well-being of the Dolphins?

I'm told not a lot.

Sexton did, however, get after Ross for a contract extension for Sparano. The owner made a mistake and Sexton made him pay for it. Literally.

Sexton made the Dolphins pay for Ndamukong Suh as well. Wait. No, that's wrong.

Sexton made the Dolphins overpay for Suh.

The team was one of three finalists interested in Suh last offseason. Detroit and Oakland were the other two. And when bidding got above $15 million per year, the Lions dropped out, per sources. And when bidding got around $17 million per year, the Raiders basically opted out.

By the way, Suh didn't really want to go to the Raiders. And he was fully aware of the tax implications of living in high-tax California versus no-state-tax Florida.

Did Sexton tell the Dolphins this? Nope.

Did Sexton stop Miami's bidding at $17 million per year? Nope.

Sexton got the Dolphins to rise to a whopping $19 million per year. The price was above the team's initial budget for the move and a price that had budgetary repercussions later on.

And this means two things:

Jimmy Sexton is a great advocate and agent for his clients. And the Dolphins should realize this and that he does not have the organization's best interests in mind when he's talking to them. He has his clients' best interests in mind.

"I always bristle at people calling me puppeteer," Sexton told CBSSports.com last year. "I just try to take each client and do the best for them, what's in their best interest at the time."

That's good. I get it. That's his job.

But the Dolphins, more than most, should realize when this guy calls, he's about his clients, not them. And when he's dealing with clients concerning other clients -- as in the Sparano-Ireland dynamic -- it doesn't always turn out to everyone's benefit.

The Dolphins have been burned multiple times by Sexton doing what is best for his clients. And I'm not talking about minor deals involving minimum-salary dollars.

I'm talking franchise direction-changing stuff.

Am I the only one who recognizes this, Miami Dolphins?

May 03, 2016

Success of Miami Dolphins draft also rides on Xavien Howard

The Miami Dolphins' recent draft is mostly viewed through the lens of a gas mask, if you get my meaning, and its success or failure will be determined in large part on whether Laremy Tunsil is the prize the team says he is, or the problem 12 teams picking before Miami rebuffed.

Putting this entire draft on the Tunsil pick, however, is not entirely correct.

I put the success or failure of this draft as much on the pick of cornerback Xavien Howard as I do Tunsil. Because I'm about cornerbacks the past few months. And the Dolphins have been trying to be about cornerbacks the past few years.

And they failed despite needing a grand success somewhere and somehow.

The fact is Howard’s selection marks the fourth-consecutive draft the Dolphins have picked a cornerback and he is the sixth cornerback Miami has taken in the past four drafts. And which one of those is a star?

Yeah ... no one.

Will Davis was traded away.

Jamar Taylor was traded away.

Walt Aikens was converted to safety.

Bobby McCain is going to be vying for the team's slot corner job.

Tony Lippett is trying to make the transition from wide receiver.

And now Howard.

Howard was selected with the 38th overall pick, the highest the Dolphins have drafted a cornerback since Vontae Davis went 25th overall in 2009. By the way, nice trade, Dolphins.

But the thing is, the Dolphins went to some extremes to get Howard. Here's how:

Everyone knows the Dolphins traded up in the second round from the 42nd overall pick to the 38th overall pick to select Howard. The trade was Miami’s first draft-day trade to move up in the second round since 2011, when they traded a third-, fifth- and seventh-round selection to Washington to move up to 62nd overall and select RB Daniel Thomas.

"We traded up for corner Xavien Howard from Baylor," general manager Chris Grier said. "This was a prototype player. We spent a lot of time with him. It’s a core position – premium need for us. This guy checks all the boxes in terms of height, weight, speed, competitiveness, toughness. This was a player that was a target player for us and when the opportunity arrived for us to make a play to get him, we jumped at it. We’re ecstatic to have him on our roster."

Miami acquired Baltimore’s second-round pick (38th overall) in exchange for Miami’s second-round pick (42nd overall) and Miami’s fourth-round pick (107th overall). So the Dolphins essentially traded away a fourth-round pick to move up four slots.

What most people don't know is the Dolphins refused to give up their second-round pick while they were trying to get to Myles Jack, mostly because they badly needed a cornerback in the second round.

I reported after the draft's second night that Miami tried to trade up in the second round to select Jack. There was some disappointment at the inability to make that happen.

