Today's buzz column is below, but first, a quick Friday update:
The Dolphins signed linebacker Gary Guyton, a four-year veteran out of Georgia Tech, sources said. (Thanks to Armando Salguero for letting me break this on his twitter account, while driving in a rainstorm.) Guyton doesn't address their need for a big-time pass rusher - he has just 4.5 career sacks - but it does give them depth, versatility (can play inside or outside in a 4-3 or 3-4), more speed and a legitimate challenger to Koa Misi. He had 47 tackles and a pick in six starts and 13 games last season. (Read my full story on Guyton on the Dolphins and sports home pages.)...
According to Sports Illustated, the Dolphins also signed Les Brown, an aspiring tight end who never played college football and spent the past two years working for an accounting firm. Brown, 6-4, played basketball at NAIA Westminster College in Utah and impressed NFL teams at BYU's Pro Day last month by running a 4.44 in the 40 and displaying pass-catching skills. Brown, who played football and basketball in high school (2006 grad), got permission to audition at BYU because his brother plays there. Dolphins scouts were impressed and recommended him to Jeff Ireland, who signed him. It's a no-risk move, with Miami having nothing to lose.
IF YOU'RE SEEING THIS LINK on the Dolphins page, scroll down below - in chatter - for several other Dolphins notes. And check out our previous post explaining why one prominent former GM says the players most often associated with Miami's No. 8 pick are not the best value there.
FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Miami, Florida and Florida State have combined for at least one first-round draft choice every year since 1980. But unless UM’s Lamar Miller slips into the first, that streak will end April 26, and UM’s streak without a first-rounder would grow to four years, after 14 straight drafts with at least one.
“We’re trying to break that,” Miller said. “I’m a game-changer.”
Despite his blazing speed, ESPN’s Mel Kiper doesn’t have Miller in the first two rounds of his mock draft, and Todd McShay has him 53rd. “As a pure rusher, he’s a top 20 pick,” Kiper said. “But he needs to be more versatile, has to silence those durability concerns, and work on catching out of the backfield.” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock expressed concerns about his ability in short yardage and goal line situations.
Sizing up the state’s other draft prospects, from conversations with analysts and scouts:
### Likely second to fourth round: UM’s Sean Spence should go here, though his poor showing in the bench press at the NFL Combine (12 reps – worst among defensive players) raised eyebrows. “He’s going to have to show he’s strong enough to take on guys like Adrian Peterson,” an NFC scout said. “He’s a good player, but not special like Jonathan Vilma or Jon Beason.” But Denver coach Mike Shanahan said: "I don't care how much he bench presses. He's a solid player." Another scout said UM defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio called Spence the most instinctive player he has coached.…
UM’s Olivier Vernon, whom McShay projects for round three, “looked pretty natural at linebacker in drills at the Combine,” an NFC scout said. “He has some pass-rushing skills and a passion for the game. I gave him a late second-round grade.”…. FSU left tackle Zebrie Sanders and UCF cornerback Josh Robinson could go in the second. Robinson ran great “but needs an attitude adjustment and is not very tough,” an NFC scout said.…
UM receiver Tommy Streeter ran well (4.40) but “he’s a long strider and plays slower than that,” an AFC scout said. “And he’s not polished in his routes.” Mayock said Streeter is a fourth-rounder at best.… FIU receiver T.Y. Hilton “has a third-round grade and could go late in the second,” Mayock said. “Really good quickness in short areas. Good long speed.” One scout said, “He’s a slot guy who won’t start but will play a lot of snaps.”
### Fifth to sixth: McShay rates UM’s Brandon Washington, Marcus Forston and Chase Ford as fifth-rounders; and Travis Benjamin and Adewale Ojomo as sixth-rounders. One NFC scout said: “Based on the film, I don’t think Washington should go before the sixth round. Forston has natural athletic skills and quickness, but he can’t stay healthy. If you can’t stay healthy in college, you’re damn sure not going to do it playing inside in the NFL.”
Benjamin, one scout said, “has DeSean Jackson’s speed, but not his toughness.” Said another: “Benjamin has got to be a slot receiver. He’ll get knocked down if you play him anywhere else.” Benjamin, who’s working with Cris Carter, got a thumbs up from Steelers coach Mike Tomlin at UM’s Pro Day…
Also in this range: UF defensive tackle Jaye Howard and running back Chris Rainey (could slip into fourth); FSU linebacker Nigel Bradham, cornerback Mike Harris and offensive tackle Andrew Datko and USF running back Darrell Scott. “Somebody will take a shot at Rainey in the mid rounds because of his speed,” a scout said. “But he’s a backup at best and his punt returns have to improve.”
