SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
The Dolphins’ draft plans won’t begin to take shape until a new general manager is hired. But the players who could be available with Miami’s 19th overall pick are beginning to come into focus.
First, here’s who presumably won’t be there at 19: South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr and offensive tackles Jake Matthews (Texas A&M) and Greg Robinson (Auburn). All are top-six caliber picks, per ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay. Fast-rising Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack (100 tackles, 11 sacks last season) projects in that range, too.
Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater presumably will be gone before Miami’s pick, and unless the new GM wants to move on from Ryan Tannehill (which would be very surprising), you can discount Miami drafting the other first-round quarterbacks: UCF’s Blake Bortles and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, who could be gone by 19 anyway.
It’s also difficult to envision the Dolphins using a first-round pick at receiver, their deepest position. Projected first-rounders there include Clemson’s Sammy Watkins (rated sixth by Kiper), Southern California’s Marqise Lee (14th) and Texas A&M’s Mike Evans (15th). McShay has FSU’s Kelvin Benjamin 29th.
Several defensive ends could be in Miami’s range, but that’s already a position of strength, with Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan, who could play outside linebacker but is viewed as more of an end by this staff. Defensive ends projected for Miami’s draft range include Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt (“combination of elite quickness and great size,” Kiper said) and Missouri’s Kony Ealy (eight sacks).
So who could make sense at No. 19? Among the possibilities:
### Defensive tackles: Kiper projects FSU’s Timmy Jernigan as the 10th-best prospect (McShay has him seventh), so he could be gone. “I love his great sense of how to disrupt the run game,” Kiper said on ESPN.com….
Notre Dame’s 6-3, 326-pound Louis Nix III, rated 24th by Kiper and 17th by McShay, could be there. Nix missed the final three games after knee surgery “and didn’t perform particularly well when he was on the field,” McShay said. “His stock could drop after scouts watch the tape of his play against Michigan State. But it’s hard to see him falling out of the first round, given his physical abilities and the way he played in 2012.”
Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman could move into Miami’s range. McShay said he is an “outstanding athlete for his position and is effective as a bull rusher and against the run.”
### Running back: Though teams can find productive backs later in the draft, Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde (rated 18th by Kiper) could be tempting. He ran for 1521 yards and 15 touchdowns and averaged 7.3 per carry this past season. “Punishing runner who can run through and bounce off contact,” said Kiper, who ranks him 18th overall.
### Tight end: North Carolina’s Eric Ebron (62 receptions, 973 yards, three touchdowns) also would be tempting, but he’s projected to go higher than Miami’s pick. Kiper has him seventh and McShay 14th. Kiper said he has the “size to overwhelm cornerbacks and most safeties.”
### Linebacker: Keep in mind two prospects: Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier (142 tackles, six sacks; rated 21st by Kiper) and Clemson’s Vic Beasley (12 sacks/rated 22nd by Kiper).
Kiper calls Beasley “an exciting prospect because the ceiling could be very high.” All of the draft prospects mentioned in this column are either seniors or underclassmen who have declared for the draft --- except Beasley, who's a junior and still undecided. Clemson coach Dabo Sweeney told reporters Saturday night that Beasley is still weighing his options.
Former general manager Jeff Ireland typically would have shied away from a linebacker as small as Shazier, who is 6-2 and 225 pounds, but a new GM might think differently. Kiper calls Shazier “versatile, quick, instinctive, a strong tackler” who has the “burst and agility” to stay with running backs and tight ends in coverage….
Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley --– who has great cover skills and is rated eighth by McShay and 13th by Kiper -- could be gone by No. 19, unless teams grow concerned about his history of medical issues (shoulder, elbow, hip).
### Offensive tackle: Many expect Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan (rated 10th by McShay, 11th by Kiper) to be gone by 19. Two tackles who could be there: Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio and Virginia’s Morgan Moses. But Kouandjio “has been dogged by inconsistency and in particular has been beaten by speed too often,” said Kiper, who rates him 23rd.
McShay ranks Moses 23rd and said he “has the potential to be one of the surprises of this year’s draft, given his physical tools.” McShay said he needs to be more efficient in run-blocking but has improved some.
### Cornerback: Not a need unless the new GM parts ways with free agent Brent Grimes and Dimitri Patterson ($4.5 million cap savings if he’s cut) or if he doesn’t think as much of Jamar Taylor and Will Davis as Ireland did.
Options here would include Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard (both McShay and Kiper have him as the draft’s 19th-best prospect) and Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert (rated 16th by Kiper). Dennard, according to McShay, is “a playmaker with good instincts and route-recognition skills who is at his best in press coverage.” Kiper calls him "the most versatile defensive back in the draft."