But it seems the Dolphins were trying to make that happen in an unorthodox, and ultimately, untenable way.

The Dolphins tried to trade into the round using two later round picks, perhaps a third- and a fourth-rounder or a third- and a fifth-rounder. That would have given the Dolphins two second-round selections. Nice try, but no team was seriously going to do that. To get up from No. 42 overall to say, No. 36 overall where Jack was eventually selected, the Dolphins would have had to give up their own second-rounder and a fourth-rounder at minimum.

(Indeed, the Jaguars gave up their second-rounder (36th overall) and a fifth-rounder (146th) to move up just two spots and pick Jack.

But Miami didn't want to lose its own second rounder because it wanted ... a cornerback. The Dolphins knew they needed Howard.

After the cornerback pick, I got a text from the team. "U happy now?"

Yes, I've been telling you the Dolphins needed a starting cornerback opposite Byron Maxwell. Yes, I've been telling you the guys in camp before this draft were probably not going to be good enough to be that guy. No disrespect to them, it's just that their history is their history.

(I also told you last year Jamar Taylor wasn't it. Yeah, it took me two years because I gave Taylor the benefit of the doubt for being injured as a rookie. But after that, it was clear to anyone with eyes he was mentally or emotionally soft. I wish him luck in Cleveland).

So, Howard.

He says he studies Patrick Peterson and Darrelle Revis and models his game based on them. He knows the Dolphins want (need) him to be good right away.

“They’re expecting me to come in and make plays and learn the defense," Howard said. "“(I can contribute right away) with my ball skills and being physical. I’m working on my technique and stuff like that. I’m sure the coach is going to get me better in my technique and stuff like that. I got faith in myself that I can do the job."

This needs to work. Howard needs to be a player relatively quickly.

Because the degree to which he can do his job will measure largely the success of this 2016 Dolphins draft. 

May 02, 2016

Miami Dolphins unveiling radical idea for rookie minicamp

The Miami Dolphins will have their eight draft picks and 10 undrafted free agents in town beginning Thursday, and rookie minicamp will go from Friday to Sunday. And the rookies will not touch the field at the team's training facility once during those three days.

No pads. No helmets.

No practice during minicamp.

Brilliant!

No, really. This is happening. And it is really smart. And radical.

Adam Gase has been planning for months as coach of the Dolphins -- and for over a year before he became an NFL head coach -- how he would handle something that seems so mundane to the rest of the world as a rookie minicamp. And he's got ideas. And he's implementing those this week.

And they will not include actual practices on the field.

Instead Dolphins rookies will spend all their time during this minicamp in classroom sessions learning how to be Miami Dolphins. That means they're going to get schooled on the schemes they're playing, their assignments, and everything football that involves the brain.

But they're also going to get a little polished up as people. They're going to get life labs to help them with nutrition, financial planning, sports science, and dealing with the media -- the last of which is a big part of their job believe it or not.

The point of all of this is two-fold and here is the genius part, in my opinion.

Gase wants to combat the rookie wall syndrome that seems to stop some rookies dead in their tracks come late November or December. There is a theory these young men hit that wall because they're playing four preseason and 16 regular-season games in the NFL and usually play 12 games -- maybe three more if they're on the best teams -- in college.

There may be validity to that.

But this: The Dolphins understand every single one of these rookies regardless of where they went to school, just played their 2015 seasons and as soon as that was over they began training.

They trained for the Indianapolis Combine.

They trained for their Pro Days.

They trained for the various workouts they did for teams privately.

And they also spent much of the past six weeks or so flying all over the United States (greatest country on Earth) to meet with the various team coaches, general managers and others who might be deciding whether to pick them.

That takes a toll. So Gase believes it's time to take the foot off that pedal for these rookies. He doesn't want to burn them out physically.

Meanwhile, Gase wants these guys more mentally ready to be a factor the next time they get on the field, which will be with veterans. Dolphins vets have been in their conditioning program for four weeks and just had a minicamp of their own where they got coached on the playbook and such.

So Gase wants to get the rookies as caught up as possible up mentally as quickly as possible so when they get on the field, there is less hesitation and they play faster.

So what's the downside?

The Dolphins don't think there is any but if you have to nitpick, it means the Dolphins won't be bringing 30-40 players to camp as tryouts. Teams typically do that so they can actually field a weekend of rookie minicamp practices. The players gladly come for a chance to catch someone's eye and get a big break.

