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36 posts from April 2011

April 30, 2011

Draft Day No. 3 live blog starts here at noon

When the draft resumes this afternoon, I'm hoping the Dolphins land a certain RB that I've had my eyes on for a while whose name I will not type here because, believe it or not, I've recently learned at least one rival AFC team reads this blog for updates on what the Dolphins are thinking -- obviously not recognizing that I don't know squat about squat.

Joke's on them!

Nonetheless, I won't mention this RBs name at this point, not that it's a big secret.

Lookit, the Dolphins need speed today. It is lacking for them on offense. It is lacking on defense, although not to the same degree. It is definitely lacking on special teams.

Speed, speed, speed, speed, speed, speed!

When Bill Parcells first started constructing this team it started looking like a mirror image of the 1990 New York Giants for a while there. The Dolphins were big, hulking, and bulking. This team looks very imposing in the airport.

But the game has changed since 1990 and is played on the field not in an airport. So the plodding Fins have some adjusting to do.

They need speed to be more dynamic. They need speed to make sure those kickoff returns and punt returns stop going 90 yards in the other direction. They need speed to do something that we haven't seen around here a lot lately: Blow somebody up with a 90-yard punt return of their own, or hit them on a 74-yard run, or throw a 68-yard bomb over the top of their defense, or return an interception 101 yards.

So my hope is today is about turning the Incredible Hulk into Flash. Or something like that.

The hope for today is a:

Change of pace fast RB.

A return man. Must be ... fast.

(Hopefully the Dolphins can get two for one by having the fast RB also be a fast return guy.)

OLB help to punish Tom Brady and Slim Shady now that they're boys in New England.

Maybe a  NT. He's the only one that doesn't need to be fast. Don't sleep on the NT, by the way.

[NOTE: Live blog happening right here at noon. Yesterday was the biggest day on this blog in all of 2011. Enormous! Thank you. And thanks to that team for checking in. I don't know anything.]

April 29, 2011

Jeff Ireland has his say -- all of it right here

I've written and spoken a lot of words the past three days leading up to and during this draft. I'm tagging out.

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland is tagging in.

This is what he said Friday night after the second round was complete and the Dolphins picked Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas. You tell me (and him) what you think of what he said.

Heeeeere's Jeff Ireland:

(Opening Statement) - “We moved up from the middle of 3rd round and picked up Daniel Thomas, running back from Kansas State. What we like about Daniel is that he is a physical runner; [He is] big, very versatile. He can run, he can catch; He has good play speed. You guys have tweeted that he is a 4.7 [40-yard dash] guy. This guy was a 4.55 [40-yard dash] for us, verified. He probably has better speed then running backs that went [higher in the draft] then him, timed speed. [We] like the player; very physical kind of guy, our kind of guy, very physical. Once he gets to the second level, he can make linebackers miss, he can make [the] secondary miss. He is kind of a one-cut runner, but very physical. He punishes defenders when he gets his pads down. He has only played running back for two years; He is a former quarterback. That intrigues me that he has been able to accomplish what he has been able to accomplish in such a short period of time. He has a lot of upside as a player. Like I said, he is six-foot 230, runs a 4.5 [40-yard dash]. Those are all good qualities."

(On the one attribute that was appealing enough to move up in the draft to get him) – “He is a big, physical runner. That is what we are looking for. His versatility [as well].  He is one of the backs that shows he can block the blitz. He can also catch on third down. Just his versatility was what we were looking for."

(On his negotiations with the Washington Redskins to move up in the draft) – “I probably talked to Washington five times throughout the day and you noticed Washington moved down a couple of times. They kept calling me, calling me, calling me and then quite frankly I saw a lot of running backs going and that intrigued me… saw some teams in the top of the third round that concerned me [and that they may select] the [running] back I was coveting might go there. So that is why I went up and got him."

(On how much he helps solidify the running back position) – “He helps solidify the running back position just like [Mike] Pouncey helps solidify the offensive line. Like I said, he is our kind of guy. He is physical and he got good play speed. We have work to do at every position still. I think we still have work to do at the running back position whether it be free agency or the draft but he helps us for sure.”

(On what the selection means for Ronnie Brown) – “It means that we have one more player to compete if we ask him to come back. I wouldn’t look into Ronnie or Ricky [Williams’] future around here as being over. I wouldn’t do that.”

(On if he thinks he stills needs to address the team seed issue at some point) – “Well we got four picks left tomorrow…Yeah, I’m still trying to do that for sure…but that was a position that I thought we needed to try to get better at and I think we did.” 

(On Daniel Thomas’ background playing quarterback and the team running the wildcat and if that was something that intrigued him most due to the potential of him playing the wildcat factor) – “Not necessarily, I wasn’t looking for that. I was looking for a running back. That’s what intrigued me about this kid is that this guy knows how to run the football.” 

(On Daniel Thomas’ fumble history and what he thinks about that)—“(You know) whenever you got a guy that has put the ball in the ground you look into it…and it wasn’t that much of a concern. I’m aware of that I think he had six fumbles this year. I was more intrigued with the forty runs over ten yards and the…I think he had fifteen or sixteen runs over twenty yards, so. I’m more intrigued with that thing than I was worried about the fumbles.” 

(On what running back came to mind that Daniel Thomas can be compared to in his opinion)—“(You know) I don’t want to throw that out there. I know I did that earlier with (Mark) Ingram but I think that it puts a little bit of undue pressure on the kid. I had a couple of guys in mind that are pretty successful in this business currently today but I’d rather not put that kind of pressure on the kid to be honest with you." 

(On how many times did he meet with Daniel Thomas and what was his impression of him)—“Met with him a couple of times…we actually had him in the building not too long ago and (you know), great kid, engaging personality—everybody there at Kansas State from the scout’s standpoint really vouched for his character and his work ethic and his toughness and just really felt like his future was ahead of him.” 

(On Daniel Thomas comparing himself to Steven Jackson or Larry Johnson and if those are fair assessments in comparing him to)—“Those are guys that come to mind…there’s another running back that makes me think more of, but, those are a couple of them I guess but not the guy I was thinking of.” 

(On if it’s Adrian Peterson (follow up to previous question)—“No, not him.” 

(On if he feels like he still has ammunition to use at some point in the draft to trade if need be)—“Sure, yeah.” 

(On how he feels about Ryan Mallet)—“Like I said earlier, I like the kid. I think he’s got a great great future ahead of him. I just felt like it wasn’t the right fit for us at this time, so, but I like the kid very much. Again, I think he’s got a bright future.” 

(On the latest developments in the labor dispute) – “Well we just got to go with what the league is telling us. It is what it is; it was good to see the players yesterday, or today I should say, great to see some of those guys. I wish it would have lasted a little longer, but we’re in an unrest labor situation, so we just go with the flow.”

(On whether he feels he can still address the issue of team speed on day three of the draft) – “Yeah, I do see that. The draft is, again it’s a chain reaction and sometimes the things you want to address if they fall to you and you have your board set to be able to take those, great, but I’m not going to reach for a lesser player just to identify a player that may or may not be the right fit for us, so I’m not going to reach for a player. I’m going to let the draft fall to me, and if it fits our needs then we’ll take the player.” 

(On when Daniel Thomas appeared on his radar) – “Well he probably got on the radar back in last May at the Combine Meetings probably. That’s probably most of the time those are the first time I hear about some of these kids, and he was a one year player out of Junior College. That was probably the first time I had heard of the player. I didn’t take a visit to Kansas State two years ago, so I didn’t really know too much about him.” 

(On when he sees the Bills take Marcell Dareus, the Jets take two defensive tackles and with the Patriots already having Vince Wilfork if he is even more pleased with selecting Mike Pouncey) – “Sure, I mean I really like the Dareus kid and when I saw Buffalo take him, that’s not why I took Pouncey but it makes you feel good that you got him for sure. He’s going to be athletic, and he’s going to give us a lot of mobility up in the offensive line and also give us a lot of strength and power when we’re trying to run the ball inside as well.”

Live draft blog begins here, now

Day Two of the draft is about to begin and two questions dominate:

Will the Dolphins trade into the second round?

As to getting into the second round, I have serious doubts the Dolphins will use their limited ammo to get into the round. That is obviously just a prediction, but I have a hard time believing Miami will invest the kind of capital necessary to come from nowhere to the the second.

That would require the Dolphins giving up their 2012 first round pick.

If the idea is for them to use their third round pick to try to move up into the second round, they still would have to yield either their fourth-round selection or perhaps the third rounder plus a high pick next year. Again, that is a prohibitive price.

I'm not saying the Dolphins would never pay such a price but ...

“I think you can always get ammunition," Ireland said yesterday abou tthe prospects of moving up. "I mean, look what Atlanta did. You always have ammunition I think. You can use your picks up until 2014 if you wanted to. We had a couple players on the board that if they fell to a certain spot then we might have jumped up, but we didn’t choose to do that.”

Fins privately compare Pouncey to Stephenson

So the debate rages whether Mike Pouncey is a center or not.

People, let's settle this now. He is a center.

Forget the issues of those failed shotgun center snaps. Yes, they happened but they came early in in the 2010 University of Florida season when Pouncey was new to the center spot. As the year progressed, the misguided center snaps disappeared.

This is something I was told by someone who was in the Dolphins draft room yesterday: Before the pick was made, Jeff Ireland popped on tape of Mike Pouncey for everyone present. It showed Pouncey delivering a block against a safety some 20-30 yards down the field.

[CORRECTION: I am told by someone higher up who was in the room that Ireland, in fact, did not pop in the tape of Pouncey for everyone. The idiot that I am is now confused and wondering why I believe everything people tell me.]

A comparison was drawn within that room between Pouncey and former Dolphins center and current Hall of Famer Dwight Stephenson. Yes, that's bold, but that is how confident the Dolphins are of Pouncey's ability.

Of course, the comparison was never made publicly. That would put too much pressure on Pouncey. But even the private comparison suggests how high the bar is set for Pouncey.

Now enjoy the video below and check out how many times Miami's new starting center blows the shutgun snap.

 

Debunking the myth of OL position flexibility

For several years now, since Bill Parcells-Jeff Ireland-Tony Sparano took control in Miami, we've heard the term "position flexibility" mentioned time and again as an asset, indeed a necessity, for Dolphins offensive linemen.

I suspect you'll hear the term more in the coming months based on the fact the Dolphins selected Mike Pouncey with their first overall pick in this draft and he has played both guard and center at the University of Florida.

"... He really only played the center position for one year," Ireland said following the pick, "… and like I said, it’s going to be up to the coaches on where they put him. I think we have great position flexibility with he and Richie (Incognito) and so ... but right now, I think we’re going to slide him in at center and go from there.”

I would tell you Pouncey will slide in at center and he better not slide out. I would tell you his value is at center as the signal-caller for the entire line. I would tell you picking a guard at No. 15 overall is not nearly as good a deal as picking a starting center.

I would tell you the Dolphins better cast off these freaky ideas of position flexibility with Pouncey and all their other good linemen.

If coach Sparano is reading this, he's not happy. The man loves the ability to mix and match, move and coordinate different combinations of linemen on offense. He is like a scientist in a lab.

I hate that.

Football ain't no lab project. I think the way to make an offensive line great is picking your five best guys and leaving them at their spots until something significant like a world war dictates otherwise -- position flexibility be damned.

Frankly, to me, position flexibility is a euphimism for not good enough to keep one spot. Jake Long has zero position flexibility. The man is going to be Miami's left tackle until he retires.

That's not a bad thing. That's a good thing!

Meanwhile, guys like Nate Garner, Richie Incognito, Joe Berger, Pat McQuistan can bounce around at left guard, right guard, a little bit at center, some at tackle, and they're just ... ok. Not great. Not amazing. Not Pro Bowl players.

Just ok.

I've had it with just ok position flexible offensive linemen.

The Dolphins should decide that Pouncey is a center and leave him there. Period. The Dolphins should figure out if second-year man John Jerry is a left guard or a right guard and live and die with that decision. The Dolphins should know Incognito is best at right guard and anchor him there until someone rips the job from his cold, clammy hands.

Period.

Flexibility, schlexibility!

Toying with all this position flexibility is necessary for the scrubs. But the guys that you want to start? It's bad. It's a path to confusion.

Position flexible players are jacks of all trades ... and masters of none.

I hope, I pray, the Dolphins are not telling their scouts, "Go out there and find me an offensive lineman with position flexibility," because that is code for, "Go out and get me a replaceable backup."

And that leads me to my next beef about Miami's approach to building the offensive line: I hate all the constant experimenting.

The past two seasons, the Dolphins have toyed with their offensive line the first three, perhaps four weeks of training camp and into the early preseason games.

No!

Note to coaching staff from the guy who knows nothing: Your 2011 starting offensive line should be LT Jake Long, LG John Jerry, C Mike Pouncey, RG Richie Incognito, RT Vernon Carey. That's it. The only possible tweak might be to switch Jerry and Incognito if Jerry still hasn't figured things out well enough. But that's all. Period.

I don't want Pat McQuistan to get a chance to earn a starting spot. He's not a starting-caliber player. I don't want Rey Feinga tagging in and out wherever it is he's playing these days.

Pick your five and commit to them. Let them grow together. Let them struggle together, if necessary. But let them do it together. That forms a bond. That forms chemistry. That forms kinship.

I remember Don Shula drafted Richmond Webb and Keith Sims in 1990 and put them at LT and LG, respectively, and that was that. There was no room given for experimentation. They played every single snap of the preseason. And they played all but one snap of the regular-season side by side.

