May 15, 2014

The draft picks and their roster consequences

The NFL draft is one week old today and, personally, I'm still digesting all the meat it served up. As you know, no team draft's in a vacuum. There are reasons teams pick certain players and certain positions. Like elections, drafts have consequences.

Today we study those possible consequences.

We look at each pick and follow the intended fallout to see what it means, not only for the position but for other players who were already on the roster.

First round -- RT Ja'Wuan James.

Consquence: This one is easy because it practically guarantees that Miami will get back on track in putting its first-round pick in the starting lineup from the jump. The Dolphins took a detour from that last year with Dion Jordan, but prior to that, six consecutive first-round picks dating back to 2007 had been starters on Day One. James is Miami's starting right tackle on Day One and so we can get past the idea that often-injured Jason Fox will be Miami's starting right tackle. Sure, there will be a competition. That's the right way to do it. But, um, James will win the competition. And if he does not, something went horribly, horribly wrong.

Second round -- WR Jarvis Landry

Consequence: Landry is immediately an option as a slot receiver but he will have to play special teams like the dickens to be active on game days. Here is the reason for the uninitiated: The first three WRs -- Brandon Gibson, Brian Hartline, Mike Wallace -- get their reps on offense. None play special teams. The fourth active WR has to play special teams. Period. This pick suggests the Dolphins will keep five instead of four wide receivers on the roster. Last year Miami kept only four coming out of camp. Or, failing that, one of last year's four -- Wallace, Hartline, Gibson, Rishard Matthews -- is gone. Well, yes, one of the last year's four is gone. As I've explained to you previously, Matthews' days with the Dolphins are numbered. Despite his career high 41 catches for 448 yards and two touchdowns a season ago, Matthews is not a favorite of the coaching staff, particularly head coach Joe Philbin. My column explains why. Because Landry is a second round pick, he is almost guaranteed of making the team. So that means veterans such as Armon Binns, Kevin Cone, and Damien Williams are already at a numbers-game disadvantage -- again, unless the club goes with five receivers on the roster instead of four.

Third round -- G Billy Turner

Consequence: The Dolphins have been undecided about which side (left guard or right guard) Shelley Smith will play. The Dolphins have been undecided about which position (guard or tackle) Dallas Thomas will play. Well, Turner not only looks like a guard to me but feels like a left guard. The fact he's a rookie also suggests sandwiching him between veterans Branden Albert (LT) and Mike Pouncey (C) might be a better idea than putting him next to fellow rookie Ja'Wuan James. But here's the ripple effects of that: Dallas Thomas now becomes more valuable to the Dolphis as a right tackle because he can compete with Jason Fox for the backup role. Or he becomes valuable as a swing G/T. If he's the backup RT, Fox suddenly becomes expendable. If he's the swing G/T, that suddenly puts Nate Garner's roster chances on the line, pardon the pun. Turner on the roster means David Arkin, Thomas, Fox, and Garner are in a scramble for a roster spot.

[Peanut gallery: But Mando, you didn't mention Sam Brenner ... Isn't his spot on the line as well?]

Thanks for bringing that up, gallery. In fact, the Dolphins are viewing Brenner as a C/G option. And because center is a big part of that option, perhaps the biggest part, he becomes valuable because Mike Pouncey still faces NFL sanctions for his participation in last year's harassment scandal. If Pouncey misses time, Brenner is likely the starting center.

Fourth round -- CB Walt Aikens

Consequence: The Dolphins committed two early draft picks to the CB position a year ago when they drafted Jamar Taylor in the second round and Will Davis in the third round. The fact they felt a need to go cornerback so high speaks highly of what they think of Aikens but also suggests they are hedging their bet on either Taylor or Davis -- particularly after they signed Cortland Finnegan in free agency. By the way, Don Jones had an awful draft. Not only did he get caught up in the Michael Sam issue, but if Aikens is a good special teams player he threatens Jones's roster spot. Veteran Jalil Brown also cannot be thrilled.