None of that this year.

So do the Dolphins miss out on an opportunity to find ... to find ... I cannot think of a player who was discovered as a tryout and went on to greatness in the NFL. Not this century, anyway.

The Dolphins simply believe their energies should be better focused on getting the 10 or so rookies that are actually going to make this team ready to contribute as quickly as possible rather than finding that improbable one kid who comes out of nowhere and takes the team to the Super Bowl.

I think the odds favor the Dolphins in this regard.

The Dolphins recently had a veteran minicamp. Here are some highlights of that...

 

 

May 01, 2016

Post (draft) mortem: Dolphins collecting UDFA's; Gambling; What might have been

Let's start out with the undrafted free agent college players who have already agreed to terms with the Dolphins after the draft:

Remember...The Dolphins will be signing far fewer of these this year because they simply don't have enough roster space to sign 25 undrafted guys as in years past. Indeed the most undrafted players the team could bring on is 10 and that would bring the roster to the NFL mandated 90-man limit.

Obviously, the Dolphins could add more UDFAs but would have to start cutting players currently on the roster -- something I would recommend because I don't get the logic of having proven vets (who have only proven they're not good enough) instead of adding a young guy who is probably already as good and might actually surprise somebody. Having running backs Isaiah Pead and Daniel Thomas on the roster, for example, makes no sense to me because we know what they are. And there are better UDFA running backs out there (or were) after the draft.

The list:

Iowa kicker Marshall Koehn, who I reported first last night, has agreed and will compete with second-year kicker Andrew Franks for that job.

University of Miami WR Rashawn Scott who had five TDs for the Hurricanes last year. The Hurricanes confirmed this on their twitter account.

Florida Tech (huh?) TE Gabe Hughes.

Temple WR Branden Shippen, who is neither exceedingly big (5-11) nor fast (4.6 on good day) but was very good in the red zone.

Toledo center Ruben "Not Hurricane" Carter. Long snap? Yes.

San Jose State long snapper Ryan DiSalvo. Again, another person who is going to try to displace longtime and highly-paid (for a long snapper) John Denney, who is in his 12th NFL season and at 37 years old is only months younger than his head coach.

Defense anyone?

Boise State LB Tyler Gray, a special teams possibility who had a blocked punt for the Broncos last season.

FAMU LB Akil Blount, another playmaker possibility for special teams initially. Blount had two pick sixes last season and comes with good genes. He's the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame CB Mel Blount.

Kentucky DE Farrington Huguenin, who mostly showed run stop ability. Kentucky's defensive line coach confirmed this imminent signing.

Louisville MLB James Burgess, a former Homestead High standout. This was first reported by the Louisville Courier Journal and I confirmed it. Very productive guy, often around the football, good in coverage. But at 6-foot he's not quite the size that Vance Joseph covets in the middle of his defense. But you know what? We're talking special teams guys here so ...

Oh, look, that's 10 undrafted free agents. This list would bring Miami's roster to 90. Amazing how the math works.

----------

The first round was what it was Thursday night. Seems so long ago. It was surprising and here's two things I'm hearing ...

Had Laremy Tunsil not fallen to Miami, there were would have been some significant desire to trade back in the round because the Dolphins would have otherwise wanted a cornerback and the way they had the corners graded was Jalen Ramsey No. 1, and Ohio State's Eli Apple at No. 2. That's the corners.

Ramsey was the No. 1 player on Miami's board overall and Tunsil was No. 2.

Back to the corners...

Ramsey went No. 5 to Jacksonville so he was long gone and Apple was surprisingly picked by the New York Giants at No. 10.

That would have left the Dolphins with Williams Jackson III their pick either at No. 13 or perhaps trading back and trying to pick him then. As it was, the next cornerback went at No. 24 when the Bengals picked Jackson. And then the Steelers felt compelled to reach for University of Miami CB Artie Burns at No. 25.

So the Dolphins picking Tunsil helped the Bengals in getting a legitimate first-round talent.

----------

I wrote today the Dolphins are now embracing risks much more aggressively than they have in the past, and definitely in the recent past. One such risk is receiver Leonte Carroo, for reasons I explain in my column.

But the Dolphins don't see Carroo as a risk. They see him as a bargain despite the steep price they paid to get him in a trade up. Why?