By 1991, these guys were so in tune with each other, they actually would walk out to practice and then off the field with Sims on Webb's right -- just like they lined up. They lockered that way, too. It became the natural order of things for the two.

No mixing. No matching. No experimenting.

The only option they got was do or don't do. Succeed or fail. It wasn't, "Well, if you don't play well at left tackle, Richmond, we'll move you over to right tackle."

I'm sure a coach reading this could present a dozen reasons why experimentation is important with the likely starting group. Fair. I can give one reason why experimentation is not smart: It failed last year. It failed horribly.

Pick a group. Stick with them through some adversity. Let them grow. That's how good offensive lines blossom. 

[NOTE: Same drill today as yesterday. I'll update later with whatever information I dig up. Don't go anywhere. Follow me on twitter. And there will be a live blog starting at 6 p.m. when the draft gets underway.]

Round 1 newsy recap from Jeff Ireland

Here is the latest from the Dolphins and general manager Jeff Ireland following the end of the first round:

1. Mike Pouncey will start out as a center. He is penciled in as a center on Ireland's depth chart. "He's big, he's tough, he's disciplined, he's smart. He's very athletic ... I can't say enough good things about the kid."

2. Ireland talked to receiver Brandon Marshall on Thursday and might meet with him or, at the least, talk to him again Friday. "I know enough of the details. I reached out to him today because I was able to.  We'll talk a little more tomorrow. Right now I know enough to be dangerous, I guess you could say. We're going to continue to follow that situation. Until I get a chance to sit down and talk to him face to face, I'm not going to jump to any conclusions."

Marshall last week was stabbed in the abdomen by his wife, Michi Nogami-Marshall. She was arrested. He was admitted to the hospital, treated and released. It is the second known domestic violence episode for the couple. It is the ninth domestic violence episode involving Marshall since 2005.

3. The Dolphins didn't have an opportunity to trade out of the No. 15 overall selection, according to Ireland.  "The phones weren't ringing so we took the pick," Ireland said. "When the phone doesn't ring you kind of lose your leverage if you're calling around. 'Do you want this pick, do you want this pick.' That's not the way I do it. They have to want the pick before you can trade. And the phone wasn't ringing."

4. Ireland seems very confident about this pick. He had no problem comparing Mike Pouncey to his identical twin brother Maurkice Pouncey. Maurkice was a starter and Pro Bowl player for the Steelers.

"There's a lot of things that both remind me of each other," Ireland said. "They remind me of each other so I didn't feel like I was going to be getting too much different than Maurkice. When you're watching Mike, he's got things to work on as all rookies do. But I think you're looking at pretty much the same type of player."

5. The Dolphins are known for doing the safe thing over the bold thing. Guilty as charged, if that's the way you look at it. "I think it's a good, safe pick," Ireland said. "I know what I'm getting. I know exactly what I'm getting with Pouncey. I feel pretty good we've solidified an offensive line here."

5. Players will likely be around camp on Friday. There is supposed to be a rookie camp next week. The schedule is not set in stone because it is all subject to the legal wranglings of the NFL and the, ahem, trade association.

6. Yes, the Dolphins are aware of the concerns about Pouncey's shotgun snaps.

"They do a lot of things with their center that most teams don't do," Ireland said of the University of Florida. "They pull him a lot. So what you see is when he's trying to pull out in space he's getting out so quick that he's doing something with the ball. I don't know that we'd be doing much of that as Florida did. But he improved at it over the season."

7. Ireland, confident at this press conference, started by saying, "The best way to start this is for me to say, 'Awwwright Miami.' I don't say it as well as Jim Mandich but my heart's out to his family."

Classy.

8. My column on what I think of the Pouncey pick is here. Please help a brother out and check it out. It makes me feel like I'm not working in vain. I also might talk you off the angry, Dolphins should have drafted a quarterback ledge.

 

April 28, 2011

Draft night live blog begins right here, right now

The NFL draft is finally here and this blog is a-live!

So do the Dolphins go with the primetime pick in this primetime draft? Do they trade back as I've been told they are trying to do? Do they pick a quarterback?

"A quarterback makes sense if and only if they think a FRANCHISE quarterback is there," Dan Marino tweeted today. "Otherwise, I am firm believer in taking the Best Player Available."

So whom would the man once hired to lead the Dolphins franchise -- he quit two weeks later -- consider the franchise quarterbacks in this draft?

"With my CBS gig I spend more time watching the QBs on Sunday so it wouldn't be fair for me to say if a guy is or isn't a franchise QB," Marino followed with another tweet.

The national insider types are reporting there will be a run on QBs in the top 12 picks. We'll see about that. Aside from the QBs, here are some names I'm going to ask you to keep in mind:

Alabama RB Mark Ingram if they do not trade back.

VT RB Ryan Williams if they trade back.

Florida C Mike Pouncey if they do not trade back.

Purdue OLB Ryan Kerrigan if they do not trade back.

Kansas State's Daniel Thomas if they do trade back.

I'm rooting for the trade back. OK, meet me in the comments section. Let's go a-live!

Draft Day 2011: The latest from rumor central

This is the latest from the draft/rumor/smokescreen mill at this hour:

1. QB Andy Dalton is a redhot property and despite the possibility he could go to the Dolphins, there is talk he'll actually be gone by the time Miami picks at No. 15. Incredible. I see this as a reach.

2. Still have found no one other than Jason LaCanfora (previous post) who believes Dolphins will pick Colin Kaepernick with their first pick at No. 15. Maybe if they trade out of the round, but at No. 15? Hard to believe.

3. I'm hearing talk that Notre Dame TE Kyle Rudolph is on Miami's board and a possibility at No. 15, but more likely as a player they like later in the first round as a fallback. Two people have actually told me this. These folks are NFL types, not media. Anyway, the thinking is Rudolph is a stretch the field type player even though he is not a WR. He would be a help to a QB needing a security blanket. The Patriots last year turned their rookie tight ends into very effective weapons.

4. I have confirmed that the Miami draft totem pole has changed in ways more deep-seeded than simply moving out Bill Parcells. Yes, Jeff Ireland is the general manager and makes the final call on Miami's pick. That's a switch from the last three years when Parcells had final say. But I have confirmed the Dolphins did indeed make a little-known but significant change to Tony Sparano's contract that allows him to have the most say in the draft room of any year he's been with the team. The fact is Sparano has the power now to speak up and put the brakes on a pick if he's of that mind. I assume he can also advocate for a pick. That to me is significant because, obviously, Sparano is a bigtime offensive line advocate and Mike Pouncey is a very likely Dolphins target. Does that increase the chances Pouncey gets picked? I don't know. But it is something to keep in mind.

[NOTES: Come back and refresh regularly as I'll be gathering whatever is out there and reporting it back to you here. Also, there is a live draft blog at 8 p.m. And I will be updating my twitter timeline in real time so follow me.]

Jason LaCanfora: Kaepernick is Miami's pick

This morning on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, NFL Network insider Jason LaCanfora was on for his usual Thursday morning segment and I asked him what his best information says the Dolphins are going to do with their 15th overall selection in the first round this evening.

He said the Dolphins are going to pick Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick.

And now that my chin is off the floor, I am writing this post. Look, I like Kaepernick. I know the Dolphins really like Kaepernick.

But in the first round?

At No. 15?

I have one word for that: Reeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaccccccccchhhhhhhh!

If the Dolphins love Kaepernick, they should try to trade down and get him in the second round -- where he is rightly rated, in my opinion. If the Dolphins love Kaepernick, they should understand they'll be waiting a year or so before he is viable as a winning QB in the NFL. If the Dolphins love Kaepernick to the point of having to pick him at No. 15, I would say they missed the opportunity to address equally pressing needs with players that will be NFL-ready sooner.

Personally, I would go with Andy Dalton before I pick Colin Kaepernick. I think Dalton will be the better NFL quarterback. And if nothing moves with trades, I take Mike Pouncey and that's that. That's my prediction, by the way -- made that call Monday.

But why is Kaepernick nonetheless viable?

Because Kaepernick is a QB. And although teams know the rules about drafting a quarterback, they often violate those rules because, well, they're reaching for a quarterback.

I hope the Dolphins can resist the urge to go crazy and do something really unorthodox. I hope they resist the urge to bow to fan or any other kind of pressure.

And there is pressure.

The angry throng of fans that jump on radio call-in shows and blog sites to advocate, indeed, even demand the Dolphins select a quarterback in the coming draft’s first round. But they are actually insisting Miami do something more far-reaching than get a player to be the face of the franchise.

Anyone wanting the Dolphins to draft a first-round quarterback for the first time since Dan Marino is also:

A -- Putting faith in a rookie quarterback helping the team when history suggests most will not.

B -- Practically assuring Chad Henne will be the 2011 starter because no rookie will be handed the job immediately and none of this draft’s signal-callers are complete enough to dislodge a veteran who already enjoys a head start with the offense – particularly because players are locked out and unable to contact coaches.

C -- Asking Dolphins coach Tony Sparano and general manager Jeff Ireland to ignore their personal concerns about job security.

That’s why there are clues floating around the Dolphins suggesting the team will not pick a quarterback in the first round when the draft begins tonight.

Yes, this flies in the face of logic.

The NFL is a quarterback-driven league. Many believe the Dolphins need a quarterback. I share that belief. And despite their public embrace of Henne, the Dolphins know they need someone they can trust at the position.

But the circumstances prevent it. Sorry.

Historical analysis and current events could conspire to push the Dolphins in another direction. And that’s before desperation kicks in. (Desperation in this case is defined as the urgent need to win immediately, particularly at home, to avoid heads rolling.)

If you’re one of those fans mentioned above, kindly stop yelling at me now. Allow some logic to mingle with what is always an emotional argument.

The Dolphins, you see, need the right quarterback more than they need a quarterback. And there is no expert, no personnel man, no NFL general manager who can guarantee anyone the Dolphins pick in the first round will be right.

Not in this draft. And not that low in this draft.

Consider that 46 quarterbacks were drafted in the draft’s first round the past 20 seasons, from 1991 to 2010. Those folks wanting that immediate talent bump from that new QB should digest the fact only 20 of those 46 QBs started even half of their team’s games as rookies.

Nope, drafting a QB in the first round does not guarantee an immediate starter. It doesn’t even guarantee a good player has joined the roster.

 Among that list of 46 first-round quarterbacks, 25 became bitter, unmitigated failures over their careers. In my country, we call them busts.

Only 18 of those first-round quarterbacks became successful and worthy of the picks invested on them. But even from that grand group, Chad Pennington, Daunte Culpepper, Carson Palmer, Phillip Rivers, Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Aaron Rodgers, and Steve McNair did not start as rookies and some didn’t even start until after their second season.

“The test case for this is Aaron Rodgers,” said ESPN’s Mel Kiper. “That’s the way you should develop a quarterback. What would have happened if he had gone to the Redskins? I don’t think he’d have been Aaron Rodgers right now. He probably would have been kicked to the curb.

“But he developed. He changed his whole delivery, his whole mechanics of throwing the football. Now he’s a potential Hall of Famer and has a Super Bowl ring. There you go.” 

It’s too early to tell which direction the three remaining first-rounders on the list of 46 will go just as it’s impossible to know who among this year’s quarterback class will succeed.

“I like the players that are in this draft,” Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said of the incoming quarterback class. “I think there’s good depth there. I think you can find a good player. I don’t have a crystal ball about what kind of players they’re going to be in this league. There are lot of things that go into that, but I think it’s a good depth group. I think there’s starters to be had.”

Notice he didn’t say “immediate starters.” That’s important to the Dolphins and should be important to fans.

That contingent of fans wanting a new quarterback right away should probably be looking toward free agency or a trade because, barring a quick resolution to the league’s labor troubles, rookies will handcuffed.

Henne already knows the Dolphins new offense. He spent weeks with new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll learning the system before the lockout happened.

A rookie won’t be allowed to work on the field with a Miami coach or even talk to a coach on the phone until the lockout ends. That means the incoming rookie quarterback will be competing for the starting job with one arm – his passing arm – tied behind his back.

Perhaps that doesn’t bother the fan with a long view of Miami’s problems. That person will be a fan a decade from now, assuming the Dolphins actually win a home game between now and then.

But what about the Miami braintrust?

The men actually making the decision whether to pick a quarterback in the first round have no guarantee they’ll be here next year, much less a decade from now. The only security they have is success – now.

So do they gamble that success on a player who might not play for a season? Or do they pick a player that is more likely to immediately start and help the team and their cause right away?

Ireland is on record saying he’ll take a long view of things rather than concern himself with something so trivial as his job status.

It’ll be interesting to see if that’s true when the Dolphins are on the clock in the first round and Miami’s GM is weighing that long-range project QB we’ll see in 2012 or that running back, lineman or outside lineabaker (Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan) who will start right away.

The angry throng is waiting for the decision.

[NOTE: I promised I'll be updating this blog several times today. I mean it! So continue to come back and remember there is a live blog of the draft tonight.  Also, follow me on twitter.]

The second round: Heartache for the Dolphins

Once again this draft day, the Dolphins go into the selection process hoping to work the phones to get back a second round pick to overcome a trade or other transaction that led the team to give up the pick.

The second round has been interesting for the Dolphins the past decade. It has been the team's most active round. It has been the quarterback round for Miami, as four quarterbacks were brought to the team as a result of second round investments. The second round, in short, has been a heartache round for Miami.

There are studies that say only 50 percent of the players selected in the second round actually become four-year starters for the team. I would tell you the study of Miami's second-round performance the past decade has not lived up to those modest standards.

But let the proof speak for itself. What follows is what the Dolphins have done in the second round the past decade.

