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43 posts from May 2014

May 10, 2014

Dolphins pick LB Jordan Tripp in fifth round

The Dolphins were not thrilled when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Ryan Shazier ahead of them in the first round of the NFL draft. That meant the trouble Miami had stopping the run and covering backs and tight ends on third downs last year is still a concern.

But at least the Dolphins are addressing the need to bring more competition to the position.

The Dolphins just picked Montana linebacker Jordan Tripp in the fifth round.

No, he's not a starter from Day One of training camp. He is going to have to earn his keep on special teams, where the Dolphins expect him to be excellent. But he does address a need if they are going to try and move on from Phillip Wheeler.

"I played teams all five year," Tripp said. "I've long-snapped on special teams. I'm happy to get down there to play special teams."

Tripp, 6-3 and 234 pounds, does bring an ability to run. He does bring versatility in that he played both inside and outside at Montana.

"Whereever they want to plug me in, obviously, special teams is very important as well, I'll do it to the best of my abilities," Tripp said.

The Dolphins have worked their Montana pipeline with this pick. The team previously had Lex Hilliard and Dan Carpenter from Montana.


Dolphins pick TE Arthur Lynch in fifth round

He's not exciting. He's not going to remind of Rob Gronkowski. But the Dolphins needed an in-line blocking tight end and that's what they've just gotten in the fifth round.

Miami picked Arthur Lynch from the University of Georgia with the 155th pick.

Some things:

Lynch was All-SEC as a senior.

He improved each season he played.

He was a team captain at Georgia. (Ja'Wuan James, Jarvis Landry and Billy Turner were team captains).

"To be a good football player you have to have leadership qualities," Lynch said. "You need to be a good leader on the field to have success. I have those qualities and will continue to display those qualities for the Miami Dolphins."

Lynch, 6-4 and 258, got drafted before UGA quarterback Aaron Murray.

Lynch said he patterns his game after Heath Miller and Zach Miller. He's basically more Jeron Mastrud.

Lynch said his 40-yard dash time at the Indianapolis was 4.68 hand-timed. He was in the 4.8s electronic timing.

Dolphins pick CB Walt Aikens in fourth round

The Dolphins secondary just got a little longer and lanky.

The team used its fourth round pick (125th overall) to select Liberty cornerback Walt Aikens, a 6-1 and 203 pounder that instantly becomes the biggest cornerback on the Miami roster.

Aikens had an interesting trip to Liberty. He originally committed to Illinois and played there but he was kicked out of school after he was charged, and pleaded guilty, to possession of stolen property.

"I bought a laptop from a teammates and it turned out to be stolen," Aikens said. "I got charged with possession of stolen property, which is a misdemeanor. The school was trying to make an example of football players at the time and they thought it was best if I left."

Aikens says he went to Liberty because he knew he would be able to not only compete but start at the lower level FCS program right away.

Now he has a similar feeling about his arrival in Miami.

"I took a visit a couple of weeks ago and fell in love with the coaches," Aikens said. "I want to be a starter. I want to come in and be a dominating factor. I want to be a dominant player."

Jason Fox slowed by 'minor' leg injury

The Dolphins selected Ja'Wuan James to be the team's starting right tackle in 2014 but before that was to happen there was supposed to be a competition between James and veteran Jason Fox.

That competition will not necessarily start immediately in the offseason conditioning and OTAs because Fox is nursing a leg injury.

Fox was wearing a walking boot on Saturday and obviously is not doing any running in the offseason program. But a source characterized the injury as "very minor" and added "He is fine."

Another source said Fox has been in the boot for some time and it will be coming off soon.

Fox has been plagued by injuries during his career. He was inactive early in 2011 and was eventually placed on injured reserve. In 2013, Fox won the starting right tackle job in Detroit but suffered a groin injury in the opener and lost his job.


May 09, 2014

Dolphins select LSU's Landry, ND State's Turner

For a while there, it seemed the Dolphins didn't want to pick in the second round.

They traded not once but twice, picking up an extra fourth and extra fifth round pick in trading with San Francisco and San Diego.

And when it came to the No. 63 overall selection, the Dolphins selected Louisiana State's Jarvis Landry. The wide receiver had 77 catches for 1,193 and 10 TDs last season.

