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2 posts from May 7, 2014

May 07, 2014

Dolphins looking at possible first-round trades

The Dolphins are open for business.

One day before the NFL draft's long-awaited first round gets underway, the Dolphins have fielded and initiated multiple phone calls to other teams to "set the table," as one source said, to trade down or trade up in the first round, according to multiple NFL sources.

The Dolphins hold the No. 19 overall selection in the draft. The fact they are telling teams they are willing to listen to trade down offers from that perch is not surprising. The fact Miami is a possible buyer in a trade up scenario is somewhat surprising.

In trade down scenarios the Dolphins have had preliminary discussions with Philadelphia (No. 22), Cleveland (No. 26) and New Orleans (No. 27), among others. One source said the Dolphins have also spoken with San Francisco (No. 30), although dropping behind Carolina (No. 28) might expose the Dolphins to losing their top OT option.

It makes sense.

The Dolphins have a handful of players they are comfortable taking in the first round and several of those may be available later in the first round. Although no one knows the names on that list outside general manager Dennis Hickey and probably the rest of the leadership structure that includes coach Joe Philbin, executive VP Dawn Aponte and owner Stephen Ross, it is possible to speculate which players the Dolphins like and need.

The team loves Tennessee offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James. The team loves Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier. LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr., USC WR Marqise Lee, Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller and Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses are also on the radar.

Several of those players are expected to be available later in the first round and perhaps into the second round.

So it stands to reason the Dolphins may be preparing to trade back in the first round and pick up an extra pick perhaps late in the second round in the case of San Francisco or sometime in the third round in most other cases. Dropping back three spots to Philadelphia's No. 22 might only yield a fourth-rounder.

The idea of the Dolphins trading up in this draft is less conventional.

Miami is not exactly loaded with draft picks as it was last year when then-GM Jeff Ireland rocketed from the No. 12 overall selection to No. 3 by giving up his first-rounder plus one of his two second-rounders.

This year the Dolphins have seven picks -- one in each round.

So why would the Dolphins even consider moving up?

The team might be eyeing a move in case Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin or Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews drops to within shouting distance. Michigan's Taylor Lewan will likely be gone well before the Dolphins are within range to trade up.  

Many mock drafts have the top tackle prospects -- Greg Robinson, Lewan, Matthews and Martin -- gone as early as the first dozen picks.

(Again, I have no source giving me specific names.  The Dolphins might have other players they value in a trade up.)

But that they've done their homework on the possibility of trading on Thursday? That is apparent.

Local kid made good Shazier definitely on radar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good pick?

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

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

The problems?

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

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

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

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

Fine. But ...

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

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

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

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

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

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