2001  Chris Chambers was selected 52nd overall selection. Solid pick as Chambers was a starter through the early part of the 2007 season. No, he wasn't a star as he was always seemingly an afterthought and never bold enough to demand being anything else. He was in the Pro Bowl in 2005, but also led the conference in drops that very year. He was traded to San Diego in 2007 for a second round pick.

2002: No pick. Traded to Philadelphia in 2001 for a trade up in the third round that netted Morlon Greenwood, who was by most accounts neither a bust nor a good player.

2003: Eddie Moore. All I need to tell you about this trade is that the Dolphins were starved for receiver talent then and went with a linebacker coach Dave Wannstedt said would improve the special teams. In the second round! The other thing I should tell you about this pick is that Moore never contributed on special teams or defense. His claim to infamy was getting knocked out by a patron in a local club.

2004: No pick. The selection was traded away the previous year to New England for a third round selection. The Dolphins used that selection on Wade Smith, a college tight end that they turned into a left tackle. Smith played a handful of years with the Dolphins before being ignored once his rookie contract expired in 2006. Ironically, he played for several more years as a starter with Kansas City and the Jets.

2005: The Dolphins had two second round picks this year. They gave up the first to Philadelphia in the A.J. Feeley trade which was, simply, an unmitigated disaster. The second pick they got in trade with Kansas City when they sent Patrick Surtain to the Chiefs, knowing they probably could not afford to pay him his asking price for a new contract. The Dolphins used the pick from the Surtain trade to pick Matt Roth, who had all of one good season as a starter with the Dolphins -- that in 2008. But in 2009, Roth had this curious episode with a groin injury which led him to lie to coach Tony Sparano which led him to fall out of favor which led the Dolphins to simply waive him and get nothing in return for him.

2006: No pick. The selection went to Minnesota in exchange for Daunte Culpepper. Terrible.

2007: Ah, two selections this time around and both turned into an embarrassment. The Dolphins got an extra pick from the Patriots because they signed Wes Welker as a restricted free agent. So far not terrible. The team used that pick on Samson Satele, who started every game his rookie season. So far not terrible. Here's the terrible part: Welker became Tom Brady's favorite target in New England and a multiple time Pro Bowl player. Satele fell out of favor with the incoming Parcells-Ireland-Sparano administration because he wasn't big enough or strong enough at the point of attack. He was traded away for a chance to move up in the fourth round a mere 18 spots. Are you kidding me? What a another waste.

2008: The Dolphins had plenty of ammunition in the second round with two picks. The first pick of the round (32nd overall) was mathematically a first round selection. The team used the pick on Phillip Merling who is so far a reserve with unmet potential. The next pick in the round for Miami was 57th overall and that translated into Chad Henne, a starting quarterback everyone hopes could become a game-changer but so far has been only an inconsistent game-manager.

2009: You want the good news or the bad news? The good news is Miami found a starter in Sean Smith with the 61st overall selection. Yes, Smith struggled to get on the field last season after earning a starting spot as a rookie, but he is a contributor. He needs to learn to catch the football. The bad news is the team used the 44th overall selection on Pat White. White was a gimmick addition to the offense in 2009, didn't complete a pass and was cut in training camp last season, the classic definition of a bust.

2010: Two picks again. The Dolphins traded their original pick to Denver in the deal that brough Brandon Marshall to Miami. The Dolphins are also invested in giving away this year's second-rounder for Marshall. Marshall for whatever reasons had his worst season of the past four seasons with the Dolphins. Marshall is also now a off-field question mark as he was recently stabbed by his wife in what is his ninth brush with a domestic violence since 2004. The Dolphins picked up a second round to actually use in the draft by trading down in the first round and picking up a second-rounder from San Diego in the exchange. They then used that pick on SOLB Koa Misi, who was solid and a starter as a rookie.

There you have it. A decade of second round picks. The total number of picks is eleven, including the picks Miami got in trade and gave away in trade.

The haul from all of that?

Five players that are still on the roster with four of them being starters, and none that are Pro Bowl players. Oh, Miami's second round ledger also includes four outright busts in the second round.

So why are we so eager to get a second-rounder back again?

[NOTES: I will update this blog with several posts before the draft even begins today, so do not go anywhere. Tonight there will be a live blog when the draft begins. And for the moments you must break away from here, follow me on twitter.]

April 27, 2011

Dolphins to honor Jim Mandich on draft day

The flags at Sun Life Stadium flew at half staff today.

Fittingly.

The sign of respect and mourning was for Jim Mandich, the former tight end on the 1972 perfect team who passed on Tuesday night. Jim, 62, passed after a 14-month battle with cancer. The local radio show host and color analyst on Dolphins game broadcasts the past couple of decades was an icon in South Florida.

His signature, "Alllllrrriiightttt, Miami!" is a part of team lore now.

Jim was undoubtedly the team voice. And that voice is silent now. He cannot be replaced.

The Dolphins will do all they can to commemorate Jim's life on Thursday, Friday and Saturday even as they celebrate the addition of new players at their draft parties at the stadium and other venues. It's fiting. Jim lived hard and died young. And the Dolphins will, in part, be celebrating that zest for life.

The club will straddle the line between celebration and mourning at that draft party. I trust it will be just fine because Jim always approved of having a good time.  

Tomorrow night, I am expecting general manager Jeff Ireland to pause before he begins talking about the team's newest player acquisition -- the first round draft selection -- and talk first about Jim. It is just another deserving sign of respect that will neither suffice nor be the last thing the Dolphins do to remember Jim.

Much respect, Jim. Rest in peace. Hope I see you again someday.

 

Mark Ingram has clean bill of health

Alabama running back Mark Ingram, soon to be a first-round pick in Thursday's NFL draft, does not have any significant knee issues teams should worry about and to prove it, he's offering them a letter from noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews saying as much, according to a source familiar with the letter.

So much for that pre-draft rumor.

Further disproving the talk that the former Heisman Trophy winner should slide -- perhaps all the way out of the first round -- is the fact he was not asked to return to Indianapolis for a medical recheck for any reason, a source said. Potential draftees with medical red flags are often asked to return to the site of the Indianapolis Combine for rechecks so doctors can report the findings to interested teams.

Ingram is in New York since Monday and will be among the 25 players the NFL features on its draft show, which airs on ESPN Thursday evening. Players selected for such duty are typically considered first-round picks.

The clean bill of health is important to the Dolphins. Ingram is prominent on the team's radar because of his obvious talents -- having been named the Heisman winner in 2009 -- and because he would fill a dire need for Miami at the running back spot.

The Dolphins have only two running backs signed to contracts and both of them -- Kory Sheets and Lex Hilliard -- are unproven.

So where did this knee rumor begin? Well, Ingram did miss games early in the 2010 season because of a knee injury suffered in August.

On his way to the Heisman Trophy and a BCS title, he rushed for 1,658 yards and 20 touchdowns as a sophomore. Last season, he missed two games because of the knee injury and rushed for 875 yards and 13 touchdowns.

When he ran a 4.62 time at the Indy Combine, teams wondered if Ingram's knee where the reason. The medical reports apparently say otherwise and Ingram did improve his 40 time during his Pro Day workout when he ran 4.53.

Assuming Ingram does indeed hold a letter from Andrews vouching for his knee, that is a valuable piece of paper because teams general regard him as a credible and highly regarded source for medical information.

When, for example, Dolphins team doctors told Nick Saban that signing Drew Brees was a major risk based on his shoulder injury and subsequent surgery, Andrews sent the team a letter guaranteeing Brees would suffer no ill effects from surgery on his shoulder.

The Dolphins went with the opinion of the doctors over Andrews. Brees went to the New Orleans Saints, suffered no setbacks and has missed no games because of the shoulder, and is today among the NFL's elite quarterbacks.

 

Where the QBs should fall based on the grades

This being a Dolphins blog, it's about the quarterback here. Always. About. Quarterbacks.

I would tell you that 2011 could be remembered as the Year of the Quarterback because there are no less than 15 that might be selected in the coming draft. This could also very easily be the Year of the Quarterback Busts.

The reason I say that this year more than any other is that there is not one absolute, sure-fire, can't-miss quarterback that will be ready to go in the 2011 season opener. And there is no certain future starter here, either.

I wouldn't be surprised if we get half-a-dozen starters. I wouldn't be surprised if we get none. Based on the scouts I speak with and taking their grades into account, I have only nine QBs with grades worthy of picking these players as high as the third round -- two in the first round, four in the second round,, and three in the third round.

Beyond that? Doesn't matter. Tom Brady comes along in the sixth round once per generation. And a generation hasn't passed yet so forget that.

This quarterback draft if freaky that way. Maybe it has something to do with the fact most of these guys are coming out of a spread attack that makes them strangers to the Pro set. Colin Kaepernick comes out of the Pistol offense that makes him a total stranger to NFL brand offense.

All these guys have warts. There are no John Elways in this draft, folks.

First rounders:

Blaine Gabbert: The rumor around the league is there are teams considering trading up to No. 2 overall to pluck Gabbert. I can understand it because although he is not the best physical speciman QB in this draft, he is the most start-ready QB in this draft. That means he is more ready to start as a rookie than any other QB. This kid has the best footwork of any quarterback in the draft. I did not say good footwork. The best. That's important. There are questions about his ability to complete long and even intermediate passes. His completion rate on those was quite low in college. I believe that can bee addressed with solid coaching. I do know that Gabbert is very good at understanding how using his eyes can help him move safeties. It says a lot that this kid already has that figured out.

Cam Newton: Great kid. Great attitude. Driven. Contagious enthusiasm, which is one of the most important intangibles a QB can have because it infects the entire huddle. He's headed to Hollywood if he wants. But, unfortunately, there's a little detail about having to be a good quarterback involved in that. And he's just not ready to contend with NFL defenses at this point. Just isn't. He will be confused more often than not when he faces the defenses if he plays as a rookie. Period. Of course, Newton doesn't feel that way. "If I don't believe in myself, who else is going to believe in me?" Newton said. Someone will believe in Newton, perhaps may Carolina at No. 1. But ... He's a project. He's not ready to start right away. He needs to learn to call plays. He must improve his footwork. His technique is not the best, which sometimes affects his accuracy. But his arm is beyond question. He can make every throw. Despite the technical glitches, his accuracy was still pretty good. And he can extend plays like nobody's business. He won't do it as often in the NFL as he did in the SEC. He better not if he wants to stay healthy. But that ability to run is a big, big plus. I worry about the fact Newton has very little experience, having only one season as a starter under his belt. But if a team has two years to work with this kid before starting him, I think he's going to be great starting in 2013.

Second rounders:

Andy Dalton: Brilliant football mind. Killer instinct. Not fast or quick in space, but he has good pocket mobility. He can step up well and evade the rush. He has tons of experience, having played in 50 games with 34-3 record over the last three years including victories over outstanding teams such as Oklahoma and Boise State. His arm is good but not great. He takes coaching very well. He picks it up quickly. His release is very good in that it is quick and off good technique. Nice stroke. This player has all the intangibles.

Christian Ponder: This kid deserves to be a value pick for a West Coast offense, in my opinion. His arm is not strong enough to produce bigtime results outside the West Coast. Ponder also has a history of being injured and fighting shoulder problems. Those are pretty much Ponder's only problems. He is quick, he is mobile, he has 10.2'' hands, which are enormous. Newton, by contrast, has 9.699'' hands and they are considered average. Gabbert has big hands at 10.0''. The prototype is 9.4''. Why am I bringing this up? Big-handed QBs can be more effective in bad weather. They can grip better in the rain. They are almost tailor made for playing in outdoor, Northeast stadiums like Foxboro.

Ryan Mallet: Perhaps the best arm in the entire draft. That's important considering the position is built around the player's throwing arm. Mallett can throw the deep ball. He can throw the in-cut and deep out and seam pass that are must-haves for a quarterback to succeed in today's NFL. But playing quarterback is not always about the arm. Ryan Leaf had the arm. Jim Drunkenmiller had the arm. And they sucked. Here is the worry on Mallett: He is a target in the pocket and one that doesn't move all that well. He didn't recognize blitzes very well in college. That tells me the first year he's playing, he's going to be blitzed and hit and teams are going to try to make a coward of him. We shall see at that point what he is really made of. He seems to move slow in my opinion. That means he doesn't get out from under center and in a throwing position quick enough. I also question his conditioning. One scout told me he seems to tire in games and he seems to tire after long practices.

Jake Locker: Hard worker. Loyal, which I love. Great arm. Has speed to burn, having run a 4.52 at the Indianapolis Combine. Are you kidding me? Questionable accuracy. He played behind a less-than-stellar offensive line last year. He played hurt. But he apparently has issues getting comfortable in the pocket. His instincts tell him to scramble, to move out of the pocket, to get away from the hit. I guess that happens when your offensive line isn't great and you can run like the dickens. He has to get away from that stuff.

Third rounders:

Ricky Stanzi: He was coached by an NFL caliber staff so that matters. He's ready for what he is likely to face in the NFL meeting rooms and when he opens a playbook. He has a nice delivery in that it is quicker than average. But the arm is adequate. It doesn't take your breath away. He knows how to read defenses. He knows how to go through his progession. Again, he's been coached great. There are worries that Stanzi lacks the killer instinct that is so obvious in a guy such as Dalton. I worry about that because the NFL is dog eat dog.