He's not the biggest at 5-11 and 205 pounds. He's not the fastest, running a 4.77 in the 40-yard dash at the Indianaplis Combine. He improved that to 4.61 at his Pro Day. He is known for using his body and route-running for getting open.

He makes plays and he is going to make it very difficult for Rishard Matthews to keep his spot on the Dolphins game-day roster in 2014.

In the third round, the Dolphins realized the Oakland Raiders was the only California team they had not traded with so they did exactly that, moving up 14 spots in the third round to No. 67 overall.

And with No. 67 overall the Dolphins picked offensive lineman Billy Turner.

Bitonio goes to the Browns (sorry)

The Dolphins targetted Joel Bitonio as a guard prospect for the second round with their No. 50 overall selection.

Nope. Sorry.

The Cleveland Browns selected Bitonio with the No. 35 overall pick. Good player. Good pick.

Look for Dolphins to think Marcus Martin or a wide receiver now.

A couple of other players -- WR Marqise Lee and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins -- also were selected in the second round.

Seferian-Jenkins went to Tampa Bay and that was followed by Lee going to the Jaguars. So the Dolphins, interested in both player to some degree, see the players stay in the state. 

Dolphins thinking going into Night Two of NFL draft

Spoke to a source familiar with the Dolphins thinking and this is what I'm hearing as the NFL draft continues into the second and third rounds tonight:

Tonight, think more offensive line and wide receiver as the priority needs.

The Dolphins realize they are not done on the offensive line because they definitely could use a guard and the idea that center Mike Pouncey will be available for all 16 games in 2014 is a bit of stretch considering he missed time last year and there is still a harassment scandal sanction possible.

So the team is eyeing Nevada tackle Joel Bitonio and USC center-guard Marcus Martin, among others.

Bitonio is a no-brainer. He's big (6-4 1/4 and 302 pounds), he's nasty, he finishes, durable, and he has excellent personal and character qualities. Yes, he played mostly out of a two-point stance at tackle at Nevada and will have to acclimate to left guard (for the Dolphins) with his hand on the ground. But if he is there at No. 50 in the second round, the Dolphins will run to the podium with his name.

It's more likely Bitonio will not be there. And that's why Martin is a possibility.

He played mostly center at USC. That's where he might be able to serve as a backup to Pouncey.

But the Dolphins also like him at left guard, where he started for the Trojans as a freshman in 2011 and throughout 2012. (He moved to center as a junior and started all 13 games there).

At 6-3 3/8 and 320 pounds, this kid looks the part. Indeed, he has something of a Richie Incognito-type body minus some of the strength. That's his knock. He's not very strong right now for an NFL lineman. He bench pressed 225 pounds a modest 23 times at the Combine.

Martin is said to be a little short on the nastiness and grit factor, as well. But he is very talented in his ability to get on defenders and stay on them. He is a good system fit for the zone-blocking scheme.

The Dolphins are also going to be eyeing the WR position today.

No, they're not replacing Mike Wallace (they're stuck with him is the way it was portrayed to me), Brian Hartline or Brandon Gibson. But Miami would like to upgrade from Rishard Matthews as the No. 4 WR or at least would like to create so much competition for the youngster that he gets things right more often.

It seems Matthews is being held back because he sometimes "loses focus" and is more challenging to teach than others. So he's got to improve that to thus improve his play to thus stay on the roster.

So who might the Dolphins get?

Marqise Lee is available and the Dolphins think highly of him but it is hard to fathom he'll be available at No. 50 (the 18th pick of the second round). The Dolphins have viable wide receiver targets on their radar that should definitely be available at No. 50 and probably later into the third round.

Mississippi's Donte Moncrief, Clemson's Martavis Bryant are two likely targets.

Moncrief is a whopping 6-2 and 221 pounds and he has "stretch the field ability," according to one scout I texted with this morning.

"He's a top 50 pick," the scout added.

Well, the Dolphins have the No. 50 pick so ...

Bryant is 6-3 and 211 pounds.

Are you seeing a trend here with the length of these guys?

The Dolphins on Thursday made Ryan Tannehill's life easier by promising to protect him better. If they add a wide receiver with a big wingspan today they'll make his life easier by helping him complete passes that may not be perfectly placed or accurate.

