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.”
### 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.