Patrick Devlin: He's got prototype size (height, weight). He's been durable but he is kind of lean and did suffer a concussion last season, which is important these days. He has a compact release, he comes over the top and therefore doesn't get many passes batted. Dolphins fans recognize Chad Henne gets a ton of passes batted at the line of scrimmage. He's neither exceedingly fast or quick but he's not Mallettlike immobile. Intangibles? I worry about this kid's stick-to-it nature. He commited to the University of Miami out of high school and backed out. That torqued me off right away. He then went to Penn State but eventually left there as well when he couldn't win the starting job. That kinda, sorta bugs me because what? Is he going to ask for a trade if things don't go well in the pros? He's by all accounts a bright individual, an honor student in fact. That has shown in that Devlin is excellent at recognizing defenses, particularly blitzes. Obviously, you have to wonder about his level of competition. It didn't hurt Joe Flacco.

Colin Kaepernick: Arguably the second-strongest arm in the draft, tied with Newton and just behind Mallett. Smallish hands, and has only recently bulked up from 216 to 233 pounds. Kaepernick can make all the throws. He stood at that Senior Bowl practices and was good enough during the game. He can run. He's a winner. He is big enough for the big stage despite playing at small Nevada. But coming out of the Pistol offense worries me. It's going to take him a while. He's never seen the kind of defensive trickery he's likely to see in the NFL. He doesn't have the building blocks in reading defenses and going through progressions that Stanzi has. He's a project. But he is a value pick in the third round and can be a factor in two or three years.

That's it. There are no other quarterbacks worthy of going in the first three rounds according to the scouts and personnel people I speak with.

So if you want the Dolphins to draft a quarterback, you can forget about them reaching for a QB in the first round. They don't have a second round pick. If it is going to happen, barring a trade down, it will have to happen in the third round.

Disagree?

April 26, 2011

Don't sleep on Ricky Elmore, LBs for Dolphins

Yes, this must be, should be, a draft to improve the Dolphins offense.

Nobody refutes the idea the Dolphins could use more than half of their eight picks in the coming NFL draft on players that will upgrade the No. 30 scoring offense in the league. But don't sleep on the defense. The Dolphins could and probably will add defenders, with the outside linebacker spot generally a spot the team could be targetting.

And so look to players such as Arizona's Ricky Elmore as possible future Dolphins. Elmore has quite a resume. He is the PAC-10's sack leader the past two seasons with 21.5 sacks. He is 6-4 and 256 pounds so he has prototype 3-4 OLB size despite having played a down DE spot in college.

Count him prominent among the group of middle-round players the Dolphins could find interest in -- along with Mario Addison, J.T. Thomas, Jabaal Sheard and others -- as possible additions for the defense and (very important) on special teams as well.

"Things are starting to come down to the wire and slow down a little right now so it's kind of nice to sit back and relax and wait for Thursday, Friday and Saturday to come around," Elmore told me during a recent guest visit on my radio show Armando and the Amigo.

 "Playing is something I'm very passionate about and the success I've had over the past 2 1/2 years with 21 2/1 sacks it's because of my attitude and the way I approach the game. I come out and go to work. I believe if I don't go hard every single play its a wasted down. A lot of guys have the talent but not all the guys have the work ethic. I think having the work ethic with the talent will take you a lot farther in the game. I have the relentless motor. I go to work every single day. I have the desire to do that every single snap. That's going to help me be successful at the next level."

Like that? I do. So do the Dolphins, apparently. They sent linebacker coach Bill Sheridan to work out Elmore for a personal workout.

"He's a good guy, he took us out and we did a private workout," Elmore said. "Then we did some work in the classroom. He was actually the first coach that did a private workout with me. That was four weeks ago. If I'm able to work with him, that would be pretty good because I think I can fit in that style of defense."

One knock on Elmore is that he's a pass rusher but not great at stopping the run. That is not a certainty but the way to deal with that is ask the kid straight up. The blunt question gives Elmore a chance to speak for himself and also tells me something about how he deals with frank criticism.

He passes on both counts.

"That's just one more thing to prove people wrong about," Elmore said of his run defense. "When you're in the spotlight like I was coming out as a sack guy, people try to pick at you to find something. For me, if you turn on the film, I think you'll see my performance against the run is just as good as it is against the pass. I know I can do it. It's just that people try to dissect something about my game."

Why do I care how Elmore handles critical questions? What do you think coaches do in part for a living? Yes, they instruct. They also criticize to get an improvement. Some kids wilt under hard coaching. The Miami coaching staff coaches hard.

And Elmore would not wilt.

"At the University of Arizona I was lucky enough to have coaching like that, that would point you out, that would get in your face," he said. "So that's going to make it easier for me to adapt to all the coaching styles because I have been coached hard. And I have coaches go the other way, so I'm able to handle it either way."

April 25, 2011

Most complete NFL first round mock draft EVER!

Jimmy Johnson, who knew a thing or two about the draft, used to say that he'd monitor the mock drafts of beat reporters around the NFL to see what the competition was doing. For some reason, Johnson believed the reporters knew what the teams they covered might actually do on draft day.

If you truly believe that, you'll love this: Below is a No. 1-32 mock draft compiled Sunday and Monday by beat reporters and others who cover teams regularly around the NFL. I represented the Dolphins (Don't hate). It is, I believe, a solid representation of what might actually happen Thursday night.

It's long. It's detailed, with information such as how many picks each team has, what needs each team has, and where they lack picks. So we're eating up a lot of Internet space. Hope cyberspace doesn't crash or something.                                               

Anyway, I present to you the 2011 beat reporters mock draft: 

1. CAROLINA (eight picks, no second, two thirds): Needs: QB, DT, CB. They lack a second-rounder after giving up No 33 this year in a trade during last year's draft to take QB-conversion-WR Armanti Edwards from Appalachian State. He's not without a future, but the previous administration had no interest in projects. While they still think Jimmy Clausen could be a good NFL QB, they haven't had anyone here who threatened to be more than that in franchise history. As tempting as it might be to fill defensive holes with players such as Marcell Dareus or Patrick Peterson, it's hard to pass on someone with a chance to be a premier QB with the first pick, since the hope is you aren't there very often. They've done their homework on the top three (Newton, Gabbert, Mallett), but it's become apparent which one they're most interested in. The Pick: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn. They'll listen if someone wants to call and knock their socks off with a trade offer, but no one's really expecting that call to come.

2. DENVER (seven picks, no fourth, no fifth and two sixths) Needs: DT, DE, LB, S, TE, RB. They do have four picks in the top 67, but way thin on Day 2 and Day 3 so are looking to move down if possible for an additional pick or two. They have scouted all the top QBs in person as well as visits just to make sure they didn’t want to take one with No. 2 pick. Elway said last week he still was looking things over but didn't see the "franchise guy'' in the draft at that moment. Overall McDaniels emptied out the cupboard, trading picks right and left to move up and reach on players who didn’t contribute before he was fired. The worst of the trades may have been the fourth-rounder this year to the Patriots for Laurence Maroney who didn’t touch the ball after Oct. 17 and was an inactive for the final eight games. They are looking defense, however, all over the board. Almost everyone I know in the league believes they will take Dareus here and I’ve given him to them in one mock earlier this month. However, I honestly believe Fairley and Miller are rated more highly on their board. Fox wants disruptive, explosive players on defense and with the move to the 4-3 so the pick is: Von Miller, LB, Texas.

3. BUFFALO. (9 picks; 2 in 4th, 2 in 7th). Primary needs: Front 7 (DE, OLB, ILB), OT. Secondary needs: QB, CB. The Bills like QB Ryan Fitzpatrick but they’re realistic: Is he likely to outplay Ben R, Tom B, Philip R or Peyton M in the playoffs? GM Buddy Nix, formerly of S.D., liked the way Rivers was eased into the QB job behind Drew Brees. So the Bills think it’s a good year to take a QB, even though their most dire needs are in defensive front seven. (Buffalo finished 32nd vs. run in ’10. FYI: They don’t put DT on their needs list.) If Carolina doesn’t take Cam Newton, expect Buffalo to pick him. Our expectation is they would be satisfied to take Marcel Dareus or Von Miller next, ahead of Blaine Gabbert, but it would be a close call. At OLB they have Shawne Merriman, trying to come back from a major Achilles injury; Chris Kelsay and Aaron Maybin, who’s on his last chance. So Miller would fit. But their front seven is soft, so they would not be able to pass on Dareus, who's an ideal 5-technique DE and can move to DT in a four-man rush on third down. The pick: DE Marcel Dareus.

4. CINCINNATI (8 picks; 2 in 7th). Primary needs: QB, WR, S, O-line. Secondary needs: RB, CB. It's obvious that they need someone to replace Carson Palmer since I have better odds on becoming the subject of a Taylor Swift ballad than him returning to play for Mike Brown. They have had the trifecta of Pro Day, Cincy visit and private workout with Ponder, Dalton and Newton but not Gabbert. That would place Gabbert fourth on their QB board. Peterson would make a nice fit but there are bigger needs on offense. They need a top WR for future years since Chad 85 will probably be released before the season starts. Simpson and Caldwell are also in the last year of their deal. Could they take Gabbert? With this franchise anything is possible but they need a playmaker and at four a receiver fits. THE PICK: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia.

5. ARIZONA (8 picks, 2 in the seventh round). Needs: OLB, QB, ILB, G, WR. Many mocks have Gabbert going here but I don't believe it. The Cardinals like him but not that much. They need immediate help on defense and the choice will be between Peterson and Quinn. That's my guess. They will go with Patrick Peterson and give new DC Ray Horton two elite corners and hope they find LBs later. So Patrick Peterson.

6. CLEVELAND. – (8 picks, 2 in the 6th (they've got Denver's). Needs: Defensive ends, defensive tackle, No. 1 playmaking receiver, 3rd-4th cornerback, developmental offensive tackle, developmental quarterback. Browns need touchdowns and quarterback sacks on defense. Switching to a 4-3 and they have zero ends on the roster. Zero. The logical choice here would be Robert Quinn. (I'm pretty sure they won't touch Da'Quan Bowers.) Quinn would fit GM Tom Heckert's M.O. for light, undersized ends. Actually, he said last week he's looking for ends weighing "250 -- tops." And Quinn is 265. But I think Mike Holmgren's marching orders are to take a sure thing at No. 6. Or at least a surer thing. So I'm going to select WR Julio Jones. I believe they have Green rated higher, and would snatch him if available. Jones is a tougher call, but he would be a No. 1 on the Browns even though Heckert and Holmgren consistently defend their WR corps. The switch to the West Coast offense also helps the case to take Jones. Selection: Alabama WR Julio Jones.

7. SAN FRANCISCO (12 picks, two in the fourth round, two in the sixth round, four in the seventh round). The team might see Blaine Gabbert as a vehicle for moving down, perhaps to the Redskins, allowing them to take a player to fill a defensive need like CB Prince Amukamara or DE Robert Quinn. Or they may decide that Gabbert is too good to pass on. The 49ers have just one quarterback under contract, David Carr, at the moment and there is no guarantee a good one still will be available in the second round. That is, letting Gabbert slip past could be riskier than taking him. So, Blaine Gabbert's the pick.

8. TENNESSEE -- 9 picks total. Needs: QB, DT, DE, LB, S. The Titans need a quarterback, and some in the building may start sweating it here with two off the board already. If they pass here, then there's a chance it could be slim pickings at the position in Round 2. While some will lobby for Jake Locker, but the Titans go for a guy with more value here and take Auburn DT Nick Fairley, then try and trade up before their second pick. In Round One, though, it's Fairley.

9. . DALLAS – Eight picks, including a compensatory pick in the seventh. Needs: 1. DE. The Cowboys are unsettled at end with Jason Hatcher, Stephen Bowen and Marcus Spears all scheduled to become free agents. 2. OT. The Cowboys have grown old in the offensive line. Right tackle Marc Colombo, right guard Leonard Davis and left guard Kyle Kosier all turn 33 during the 2011 season, and center Andre Gurode is 32. Colombo missed one game last season with a knee injury, and Kosier missed three with a knee injury. Colombo , who allowed 9.5 sacks last season, is due a $2.6 million option bonus and could be cut. 3. S. Strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh will test free agency, and free safety Alan Ball, with four years of experience in the league, could be a free agent. Tyron Smith, OT, USC: The Cowboys could attempt to trade up for Patrick Peterson if he starts falling. They are more likely to move down –if they can find a trade partner – and take either Anthony Castonzo or J.J. Watt. If they stay where they are, Smith could replace Marc Colombo. Just remember that since 1989, when Jerry Jones bought the team, the Cowboys have never used a first-round pick on an offensive linemen.

10. WASHINGTON. Six picks (no third -- traded to Saints for OT Jammal Brown or fourth -- traded to Eagles for QB Donovan McNabb) including a compensatory in seventh. Needs: QB, NT, OLB, CB (if Carlos Rogers doesn't re-sign), WR (if Santana Moss doesn't re-sign, OT (if Brown doesn't re-sign). Nice fits: DE/OLB Robert Quinn, QB Jake Locker, NT Phil Taylor. Washington needs a legitimate quarterback prospect as well as a bona fide nose tackle and with just two picks in the first four rounds would love to trade down from the 10th overall selection to gather enough choices to attempt to address all its needs. But if a trade doesn't happen in the first round, Shanahan might have to hold his breath and hope that Moss, Brown, DE Kedric Golston and either Rogers or nickel back Phillip Buchanon re-sign whenever free agency occurs and that 2010 fourth-rounder Perry Riley is ready to replace free agent inside linebacker Rocky McIntosh because expecting to land an immediate starter in the fifth, sixth or seventh rounds isn't realistic. And that would still leave the Redskins deciding whether to bypass a pass rusher such as North Carolina's Quinn or a nose tackle such as Baylor's Phil Taylor in order to choose his next quarterback with the 10th or 41st selections. PICK: DE/OLB Robert Quinn.

