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2 posts from January 1, 2013

January 01, 2013

Kiper on what Fins should do in draft; Fins' WR options; Canes recruiting; Heat; Marlins

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The Dolphins will have a choice of intriguing receiver prospects when they pick 12th, 42nd and later in the second round, using the Colts’ pick that will fall somewhere between 51 and 62. The question that must play out is whether Miami ultimately will deem any of the receivers, or Notre Dame 6-6 tight end Tyler Eifert, worthy of the 12th  pick.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper said Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson or Eifert would make the most sense with Miami’s first-rounder.

CBS draft analyst Rob Rang has Miami taking another junior, California receiver Keenan Allen, at No. 12, though some evaluators project Allen and Tennessee receiver Justin Hunter going in the 20s. Allen and Hunter announced they are turning pro; Patterson and Eifert reportedly are widely expected to.

“Either Patterson or Eifert would be a good addition for Miami,” Kiper said by phone. “Patterson has star potential, but he will be a work in progress. He might not be a rookie sensation. He’s the kind of guy who can fill that void down the road as a No. 1.

"Eifert is a great pass catching tight end and he’s more NFL ready than Patterson," Kiper added. "He’s blocked a lot better [in 2012 than in 2011]. Mid-first round is a little early for a tight end but not unprecedented.”

Kiper said he needs to see their NFL Combine numbers before deciding which would be the better choice. And what the Dolphins do in free agency obviously will factor into a decision.

### ESPN’s Todd McShay said Patterson (46 catches, 778 yards) “is the most naturally talented receiver prospect in terms of explosiveness and potential. He’s a silky smooth runner with better change of direction ability than defenders anticipate from a player his size (6-3).”

### Kiper ranks these junior receivers behind Patterson: Hunter (73 catches for 1083 yards, nine touchdowns) Allen (61 for 737, 6); West Virginia/Miramar High alum Stedman Bailey (106 for 1501, 23) and Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins (16 for 1214, 16).

### Kiper ranks senior receivers in this order: Baylor’s Terrance Williams (95 for 1764, 12), West Virginia’s Tavon Austin (110 for 1259, 12), Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton (104 for 1392, 13) and Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton (88 for 1207, 11). Kiper regards only Williams as a possible first-rounder among senior receivers, though Austin is getting a lot of buzz.

### Hopkins had scouts raving Monday, when he had 13 catches, 191 yards and two touchdowns against LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. He could rise to early second round, maybe higher.

### Views are mixed on Hunter. “His inconsistent ball skills are a concern and he needs to get stronger and more physical in his routes,” McShay said on ESPN.com. “I was underwhelmed by his toughness and aggressiveness. He too often allowed oncoming defenders to affect how he attacked the ball.  He clearly has first-round ability, but Hunter hasn’t consistently shown the kind of overall game that would make teams feel great about taking him in the first round.”

Kiper said Hunter “was good but not spectacular, more of a second-round pick.”

### Allen also might be a stretch at No. 12. “He lacks the elite speed to run past NFL defenders, but his size (6-3) and strength allow him to win one-on-one battles downfield,” McShay said.

### As for Williams, “he can really fly and [at 6-3], has the size you want to win one-on-one battles” but is a borderline first-rounder, according to Kiper. Like Williams, Wheaton also has exceptional speed and has drawn comparisons to Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace.

### Expect a lot of chatter about Austin in the coming months. Austin, 173 pounds and just over 5-8, is the draft’s best slot receiver and “perfect for the NFL” but probably not a first-rounder, Kiper said.

“He was arguably the most electrifying playermaker in college football this season and has an elite combination of quickness, speed and vision in the open field,” McShay said. “The question is whether his size will prevent him from being a first-round pick. There are not a lot of good NFL comparisons for Austin. Percy Harvin and Wes Welker are bigger. And it’s hard to tell how many teams are willing to pull the trigger on a slot guy in the first.”

The Dolphins like Davone Bess as a slot receiver, but if Austin is surprisingly available at No. 42 and if Miami hasn't added a receiver by then, then it's obviously worth discussing.

### McShay projects USC’s Robert Woods (73, 813, 11) as a second-rounder: “Lacks elite size (6-1) and speed but highly productive. Makes some very difficult catches look easy.”

CHATTER

### How bad, historically, was the fact Miami had only three touchdown receptions from wide receivers (one apiece from Brian Hartline, Davone Bess and Marlon Moore)? Elias Sports Bureau tells us that is the fewest in the NFL in eight years, since the Bears got three and the Giants got two from receivers in 2004.