Fifth round -- TE Arthur Lynch

Consequence: This one really, really interests me. At first I viewed Lynch as another Jeron Mastrud -- a role player whose role is an in-line blocking TE grunt. But the more I talk to people about Lynch, the more I hear he's an underrated pass catching threat as well. No, he's not fast. He's not been dynamic in college. But he's got possibilities. And that should worry a number of guys on the roster. Charles Clay is not one of those. He's just been picked as one of the NFL's Top 100 players by a voting of his peers. (The vote means nothing other than it shows respect for Clay but at the point he's ranked ahead of Dallas TE Jason Witten, the vote loses credibility). Anyway, Lynch's addition should worry Michael Egnew. This kid has basically been on scholarship for two years because he was a third-round pick in 2012. But that was a different GM and a different coach, in that that Philbin could afford to carry some dead weight on the roster his first couple of years but he's coaching for his life now. His job is on the line in 2013. I don't see another scholarship year for Egnew. This pick also suggests the team is not as enamored with Dion Sims, a fourth-round pick last year, as it seemed. Again, Sims was picked by a different GM and, it must be noted, is pretty much supposed to be the same kind of block-first TE that Lynch is. Meanwhile, if I'm Kyle Miller, I see the writing on the wall. Lynch does not close the door on Jermichael Finley (I don't see that) or a return for Dustin Keller (his reps say he's healthy although he's not ready yet) but I can see only a crack of light through that opening.

Fifth round -- LB Jordan Tripp

Consequence: People who live in the clouds will tell you this means Phillip Wheeler is out because Tripp is going to start at Middle linebacker or weakside linebacker, allowing the Dolphins to move on. Well, Wheeler may indeed be out after 2014 but not necessarily because of Tripp. It would have to do with Wheeler's performance. No, this picks should be ringing in the ears of players such as Jonathan Freeny, Jelani Jenkins, and perhaps even Jason Trusnik. This pick is immediately about special teams. And that is primarily where Freeny, Jenkins and Trusnik make their bones. Trusnik, you should know, is a fine special teams player. But he's going into his eighth season and he's scheduled to cost $1,071,688 on the salary cap. He gets cut, the Dolphins save $855,000.

Sixth round --WR Matt Hazel

Consequence: Unless Hazel is an epiphany that shines suddenly and violently out of pitch darkness, he will have a hard time making this team's 53-man roster because for all his gifts -- he's long and relatively fast -- he simply is not ready to beat out the top 4-5 guys right now. Maybe he gets the rookie scholarship and makes it just because he was drafted. That wouldn't say a lot for Williams and Cone. At worst, Hazel is a practice squad possibility.

Seventh round -- DE Terrence Fede

Consequence: The Dolphins seemed to have more defensive ends than they knew what to do with last year. With Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby around, there were hardly enough snaps to go around for then-rookie first-round pick Dion Jordan. So how does Fede fit? Who does he beat out? None of them. I suppose he's insurance in case of injury. I suppose he is practice squad material.

May 14, 2014

Turner played OT in college, must be G in NFL

One of the problems the Dolphins have had with player development the past few years is they don't always have a clear vision about their talent.

Just prior to this draft, the Dolphins weren't sure if they were going to use 2013 draft pick Dallas Thomas as a guard or a tackle. So a year after picking him, having him in training camp and, indeed, getting him started in this year's offseason program, last year's third-round pick didn't know his position. (He should be a guard, folks).

Dannell Ellerbe, signed to a big-money contract to play middle linebacker last year, may be moving outside this year because that work he did at MLB was no bueno.

Koa Misi was drafted as a 3-4 outside linebacker but he's been taking repetitions as a middle linebacker now -- an experiment that has been tried multiple times during his time with the team. Jared Odrick? Drafted as a 3-4 DE. Now a 4-3 DT.

Dion Jordan? Is he a defensive end? Is he an outside linebacker? What's the vision for him?

And that brings me to Billy Turner, a Dolphins third-round selection in this most recent draft.

Turner played left tackle at North Dakota State as the Bisons won three consecutive FCS (small school) championships. Some teams projected him as a right tackle prior to the draft.

The Dolphins have not said where they want him to settle in.

Here's an idea: The Dolphins should settle Turner in at guard and ...

Keep.

Him.

There.

The Dolphins drafted a right tackle in the first round in Ja'Wuan James. They signed left tackle Branden Albert to a huge contract in free agency.

They have a hole at guard.

Turner, by all accounts, has a nasty personality on the field. He plays with good (should improve) pad level. He's a guard, folks.

The Dolphins do not need him competing with fellow rookie James at RT. It's a waste of repetitions. It asks too much to have him learn both spots right now. It doesn't maximize his chances to contribute early.

If I'm the Dolphins, I do with James and Turner what Don Shula tried multiple times in the 1990s: He picked Richmond Webb to play left tackle and Keith Sims to play left guard in 1990 and that's what the two rookies did every single repetition in practice and every single down in the preseason.

Voila, offensive line issues solved.

Shula tried a similar approach in 1995. He picked Billy Milner to play right tackle and Andrew Greene to play right guard. He didn't mess with position flexibility. He had a vision for both and gave each a chance to maximize at the positions they were selected to play.