11. HOUSTON: Picks: 8, 2 in the seventh round, including Mr. Irrelevant (compensatory pick). Needs: OLB, CB, FS, SS, WR. Comment: Wade Phillips needs a pass rushing OLB to go with DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing on the inside and Connor Barwin at the other OLB spot. Their starters are set in the defensive line. They were 32nd against the pass. They also need a CB. I expect they’ll give Denver a call to try to trade up to get Von Miller. When the price is too high, if Patrick Peterson were to fall to the 49ers, the Texans would call them, too. They havent’ traded up in the first round in Gary Kubiak’s five drafts. If it comes down to OLB Aldon Smith and CB Prince Amukamara, I’m going with Smith. They’ll look for CB in the second round and free agency. Pick: Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri.

12. MINNESOTA (9 picks; 0 in third, 2 in fifth, 2 in sixth, 2 in seventh. Extra 5th is from Giants for Sage Rosenfels; Extra 6th and 7th are compensatory picks) Needs: QB, S, CB, DE, DT, and OL could use an upgrade. DT Pat Williams will not return. LDE Ray Edwards is a fifth-year, unsigned guy who doesn't appear likely to return. WR Sidney Rice is a fourth-year unsigned guy who will leave if the new CBA grants him UFA status. ... The Vikings' No. 1 need is quarterback. But they have numerous holes to fill and can't afford to bypass better value at another position of need for the lesser value that comes with reaching for a QB at No. 12. Like a lot of teams, they prefer to trade down. That could help them get the right price on a QB while getting at least one extra pick. They want to recoup the third-round pick that Brad Childress used in the trade for Randy Moss. Moss lasted all of 26 days before Childress cut him. PICK: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson. The Vikings desperately need and want a QB, but I don't see them taking one here. They want to trade down. If they stay here, they could grab Bowers if he slides this far. The Vikings have grabbed guys who have slid before. They got Adrian Peterson at No. 7 when he had injury red flags. They also got Percy Harvin at No. 22 when there were concerns about his character. Among many needs, pass rusher makes the most sense at No. 12 based on what's available and the difficulty of filling that need.

13. DETROIT. Lions pick, based on this scenario: CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska.Background is as follows: I don’t think it’s automatic, because they might go for whichever linemen – offense or defense – rated highest among those remaining is still on the board. But cornerback is one of the primary needs – see below. First the history, from a franchise taking yodeling lessons after ascending to the peak of the Alps for going 6-10 last year after so many years of ass-ending the NFC North. Given the 8 p.m. start of the first round on Thursday, and the Lions sitting at No. 13, I figure they’ll make their first pick around 9:45 at the earliest. That means for the first time in recorded history, the Lions will make their first draft pick after dark. And after so many years of drafting IN the dark. The Lions have six picks – one in every round except the sixth. They have no compensatory picks, which means they are not in the running for Mr. Irrelevant – unless another first-round pick is welcomed into the fraternity of Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams. The Lions needs, in order: every-down outside linebacker, cornerback, third receiver, depth on either line and a complementary running back. In the first round, focus on cornerback and linemen. The rest will be addressed later, based on the talent pool. There is no linebacker who fits the needs who is worthy of being drafted on the first round, and cornerback is sort of on the balance point, depending on how one values Prince Amukamara of Nebraska, or is willing to overlook character issues involving Jimmy Smith of Colorado. Trades: The Lions have made a trade involving a first-round draft pick for three straight years. Two were on draft day: 2008 they moved down two spots in a deal with KC and drafted OT Gosder Cherilus; in 2010 they moved up four spots, to No. 30 on the first, in a deal with Minnesota and drafted RB Jahvid Best. And during the 2008 season, GM Martin Mayhew made a trade with Dallas that gave the Cowboys WR Roy Williams. In return, the Lions got a first-round pick and used it to draft fut, and future Pro Bowl TE Brandon Pettigrew.The six names I hear most often for this pick are Bowers, Anthony Castonzo, Nate Solder, J.J. Watt, Aldon Smith and Amukamara. A name you don’t hear is Mike Pouncey, the interior offensive lineman from Florida. But the pick is Amukamara, again, based on this mock draft.

14. ST. LOUIS (7 picks--1 pick in first 5 rounds; none in Round 6; two picks in round 7. In exchange for WR Mark Clayton in a trade early last September with Baltimore, the Rams sent their 6th to the Ravens in exchange for Clayton and the Ravens' 7th-round pick). TEAM NEEDS (WR, DT, OLB, RB, CB, S, DE) The draft scenario as it has unfolded here, isn't the best for the Rams. But it's not a disaster either. They were hoping to see maybe a third QB taken ahead of them and another offensive tackle.. That would've push more players down that they liked, including Robert Quinn and Aldon Smith. Of course, they were hoping against hope that Julio Jones would've made it to No. 14. They desperately need a game-changer at wide receiver. After all, what good is it to have a potentially elite QB in Sam Bradford if _ as one long-time coach told me _ he's throwing to a bunch of truck drivers. They may not be truck drivers, but the Rams' receiving corps is injury-plagued and hasn't played that well. Under this scenario, the Rams best options are the defensive line or RB Mark Ingram. I think Steven Jackson still has 2 to 4 elite years in him (he turns 28 this summer). Although I see it happening later in the draft, I just can't see the Rams spending their No. 14 on a running back. So it's defensive line. DEs Cameron Jordan, Ryan Kerrigan, and Adrian Clayborn are tempting. But a greater need is defensive tackle, where Clifton Ryan (a starter in '08 and '09 who played in only one game last season because of recurring migraines) won't be re-signed. THE PICK: COREY LIUGET, DT, ILLINOIS: Liuget gives the Rams a "3-technique" with some quickness and penetration skills in their 4-3 scheme. By pushing the pocket from the inside, along with veteran Fred Robbins, that should make ends James Hall and Chris Long even more effective than they were last year when they combined for 19 sacks.

15. MIAMI. (8 picks; none in the second round, three in the 7th). Primary needs: The offense, all of it is in need. (RB, C, QB, WR, TE.), Secondary needs: OLB, G. The Dolphins were 30th in the NFL in scoring last season. That's bad in a 32-team league so they went and hired new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and now have to give him weapons to operate. It would be easy to suggest Miami needs a quarterback because that is probably true. Chad Henne has shown no evidence he's a franchise QB. The Dolphins will address the QB spot somehow this offseason. But in the first round? Hard to say considering that player might not immediately contribute. Andy Dalton is a possibility and so is Ryan Mallett. But both are projects and the Dolphins, whose administration is working on a short leash, needs production immediately. Did I mention the Dolphins don't have any running backs of note on the roster? Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown are unrestricted free agents and probably past their primes. Miami has unknowns Cory Sheets and Lex Hilliard as their only signed RBs. That's unacceptable for a club coach Tony Sparano says will be a run-first team. So the Dolphins must address the running game in this draft. The problem here is neither Mark Ingram nor Mike Pouncey are value picks here. Miami will desperately try to trade down because it doesn't have a second round pick -- used on, ahem, Brandon Marshall -- and it wants value for its pick. Barring the ability to trade, the Dolphins will consider the best player on their board who likely will be a defensive player. And then they'll address their running game, with either Pouncey or Ingram. The pick: C Mike Pouncey from the University of Florida.

16. JACKSONVILLE (7 picks, two fourths, no 7th, one in rest of the rounds.) Needs: DL, S, LB, CB, G-C, WR, QB. The Jaguars need to improve their pass defense, starting with the pass rush. Last year, they had just 26 sacks, but that was better than the previous year when they had just 14. The pass defense is so bad that Cold Hard Football Facts reported that their average of allowing 7.53 yards every time the opposing quarterback dropped back to pass was the worst in the league. They were 28th in passing yardage allowed and 28th in sacks per pass play.Good QBs just feasted on their defense. They couldn't rush and couldn't cover, particularly at safety so oppoisng teams should have thrown on every play against them. Now that Jack Del Rio has been stripped of the authority to call the defensive plays by owner Wayne Weaver, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will call them and he will use a simplified scheme because the Del Rio scheme seemed to confuse the Jaguars more than it did the opposing teams. It helps that the draft is deep in DL and that Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue fits the Gene Smith profile. Co-captain, team leader, relentless player who goes hard on every down. When fellow scribes call and ask for a 16th pick, I don't even ask for the names of the first 15. I just say if Kerrigan is there, put him down. He's also been compared to Aaron Kampman, another character guy with a high motor. Now we have no  inside info on whether Smith really likes Kerrigan and J.J. Watt and Cameron Jordan are still available in this draft and maybe they like them. Kerrigan is almost too obvious and Smith often likes surprises. There's been some speculation they might go for a quarterback because they haven't drafted one since they took Byron Leftwich in 2003 and David Garrard is not in the elite class and they have to groom somebody for the future.. They also need help at S, CB and LB but there don't seem to be any mid first rounders at those positions.  I suspect Watt may be gone even though he is available in this draft. So the pick is Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue.

17. NEW ENGLAND (9 picks; 2 firsts, 2 seconds, 2 thirds, no sevenths) Needs: Defensive end, pass-rusher, guard, running back. The Patriots are overflowing with draft picks thanks to frequent trades in previous years, including sending Richard Seymour to Oakland for this first rounder. Bill Belichick has nine picks now, but don’t expect that number to stay there. They’ll likely trade down several times to stock up for 2012. At this pick, however, they will look for Seymour’s replacement. They’ve struggled to set the edge as a defense for years, and they haven’t found a five-technique end who can take on two blockers and free up their outside linebackers to rush the passer. With ample depth on the defensive line in this draft, they can finally fill the void. The Pick: Cameron Jordan, California. Slightly more athletic than Seymour but not as stout, Jordan provides them with serious athletic ability and versatility. He could be a hybrid like Willie McGinest was or he could bulk up and mimic Seymour. Either way, expect an immediate starter.

18. SAN DIEGO: Eight picks. (18 in the first. 50 and 61 in the second. 82 and 89 in the third. No fourth or fifth. 183 and 201 in sixth. 234 in seventh.) This draft is almost exclusively about defense. They need to improve their defensive front seven, particularly the pass rush. They want to replace RDE Jacques Cesaire and add an OLB. With the five picks in the first three rounds, they’ll get those two players plus a CB and WR. They need a third corner who they can put in the slot and groom to succeed Quentin Jammer. They have just four WR actually under contract and two of them probably won’t make the roster. They seem content to stay at 18, since there are ample DEs and it appears J.J. Watt is going to fall to them. But they like Ryan Kerrigan too. With Jacksonville and New England looking at the same positions, essentially, I can’t rule out a trade with Miami. THE PICK: J.J. Watt, Wisconsin. All-around solid player. Don’t need and probably won’t get spectacular numbers from him at that position, but they think he’s a really good player who can help them against the run and take pressure off Luis Castillo on the left side. Plus, he’s an A.J. Smith kind of guy: plays hard and excellent character.

19. Giants: (8 picks, one each in rounds 1-4, none in round 5, three in round 6 (including 2 compensatory picks) and one in round 7. They traded their fifth rounder to Minnesota last year for QB Sage Rosenfels and return man Darius Reynaud.) Biggest needs are offensive line and outside linebacker, with OL by far the bigger concern. The Giants once enjoyed remarkable stability along the line, with LT David Diehl, LG Rich Seubert, C Shaun O’Hara, RG Chris Snee and RT Kareem McKenzie starting 38 straight games from 2007-2009, the longest streak by five offensive linemen since the 1970 merger. But offensive line injuries were a major problem last year. McKenzie, Snee and Seubert started all 16 games, but Seubert suffered a major knee injury in the regular season finale. Diehl missed 4 games with a hamstring and O’Hara missed 10 with foot problems that required two off-season surgeries. Seubert had a dislocated kneecap repaired. McKenzie, Seubert and O’Hara are all over 30. Outside linebacker is also a weakness, with the Giants not expected to bring back Keith Bulluck. Michael Boley has been solid since signing a 5-year, $5 million free agent deal from the Falcons in 2009. But he has not been the kind of impact player the Giants had expected. The Giants’ defensive line is considered a strength, but GM Jerry Reese said last week that if he felt there was a quality lineman at 19 who was high on their board, he’d make the pick. The Giants invested heavily at defensive line in 2009, adding free agents Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard. They drafted Linval Joseph in the second round last year. And Barry Cofield, arguably the most productive of all their D-tackles, is a restricted free agent. The three ends are Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants have interest in Mike Pouncey, who would address their needs on the interior of the offensive line, and they also like the top-ranked tackles. Given the way the board is falling: The pick: Anthony Castonzo, T, Boston College.