Gilbert had seven picks last season and "is squarely back in the mid-first round mix," Kiper said. "He put together a great season after a subpar 2012."
UF cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy (27th by McShay) could rise because of his elite athleticism. So could his teammate, UF cornerback Marcus Roberson, who is rated 26th by McShay but played in just seven games in 2013 because of injury and suspensions. Neither player had a great season.
### Safety: The one very likely first-rounder, at this point, is Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton Dix, rated 16th by McShay and 25th by Kiper, who said Dix “reads the quarterback well and can turn quickly to make plays in any direction.”
Of course, the stock of a lot of players will rise or fall over the next four months. By the way, the draft has been moved a couple of weeks later than past years --- to May 8-10.
### A few people who were in contact with Ireland this past season spoke last week about how frustrated he was with decisions made by his coaching staff about playing time. One agent said Ireland would tell him something about his client and the coaching staff would then tell the player the opposite.
Still, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross does not want to give a general manager authority to fire the head coach, and that’s not unusual, former GM Charley Casserly said.
“Sometimes in general manager contracts, it says the owner must consult with the GM on that,” Casserly said. “But if the owner says, ‘I’m firing the coach,’ that qualifies as consulting.”
### Though two-time NFL Executive of the Year Scott Pioli is available, it’s unlikely Carl Peterson (who is helping and advising Ross on the search) would recommend him to Ross not only because Pioli replaced Peterson in Kansas City, but also because of some of the negative feedback Chiefs people gave Peterson about Pioli before Pioli’s firing. Peterson's opinion carries weight with Ross; Peterson strongly advocated hiring Joe Philbin....
Though Ross likes and has consulted with 49ers offensive consultant and former NFL coach Eric Mangini in the past, he hadn't asked Mangini to interview for the GM job as of Friday, though Mangini would love to run a team.
### As many of you know, four people already have interviewed for the Dolphins GM job --- the Dolphins' Brian Gaine, Pittsburgh's Omar Kahn, Arizona's Jason Licht and Cleveland's Ray Farmer --- with at least four more expected: Tennessee's Lake Dawson, Philadelphia's Tom Gamble, Atlanta's Lionel Vital and the Giants' Marc Ross.
### One complaint that UM players have raised about defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio is the players don’t feel they can give him suggestions about what they can do differently on defense. “He doesn’t want feedback,” one parent said. Conversely, offensive coordinator James Coley asks players for suggestions, a player said. In fact, Coley is open to feedback during games.
### Four-star receiver/power forward Derrick Griffin, who failed to qualify academically in time for this past football season, tweeted again this week that he will be "down in Miami" later this month. But UM has not received any indication that he has qualified and isn't sure if he will. Both the football and basketball staffs would love to have him.
### There is nothing Erik Spoelstra has praised more passionately this season that Chris Bosh’s defense –-- “Chris is an elite defender and is proving it every single night” --– and consider this: No starting center in the league allows fewer points per possession against the player he’s guarding (factoring in shots and turnovers) than Bosh. Opponents are shooting 37.7 percent against Bosh, lower than against Dwight Howard (38.3) and Joakim Noah (39.9), according to synergysports.com.
Spoelstra even had Bosh as the primary defender on Nets guard Joe Johnson late in Friday's game. "He's our all-team defense guy," Spoelstra said. "He's defended every single position."...
By the way, point guard Norris Cole has allowed the lowest shooting percentage by players he's guarding (34.1) among Heat players. And Cole's improvement offensively was evident when he started in place of the injured Mario Chalmers against the Knicks and Nets.
### Random Heat stuff: Miami's combined six points in its double-overtime loss at Brooklyn on Friday were the fewest scored by a team in a multi-overtime game in the shot clock era, which began in 1954-55.... The Heat already has lost eight games against teams below .500 --- twice as many as it lost all of last season.
### The Marlins are confident Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna (who played well in winter ball) will capably handle starting spots alongside Giancarlo Stanton, but they are exploring adding another outfielder for depth and other reasons and are looking at several options, including Delmon Young, 28, who hit .260 with 11 homers and 38 RBI for Philadelphia and Tampa Bay last season. Young has a home here and would have interest, but the question is whether he would get enough playing time.
The Marlins have a left-handed hitting backup outfielder in veteran Brian Bogusevic, acquired from the Cubs for Justin Ruggiano. Young, a right-handed hitter, hypothetically could fill in at first base and the outfield, playing some against lefties --- a weakness of new starting first baseman Garrett Jones.
The Marlins also might add one or two more veteran relievers to minor-league contracts, with invitations to spring training.