May 22, 2014

First rookie draft pick contract is done [Updated]

The Dolphins are in full rookie minicamp mode starting Friday when approximately 40 players (eight draft picks, 20 or so undrafted free agent signees and tryout players) take the field at the training facility in Davie, Fla.

And as part of that the team's contract negotiation department (mostly Dawn Aponte) is getting to work.

The Dolphins have just agreed to terms with linebacker Jordan Tripp on a four-year contract, according to a source. Tripp is a fifth-round pick.

The Dolphins are also negotiating with their other seven draft picks and could have deals with several more by the time camp begins Friday.

[4:30 Update: Fellow fifth-round pick Arthur Lynch is close to agreeing to his four-year deal, according to a source. So he should be signed perhaps as early as Friday.]

[5:11 Update: The Dolphins now announce they have signed Lynch.]

[Friday morning update: The Dolphins announced sixth-round receiver Matt Hazel was signed and confirmed the signing of Tripp.]

[Noon Friday update: Seventh-round draft pick Terrence Fede and the Dolphins have agreed to terms on a four-year deal.]

Timing of Dolphins rookie minicamp is excellent

South Florida is full of temptations 24 ... 7 ... 365. And there is nothing the Miami Dolphins can do about that in hoping, praying their players stay out of trouble.

But when you have the volatile mix of young players, a Memorial Day weekend and so many parties it is hard to count, the Dolphins answer with what I believe to be brilliant scheduling for their rookie minicamp.

That minicamp is this weekend. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

And so the rookies -- the eight draft picks, 20 or so undrafted free agent signees and tryout guys -- won't likely be out on Miami Beach partying because they'll spend most of the day working. And, I suppose, they'll be meeting in the evening.

Brilliant!

So much for attending the Rock the Yacht party, the Kinfolks Soulfood Festival, the Sunkissed Rooftop Day Party, the Best of the Best Welcome Party, the Fortune 500 bash, the Meek Mill bash at Mansion, the Kevin Hart Celebrity Cruise, the Keyshia Cole concert, the YMCMB at Club LIV, the ...

... Well, you get the drift.

Even former Dolphins offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie is hosting a party this Friday.

There's lots to do here this weekend. A lot of it involves alcohol. Extra police will be everywhere.

The Dolphins rookies? They'll be working in Davie thanks to some excellent timing by the team.  

May 20, 2014

Expanded playoffs would have been good for Philbin

NFL owners today tabled the idea of playoff expansion for 2014 and will take up the matter again at their next meeting in October, according to multiple media reports out of Atlanta where the owners are meeting.

It's not the best news for Joe Philbin.

Why?

Well, anyone with any sense of where the Dolphins are as a franchise understands Philbin, entering his third season with the team, is coaching for his job in 2014.

Owner Stephen Ross has been loyal to his coach in siding with Philbin versus former general manager Jeff Ireland after their rift last season. The owner told candidates during his search for a new GM that they had to accept Philbin and even turned away from candidates he liked because they wanted the ability to move on from Philbin.

And Ross made sure new GM Dennis Hickey understood he must work hand-in-hand with Philbin, who now seems to be more empowered than ever, in order to be considered a success with the Dolphins.

But here's the catch: Ross, despite his unfettered public confidence in Philbin and optimism about the coming season, also has confided to multiple people that if 2014 does not unfold quite the way he hopes, it may be time for a reset.

And a reset would involve getting a new head coach.

It remains unclear exactly what parameters Ross would have for needing or resisting change.

If the Dolphins make the playoffs, it is as near a certainty as one can have that Philbin would continue as coach. On the other hand, If the Dolphins' record takes a step back from a year ago and the team fails to the make the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year, the likelihood of a Ross reset would be very high.

That much seems clear.

But what about the gray areas of what might happen in 2014?

Would a winning record alone that does not include a playoff appearance appease the owner? Would another 8-8 record but another year out of the playoffs be acceptable?

Bottom line is if the Dolphins make the playoffs, no matter what their record or results in the postseason, Philbin can be confident of coming back for 2015.

And that is why an expanded playoff field that includes 14 instead of 12 teams would have been in the coach's interest. With an expanded field, the Dolphins might have overcome the hurdles they haven't been able to overcome since 2008.

But with the traditional 12-team postseason (six teams per conference) now the league plan, the Dolphins will have to overcome not only division rivals New England, Buffalo and New York for a postseason berth, but also recent playoff contenders Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Baltimore, San Diego, Denver, Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

The Dolphins finished third in the AFC East in 2013.

 

 

Signing rookie class not THAT difficult

Less than two weeks after the NFL draft and approximately 27 percent of the players selected have already signed with their new teams.

The Chicago Bears have signed all their draft picks. The Ravens have signed seven of their nine picks. The Patriots have signed seven of their nine picks.

Four first round picks have signed, including Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who was picked 20th overall or one slot behind Dolphins first-round pick Ja'Wuan James.

The Dolphins, according to NFLPA records, have not yet signed any of their draft picks.

They will. Eventually.

My guess is Dawn Aponte, Miami's chief contract guru, will get some signatures on deals by the end of this week before rookies begin a mandatory rookie minicamp on Friday. Aponte is known in agent circles as something of a tough negotiator (she really, really stuck to the offset language thing in her rookie deals years ago) and has been applauded in league circles for authoring the compromise to the offset language thing (done in the Ryan Tannehill deal) by making payments sooner.

Despite all this hero-villian characterization of Miami's lead contract negotiator, rookie deals are pretty straight forward. Everyone gets a four-year deal with the first round pick getting a fifth year team option.

Every pick after the third round will only earn compensation that is equal to the minimum salary for each year. That means base salaries of $420,000 for rookies, $510,000 for second-year players, $600,000 in Year Three, and $690,000 in the fourth year over the course of the contract.

Yes, later round picks will fight the idea of split salaries that guard teams paying a total bill for a player that lands on injured reserve. But this stuff isn't rocket science, folks.

Indeed, most draft pick deals can be estimated to within less than five percent of the actual deal.

Below you'll find the Dolphins' seven draft picks and what they are likely to sign for, according to overthecap.com's solid estimates. The actual contract will likely be (+-) two percent from the figures shown.

All that remains is for the Dolphins to actually get it done. Giddyup!

Round    Player                Overall pick    Contract estimate

1.          Ja'Wuan James     19                 4 years, $8.45M with $4.5M signing bonus.*

2.          Jarvis Landry        63                 4 years, $3.48M with $847K signing bonus.

3.          Billy Turner          67                 4 years, $3.1M with $700K signing bonus.

4.          Walt Aikens         125                4 years, $2.63M with $416K signing bonus.

5.          Arthur Lynch       155                4 years, $2.41M with $191K signing bonus.

5.          Jordan Tripp       171                4 years, $2.38M with $162K signing bonus.

6.          Matt Hazel          190                4 years, $2.35M with $105K signing bonus.

7.         Terrence Fede      234                4 years, $2.27M with $56K signing bonus.

* denotes fifth-year team option.

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.