### Late or free agents: UM’s Jacory Harris, Tyler Horn, LaRon Byrd (helped his stock at Miami’s pro day) and Micanor Regis (could go late); UF’s John Brantley and speedster Jeffrey Demps, who’s training for the Olympics; FAU fullback Alfred Morris; FSU tight end Beau Reliford and punter Shawn Powell.
### UM fully expects it will not have one its several elite recruits this coming season because of academics. Angelo Jean-Louis, rated by rivals.com as the nation’s No. 8 receiver and 116th best player overall, very likely will attend prep school this fall.... UM expects more than 250 players back for the spring game; Al Golden has done a good job making them feel wanted. "We're in our meeting today," Golden said Thursday, "and Michael Irvin is hiding out in the back of the offensive unit.''
### UM coach Jim Larranaga said Reggie Johnson has decided to stay at UM but has the right to change his mind before the NBA's April 29 early entrant deadline.
### With Udonis Haslem replacing Ronnie Turiaf to start the game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra claimed after Thursday's loss that he had been planning these lineup changes for some time but had been waiting for his team to get fully healthy. Haslem, who missed the second half and overtime with a stomach virus, will give the first unit a stronger rebounding presence, and a more skilled mid-range shooter (though this is his worst season in years shooting mid-range jumpers).
But lineup changes won't have any impact if the Heat's bench - specifically Mike Miller and Shane Battier - don't play better. The Bulls outscored Miami's bench, 47-7, and the margin is an absurd 103-22 in the teams' past two meetings. ESPN's Jalen Rose became the latest to say that James Jones - who didn't play at all Thursday - needs to get more minutes.
Other problems Thursday: The Heat committed 19 turnovers (leading to 25 Bulls points); Chicago shot 11 for 22 on threes; and the Bulls' guards "continued to find a way to break us down," Spoelstra said.
Spoelstra said CJ Watson's three to tie the game late was the result of "miscommunication." Spoelstra said he didn't consider fouling on the play, which was puzzling. LeBron James put it this way: "There shouldn't be someone open at the three-point line up three" at the end of a game. "That took all of our energy. It zappped us. This is one of the worst feelings I had in the regular season this year.''
### The Dolphins have delayed a decision on right guard (Jake Scott, Kyle Kosier, etc.), possibly until after the draft. Scott, rated the seventh-best guard by Pro Football Focus last season, has strong interest in signing here, and Miami indicated it's still considering it but doesn't want to rush a decision. Kosier has had talks with Miami and other teams…
Though Miami has less than $6 million under the 2012 cap after signing Guyton, the Dolphins should be able to afford all their top 2013 free agents (including Cam Wake, who continues to sit out the voluntary offseason program) because they’re more than $50 million under the ’13 cap. But giving Wake a big raise this season will be impossible without clearing more space, preferably through restructuring contracts.
### It’s debatable if Tyrell Johnson will be as good as ousted Yeremiah Bell, but he will be cheaper. His $830,000 salary (including bonuses, according to NFL players association records) is less than what Bell would have made if he hadn’t been cut ($4.3 million).… ESPN analyst and former Colts executive Bill Polian said Miami simply “must” trade for Minnesota’s No. 3 pick to take Ryan Tannehill, even if it means giving up their picks at No. 8, No. 41 and a third-rounder. Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted that Tannehill "is a hidden gem" and if "you want him, you better talk to" the Vikings. But from Miami's perspective, that trade would be surprising and completely run counter to Jeff Ireland’s way of doing business.
### Good to see Panthers owner Cliff Viner and his partners make the postseason after years of frustration. Viner, who took over as managing partner in spring 2010, credits former Panthers president Bill Torrey for putting him in touch with general manager Dale Tallon.
“I’m very excited for me, but I’m really very excited for the whole organization,'' said Viner, who received a congratulatory call from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman last week. "Most everybody made us the butt of jokes of not being in the playoffs" since 2000 - the NHL's longest streak. Finally making it "gives us a much better level of credibility than before... All the analysts favoring New Jersey, maybe they’re just as wrong as the beginning of the season when we were picked to finish close to last.''
### ESPN's Barry Melrose said the Devils "are definitely the favorite because of scoring depth. Their scoring is spread over a number of lines. Florida has gotten a disproportionate number of goals from their top line. If that line is stopped, Florida doesn't have a chance at winning this series. And they have to guard against being happy just to be there."
### Absurd comment of the week: TNT's Charles Barkley claiming Dwyane Wade "gets far too much credit for the Heat championship.'' Wade averaged 34.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game in that series and spearheaded the Heat's comeback from down 0-2 against Dallas in 2006. Barkley said the Heat won primarily because of Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning.
Shaq, thankfully, disagreed with Barkley on TNT's set on Thursday, noting that he told Wade to take over when Miami went down 0-2. Barkley, incidentally, said he called Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen to tell him "to keep his head up" amid the backlash over his Fidel Castro comments.