20: TAMPA BAY: Picks: Eight total, two in the seventh. Needs: DE, MLB & SLB, RT, CB. The Bucs addressed defensive tackle last year in picking Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. Their pass rush ranked 30th in sacks per pass attempt last year. Stylez White led the team in sacks last year with 4.5. There are plenty of choices here. They would probably take Cam Jordan if he lasts this long, which is a stretch. They would take Ryan Kerrigan if he is on the board. But he’s gone, too. So the options are: Adrian Clayborn, Justin Houston and Brooks Reed. ... Reed isn’t a huge guy, but he’s got the big DTs in the middle to help plug the run. The pick: Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona

21. KANSAS CITY. (8 picks; one each round except the fifth when they have two picks) NEEDS: LBs, WR, NT, OG-C, OT, QB. If you think we know what’s in the minds of Scott Pioli and Todd Haley, you’re sadly mistaken. No one in this organization is available to us aside from a 20-minute say-nothing “news” conference Pioli had 10 days ago, so this is complete guesswork.Here’s what we do know: The Chiefs need another 3-4 outside pass rushing linebacker to complement Tamba Hali and an inside linebacker to pair with Derrick Johnson. They need a speed receiver to stretch the defense and take pressure off Dwayne Bowe. Guards Brian Waters (34) and Ryan Lilja (30) are getting up in age, and center Casey Wiegmann (38) could be retiring. And in the middle rounds, the Chiefs need a quarterback of the future to understudy Matt Cassel. Brodie Croyle, 0-10 in his career as a starter, is unsigned and unwanted. We also know Pioli is all about no-risk, high-character players who take football seriously. Six of their seven draft picks of a year ago were team captains. So who does that leave? Possibly an outside linebacker like Akeem Ayers of UCLA. Or a 3-4 DE like Cameron Jordan, if he were still on the board. They fit the mold. So would Maryland WR Torrey Smith, and while this might seem a bit high for him, remember Pioli took Tyson Jackson with the third overall pick in 2009. With Pouncey off the board, Danny Watkins also fits a need and profile Pioli likes. Muhammad Wilkerson, who could play both DT or DE, is tempting, but the Chiefs have sunk so much money and hope into Glenn Dorsey and Jackson, I can’t believe they’ll go that route. With all that said, the Ravens and Raiders showed at the end of last season, the Chiefs need to be more physical in the offensive line. This crop of tackles is not nearly as good as last year’s when they passed on Okung, Davis and Bulaga, so they need to find one now. THE PICK:  Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi. He’ll get first look at right tackle, or they can try him at left and move Branden Albert to right tackle or left guard. And, if Carimi doesn’t measure up at right tackle, he can play either guard and Pioli has his Logan Mankins.

22. INDIANAPOLIS. (6 picks, one in each of the first six rounds. Traded 7th round pick prior to last season to Washington Redskins for CB Justin Tryon. Appears to be a great trade. 7th round picks are dicey and Tryon probably ranks as the Colts 3rd best corner. Needs: OT, DT, S, WR, G. I’ve heard all the arguments for the most pressing need being a run-stuffing defensive tackle. And they are valid. The Colts’ run defense has ranked no better than 24th in each of the past three seasons and has allowed averages of 125.4 yards per game and 4.6 yards per attempt during that stretch. But this is an offensive-driven team and everything on offense starts up front. The offensive line has been in steady decline, which was compounded when 2007 second-round LT Tony Ugoh turned out to be a bust. On top of that, age is catching up with C Jeff Saturday (35) and RT Ryan Diem (31). A legitimate, young LT would allow the team to move Charlie Johnson inside, if he returns. He’s one of several players whose free agency status hinges on the labor agreement. He’s a 5-year vet whose contract has expired. If things fall they way the have, the pick that makes the most sense – and one that Peyton Manning will applaud – is OT NATE SOLDER. Of course, it’s always possible Bill Polian isn’t sold on Solder (pardon the pun). Maybe he tries to move back and get one of the second-tier OTs. In the previous 24 drafts Polian has run with the Colts, Carolina and Buffalo, he’s taken only three offensive linemen in the first round, none since Blake Brockermeyer in 1995.

23. PHILADELPHIA. 10 picks (one in 1st, 2nd and 3rd, 2 in 4th, 2 in 5th, 0 in 6th and 3 in 7th). Needs: CB, OT, DE, WLB. Despite using its first 5 selections on defensive players last year, the primary focus a year later remains defense. They gave up a franchise-record 31 touchdown passes in 2010 and their pass-rush faded down the stretch. They traded up from 24 to 13 last year to select Michigan DE Brandon Graham. But he tore his ACL in December and Andy Reid has acknowledged it will be a “stretch” for him to be ready for the start of the season. The other day he tweeted he was at about 60 percent. They've got numbers a DE, but with the exception of overused RE Trent Cole, not a lot of quality. Juqua Parker turns 33 next month, Victor Abiamiri missed all of last season recovering from microfracture surgery. They signed the CFL's top sacker, Phillip Hunt. They traded for Darryl Tapp last year, but it remains to be seen how he'll do under new d-line coach Jim Washburn. They need to find somebody to start at RCB opposite Asante Samuel. Ellis Hobbs probably isn't going to play again after suffering his second season-ending neck injury. '10 fourth-round pick Trevard Lindley showed some promise and could be in the mix. Nickel man Joselio Hanson doesn't have the speed to play outside. And Dimitri Patterson, who replaced Hobbs last year, is better suited for a backup/special teams role. They brought in Colorado's Jimmy Smith in for a visit two weeks ago and they said all the right things about him. But I can't see them rolling the dice on a guy with his character and work-ethic questions. Besides, defense, they also need to upgrade RT, which is QB Michael Vick's blindside. Winston Justice struggled last year as the Eagles gave up 49 sacks. Mississippi State's Derrick Sherrod could be a possibility here. So could Mike Pouncey, who they could plug in at another weak spot, RG. Though that doesn't really address RT. My sense is that they think they can eventually address the corner problem in free agency, whenever that is. I think they will go for yet another pass-rusher. Their new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has a son who plays corner at Iowa, so he's well-acquainted with the good and bad of DE Adrian Clayborn. I think they'll take him, Erb's palsey or no Erb's palsey. EAGLES PICK: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa.

24. NEW ORLEANS. (6 picks, 1, 2, 3, 3, 7, 7). … Needs: OLB, DE, DT, RB, TE, C, OT, S. … The Saints could really use a more dynamic athlete in their front seven, preferably a pass rusher. But keep in mind that they run a 4-3 defense and have traditionally stayed away from ‘tweener pass-rushers that fit better as outside linebackers in 3-4. So I don’t think they’d go for a Brooks Reed/Justin Houston/Jabaal Sheard type unless they definitely think they’re big enough to play defensive end. … The most pressing immediate need is OLB since they haven’t re-signed either of their starters from last year and were just mediocre at the position to start with. But I don’t know if Akeem Ayers is a true OLB in a 4-3 or another of those ‘tweener types. … DE makes the most sense in this draft since there seems to be so many to choose from. I think Cameron Heyward or Adrian Clayborn could make sense here, and you could definitely plug in guys like Da’Quan Bowers, Cameron Jordan, Ryan Kerrigan, etc., if they happen to fall this far in your mock draft. … I also think some DTs could be the best available player, like Muhammad Wilkerson and Phil Taylor, and Cory Liuget if he falls this far. … The Saints need more depth at RB, but I’d be surprised if they use their Round 1 pick at RB, even if Ingram falls. … They are a “best available player” team, though, so it wouldn’t shock me if they picked a running back, offensive tackle or tight end if that’s the highest-rated player on their board. THE PICK here is DT MUHAMMAD WILKERSON. He sounds like a dynamic athlete with a lot of potential, who could provide some pass rush as a tackle and move to end in some 3-4 alignments. The Saints like that kind of versatility.

25. SEATTLE: Eight picks - First round (No. 25), second (No. 57), no third, fourth (No. 99), two fifths (No. 156 and 157), sixth (No. 173) and two sevenths (No. 209 and 242). The Seahawks have too many holes to patch through the draft considering they have only two starting offensive lineman in place – Russell Okung at left tackle and Max Unger at center -- and then a question at quarterback. Matt Hasselbeck is headed toward free agency, and while both sides still hope he’s back, that uncertainty has led many to believe the Seahawks are bound to take a quarterback in the first round. Don’t be so certain about that. Seattle needs depth along its defensive line, it needs the starting left guard it has been looking for ever since Steve Hutchinson left in 2006, and it needs help in a secondary that has ranked in the bottom six of the league in passing yards allowed for each of the past three years. But Pouncey is already chosen and Baylor’s Danny Watkins is older than the Seahawks want in a rookie. The Seahawks are looking for big cornerbacks capable of playing press coverage, which is exactly what Colorado’s Jimmy Smith excels at. There are off-the-field concerns as he was arrested twice, but Seattle believes that one of coach Pete Carroll’s strengths is bringing out the best in players. The Seahawks choose CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado, No. 25 overall.

26. BALTIMORE: Nine picks: First (26th overall), Second (58th), Third (90th), Fourth (123rd), Fifth (164th) and 165th>, both compensatory), Sixth (180th) and 191st) and Seventh (225th). Needs: CB, DE-OLB, WR, OT, C. The Ravens haven’t used a first-round pick on a defensive player since Haloti Ngata in 2006. It’s time for the Ravens to find another young playmaker for a group that has an aging Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. The Ravens have been eyeing Jimmy Smith because they need to add size to a cornerback group that doesn’t have an experienced player over 6 feet. If Smith is gone, the Ravens will turn their attention to boosting a pass rush that generated 27 sacks last season, which was a single-season low for the franchise. Take away Terrell Suggs’ 11 sacks, and you can see why the Ravens have to get somebody to put pressure on the quarterback. The pick – Cameron Heyward, DE-OLB, Ohio State. The Ravens like his toughness, bloodlines (he’s the son of the late Ironhead Heyward) and character. Heyward has some versatility, which is a plus for the Ravens’ hybrid style. He could eventually start at defensive end (where Cory Redding is entering the final year of his contract) or at 3-4 outside linebacker (where Jarret Johnson is going into his contract year). Heyward’s average senior season – 3.5 sacks – is the reason why he’ll be available near the bottom of the first round.

27. ATLANTA. (9 picks – 1, 2, 3, 4,5, 6, 7 (three). Overall – 27, 59, 91, 124, 158, 192, 209, 228, 229… Needs:  DE, WR, CB, OT, CB, RB and backup QB.  The Falcons will likely consider one of the defensive ends. John Abraham isn't getting any younger and they need to rush the passer better. Clayborn, Heyward and Akeem Ayers could be in play if they are still available. … Also, they want to add some playmakers and speed to the offense. They could be going with a wide receiver in the second round and a speed back in the third or fourth round.  They are reportedly in love with Troy wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan and he could be a possibility. They also have heavily scouted Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murrary. … The Falcons need to add some depth to their linebacker corps at some point during the draft. They have had Georgia's Akeem Dent in for a visit and could consider California's Mike Mohamed later in the draft. THE PICK HERE IS Akeem Ayers, UCLA's DE/LB. The Falcons worked him out on April 9 in Los Angeles and he him do defensive end and linebacker drills. He would get a chance to help right away as a designated pass rusher opposite of John Abraham.

28. NEW ENGLAND (9 picks; 2 firsts, 2 seconds, 2 thirds, no sevenths) Needs: Defensive end, pass-rusher, guard, running back. The Patriots are serial traders when it comes to the draft, and this year’s edition will be no different. Coach Bill Belichick hosted quarterbacks Ryan Mallett and Jake Locker for private visits not to consider selecting them but to properly evaluate their value for trades. With teams no doubt attempting to trade back into the first round for quarterbacks, the Patriots could look to move No. 28 for a first-rounder in 2012. That makes the most sense. However, if they had to make a selection, they’ll continue with the emphasis on being strong up front on offense and defense. The Pick: Baylor guard Danny Watkins, the 26-year-old former firefighter, is the best available player at a position of need for the Patriots. Guard Logan Mankins’ future is in doubt and former reserve Dan Connolly may be better coming off the bench. That opens the door for a quick fix for 2011 and a potential long-term replacement for Mankins. The immoveable Watkins is the guy.

29. CHICAGO: (6 picks, one in each round except 7th) Needs: Offensive tackle, Defensive tackle, Linebacker, Tall receiver, Cornerback. The Bears have targeted four to six players that could be available at No. 29. But, I think the team is inclined to trade back. Based on this mock draft, with only two quarterbacks off the board, Bears may actually be able to find a trade partner. Based on this mock, talented offensive tackles Derek Sherrod and Phil Taylor are still available, as well as defensive tackle Marvin Austin. With that said, moving back a few spots and picking up an extra pick, may really appeal to the Bears. But, if they weren’t able to do that, I think the Bears would really be fascinated by running back Mark Ingram, who has surprisingly fallen. He’s a terrific athlete, and would give the Bears another playmaker. But the position would be a luxury, with Matt Forte and Chester Taylor on the roster. Justin Houston, the outside linebacker, could also be appealing.

THE PICK: Derek Sherrod. Yes, Phil Taylor is also available. But, Sherrod doesn’t have any character concerns, like Taylor, and he’s been a pretty model player during his collegiate career at Mississippi State. He’s got size (6 foot 5, 320 pounds), and he’s  got good athleticism and a great wingspan. He needs to work on getting lower and get more strength, but those are things that offensive line coach Mike Tice would emphasize with him. If he progresses well, he could immediately help the Bears’ offensive line, which gave up a league-high in sacks in 2010. He would need time to grow, but J’Marcus Webb, a seventh-rounder, did fairly well, and Tice can get guys up to speed quickly. If Sherrod is signed, then it would make re-signing Olin Kreutz, the veteran center, an even greater priority, since he’s a free agent.

30. N.Y. JETS. (six picks; no pick in second round): Needs: NT, LB, WR, S. They don’t have a second-round pick. That went to the Chargers in a trade last year for CB Antonio Cromartie, who is now a free agent. The system will determine whether he is an unrestricted or restricted. The Jets own the Cardinals seventh round pick (5th in the round) as the last installment in the Kerry Rhodes trade. They traded their own seventh rounder (30th overall) to the Lions for QB Kevin O’Connell. The Jets have six picks this year. In the last two drafts, they wound up with a total of only seven picks, the lowest in the league. Their biggest need is at nose tackle. Kris Jenkins suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener – it was the second year in a row he suffered a season-ending knee injury. They released him after the season. Sione Pouha is a very good player, but he is 32 years old. That makes Baylor NT Phil Taylor someone the Jets could very well take in this spot. They also have pass rushing needs. They brought in Jason Taylor last year but he had a relatively quiet season and they released him after the season. DE Shaun Ellis is a free agent and he will be 34 in June. They could use a pass rusher at DE or at OLB. The OLB starters are Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas. That makes UCLA’s Akeem Ayers and Arizona’s Brooks Reed possibilities, but in this mock, they are both gone. Receivers Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards are also free agents. Holmes could be a RFA if the requirement doesn’t return to four years of service. Edwards will be a UFA. KR-WR Brad Smith would also be a RFA if six years of service are required. Jerricho Cotchery is the only one of the Jets top four receivers who is not a FA. PICK: BAYLOR NT PHIL TAYLOR. His 337 pounds will fit nicely into the middle of Rex Ryan’s defense.

