May 01, 2015

Lots of reaction, analysis on Dolphins' selection of Jordan Phillips; Dolphins chatter

Reaction on Miami’s selection of Oklahoma defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and other thoughts after round two of the draft:

Mel Kiper: “You look at him; He is huge, a mountainous defensive tackle, 6-5, 330 pounds, incredibly long arms. He’s a space eater who can penetrate at times, work through a double team. Wore down late in games, second half of games. Up and down effort. Needs to increase his stamina, his endurance.

"Production was so-so. He was highly regarded coming out of high school. He had that back injury, back surgery in 2013. That was a concern through the draft process, along with the fact while he’s athletic for his size, he has to get in better shape, has to be better in the second half of games.”

ESPN’s Todd McShay: “You don’t see guys that have this ability. God only makes a few of these guys. He’s one of biggest, most athletic defensive linemen I’ve ever evaluated on tape. He can do back flips standing up at the size. But too high coming out of his stance. Doesn’t fight through the double team at times. He’s content just doing his job sometimes, which is fine.

"But when you’re talking about a top 55 player overall in the draft, you’ve got to do more. My hope for Jordan Phillips is, with all this natural ability, is he gets pushed and Suh will teach him how to be a great worker in order to get the most out of him. I’m telling you right now, Phillips is one of the 10, 12 most naturally gifted individuals in this entire draft class.”

### NFL Network’s Mike Mayock: “Only started 16 games in college but he’s a dancing bear. Has first-round ability all over him. He controls the run game. He reminds me of Terrance Knighton. People question his football character, which is why he is being selected in the second round and not the first.”

### Lots of good stuff from CBSSports.com’s Rob Rang, on Phillips. Here’s his assessment:

Overall: “Phillips' blend of size and athleticism is certainly intriguing and teams operating out of traditional three- and four-man fronts, alike, will be interested. He commands double teams in the middle and makes the occasional splashy play, demonstrating surprising quickness for a man of his size. He comes with obvious red-flags, however, not the least of which is his relative inexperience and the back injury which ruined his 2013 campaign.”

Strengths: “Naturally large man with good overall weight distribution. Tall, broad shouldered, long-limbed player with a thick lower half. Surprisingly athletic for a player of his size, exhibiting good initial quickness, lateral agility and impressive straight-line speed. Occasionally explodes off the ball and can ruin plays before they have a chance to work.”

Weaknesses: Not yet the sum of his parts. Too often stands up at the snap, negating his own power and while very quick for a man of his size, too rarely makes plays at the point of attack, as ball carriers are often able to avoid him. Too often latches onto blockers and reacts to what he sees, rather than penetrating. Despite his length, has just two passes broken up in 27 career games.

“Underwent back surgery in October of 2013 in an attempt to correct issues that had bothered him for a few years. As head coach Bob Stoops said at the time of Phillips' surgery, the procedure wasn't due to one specific injury. Has only one full season of starting experience at the collegiate level.”

Rang compares him to Kansas City’s Dontari Poe: “Because of their similar build and eye-popping athleticism, Poe is the easy comparison for Phillips. While Poe has emerged as one of the NFL's most intimidating nose guards, many others with similar talents have struggled with consistency in the NFL.

“Phillips could just as easily wind up the second coming of Marcus Stroud or Albert Haynesworth, who lacked the requisite work ethic to take full advantage of their talents. Given Phillips' history of back issues, former first rounders turned early NFL retirees Marcus Tubbs (Seattle) and Justin Harrell (Green Bay) could unfortunately prove valid comparisons, as well.”

A few other thoughts:

### Phillips overcame a difficult childhood. According to The Oklahoman, his father was in and out of jail when Phillips was a child and his mother died in a car accident when Phillips was 2.

Phillips moved in with his grandparents in Wichita after his mother died, but his grandmother slipped into a coma after a stroke when Phillips was in sixth grade.

Phillips later moved in with the parents of a friend at school and got his grades in order.

### The Dolphins will be thrilled if Phillips is as good as their last three picks at No. 52: Chris Chambers, John Offerdal and Mark Duper.

