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Dolphins studying draft-eligible receivers; plus Fins, Heat, Canes, Marlins tidbits

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

With Brandon Marshall gone, the Dolphins are carefully studying early and mid-round options at receiver. A quick primer:

### Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon is considered the only top-10 caliber receiver, but most expect he will be selected before Miami’s pick at No. 8. Blackmon (fourth in Mel Kiper’s mock draft), Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd (13), Baylor’s Kendall Wright (26) and Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill (30) likely will be gone before Miami picks again at No. 41.

Which receivers would make sense at No. 41? Sporting News draft analyst and ex-Browns scout Russ Lande and Sports Illustrated’s Tony Pauline said LSU’s Rueben Randle (53 catches, 917 yards) and South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery (49, 762). Many believe Randle will be gone before 41 – Pauline isn’t as convinced – but Pauline expects Jeffery, whose stock has slid, will be there.

“Last year, Jeffery was out of shape, but when the ball is in the air, he reminds me of Sidney Rice and Randy Moss, a guy who can make acrobatic catches with defenders on him,” Lande said. But he’s not a polished route runner.

“And he’s a risk,” Pauline said. “He’s not very quick or fast. He reminds me a lot of Mike Williams coming out of USC.” (Williams has been a disappointment, with 127 catches in five pro seasons.)

Wright, Hill and Randle could be in play if the Dolphins, through a trade, end up with a pick in the late 20s or early 30s.   

“Randle could be a steal,” Kiper said. “He could have been far more productive in a more dynamic passing offense. Randle is better suited to beating defenses over the top [than Jeffery]. He will be a lot quicker into and out of his breaks because he’s got a leaner frame.”

Who else is worthy of selecting at 41? Lande said Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu (115 catches, 1206 yards last season) and Arizona’s Juron Criner. “Sanu has great hands, runs great routes,” Lande said.

Pauline said of the receivers who could be there at 41, only Randle, Jeffery and Sanu are worth considering. He includes Sanu because he’s polished and has high productivity but his “lack of speed and quickness are a concern. If Ohio State [offensive tackle] Mike Adams is there, I would take him instead.”

Criner, 6-4, had 11 touchdowns each of the past two years but ran a 4.68 in the 40, which hurts.

### Which of the receivers projected for the third or fourth rounds would best fit Miami’s West Coast offense? Pauline mentions Wake Forest’s Chris Givens, North Carolina’s Dwight Jones, Illinois’ A.J. Jenkins and Michigan State’s Keshawn Martin.

Keep an eye on Givens, who’s on the rise after running a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash. The 6-0 Givens (86 catches, 1330 yards, nine touchdowns last season) has good hands and a lot of the qualities that Dolphins coach Joe Philbin wants in a receiver, including yards-after-catch ability.

Jenkins (90, 1276) is quick, with good separation skills, but drops some catchable balls. Jones (85, 1196) was highly productive last year but needs to refine his route-running and is bigger (6-4) than the prototype receiver Philbin had in Green Bay. The 5-10 Martin (66, 777) has explosive speed with excellent short-area quickness.

“In that West Coast system, you need guys with timing, guys that can run good underneath routes, but also guys that can break it down field,” Pauline said. Philbin’s offense also places a premium on receivers who are sharp enough to make route adjustments based on what the defense shows, and the quarterback calls, at the line.

### Besides those players, Lande said realistic options for either of Miami’s two third-rounders include UM’s Tommy Streeter (“there’s a risk because he’s a guy that will struggle to get open consistently”); Iowa’s Marvin McNutt (gets good separation and Dolphins receivers coach Ken O’Keefe was his offensive coordinator); Arkansas’ Joe Adams and Jarius Wright (not big receivers, but good speed); Ohio State’s DeVier Posey (some have him lower) and Wisconsin’s Nick Toon (inconsistent effort and durability questions). McNutt, a former quarterback whose skills would fit well in the West Coast offense, is on Miami’s radar.

### The Dolphins also are intrigued by Streeter, who could go late in the second or somewhere in the third. He met with the Dolphins twice recently and will work out for them April 4.

### Others projected for the third-round range: California’s Marvin Jones (good run after catch ability); Appalachian State’s Brian Quick (“he’s a long ways away,” Lande said), Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles (last year’s torn ACL hurts his stock), Houston’s Patrick Edwards (1752 receiving yards last year but similar to Clyde Gates) and Texas A&M’s Jeff Fuller (questionable hands).

UM’s Travis Benjamin and FYU’s T.Y. Hilton could go in the fifth-round range.

CHATTER

### How could the Dolphins, who initially expressed confidence about landing Peyton Manning, so miscalculated their chances? Here’s how: They overestimated the importance of location and the fact he has a condo here; believed he would be more enamored with the roster than he was; didn’t expect Denver and Tennessee to be as aggressive; and way underestimated the importance to Manning of having people around him that he knows and with whom he is comfortable.

Here’s the irony: Manning has a much stronger relationship with Bill Parcells, who’s a confidante of Manning’s, than anyone with the Dolphins. If Parcells were still with the Dolphins, they would have had a much better shot. The teams Miami always feared were the Texans and 49ers.

### The Dolphins, looking for another linebacker, have inquired about New England free agent Gary Guyton, a part-time starter. Former Steelers standout James Farrior (78 tackles, two sacks) would love to play here but he’s much older (37) than Miami wants.... For a position by position look at free agency, see our last post. For the story on Alex Smith's surprise visit to Fins camp Sunday, see the sports home page.

### With ticket sales badly lagging, the Dolphins likely will reduce stadium capacity next season by several thousand.

### Despite reports from Yahoo and Fox Sports Ohio that LeBron James will consider a return to Cleveland in summer 2014, the Heat believes those stories are inaccurate and aren’t concerned. Management is confident he’s happy here.

### Eddy Curry has dropped below 300 pounds for the first time in a while, and coaches rave about his work ethic. Udonis Haslem said his defense in practice has improved immensely. But the staff still isn’t convinced he can offer as much than Dexter Pittman (especially defensively) in limited minutes. And Spoelstra has barely used Pittman the past three games…. Center Ronnie Turiaf, who will be released by Denver, could emerge as an option for the Heat. Remember, players who have been in the league this season must be released or bought out by Friday to be playoff eligible. The Hornets said last week they are not inclined to buy out Chris Kaman.

### There’s concern inside UM that the Hurricanes might lose juniors Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji to the NBA draft, which would leave Miami without any high-quality big men. NBA draft analyst Chris Monter and an NBA scout said it’s hardly certain that either would be drafted. “They’re not as good as they think they are,” the scout said. “Reggie would have to be a center; he’s too slow to play power forward. Kadji shoots OK but doesn’t rebound enough. He’s soft.” Mediocre Julian Gamble, who has missed the season with an injury, would be UM's best big man if Johnson and Kadji bolt.

### We’re curious to see if Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes can replicate last year’s league-leading .337 average or revert more to his career mark (.292, never higher than .307 before 2011). “I changed a bit last year – it was the first time I hit a lot to the opposite field.”

Reyes, who missed 36, 29 and 126 games the past three years, said “my legs are strong,” but added he cannot improve his durability because “sometimes when you run, you pull a hamstring. That’s part of my game.” But Reyes (39 steals last year) said he won’t run less. Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio (40 steals) and Hanley Ramirez (20) hope to create base-path havoc.

### The Marlins’ lack of a stadium naming rights deal isn’t for lack of effort. At one point, they thought a deal would get done with Pepsi but it fell apart.

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