As one veteran Dolphins defensive player said, the front office's biggest mistake wasn't trading temperamental Brandon Marshall, but "not doing anything to replace him." That, presumably, will change this offseason.

###  Richmond, Va.-based Derrick Green, the nation’s No. 1 running back, isn't the only prospect rated among the top few at his position who's considering UM. (See our last post for news on Green, who admitted favoring Michigan and Tennessee.)

Miami also is among five finalists for Booker T. Washington’s Matt Thomas, the nation’s No. 2 outside linebacker who will announce on Signing Day (with FSU, Alabama, USC, Georgia also in the mix); among four finalists for No. 4-rated defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammed (announcing this week among Notre Dame, UM, Alabama, Rutgers) and among six schools being considered by No. 1 inside linebacker Rueben Foster (with Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Washington).

The nation's No. 2 defensive end, the aptly-named Dee Liner, told ESPN on Tuesday that he remains an Auburn commit but is considering Miami - along with Alabama and LSU - and will visit UM's campus on Jan. 11.

"I want to get to know the coaches," Liner said. "Who would not want to visit Miami? I am committed to Auburn but am keeping my options open since they got a new coaching staff."

Of this group, UM might have the best chance with Thomas, who said he liked his visit to Miami but has no favorite. Many believe Foster will end up in the SEC, and Muhammed said Notre Dame "is at the top" but reiterated he also likes UM. "I love Al Golden," he said. "They have what I need to succeed."

UM also remains in the mix for the No. 9 offensive lineman (Denver Kirkland, who is expected to announce on signing day) and the No. 11 receiver (Stacy Coley).

### With the Heat dropping to last in the league in rebounds per game and 22nd in rebound differential (minus 2.2 per game), consider: None of the past 17 NBA champions had a negative rebound differential or finished worse than 12th in differential. The last NBA champ to be outrebounded in a season? The 1995 Rockets.

### Giancarlo Stanton -- who would have led baseball in homers (45, instead of 37) if he hit them at the same pace at home as he did on the road – said, when we last saw him, that "it would be a good idea" to move in the outfield walls at pitcher-friendly Marlins Park. But he said he doesn’t believe it’s his place to ask the Marlins to do that because he has been in the big leagues for only three years.

And the Marlins say on the record that moving the fences in is not going to happen. The Marlins remain open to listening to overtures for Stanton (a free agent after 2016) but won’t consider a trade unless they’re overwhelmed by an offer. Seattle and Texas are among those who reportedly have shown interest.

Stanton is very unlikely to sign an extension here, barring a change of heart.

Tuesday update: UM in mix for top RBs; Ranking top local stories of 2012

UM coach Al Golden said the Hurricanes “need [to add] a big-time running back,” and they remain in hot pursuit of at least two of the nation’s top 11.

UM has been pushing for the nation’s No. 1 rated running back, Richmond, Va.-based Derrick Green, but Green has acknowledged to national recruiting analysts that Michigan is his front-runner.

    UM nationally has been perceived as something of a longshot for Green, but publicly, he speaks very highly of the Canes. “Miami is still firmly in it,” he told rivals.com the other day. “They want me bad. Miami is definitely high on my list. It would be like thunder and lightning with Duke Johnson.”

    Besides Michigan and UM, he’s also reportedly considering Tennessee, Auburn, FSU and USC.

    Meanwhile, Alex Collins – the nation’s No. 11 rated running back – said he’s considering UM, UF, FSU, Wisconsin, Arkansas (a new addition) and Tennessee.

Collins, from South Plantation High, is a former UM oral commitment. Running back Adrian Lane, who spent time with Collins on his visit to Gainesville, said he believes UF is the leader. But Miami is still hopeful.

Also this week, UM was eliminated from consideration from Philadelphia-based running back David Williams, rated No. 18 among running backs by rivals.com. He will choose this week from among Penn State, South Carolina and Arizona State.

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Here's the third of our four part series looking back at 2012. I'll post the final installment -- the year in local media -- as part of my Friday media column. 

 

TOP 20 LOCAL STORIES

1) Heat championship and LeBron’s incredible year. The two go hand-in-hand and appropriately, share the top spot on our list. Both James and the Heat silenced their critics with a marvelous May and jubilant June, ending in a 4-1 Finals vanquishing of Oklahoma City. James, who averaged 28.6 points and 10.2 rebounds in the championship series, won the Finals MVP a month after winning the regular season MVP.

2) Marlins open stadium, trash the place. Could the first year of a new ballpark have gone any worse? The Marlins bombed, finishing 69-93, and drawing the fewest fans for any new stadium in the 21st century. At least the air conditioning worked.