31. PITTSBURGH. (7 picks, one each round). Needs: CB, OT, DL, WR. Anyone who watched the Super Bowl knows the Steelers need a cornerback. They had one good one and Ike Taylor is a UFA and 30. Don't know if he''ll be back. Top two OT had serious surgeries -- Willie Colon missed season with Achilles rupture. Max Starks second half after neck surgery.. Top healthy OT is Flozell Adams, 36. Defense line good but old. Could use top-flight WR. PICK: Aaron Williams of Texas, CB. Big, not fast but can help until Marines send more and he can move to safety in a few years.

32. GREEN BAY. (nine picks, extra D4 compensatory for Aaron Kampman, extra D7 from Carolina in 2009 trade for LS J.J. Jansen): Needs: DE, OLB, T, G, WR, RB, maybe QB, KR. When the Packers won the 45th SB they had 15 players on IR. Since then, they have dumped two of their 68: S Derrick Martin and TE Donald Lee. They have an imposing roster with no pressing need. Don't be surprised if they trade the pick to a QB-hungry team. I wrote a column Sunday saying Thompson should seriously consider dealing it for a D1 in 2012. The last time GB did that was 1991. Ron Wolf turned around in 1992 and sent that D1 (No. 17) to ATL for Brett Lorenzo Favre. GB does not need players. PICK: I will give them MARK INGRAM just to get him off the board for our purposes. Ryan Grant will be back from a blown ankle, James Starks has promise and UFA Brandon Jackson might be back. But Ingram might be too good to turn down. The other candidate would be Georgia's Justin Houston, more of a hand-down DE who would play ROLB in GB opposite Clay Matthews. At ROLB, the Packers are OK with Frank Zombo, Erik Walden, Brad Jones and Brady Poppinga.

NOT IN ROUND ONE: OAKLAND: Raiders picks: 48 (Round 2), 81 (Round 3), 113 (Round 4), 148 (Round 5), 181 (Round 6), 219 (Round 7), 241 (Round 7) -- The Raiders don't have a first-round pick this year, thanks to the Richard Seymour trade with New England two years ago. Oakland is looking to add some beef to an offensive line that lost guard Robert Gallery and that uses an undersized Samson Satele at center. While the Raiders think they're set in the defensive secondary -- even with the potential loss of free agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and safety Michael Huff -- they need some more guys who can cover receivers.

April 24, 2011

The Dolphins' mock: Rounds 1 through 3

This Dolphins draft is as much about quantity as quality only in that the team has to find a way to stave off the Patriots with their legion of five picks in the first three round and the Bills, which have only three picks the first three rounds but are taking their turns at the top of those rounds.

The Dolphins have a first round pick (15th overall) and are not scheduled to pick again until the third round with the 79th overall selection. The Pats will have picked five times by then.

I gave this long consideration as I set out to do my Dolphins mock for the first three rounds.

Having thought about it, I decided the Dolphins must move heaven and Earth to get back that one of two second round picks they used in the trade for, ahem, Brandon Marshall. And that's why my mock includes a trade back for Miami.

I believe the Dolphins will have the opportunity to trade back and for my purposes today I am saying the trade back partner is New Orleans. The Saints, you see, are a team on the cusp of playing for another title. They are thisclose to getting back to Super Bowl caliber. And so they need quality, not quantity. They want to get higher in the draft to pick a more dynamic player, and likely a defender in this defender-rich draft.

So for our purposes I'm making a trade for Miami.

(Full disclosure: This is just done in fun and as speculation. This is not based on anything sources are saying has been discussed or will happen. Just want to let everyone know that because the Internet can be a freaky place.)

I envision the trade as follows: The Dolphins trade their first round pick (No. 15 overall) and their third round pick (No. 79 overall) to New Orleans. The Dolphins get the Saints' first round pick (No. 24 overall), their second-round pick (No. 56 overall) and one of their third round picks (No. 88 overall).

What does this accomplish. It gets the Saints nine spots higher in the first round ostensibly to pick a better player. It moves the Dolphins down to a place in the draft I believe the value for what they're looking for -- running back, offensive line, wide receiver -- is greater.

Yes, the Saints lose their second rounder. But they have two third-rounders anyway. Yes, the Dolphins have to drop back in their third round. That's the price of dropping in on the previously closed-to-them second round.

And so here we are, at No. 24 overall in the first round.

With the 24th overall selection in the 2011 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins select: Mike Pouncey (Center) of the University of Florida. I hate the pick. And I love the pick. I hate it because Pouncey will never score touchdowns. But I love it because it is a value selection at No. 24 -- five spots lower than where his brother Markice went to Pittsburgh. I also love it because the Dolphins need a center to solidify their offensive line. The position has been unsettled since 2008. Joe Berger is nice but his best asset to the team is as a backup. Pouncey could be the starter for the next decade.

With the 56th overall selection in the 2011 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins select: Daniel Thomas (Running back) Kansas State. Mark Ingram will be gone by this spot. So will Mikel Leshoure, whom I would think the Dolphins will consider in the first round but pass on because he's not a value at No. 15 nor No. 24 for that matter. So it's the next best guy on the board at Miami's greatest position of need. Ryan Williams is also a candidate here, but I just think Thomas is bigger, quicker and fumbles less. Don't hate.

With the 88th overall selection in the 2011 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins select: Traiwan Jones (Running back) Eastern Washington. I'm more excited about this running back than the previous one, but this one is too risky to take in the second round. Jones is a bullet. He ran a 4.30 on the Miami scouts' stopwatches at his Pro Day two weeks ago. He is a home run waiting to happen and the Dolphins need some of those on offense and special teams. By the way, the Dolphins have doubled down on draft picks before, picking two cornerbacks in the 2009 draft. I hope Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams will be here when Miami picks but he probably won't be. I love that kid. He reminds me of Keith Jackson.

I know, I know, you're going to wonder why I didn't address the QB spot. Well, this doesn't mean I'm on board the Chad Henne bandwagon. If you read my columns, this blog and listen to my radio show, you know that already. But I wait to address it in free agency. I go get a veteran.

OK, that's a lot to chew on. And there is much work for you to do. It is your turn to give me your Dolphins mock for rounds 1 through 3. If you believe the Dolphins will trade, you have to use that scenario in your draft as I did.

We will do rounds 4-7 next week.

Go!

April 23, 2011

Dolphins not breaking ties with Marshall (right now)

The Miami Dolphins are still at this hour trying to find out as much about the domestic violence incident involving Brandon Marshall and his wife as they can.

So everything from here on comes with the caveat that new details could change the way the team feels and reacts.

Having said that, the Dolphins are not of the mind to get rid of Brandon Marshall.

It has been well reported by profootballtalk.com and Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post that the Dolphins can cut the cord on Marshall if they want by simply not paying him a $3 million option bonus they owe him. That bonus was set to be paid April 2, but assuming it was not because the NFL was under a lockout and had suspended all insurance and contract payments by then, the Dolphins have the ability to make a choice on Marshall when the lockout ends.

The choice is simple: Pay the bonus, keep Marshall at least two more seasons, pay him guaranteed monies slated for 2011 and 2012, and deal with whatever drama Marshall has either on or off the field.

The other choice is to disconnect from Marshall because he has had a long history of problems, particularly of the domestic violence variety, and a leopard simply cannot change its spots. This option means the Dolphins will have had Marshall for only one season while giving up two second-round picks to Denver for that in return.

I am reporting the Dolphins currently, today, at this hour, have zero intention to get rid of Brandon Marshall. They aren't walking away from the investment that easily.

That doesn't mean they don't think he's not troubled. As one club official told me, "He has issues with women, that is pretty obvious." And the club knows Marshall isn't going to give up women regardless of the direction his marriage goes.

So the potential for future drama is there.

The Dolphins are wary of this current episode. They are sending Marshall messages of support through intermediaries. They want him to know they have his back. They want him and others to understand Marshall was the alleged victim here.

But the Dolphins are also eager to learn more about what, if anything, caused the stabbing incident in which Michi Nogami-Marshall plunged a kitchen knife into Marshall's abdomen, confessed to the crime, and stated she was acting in self-defense.

For now, however, Marshall is a Dolphin and will remain so. That's the plan. It is written in sand.

The Brandon Marshall stabbing

The life part first: Brandon Marshall will live. He is in stable condition and will survive, according to source at the Broward General Hospital where he is in Intensive Care. The stab wound, which a source says is to his abdomen, was serious but not so that he needed immediate medical transport. In fact, Marshall was driven to the hospital in a private car rather than an ambulance. Marshall is expected to be discharged and will be allowed to go home today.

Michi

The legal part: Marshall was allegedly stabbed in the stomach by his wife Michi Nogami-Marshall (pictured). She has been arrested on aggravated battery and with a deadly weapon domestic violence charges. She is awaiting the posting of a surety bond in the amount of $7,500. Here is the arrest search page.

It is logical to believe Nogami-Marshall, 26, stabbed her husband, but at this hour there is no certain proof of that, there is no arrest report to allege that, and I would dare say the spouse is often a reluctant witness in such matters and often does not press charges. This would not be the first domestic violence incident between these two.

[UPDATE: The Miami Herald has acquired a copy of the arrest report. It states Nogami-Marshall stabbed Marshall with a kitchen knife. Marshall told police he had slipped and fell onto a broken glass vase, obviously a tact to avert his wife's arrest. Police inspect the scene and found no evidence to back Marshall's claim and then arrested Nogami-Michi and after she was read her Miranda rights, she told police she stabbed Marshall in self defense. This is the arrest report.]

Sources have told the Dolphins Marshall was not violent in response to the stabbing. But ...

The club has questions about how the incident began. Club personnel realize most wives don't just wake up in the morning and stab their husband without provocation. This issue will be important because the NFL's personal conduct policy will come into play.

The football part: What a nightmare!

The Dolphins have a problem and a problem child on their hands. First, the club scrambled this morning to find out if they could even go to the hospital or send a representative because there were questions whether that is an NFL issue regarding the lockout. I am told club representatives have not seen Marshall and are staying away from the hospital.

"Very frustrating," one source texted me.

The team is getting its information through the doctor attending to Marshall who is talking to team doctors. The club is also monitoring media reports for details.

The club has released a statement. "We are aware of the report, and our thoughts are with Brandon at this time. We will look into the matter, but because we are not allowed to have any contact with any of our players we will refrain from making any further comment."

The Dolphins have asked the NFL for permission to speak with Marshall. They are awaiting a response from the league at this hour.

[UPDATE: The Dolphins have been told by the NFL that team doctors are allowed to see Marshall and that Marshall's private doctor can consult with the club's doctors and trainers.]

I hate to bring this up, but Marshall, in less than one year with the Dolphins, has been pretty much the same guy off the field he was in Denver -- becoming embroiled in violence and domestic violence issues. On the field, he's not been as good as he was in Denver, catching fewer passes for fewer yards than he did the past three years with the Broncos.

And he did cost two second round picks and a $47.5 million contract with $24 million of that guaranteed.

Ironically, Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland defended the idea of Marshall only a few days ago when compared to the price of the draft picks used in acquiring him:

“Yeah, you wish you had it, for sure, but I know I got a great player (Marshall) out of it to," Ireland said of not having the pick versus having Marshall.  "So last year that was the right thing to do and I am glad we got the player, but now I’m ‘dangum I wish we had that second round pick’, but you pay for what you get. We got a great player and I am very proud of that. The great thing about this year is we really have an extra first round pick and an extra fourth round pick, because neither one of those guys have played, (2010 first round pick) Jared (Odrick) and (2010 fifth round pick) A.J. (Edds), so those two picks are really going to impact this year’s draft class more than last year.”

Marshall's domestic violence issues are not new. He was involed in a public incident with his current wife in March 2009 when they were charged with disoderly conduct for hitting, kicking and screaming at each other in public. Marshall had no less than seven domestic violence incidents with his previous girlfriend Rasheedah Whatley.

April 22, 2011

Jeff Ireland in his own words -- all of them

So here it is, the entire thing for your reading pleasure. I present to you the entire Jeff Ireland pre-draft press conference.

Before you invest some time on that, kindly check out my column in today's Herald on the topic of what I believe the Dolphins should, and in fact, will do in the draft next Thursday. Tell me if you agree in the comments section.

(Opening Statement) – “First of all, I would like to make an announcement, you guys got the release that we have promoted Brian Gaine to the Director of Player Personnel. I am very pleased about that. Brian has been a guy that has been a great asset to me in Dallas as well here. I think it is appropriate that he gets elevated to help me with the draft obviously. In free agency, he is going to be my right hand man since Bill has left. He has been my right hand man really since I had him in Dallas. I am very pleased with him. He is a strong evaluator and I am glad to have him in the position he is in.”