“Like Carroo, when they saw how they could go down and get Carroo, who we had as a No. 2," owner Stephen Ross said. "We thought he was the second-best receiver in the draft.”

OK, let's suppose this is true.

The Dolphins had Carroo, who they picked in the third round, graded as a second-round player. I get that. That is plausible.

But they had him graded the second-best wide receiver in the draft?

If that is true, whoever combined to do the grades for Miami was confused the day they graded receivers.

Look, I get that this was a down year for receivers. But the Dolphins had Carroo second in a group that included Will Fuller (who went to Houston in the first round), Josh Doctson (who went to Washington in the first round), and Lacquon Treadwell (who went to Minnesota in the first round)?

Sorry, not buying it.

----------

Back to Tunsil...Here is a concern of mine:

When teams prepare for the draft, they grade 200-300 draftable guys. Some teams put all of those on their board. Some put no more than 120ish on their board because they recognize they're not picking everybody.

But when it comes to grinding on guys, it is fact teams do not do as much work on guys they are unlikely to be in position to select. For example, I know the New England Patriots, not holding a first-round draft pick, didn't do a ton of work on FSU's Jalen Ramsey. They just didn't.

And the reason they didn't is because they knew Ramsey was never going to slide into the second round to them. Ever.

Ever!

Well, I question how much work the Dolphins did on Tunsil compared to, say, Eli Apple or William Jackson III or other guys they expected might be available to them when they were scheduled to pick.

Remember, the Dolphins had Tunsil graded as the No. 2 player overall. And they knew they were not ever going to have the second overall pick.

So there is absolutely zero way anyone can convince me the team had Tunsil studied backward and forward, inside and out in the same manner they would have if they had at Top 5 pick. It's just not true.

And this ...

The teams that knew they would be in a position to draft Tunsil, the teams in the neighborhood of the top 5ish, did do that extreme homework. And they passed on Tunsil. The Tennessee Titans, who held the No. 1 pick for some time and most draft experts had picking Tunsil to protect Marcus Mariota's blind side, decided to trade down (and away from the opportunity to pick Tunsil).

And even when Tunsil slid to them at No. 8, the Titans who had done an in-depth workup on Tunsil, picked someone else to protect Mariota's blind side.

So what did these teams know that maybe the Dolphins did not?

Another possibility?

Sometimes there is paralysis by analysis. Maybe teams that knew more about Tunsil than the Dolphins were simply overthinking it. And the Dolphins, sitting at No. 13 likely having done less work on the player, pulled the trigger with no fear.

Point is ... somebody is going to be wrong.

And somebody is going to be right.

---------

If you are interested on how the La'el Collins issue during last year's draft played out and the contrast to this year with Tunsil, I take you behind the scenes on that here.

The Dolphins were conservative in their decision-making relative to Collins. They were obviously not with Tunsil.

I would warn you to resist the urge to determine the team simply should have picked Collins last year because, in hindsight, he didn't murder someone. At the time, all 32 teams decided they weren't going to select him early in the draft because they thought he might have.

It is just fascinating to me that the pendulum has swung back so far for a team that suffered a national scandal in 2013. In 2014-15, being conservative was the approach. In 2016  

April 30, 2016

Draft over: Dolphins add QB and TE in final round

The Miami Dolphins are done picking in this 2016 NFL draft.

They added quarterback Brandon Doughty and tight end Thomas Duarte in the final round today. That means this draft that supposedly was going to address the defense netted the Dolphins two cornerbacks.

And six offensive players.

(Not that I have any problem with that. Good picks are good picks regardless).

The Dolphins did adhere to a Fake GM Mando philosophy by picking a quarterback. I believe you pick a QB every draft without fail.

Doughty was a record-breaker at Western Kentucky. The list of his accomplishments for the Hilltoppers is impressive. It's as if the number of records could make a hill that needs topping.

Seriously, Doughty holds 37 school records, including 17 career passing marks, 14 season marks and six single-game marks.

Anyway, Doughty is a local kid. He was is from Davie, Florida where the Dolphins train. He visited when the team hosted local players prior to the draft.

Duarte, 6-2 and 235 pounds, caught 97 passes for 1,626 yards (an impressive 16.8 yard per catch average) in his three seasons and 38 games.