Bryant is definitely not a second round pick. He's more a third-round possibility in a draft that is deep on receivers. His most troubling aspect is that he has undependable hands (troubling for a receiver). But he has good linear speed and has return ability, which is important to the Dolphins because if he can serve two purposes that makes him more valuable on the game-day 46-man roster.

Reaction to Dolphins picking Ja'Wuan James

The Dolphins filled their greatest need and although I understand the criticism of picking Ja'Wuan James without trading down and getting an extra pick for him, I cannot bring myself to hate the pick (particularly since I called it quite a while back).

So that's my reaction to the Dolphins' work in the 2014 NFL Draft's first round.

Here's some more reaction:

General Manager Dennis Hickey admitted he had the opportunity to trade down if he had wanted to.

“With any pick, we are always entertaining (offers), and sometimes you are on the clock and you get a lot of calls, sometimes you get a few," he said. "We had a couple calls, but we were just excited about picking Ja’Wuan James and adding him to our roster. He’s a guy that definitely fits in from a talent aspect as well as the person and brings what the Dolphins are all about."

Hickey weighed the idea of trading down versus the possibility he might lose James and decided not to risk it.

"As always, when calls are made you kind of go through and we kind of had a predisposed plan there to what we value," he said. "Our excitement that Ja’Wuan (James) was there, he was a targeted player that we really feel like was going to help us. He fit all of the criteria, so we were excited to take him. Obviously throughout the draft you are always taking into account all kinds of different scenarios and just weighing them according to how you feel about the player and how you feel about trading back. Obviously we felt good about the player. We are excited to add him to the team."

Hickey doesn't think James at No. 19 is a reach at all.

“We were always targeting Ja’Wuan at our pick," he said. "Again, we are excited and I know he was very excited as we talked to him through our visit here. A couple of times he grabbed me and said, ‘What do we have to do to get me here? I want to be here.’ So I said, ‘We kind of have to go through the process here, Ja’Wuan.’ He’s pumped to be a Miami Dolphin, and we are really excited to have him as part of our organization."

James is Miami's new starting right tackle. Or at least he better be.

And while the orthodox thinking among some fans is that the right tackle has to be a grinder and run-blocker and his pass-blocking can be sub-par because he's not protecting the quarterback's blind side, it is often the RT that has to be a better pass blocker.

Remember, in today's NFL, many teams put their best pass rushers over the right tackle. The Dolphins, for example, do this with Cameron Wake. The Bills often do it with Mario Williams. The Pats do it with Chandler Jones.

Well, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin believes James is good in pass pro.

"I think the one thing we all felt after watching the tape -- and I think that it is the No. 1 job that an offensive tackle in the National Football League has to get done on a consistent basis -- is we felt like he has the ability to pass block one-on-one against defensive ends," Philbin said. "That’s probably the first thing that really stuck out to us. We felt that he was a good scheme fit in the offensive, but I would say that was the number one thing that jumped out."

James joins former University of Tennessee teammate Dallas Thomas, a 2013 draft pick, on the Miami offensive line. Thomas, it must be said, is something of a nomad right now. Philbin said the team has not settled on whether he'll working primarily at guard or tackle initially in 2014.

That decision will be made soon after the draft.

This is what Philbin did not say: The reason the decision will come after the draft is because the Dolphins still want to add a guard in this draft. If they can do that today in rounds 2 or 3, the chances are good Thomas will be slotted in at tackle as a swing guy possibility -- left or right.

If, however, the Dolphins fail in their search for a guard today, Thomas will likely settle in at guard and compete for a starting job there.

The Dolphins absolutely love, love, love Nevada tackle Joel Bitonio, a source familiar with Miami's thinking tells me. The team loves Bitonio as a guard and likely as a left guard.

So if the Dolphins can land him in the second round today ... well, that would be very good. And that would likely make Dallas Thomas a tackle.

Blog note: I will post an update about what the Dolphins are thinking for today's two rounds sometime before noon. Make sure you are here for that and follow me on twitter.  


May 08, 2014

Dolphins pick Ja'Wuan James

The past hour had been a bad one for the Miami Dolphins. And then, on the clock at No. 19, the team picked Tennessee right tackle JaWuan James.