It didn't work. Greene was not a brilliant guy or a very hard worker. Bust. Milner's talent was not up to par and he was gone from the team a year later.

But the point is they failed based on their talent level rather than a lack of vision or difficult circumstances created by the team plugging them in here or there.

The Dolphins have picked offensive tackle Billy Turner this draft. Make him a guard. Stick with the conviction. Now, release the hounds.

Let Turner hunt.

 

May 13, 2014

Analytics suggest Landry a reach, won't succeed

A lot has been made about Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey intending to make use of analytics as part (not all) of his regimen for evaluating and selecting Dolphins talent. I assume if this is a serious venture the Dolphins will hire someone or several people to comprise an analytics department.

Well, they better get on the ball because I already have an analytics department up and running.

It is a one-man, volunteer, unsolicited department run and manned by Dr. Peter Lawrence Smith who is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow for Clincal Sciences at St. Georges University of London.

Sounds impressive, right?

I'm paying this guy a mint (with a mint in this case being defined as nothing).

Anyway, Dr. Smith is extemely interested in the Dolphins' selection of Jarvis Landry in the second round of the recent draft. Landry, you should know, played and thrived at Louisiana State University. He was a favorite of LSU coach Les Miles. His performance on tape suggest he is definitely an NFL talent. And Landry did much of his damage against respected Southeastern Conference Competition.

But ...

Landry, 5-11 and 205 pounds, ran a disappointing 4.77 time in the 40-yard dash at the Indianapolis Combine. Hickey said he saw that as "an opportunity." Landry then ran a 4.61 twice at his Pro Day.

Well, the analytics suggest this was not an opportunity and this was not a very good pick in the second round.

Consider from Dr. Smith, who studied 1999-2012 drafts, with 2013 being eliminated because one year and a rookie year at that provides little for a complete evaluation:

"I did some analysis of WRs taken in the last six drafts (and some undrafted free agents). My dataset was composed of 284 WRs.

"Of these 284, only three ran the 40-yard dash slower than 4.70. Landry ran 4.77 at combine. This is slower than any of the 284 receivers in the data set.

"Landry ran 4.61 at his pro day. This is equal to or slower than 254 receivers in the data set. Only 34 ran equal to or slower than 4.60.

"Eighteen of these "slow" receivers were undrafted while 16 were drafted. So 53 percent of these 34 slow WRs were not drafted at all.

"Of the 16 slow receivers drafted, the median selection position was 93rd overall. Only three receivers were drafted higher than Landry at 63rd overall: Mohamed Massaquoi (50th overall), Dwayne Jarrett (45th overall), and Malcom Kelly (51st overall)."

Jarrett, Kelly and Massaquoi are all currently out of the NFL.

"A number of these 34 slow receivers had a productive final college year as Landry did. Three of these receivers played for SEC colleges with similar production to Landry.

"But only three of these slow receivers have had production in the NFL for even one year:  Massaquoi in  2008, Mohammed Sanu in 2012 and Devone Bess, who was undrafted 2008 but produced for several years.

"There are plenty of examples of WRs with similar production either having success or failing in the NFL. College production alone isn't a good indicator of NFL success. Landry's production is similar to Armon BInns, who ran a 4.5 40-yard dash. went undrafted and is currently a Dolphin.

"As Landry was drafted in the second round it bears noting the average 40-yard dash time of WRs drafted in the second round is 4.48.

"Landry could be the slowest second-round pick by as  much as .17 seconds.

"Landry's 4.77 combine time is slower than any of the 284 receivers in the data set.

"Depending upon how you determine value the second round isn't a particularly good time to draft WRs. The first round is better, as you would expect, and the third round is as good as the second.

"According to my analysis Landry is unlikely to have success and drafting him in the second round is a reach."

Dr. Smith's data is quite comprehensive. Have at it:

 

Download 1999-2012 NFL receiver data

 

 

 

May 12, 2014

Dolphins signing 18 undrafted free agents

The Dolphins today announced the signing of 18 undrafted free agents.

If history is the standard, one, perhaps two of these guys will make the team.

Here's the list:

Name                  Pos.      Hgt.    Wgt.   College           Hometown        

Belue, Deion          DB      5-11  182      Alabama           Tuscumbia, Ala.

Clarke, Steven        DB     5-10  189    Vanderbilt       Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.

Edwards, Tariq        LB     6-2    235    Virginia Tech   Cheraw, SC                        

Finkenberg, Evan     OL     6-4    300   Arizona St     Coto De Caza, Calif.            

Hoskins, Harold       TE     6-2    253    Marshall        Gainesville, Fla.                   