### As we noted earlier this week, a defensive tackle was a possibility in the second round because: 1) Miami felt it needed depth behind Ndamukong Suh and Earl Mitchell. (AJ Francis and Anthony Johnson also have potential.) and 2) The Dolphins used three of their 30 pre-draft visits on second-round DTs: Phillips, Iowa's Carl Davis and Washington State's Xavier Cooper.

### It will be fascinating to see if Phillips ends up a better player than cornerback Eric Rowe (Miami traded the 47th pick to the Eagles, who used the pick on Rowe), UM linebacker Denzel Perryman and FSU cornerback Ronald Darby (who both went between 47 and Miami’s trade-down pick at 52), or Oregon tackle/guard Jake Fisher, who went after Miami’s pick.

### The fact Miami didn’t draft a cornerback increases the chances of Jamar Taylor or Zack Bowman starting opposite Brent Grimes. The Dolphins see Brice McCain as their nickel back; he’ll be on the field a lot.

And the fact Miami passed on Perryman (and never had a chance to draft Bernadrick McKinney or Eric Kendricks in round two) boosts the chances of Kelvin Sheppard or Chris McCain starting alongside Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi at linebacker. But Miami played with only two linebackers on the field a lot last year.

### Unless the Dolphins find a starting guard in the fourth or fifth rounds --- or unless they end up with the Eagles’ Evan Mathis, who could be cut --- then Miami’s starting guards figure to be two among Billy Turner (a front-runner for one job), Dallas Thomas and Jeff Linkenbach and former Giants starting center J.D. Walton.

### Miami’s remaining picks, after the trade with Philadelphia: one pick in the fourth round (114th) and four in the fifth (145, 149, 150, 156).

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

April 30, 2015

Reaction, analysis on Dolphins' first-round pick; More draft chatter; Shalala speak out; Jose update

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Some reaction on the Dolphins drafting Louisville receiver DeVante Parker:

### ESPN’s Mel Kiper: “The board fell right for the Dolphins. Parker would give Ryan Tannehill no more excuses. This is a kid with a tremendous catch radius. Reminds me a lot of AJ Green. Can be an outstanding go-to option in the NFL. What I like about him is he will work hard, he will block. Respected team leader. He brings talent. Brings great character as well."

### ESPN’s Jon Gruden: “When you do it for two different offensive coordinators, that tells me something. He’s a natural. He’s a quick study. He has finishing speed. You talk about the catch radius; can cut the flight time down by two feet. Against tight coverage, that always wins. He’s got to stay healthy. He’s got to get stronger. That’s his only weakness. He has not been durable.”

### NFL Network’s Mike Mayock: “Big bodied receiver [6-3, 209 pounds]. The thing I loved about this kid this year is he had a broken foot and only played in six games [but still] caught 43 passes, averaged 20 yards per catch. He’s one of the best run-after-catch big receivers I’ve seen in college football. He’s a special young man.”

### NFL Network’s Michael Irvin: “I love this pick. He can go up and get the football. That’s exactly what the Dolphins need. They need that big guy that can go up and get that football.”

### NFL Net’s Charles Davis:  Parker’s “catch radius is ridiculous. Anywhere it is, he’s going to get his hands on it. He’s long, he’s tall, he’s aggressive. They are doing everything they can to help Tannehill.”

### ESPN’s Louis Riddick: “He’s a guy who snatches the ball out of the air aggressively. [But] some of those contested catches he’s been out-physicalled at the point of attack. Making big plays, he’s done it in various different ways. He’ll be that outside threat and help out Jarvis Landry.”

### CBS’ Pete Prisco: "Great move. They had to get a go-to receiver and this kid is exactly that.”

### Parker had at least 120 yards receiving in five of the six games he played in 2014 and his 19.9 average per catch was 10th in the country… He dropped just two of 75 passes thrown to him last season and forced 15 missed tackles in six games, which is highly impressive.... He had 33 touchdown receptions in four seasons.... His yards per catch every season, chronologically: 16.2, 18.6, 16.1, 19.9.... He played in 11, 13 and 12 games his first three seasons before playing in just six last year due to the foot injury.