This one will feel troubling to some who think the Dolphins reached.


It's hard to reach when you pick a first-day starter. And that is what this plug-and-play tackle will be.

He is Miami's starting right tackle.


All the first-round OTs are gone

The four consensus first-round offensive lineman are off the board in the NFL draft.

It started, as expected, with Greg Robinson going to the St. Louis Rams with the No. 2 overall pick.

Then there was a lull until the Falcons, at No. 6, but they did the right thing and got Texas A&M's Jake Matthews to protect quarterback Matt Ryan.

The Titans, who picked guard Chance Warmack last year in the first round, are turning their offensive line into a strength as they selected Michigan's Taylor Lewan, a Jake Long clone, with the No. 11 pick. The Dolphins did not try to get up to the pick.

The Giants passed on the tackle Zack Martin to take receiver Odell Beckham Jr. But a few picks later the Dallas Cowboys, keeping twitter in business on the Internet, passed on Johnny Manziel and took ...

Zack Martin.

It's time to trade down, folks.

Shazier goes to the Steelers

Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, a darkhorse first round possibility to the Dolphins, is gone.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, picking No. 15 in the draft, have just selected the former Plantation High standout.

The Dolphins had Shazier in for a visit and his father is the Dolphins team chaplain. Miami was very interested in him as a weakside linebacker.


Live blog here: NFL draft has arrived

The NFL draft has finally arrived. Well, it'll be here soon and these are some things you should be monitoring as the process goes along:

1. Everyone I have spoken to continues to say the Dolphins must get an offensive linemen. They do not buy the idea of a best available player at linebacker or cornerback or safety or whatever. I hope they are correct but I continue to think if the team is locked into the No. 19 pick it will be hard to get a value offensive tackle.

2. I'm hearing the Dolphins may be thinking left guard as well as right tackle in the first round, which is interesting. If that is true, think that perhaps Zack Martin might be used as a left guard or a right tackle. Think that UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo might be on the board at some point.

3. If the Dolphins draft a linebacker -- either Ohio State's Ryan Shazier or Alabama's C.J. Mosley -- it will force everyone to await the other shoe to drop. What is that other shoe? It might mean the Dolphins will start trying to trade Phillip Wheeler. Wheeler was a free agent signing a year ago and got a five-year, $26 million deal with $13 million in guaranteed money. He is scheduled to cost $6.4 million against the cap this year. That is outrageous for a non-starter. If the Dolphins can trade Wheeler, he would still cost the team $4.2 million. Getting out my trusty calculator ... $6.4 million is more than $4.2 million.

4. If, and that's a big if, the Tampa Bay Bucs draft a quarterback at some point in the next two days, they may be willing to trade quarterback Mike Glennon. Obviously, Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey has a history with Glennon and the Dolphins have been telegraphing a desire to add a young QB before training camp. The Dolphins are not going to give up a premium pick for Glennon, who threw 19 TDs and 9 INTs as a rookie. And the Bucs are going to want a good pick. But if we start talking fifth- or sixth-round compensation? Well ...

5. If, another big if, the Dolphins try to trade up to grab Zack Martin, a team that seems a likely trade partner is Tennessee at No. 11. Why there? They might be able to land a cornerback at No. 19. They might land a quarterback in the second round. And the Dolphins would have to get ahead of the New York Giants at No. 12. A lot of ifs.


Dolphins need to steer clear of injured players

In the lead up to the Dolphins 2014 NFL draft I ask you, and more importantly the Dolphins people who read this blog, to please remember the 2013 draft.

Remember the 2013 draft?

First round pick Dion Jordan came to the Dolphins rehabilitating after shoulder surgery.

Second round pick Jamar Taylor came to the Dolphins with kidney issues that prevented him from taking anti-inflammatory medication. So less than a month after being drafted when he required sports hernia surgery, there was no good way to treat Taylor's pain. 

Third round pick Dallas Thomas came to the Dolphins after tearing his labrum at the Senior Bowl and requiring surgery to repair it.