Hurd, David             OL     6-6    308   Arkansas        West Monroe, La.             

Johnson, Anthony    DT     6-2    308    LSU               New Orleans, La.             

Johnson, Derrell      LB     6-2     257    East Carolina  Baltimore, Md.                

Johnson, Kamal       DT     6-3     305   Temple          Willingboro, N.J.             

Lankford, Ryan        WR    5-11  163     Illinois           Jacksonville, Fla.           

Larsen, Tyler           OL    6-4     313     Utah St          Salt Lake City, Utah        

Mims, Tevin             DE    6-4    260    South Florida   Round Rock, Texas          

Smith, Garrison        DT   6-1   294     Georgia          Atlanta, Ga.                     

Thompson, Marcus   LB    6-1   250     Rutgers          Oakland Park, Fla.          

Wallace, Davonte    OL    6-3   308     New Mexico St El Paso, Texas                 

Williams, Damien     RB    5-11 222     Oklahoma       San Diego, Calif.             

Wilson, Andrew       LB     6-3   239     Missouri          Peculiar, Mo.                   

Wooten, Rantavious  WR    5-9  178    Georgia          Belle Glade, Fla.               

May 11, 2014

Jones fined, excused from team activities for tweets

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said he was going to be responsible for setting the tone and tenor of the Dolphins locker room, the respect players show in it and everywhere else, and do whatever he could to avoid anything similar to the harassment scandal that rocked the team last year.

Well, on Sunday evening safety Don Jones was fined an undisclosed amount and excused from all team activities until such time that he undergoes and completes educational training for his recent comments made on social media during the NFL Draft.

On Saturday evening after gay player Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, several networks including ESPN and NFL Network showed Sam kissing another man, perhaps his partner, in the mouth.

"OMG" Jones tweeted.

He later responded to a follower with the word: "horrible."

He soon deleted both tweets.

s tweets during the NFL Draft," Philbin said in a statement. "They were inappropriate and unacceptable, and we regret the negative impact these comments had on such an important weekend for the NFL. We met with Don today about respect, discrimination and judgment. These comments are not consistent with the values and standards of our program. We will continue to emphasize and educate our players that these statements will not be tolerated."

For his part, Jones has apologized.

"I want to apologize to Michael Sam for the inappropriate comments that I made last night on social media," he said in a statement. "I take full responsibility for them and I regret that these tweets took away from his draft moment. I remember last year when I was drafted in the seventh round and all of the emotions and happiness I felt when I received the call that gave me an opportunity to play for an NFL team and I wish him all the best in his NFL career. I sincerely apologize to Mr. Ross, my teammates, coaches, staff and fans for these tweets. I am committed to represent the values of the Miami Dolphins organization and appreciate the opportunity I have been given to do so going forward."

May 10, 2014

Dolphins select DE Terrence Fede in seventh round

The Dolphins have a bunch (football term) of defensive ends on the roster to the point No. 3 overall selection Dion Jordan had trouble getting snaps last season.

Doesn't matter to Dennis Hickey as he just picked Marist College defensive end Terrence Fede in the seventh round today. This is Miami's final scheduled draft pick of 2014.

Fede is the first Marist player drafted into the NFL.

"I just made history at Marist college," he said. "This is a big day for Marist College."

Fede, 6-3 and 276 pounds, collected 25 1/2 sacks in his Pioneer League career. He is from Nyack, New York and is of Haitian background.

"I can transition my speed into power," Fede, "I think that's what the Dolphins like and that's what I like about my game."

Fede said he was waiting all day to be drafted, which was very important to him.

Fede was suspended from Marist in 2010 for violating team rules.

"It was a wakeup call to me," Fede said. "Me not having football ... It allowed me time to think. When I was back home, I was training and working at my craft to come back with a bang."

 

Dolphins select WR Matt Hazel in sixth round

I told you in my column today the Dolphins are down on Rishard Matthews. They drafted Jarvis Landry in the second round and today in the sixth round they just picked Matt Hazel out of Coastal Carolina.

Hazel, a 6-1 and 195-poiunder, owns all the CCU receiver records. He compares himself to Denver's Demaryius Thomas but ran a 4.5 time in the 40-yard dash at the Indianapolis Combine.

"I thought I was going to go a little higher really," Hazel said.

Hazel played at the East-West Shrine game and impressed multiple scouts.

"I felt like a lot of teams told me I was the best receiver there," Hazel said.

According to Nolan Nawrocki in his NFL Draft 2014 preview Hazell "hears footsteps" and has "alligator arms."

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.

Nope.

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.