3) LeBron leads Heat back from 3-2 deficit against Boston. Facing elimination in the Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron served up back-to-back performances for the ages: a 45-point, 15-rebound epic in Game 6 in Boston, and a 29-point, 12-rebound masterpiece in Game 7 in Miami.

4) Dolphins draft a quarterback in the first round. Miami hadn’t done that since plucking Dan Marino 27th in 1983. Ryan Tannehill, selected eighth, surprisingly won the job in training camp – aided by David Garrard’s knee injury – and flashed enough potential to leave fans and pundits encouraged.

5) Dolphins hire Joe Philbin. Miami’s coaching merry-go-round of the past decade continued, with the former Green Bay offensive coordinator beating out Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy for the job after Jeff Fisher spurned the Dolphins for the St. Louis Rams.

6) Dolphins go a fourth straight season without a winning record. That’s the first time that happened since the franchise’s first four seasons. The Dolphins raised hopes with a 4-3 start, then lost 5 of 6, including an inexplicable 37-3 home drubbing by the Tennessee Titans.

7) Ozzie Guillen’s nightmare. The Marlins’ loquacious manager enraged South Florida – and earned a five-game team suspension – for saying he admired Cuban dictator Fidel Castro; steered a 93-loss team that badly underachieved; and was fired just one season into a four-year contract. At least he walked away with a $7.5 million parting gift.

8) Marlins dump payroll. The Marlins went retro, but not the way anyone wanted, returning to the days of a payroll in the $40 million range, lowest in baseball. Their $60 million-plus salary dump – achieved with trades of Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Heath Bell – infuriated fans.

9) UM wins ACC Coastal division but self-imposes a bowl ban. Despite a porous defense, UM closed 7-5 and won its division for the first time, but eschewed an ACC title game appearance against Florida State and a bowl berth in hopes that a second consecutive postseason ban would mitigate future NCAA punishment.

10)  Panthers return to playoffs. Florida snapped out of a decade-long malaise by making the playoffs for the first time since 2000 and winning a playoff game for the first time since 1997. The scrappy Panthers led 3-2 in their first-round series against New Jersey before being ousted in seven games. 

11) Heat signs Ray Allen. Less than a month after winning a championship, the rich got even richer by signing the NBA’s all-time leader in three-point baskets.

12) Dolphins lose out on Manning, strike out in free agency. The Dolphins never even made Peyton’s final three, then achieved little in free agency beyond Marcus Thigpen and injured Richard Marshall. At least the draft yielded better results.

13) Dwyane Wade’s Indiana comeback. Bothered by knee soreness, Wade delivered a clunker in a Game 3 Eastern Conference semifinals blowout loss in Indiana: 2 for 13 shooting, five points. But Wade rebounded splendidly with 30 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists in Game 4 to help Miami even the series and overcome the Heat’s first serious adversity of the 2012 playoffs.

14)  FIU dumps Cristobal. After taking the Golden Panthers to bowl games in 2010 and ’11 and spurning overtures from Pittsburgh and Rutgers last winter, Cristobal was rewarded with a pink slip in the wake of a 3-9 season.

15)  FIU dumps Isiah. Athletic director Pete Garcia also lost patience with NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas after three abysmal seasons (26-65). Rick Pitino’s son, Richard, replaces him.

16)  Reality TV hits South Florida. The Dolphins and Marlins both agreed to be the focus of cable television reality series. HBO’s Hard Knocks proved far more compelling viewing than MLB’s The Franchise on Showtime.

17)  UM lands top-10 recruiting class, led by electrifying running back Duke Johnson. Al Golden’s 33-player class made an immediate impact, with Johnson setting a UM freshman rushing record. Johnson and safety Deon Bush were named second-team freshman All-Americans.

18)  Chad Johnson’s two-month Dolphins odyssey. After signing in June, the Miami Beach alum predicted a “monster year.” Instead, he was underwhelming in training camp, was arrested for allegedly head-butting his wife of six weeks, then was dumped by both his bride and the Dolphins.

19)  UM baseball team’s shocking exit. A Hurricanes baseball season had never before ended in such embarrassing fashion: a 10-2 loss to Stony Brook and a 12-2 drubbing by Missouri State, at home, no less. UM failed to win an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 1993. 

20)  UM basketball team makes NIT. In his first season as Frank Haith’s successor, Jim Larranaga guided the Hurricanes to a 20-13 record and a berth in the NIT, where Miami was annihilated by visiting Minnesota, 78-60, in a second-round game.