Jordan, Taylor and Thomas all missed the offseason conditioning program and OTAs. Taylor missed most of training camp. Jordan missed the first two weeks of camp, suffered a setback in a preseason game and missed all but the final two weeks before the regular season. Thomas was limited early in training camp before eventually working in later in the process.

All three factored very little as rookies, disappointing anyone with a brain.

And that brings me to the 2014 draft.

The Dolphins would be wise to learn their lesson. New general manager Dennis Hickey was not in Miami last year so he wasn't stung by the lack of rookie production last year. But he'd be wise to brush up on the history because, as we speak, there is a possibility the Dolphins could be again eyeing draft picks with medical flags.

The players the Dolphins have met with, worked out, visited or otherwise been tied to that have medical issues:

OT Cyrus Kouandjio: Red flags are waving all over this player to the point I know at least two teams have him completely off their board. Kouandjio had ACL surgery in 2011 and, according to former NFL team doctor David Chao there is worry about articular cartilage damage leading to arthritis. "Some teams appear to be concerned about his ligament stability as well," according to Chao.

OG Brandon Thomas: The Dolphins were on him early in the draft process and even wanted to bring him to Miami for a visit but then the player suffered a torn ACL during a workout for the New Orleans Saints. He will not be available to play in 2014. Formerly a second- or third-round prospect, he's likely a Saturday pick now.

QB Aaron Murray: The Dolphins paid a lot of attention to him as well as Miami's Stephen Morris as later-round possibilities. But he had ACL surgery in late November.Murray may be ready for training camp.

CB Darqueze Dennard: His history of shoulder, knee and ankle injuries as well a double hernia surgery makes him sound medically a bit like Taylor. Better player but the history is the history.

LB C.J. Mosley: History includes dislocated right elbow, dislocated hip, and torn right labrum surgery. He started every game in 2013 but he did not lift at the Indianapolis Combine due to a right shoulder injury.

TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins: The Dolphins gave him a medical re-check recently and that's good because a foot fracture was discovered at the Indianapolis Combine. According to Chao, he had surgery on his fifth metatarsal stress fracture. "Seferian-Jenkins attended the medical re-checks two weeks ago and the key is to see how much healing he has on x-rays and the CT scan," Chao said. "This will determine when he will be released for full football activities. My sources in the medical community seem optimistic."

WLB Ryan Shazier: Not a huge deal here but ... He didn't run at the Indianapolis Combine because of a hamstring injury. So he came out at his Pro Day and expected to do everything but he suffered a hamstring injury while running the 40-yard dash.

Dolphins need a RT, should pick a RT

The Miami Dolphins need a stating right tackle and I tell you in my column in today's Miami Herald why general manager Dennis Hickey would be fooling himself if he thinks Jason Fox can be that guy. The team needs to draft a legitimate starting right tackle.

But guess what?

Some of the players some mocks have slotted to the Dolphins as right tackle possibilities are actually left tackles. And, at the risk of being obvious, a college left tackle does not always translate to a good NFL right tackle and rarely is it seamless the player's rookie year.

Do the analysis (Or simply keep reading). College left tackles picked in the first round and asked to play right tackle almost always struggle that first year and sometimes never quite arrive at all.

This while the success rate of first rounders who played left tackle in college and are drafted for that expressed purpose in the pros is much, much better and among the best of any positions.

Take last season for example: Eric Fisher, Luke Joekel and Lane Johnson were all college left tackles and asked to move to the right side as rookies.


Johnson rated the No. 39 tackle in ProFootballFocus.com's tackle ratings, gave up 10 sacks and 39 quarterback hurries. He was the No. 4 overall selection.

The second overall selection, Joekel, broke his ankle in October after playing only five games. He gave up three sacks and 11 hurries (more than two per game) in those games that accounted for only 280 snaps. He didn't have one game where he graded out on the plus side, according to PFF.

Eric Fisher, the No. 1 overall selection by Kansas City obviously was not going to beat out Branden Albert at left tackle. So he moved to right tackle and, well, struggled. He was rated No. 70 among 78 rated tackles while giving up six sacks and 35 hurries and collecting six penalties.

All but Johnson are expected to move to left tackle this year.

The problem with this snapshot of 2013 is that it is representative of the past four drafts.

