FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Seeking defensive backfield help, the Dolphins quietly have been summoning several cornerbacks to visit team headquarters, as well as some sleeper offensive players.
We hear the Dolphins, who never disclose visits publicly, have brought in at least three cornerbacks to meet with team officials: Alabama’s Dee Milliner (expected to be gone before Miami’s pick at No. 12), Boise State’s Jamar Taylor (possible option at 42, but could go higher) and Southeast Louisiana’s Robert Alford (Mel Kiper’s pick for Miami at 54). There are others cornerbacks Miami likes, but those are the three with whom Miami has spent the most time since the NFL Combine.
CBS draft analyst Rob Rang said “scouts have been buzzing about Alford” and compares Taylor – a good scheme fit for Miami – to Tampa five-time Pro Bowler Ronde Barber. Miami also tried to book FSU’s Xavier Rhodes for a visit, but he has declined so far because of scheduling conflicts. Rhodes, a first-round talent but not an ideal scheme fit for Miami, hasn’t ruled out a visit here.
Using one of Miami’s two second- or third-round picks on a cornerback makes sense, but general manager Jeff Ireland said Thursday: “You can find [corners] in the fourth, fifth, sixth round. I don’t think it’s a position you have to take high.”
### Also, we hear UF tight end Jordan Reed visited the Dolphins on Thursday (along with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o), and Rang compares Reed (45 catches, 559 yards in 2012) with ex-Gator Aaron Hernandez in that Reed “creates receiving mismatches against linebackers and defensive backs similar to what Hernandez has done in New England.”
The Dolphins haven’t booked visits with the draft’s two top tight ends – Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert and Stanford’s Zach Ertz – but appreciate Eifert’s skills and told people they really like Ertz. Ireland has spoken about taking a core position player at No. 12 and admitted tight end “hasn’t necessarily been a core position.”
### Even beyond Eric Winston, Miami hasn’t pursued the other top remaining free agent offensive tackles (such as Bryant McKinnie and Tyson Clabo) because they want to see if they can fill the need in the draft… Same with defensive end: They have not told John Abraham, who’s interested, that they’ve ruled him out, but have not pursued him recently after initial conversations…
And same with running back, where the Dolphins believe they can find depth to supplement Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas with a player such as Andre Ellington, Giovanni Bernard, Montee Ball, Le’Veon Bell or Eddie Lacy. But Miami has shown interest in taking a look at Titans free agent Javon Ringer (4.0 average on 120 career carries) when he is fully recovered from a knee injury.
### Teams can bring in 30 non-local players for visits – Ireland said Thursday “I have a lot of interest in some” of them and not much in others – and one of Miami’s is being used on sleeper junior college receiver prospect Courtney Gardner, who has size (6-3) and speed but couldn’t enroll at Oklahoma because of academics and has had two misdemeanor arrests, including possession of alcohol as a minor.
Harvard tight end/fullback/H-back Kyle Juszczyk (52 catches, 706 yards last season) also is visiting. A good blocker, he is poised to be the first Harvard player drafted since Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2005.
Workouts are not permitted on the 30 visits. Players with South Florida ties were allowed to visit and work out for Miami on April 3.
### Check back Sunday for more Dolphins' draft nuggets. And, by the way, I'm finally joining Twitter officially in the next few days --- three years after the rest of the world. Please follow me at @flasportsbuzz.... Now onto other topics:
### With the Heat set to play the winner of the No. 4-No. 5 series in the second round, keep in mind that Chicago would win a tiebreaker with Atlanta if both teams finished tied for fifth. The Bulls lead the Hawks by a half game after beating the Knicks Thursday night.
The preference from a Heat perspective would be for Atlanta to finish fifth, because Atlanta and No. 4 New Jersey would be Miami’s most favorable second-round matchups. Though Miami will be favored in any Eastern Conference series, Magic Johnson insists the Knicks “are a legit team to beat the Heat.”
Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo told ESPN New York: "I don't think [the Heat] are head and shoulders above everybody else."
### Even if the Big Three novelty has worn off, the Heat has never been more popular. Consider this: More than 100 people recently were waiting in a San Antonio hotel at 2 a.m. to greet Heat players and ask for autographs when they arrived from New Orleans.
### Marlins TV ratings have been dreadful, with the first two home games this week generating a 1.8 and 1.5 – numbers comparable to daytime game shows – followed by Wednesday’s embarrassing 0.8 – equaling .8 percent of Dade/Broward homes with TV sets. Conversely, opposing Heat games on Tuesday and Wednesday drew a 9.4 and 6.7...
And then there’s this: You have to go back to the 2004 Montreal Expos to find the last team to achieve either of the Marlins offensive “feats” so far: Four shutouts, and 16 runs or fewer, in their first nine games… The bright side? Jose Fernandez pitches Saturday. “He reminded me of Josh Beckett” in Sunday’s start against the Mets, Marlins special assistant Jeff Conine said. “Big fastball, big curveball, his presence on the mound.”
### What UM players most improved this spring? Al Golden rattled off 12 names, with running backs Dallas Crawford and Danny Dillard, tight end Asante Cleveland, and offensive linemen Danny Isidora and Jared Wheeler at the top of the list. The others: Herb Waters, Kelvin Cain, Antonio Crawford, Tracy Howard, Jordan Tolson, Nantambu-Akil Fentress and defensive tackles Olsen Pierre, Cutis Porter and Luther Robinson.
### This would be funny if it weren’t so ridiculous: NCAA president Mark Emmert told ESPN that even though his former investigator, Ameen Najjar, shouldn’t have written a letter on behalf of Nevin Shapiro to his sentencing judge, “it’s not a critical misjudgment.” You must be kidding, Emmert.
### UM this weekend hosts its top recruiting target, Brandon (Fla.) Faith Baptist four-star power forward Demetrius Henry, who would step immediately into Kenny Kadji’s role if he signs. His coach said it’s a tossup among UM, USF and South Carolina, with a decision due April 24. Miami also is expecting to land a skilled European point guard.