(On Brian Gaine’s role and strengths) – “Where Brian’s strengths are marrying the free agency to college. He is a guy that in the last year that Bill has left…it hasn’t been a year, but I got out him out on the college side of things. He does some evaluative things. I give him the top 100 list of players to evaluate. He helps marry what is out in free agency to what is out there in the draft and so there is not only my eyes doing the exact same set of things, now there are two sets of eyes doing it, so we will collaborate together in that process.”

(On how Brian Gaine’s duties will change with the promotion) – “They change a little bit for certain. He was pretty much over the pro side of things. I am going to have him really help me supervise both college and pro.”

(On putting together draft board with draft taking place before free agency) –“In preparation with the draft board, it hasn’t changed too much. You still put up the board pretty much the same way I have always put it up. Free agency doesn’t affect how you evaluate these players. It affects your strategy. I think that is the most important thing that it affects your strategy going into the draft. Normally by this time, you have hit some musts or some needs or some things that you needed to put on your team. Now it is kind of wide open. Your musts, your wants and your needs are all there and you just have to supplement it with free agency after the draft.”

(On how concerned he is with running game and if he has to draft a running back) – “Not necessarily. I don’t feel that way that I have to. I am going to go into this draft pretty much the way I always go into it. I don’t want to reach for players, just to fill a roster spot. You have to be smart. Free agency will open up again. I do know that. Brian Gaine has reminded me a thousand times that free agency will open again. I go through the draft the same way, not the same way, but pretty much the same way in the fact that I don’t want to reach for anybody and I want to make sure that I get the right contributing players for this football team.”

(On how dynamics of draft room changes without Bill Parcells) – “Well, Bill brought a sense of awareness to everybody in the room. He had an aura about him. He always made it fun, but everyone knew when it was time to get down to business. That hasn’t changed, but I am not naïve to the fact that I don’t have that aura, but the mechanics have not changed. As a matter of fact, we probably are more focused on just work most of the time, because there are usually some storytelling involved in the draft room with Bill, so it is focused and the mechanics of it really haven’t changed as much.”

(On what kind of position he is in having inventory to make a trade and if he is restricted by the current labor situation) – “We are not allowed to trade players. That’s one thing. That restricts you. We don’t have a second round pick, that’s obvious. So you are a little bit restricted to go up for sure, but I am game for anything. If there is a player that we feel and when we are done strategizing that we feel like we need to go up and get, you always have some ammunition you can use. My phone is there. It can ring anytime to trade up or back. It just has to be the right time and right player.”

(On trading for active players) – “You can’t do that.”

 

(On trading players once the opportunity arises and a Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached) – “I haven’t really thought about past the draft and trading for players and things like that. That’s going to open up too at some point, just hasn’t been an active thought of my thought process leading into the draft because I know I can’t trade players.”

(On whether the lockout puts a greater emphasis on drafting NFL ready prospects) – “I think it does put an emphasis on it. I think you certainly want players that you’re confident with conviction that they can learn and come in right away and not need just a ton of the process to get it moving in the right direction I should say. There is more emphasis on that in my opinion.”

(On the communication he can have with draft picks once they are selected) – “I’m not so sure I can even talk about it to be honest with you, about the rules and everything to be honest with you. I know I can call them. I know I can call them and say congratulations. I don’t think I can call anybody after the last pick of the draft. I think I’m supposed to have no contact after the last pick of the draft.”

(On whether he has a general philosophy on drafting a running back as high as pick number 15) – “Yeah I do have a philosophy about it. I don’t know if I want to tell you my philosophy about it. I think that like most players…everybody says you can find running backs later in the draft. Well, you can find receivers late in the draft, and you can find guards late in the draft, and you can find tight ends late in the draft. It goes for every position in my mind. I think if you look at the top running backs in this league over time, they’re going to be first and second round picks. I do know that.”

(On whether that is the same with quarterbacks) – “Yeah, that study is probably accurate as well.”

(On what the main thing he looks for while evaluating quarterbacks) – “You know, you’re looking for all of it. You’re looking for Peyton Manning. You’re looking for Tom Brady. You’re looking for all those things, obviously. You’re looking for arm strength. You’re looking for accuracy. You’re looking for a quick release. You’re looking for good footwork. You’re looking for intangibles. You’re looking for smarts. You’re looking for mentally tough. You’re looking for all those things, and you just have to go through the process of evaluating that when you’re with the kid, watching through tape, watching tape with the kid. There’s a certain process that you go through, and we felt like we’ve done our due diligence there.”

(On whether an effective running game is more based upon the running back or the offensive line) – “Well it’s a team sport, so I think that good teams have, good running games have the combination of a good offensive line and a good running back. I think you have to have a combination of both.”

(On how thoroughly they have investigated Ryan Mallett and his impressions of Mallett) – “Well I have spent a lot of time with him, not going to deny that. I went there to visit with him. He’s come here to visit with me and to visit with him as well. I feel like we’ve been very thorough in that, in that process, much like we are with every player that we are considering drafting. Sometimes when there’s information out there you want to dispel rumors and get as much information that you can with any player out there, and that’s why we went through the process. He’s a nice young man, very talented kid, got a bright future.”

(On the current quarterback class) – “I think it’s good depth. I like the players that are in this draft. I think there’s good depth there. I think you can find a good player. I don’t have a crystal ball about what kind of players they’re going to be in this league. There’s a lot of things that go into that play, but I think it’s a good depth group. I think there’s, I think there’s starters to be had.”

(On how using seven of eight picks on defense in last year’s draft affects this year’s draft) – “Well I think with last year, to be honest with you, I wasn’t really aware of, until the end that it was seven of eight picks to be honest with you. It wasn’t the strategy that we had that we’re going defense, defense, defense. It’s kind of the way it fell. The draft board fell that way, so this year going into it I’m obviously more aware of what we did last year. The board has to fall the right way. You can’t, you have to either go up, go down, or stay put obviously, but I don’t feel like I have to just go out and get certain, certain positions. I don’t feel that way. Again, free agency is going to open up again. I feel like we’d be an active player in free agency if that was to, when that time comes, so I’m going to try to draft good players that can contribute fast.”

(On if it will be more difficult to get the second round pick that was traded to Denver last year back due to the labor issue) – “I can’t tell you what the mindset of the other teams are; I think that there will be quite a bit of movement though. I think there will be movement, you just never can tell. You are going to get the same answer from most GM’s, you are going to have to see how the board falls, where the movement is. I feel confident where the strengths of the board are, at least our board, and I am going to try to stay in those particular rounds as much as I can because that’s where the strength is, according to our board. It may be different with other places.”

(On if he is uncomfortable going into the draft without a second round pick) – “Yeah, you wish you had it, for sure, but I know I got a great player out of it to. So last year that was the right thing to do and I am glad we got the player, but now I’m ‘dangum I wish we had that second round pick’, but you pay for what you get. We got a great player and I am very proud of that. The great thing about this year is we really have an extra first round pick and an extra fourth round pick, because neither one of those guys have played, (2010 first round pick) Jared (Odrick) and (2010 fifth round pick) A.J. (Edds), so those two picks are really going to impact this year’s draft class more than last year.”

(On if a running back by committee lessens the value of the position compared to years past) – “Lessen the value? No, I don’t think so Omar, I don’t think it lessens the value. I think you have to go after as good a player as you can, because you never know when that player is going to get hurt in this business. I don’t think it lessens the value, I think you after the best players you can possibly get. Right now, we only have two running backs right now on our roster, you don’t know if you are going to get another one and another one at some point, so it doesn’t lessen the value, but no.”

(What are the tangible skills that you look for in a running back, do you separate the position by styles) - “Tangible skills? Well certainly with a running back you got to have instinct. You got to have quickness. You got to have vision. You got to have low center of gravity. You got to be tough; those are, I think those are critical.”

(On if he feels more prepared with the Draft this year compared to years past because there is no free agency) –“Certainly it has allowed us to focus on one thing, and it’s been all hands on deck, it really has, we have used everyone on our coaching staff, every person on our scouting staff. It has been great focus, great evaluative efforts here, so my hats off to my entire coaching staff and everybody in the building for that matter who has helped me focus on it. So yeah, I think you are prepared for it for sure.”

(On where he is in the draft process as a result of the ‘All hands on deck’ approach) – “Yeah, you know we started off like gang busters, we go from eight to eight and eight to nine and we just go real hard and we got ahead of ourselves a little bit so we kind of slowed down a little bit. The great thing is I can give my staff off for Easter, so they got a little bit of a break for Easter and then we go back hard come Monday. So we are right where we need to be, to be honest with you.”

(On how many Mock Drafts they do and if he looks at other peoples mock drafts) – “Yeah I really don’t look at too many of them up until about now. I start looking at a few certain ones that have a little merit to them. We start ‘mocking’ ourselves this week, that’s pretty much ‘the hay’s in the barn’ and now its strategizing and things like that were , trying to do. So we start ‘mocking’ and that just gives me a little bit of a thought process, a little bit of vision of what might happen. I have never ‘mocked’ and been satisfied with it, usually the draft actually leads to better results than the actual mocking does. My scouts, when we ‘mock’, they know my board and sometimes there are players that are not on my board that get drafted and those are the things that you obviously can’t predict, but I do look at them, they are fun to do.”

(On the way the 2011 schedule looks) –“I think there are some tough stretches, obviously, I am happy we are opening up at home on Monday Night, that’s exciting, against the Patriots. That’s extremely exciting. It’s one of the best teams in the league, your opening on Monday Night, you’re at home, we have something to prove at home, so I am very excited about that, and that’s all I have really looked at is game number one. But I think the schedule is good, we play on Thanksgiving it kind of a little bit of a homecoming for me, and I thought the schedule worked out nicely for us.”

(On if there are many stretch the field running backs in the draft) – “However we find it, we need to try and find it. I don’t know that we will and the answer could be on our team right now because we have some guys that didn’t play. So I am not sure. There are a handful of guys there that can run, now how they fall and whether, now there is no science to this thing, so whether or not it’s there or free agency or any of those things.”

(On how he feels about the 15th overall selection)

“The number itself or the pick itself (laughing).  I mean the pick is great.  I’ve always joked around with this but regardless of where you are picking in the draft, in my opinion, you usually are two players short of what you would need to get that pick.  And so, in other words, you never have 15 players that you’d love to have at 15.  You usually have 12 or 13 and so you’re betting on someone else being picked.  Whether you’re the 27th pick, you never have 27 players.  Or the fifth pick.  You never have 5.  Only one time that I had just one…the first pick and obviously I was proud of that one.”

(On if they are better served moving down in the draft) – “Like you said it’s the same in every draft.”

(On if he gave every quarterback the same test he gave Andy Dalton) – “Every quarterback we went to look out was put through the same process.  You have to do your homework that way.  We didn’t send them a playbook.  We send them kind of a study guide.  So we put every single player through the same process.  You’ve got to be able to compare one apple to next apple.  And so that’s what we did.”

(On how much weight he puts on the combine vs. the playing season) – “I’m a tape guy.  Video guy…what do they call it these days.  It’s not tape.  But I watch the video.  I’m a tape guy.  I’m going to go by what I see on that video tape and how they play the game.  Football players play football and obviously you want to verify what you see on tape with the combine numbers and things like that and sometimes it opens your eyes; a performance at the combine would open your eyes to something that you’re not seeing on tape.  And so you get back and you watch it again, but you want those two to marry together.  I put more weight on what I see as a football player playing the game of football.”

(On going up or down in the draft) – “I have a fairly good sense of who I would take at that spot.  There’s no doubt about it.  I mean I think if you can come down to two or three guys.  So, yeah, I do and you know there are also scenarios to go up and get a guy if falls or go down two or three guys are not there.”

(On how much information out there is misinformation)  - “First of all I don’t know if I believe even if I told him exactly what I was going to do.  Because I think there is misinformation out there.  I don’t think the misinformation comes from the player itself.  I think sometimes misinformation, its rumor, its hearsay.  It’s from someone that they thought they heard sometime, I don’t think it’s all on purpose sometimes.  I couldn’t tell you how much is misinformation.  I can tell you that some of it, a small portion of what you hear out of our building is misinformation.  So, but I can’t tell you what the other stuff.  I don’t know what other than misinformation other teams are putting out there.  But I’ve got to go by what I see.  I’ve got to go by what I’ve been able to gather from my scouts and myself, my coaching staff and that’s the information that’s most important to me.

April 21, 2011

Instant gratification on Ireland press conference

Jeff Ireland must have mentioned the fact the Dolphins have only two running backs on the roster at least four times this afternoon during his annual pre-draft presser.

I think that's where they're going, but that's for another time and another post.

Ireland made the point that running backs that are successful long-term in the NFL are not necessarily late-rounders like many so-called experts have been saying. "They're going to be first and second rounders," he said.

Having said that, Ireland said he doesn't feel like he must take a RB. "I don't want to reach for a player to fill a roster spot," he said.

The Dolphins general manager was asked about quarterbacks available to the Dolphins, particularly Ryan Mallett. "I have spent a lot of time with him," Ireland admitted. "We've been very thorough about him much like we are with every player we're considering drafting. Sometimes when there's information out there you want to dispel rumors and get as much information as you can with any player out there. That's why we went through the process. He's a nice young man. Very talented kid. He's got a bright future."

Ireland was not about to shut down any possibility today. He actually said he might be willing to trade up in the same breath he admitted he's "restricted" with eight draft picks but only two in the first three rounds.

Ireland admitted the fact free agency has not happened is a factor for teams, including the Dolphins. He said it will not affect the manner in which teams set  and prepare their boards. But it will have an impact on the strategy the teams use on draft day because everyone will be trying to fill needs that perhaps in previous years they had already addressed in free agency.