In 2010, four collegiate left tackles were selected in the first round. Two were asked to play their natural left tackle spot. Two were asked to move to right tackle. The two rookies who played left tackle -- Trent Williams and Russell Okung -- performed better and graded out higher than Green Bay's Bryan Bulaga and San Francisco's Anthony Davis who were asked to play other positions including right tackle.

Davis gave up 11 sacks and 37 hurries as a rookie right tackle. Bulaga gave up 12 sacks and 24 hurries. Both have since grown into their positions and Bulaga is now a left tackle and Davis is a good right tackle. But the point is the move to what is supposedly the easier right tackle spot was taxing that first year.

in 2011, five college left tackles were picked in the first round and four of those worked at right tackle as rookies. While Dallas played college left tackle Tyron Smith at left tackle and got very good results, Derek Sherrod struggled in Green Bay at right tackle, Gabe Carimi managed only two games at right tackle for the Bears and James Carpenter was able to get into only eight games for the Seahawks and in those eight games he yielded five sacks.

The only rousing success move from college left tackle to pro right tackle as a rookie that year was New England's Nate Solder who started 13 games at right tackle and three at left tackle and was the No. 33 tackle in the league as a rookie.

In 2012, Matt Kalil started all 16 games at left tackle after playing left tackle in college and he was outstanding. Meanwhile, Reilly Reiff went from left tackle to right tackle but could not crack the starting lineup for the Lions.

(As an anecdotal aside, you'll remember in 2012 the Dolphins asked college left tackle Jonathan Martin to start at right tackle. It was not good. But, of course, we're not getting too deep into that because Martin was a second-round pick and that other thing everyone is trying to forget eventually happened).

So what's the point again? College left tackles do not automatically make good NFL right tackles and rarely do so as rookies.

So with the Dolphins badly needing a starting right tackle, why are so many people thinking a college left tackle will do the trick?

Cyrus Koundjio? Forget the fact that some scouts I talk to laugh at the idea of him being a first round pick. He started 26 games at left tackle for Alabama the past two years so even if he's healthy enough to play, he's going to struggle at right tackle.

Taylor Lewan? I shouldn't even waste valuable cyberspace with this but he will not be there when Miami picks and he's a left tackle.

Cornelius Lucas out of Kansas State, who is a late rounder, was a college left tackle. He ain't a right tackle, folks.

Zack Martin of Notre Dame? Well, he's a college left tackle but he is one consensus pick to make a seamless move to either left guard or right tackle. He will not be around if the Dolphins pick at No. 19.

Jake Matthews of Texas A&M? Another college left tackle but he played right tackle prior to that and did it well. Doesn't matter as he will not be around if the Dolphins pick at No. 19.

UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo? He played left tackle and did so quite poorly. He's an NFL guard, maybe even a left guard, but he's not a value at No. 19. 

North Dakota State's Billy Turner? A college left tackle and a later round pick anyway.

Virginia's Morgan Moses? He has started each of his last 23 games at left tackle. The saving grace here is he started 13 games at right tackle in 2011 and had six more right tackle starts in '10. So this might work.

Tennessee's Ja'Wuan James? He started a whopping 49 games in his SEC college career. All of them were at right tackle. Ding, ding, ding, ding! This is what I'm talking about.



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. 

May 06, 2014

How will scandal-stung Dolphins weigh character concerns?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


NFL writers mock the draft's first round

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

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


Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

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


Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

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


Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

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


Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

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


Greg Robinson, T, Auburn.

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


Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan.

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


Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

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


Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

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


Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina.

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


Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA.

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


Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

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


Zack Martin, T, Notre Dame

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


Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

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


Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

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


Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

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


Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

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


C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

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


Odell Beckham, WR, LSU.

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


Ja'Wuan James, RT, Tennessee

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


Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

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


Ryan Shazier, ILB, Ohio State

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


Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

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


Marqise Lee, WR, USC

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


Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

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


Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

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


Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville.

Analysis: See Pick No. 4.


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


Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

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


Stephon Tuitt, DL, Notre Dame

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


Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana

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


Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

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


Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State

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

May 05, 2014

James or Moses at RT for the Dolphins?

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

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

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

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

I picked Ja'Wuan James.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James or Moses, folks.

Dennis Hickey talks first NFL draft as GM

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

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

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

That's the question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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