"I pattern my game after Jordan Reed," Duarte said of the Washington Redskins tight end. "I make sure I catch the football. It leaves the quarterback's hands and I try to make sure I don't drop anything."

Jamar Taylor traded, Dolphins pick Penn State DB Jordan Lucas

The Miami Dolphins needed one cornerback, maybe two out of this draft. You read that here before, right? Well, the team just got its second cornerback out of the draft today by selecting Jordan Lucas from Penn State with the 204th selection.

And with Lucas coming aboard, the Dolphins dumped traded veteran cornerback Jamar Taylor. The Dolphins sent the 250th selection and Taylor to the Cleveland Browns for the 223rd overall selection (seventh rounder).

So basically this was a mercy killing of Taylor's Dolphins days.

This is good for Taylor. He needed a change of scenery. And he wasn't very good for the Dolphins since being picked in the second round of the 2013 draft. Taylor finished last year in the coach's doghouse -- as a healthy scratch in four of the final five games.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase recently said all players get a clean slate under him.

For Taylor the clean slate comes with the Browns.

Lucas, who played boundary, field and slot corner as well as strong safety at Penn State, will be slated for cornerback with the Dolphins. 

"They want me to play corner," Lucas said. "They want me to be a press corner, physical, and that's the type of guy I am."

Lucas is 6-foot and 201 pounds. He had three career interceptions for the Nittany Lions. He had more sacks than interception.

"We did a lot of blitzing from the corner," Lucas said.

Miami Dolphins pick WR-KR Jakeem Grant

The Miami Dolphins wanted to give Jarvis Landry a rest from his duties as a kick and punt returner last year. They weren't able to do it.

Landry was simply the best returner on the team.

That might change now.

The Dolphins today picked Texas Tech's Jakeem's Grant, a 5-6 sprite who all about speed, with the 186th overall pick -- a sixth-rounder. Grant will be using all of his 5-5 3/4 to return both punts and kicks for the Dolphins.

Don't get caught up on Grant's size.

"I love my size," Grant said. "But tell everybody I'm 5-6 1/2 because that's with my shoes and you don't go anywhere without your shoes on."

Grant, an All Big-12 kick returner, is full of energy and confidence. And so he thinks he can do more than be a return man.

"I definitely think I can play receiver and I definitely will be the return guy," Grant said. "Once I get the ball in my hands, nobody can stop me."

Grant is about speed.

"A lot of teams have clocked me at 4.1," he said responding to questions about his 4.38 time at his Pro Day. "I don't think a 4.3 is my speed. When I ran a 4.3 I was ticked off because that's slow to me."

Grant said he patterns himself after Darren Sproles and Tavon Austin.

The Dolphins gave up a sixth (196) and a seventh (227) to move up 10 spots in the sixth round to 186.

 

 

 

Pats and Dolphins trade...It doesn't go well for Miami

Trades among teams within the same division are rare in the NFL because, well, teams don't like to potentially help improve their most direct competition.

But today the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins got on the phone and exchanged picks -- the Dolphins ceding to New England their fifth rounder (147th overall) in exchange for two sixths- (196 and 204 overall) and a seventh-rounder (250th overall) this year.

And that's fine. The Dolphins wanted to add bodies, I guess. The Patriots apparently had a player in mind they wanted to select in the fifth round.

Except the Patriots turned around and dealt their newly acquired pick to Seattle. The Patriots gave up that fifth-rounder they just got from Miami in exchange for a seventh-rounder this year ...

...And a fourth-rounder next year.

So instead of staying put and possibly adding a fourth-rounder next year, the Dolphins see their division rivals use their slot to add a fourth rounder next year.

The Dolphins, I suppose, will say two sixths and a seventh this year are more valuable than a seventh this year and a fourth-rounder next year.

No. No, it is not.

A fourth-rounder is better than a sixth or even two sixths.

Remember that the Dolphins traded away their third and fourth rounders next year already, plus a sixth this year, to move into the third round to pick receiver Leonte Carroo. Remember that Miami was crowing about getting a fourth-rounder next year for the loss of starting running back Lamar Miller.

And yet they have missed the opportunity to add such a pick because they traded with Bill Belichick instead.

Note to the Dolphins: If your phone is ringing and the caller ID says Belichick, don't pick up. If someone in your draft room says, "Hey, let's call Belichick and see if we can swap picks with him," escort that person out.