### Here's how College Football Focus, the sibling of Pro Football Focus, evaluated his tape:

"He can struggle if a cornerback gets into his chest on the jam, really laboring to disengage and get into his pattern. However, the number of times that actually happens in a game makes it a very minor problem. His quickness and footwork at the line is so good at defeating the jam that a cornerback in press rarely gets anywhere near his pads.

"He only really seems to have one move to defeat that press coverage at the line (I very rarely saw him release in a different way, though he did occasionally break it out), but that move works with frightening regularity. It looks like a defender should be able to key in on it and snuff it out. But Parker routinely beats the same guy with the same move in the same game over and over to prevent them getting hands on him.

"For a guy of his size, he moves incredibly well, and his suddenness in his routes allow him to snap open in a single step when he makes his break. While Kevin White ran a pretty spartan looking route tree at West Virginia, Parker was far closer to Amari Cooper in terms of running a complete route tree, and was visibly far closer in terms of polish and refinement to his game."

CHATTER

### Yes, the Dolphins could use another linebacker and they’ve shown interest in several: Mississippi State’s Benardrick McKinney, UM’s Denzel Perryman (who says Miami's linebacker coach told him he wants the Dolphins to draft him), Michigan’s Jake Ryan, Georgia’s Ramik Wilson, among others. TCU's Paul Dawson and UCLA's Erik Kendricks would also be worth considering if available at 47. The Dolphins liked Clemson's Stephone Anthony, who went 31st to the Saints.

But one Dolphins defensive starter cautioned not to underestimate Kelvin Sheppard, a former third-round pick with 32 NFL starts in his first four seasons. The front office likes him and quickly resigned him this spring. And remember the Dolphins had only two linebackers on the field quite often during the second half of last season.

### The Dolphins have told people they want to draft a cornerback, with Utah’s Eric Rowe, FSU’s P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby, FAU’s D’Joun Smith and Miami of Ohio’s Quinten Rollins among day-two possibilities who have piqued their interest.

They also brought in LSU's Jalen Collins, who could slip to 47, though his reported positive drug tests in college could be a deterrent to Miami amid the Dion Jordan fiasco. Alabama safety Landon Collins would be good value if he slips to 47, though that's not a pressing need.

### Knowing the interior of their line needs bolstering, the Dolphins raced around to audition several guards in the past three weeks, including South Carolina’s A.J. Cann, FSU’s Tre Jackson and Josue Matias, UM’s Jon Feliciano, Pittsburgh tackle/guard T.J. Clemmings, and Louisville’s John Miller. They hosted Texas A&M’s Jarvis Harrison and Hobart’s Ali Marpet. 

Another player they like at guard, LSU's La'el Collins, remains available, his stock having tumbled because of an ongoing police investigation. (Google for details, if you aren't aware.) Also still available, entering round two: Oregon tackle Jake Fisher, who the Dolphins brought in for a visit as a potential guard option.

### Though cornerback, guard and linebacker are the Dolphins' biggest needs in round two, the fact they’ve brought in three second-round defensive tackles on pre-draft visits suggests that position should not be ruled out by any means for Miami in the second round.

### The Dolphins are among teams with interest in a trade for Rams starting defensive tackle Michael Brockers, according to draft analyst Tony Pauline.

### UM's two first-round picks tonight (Ereck Flowers ninth to the Giants, Phillip Dorsett 29th to the Colts) are the Hurricanes' first first-round picks since Kenny Phillips went 31st to the Giants in 2008.

### Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez threw to live hitters (15 of them) Thursday for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery last May. And it went very well; Fernandez indicated afterward that he felt great. He remains on track to return to the Marlins between mid-June and mid-July.

### As UM president Donna Shalala prepares to leave the university at the end of the month, she has a message for Hurricanes fans irked with Al Golden:  “Be patient.”

Why does she remain convinced that Golden is a good coach?

“He’s got integrity, he’s got coaching skill,” she told me last week. “I just think we have to be patient. We’ve been under the cloud of the NCAA. But more than that, it takes a long time to build world-class teams.”

Her proudest sports achievement as UM’s president? “It’s not just the national championships,” she said. “We’ve recruited some outstanding coaches. We have a group now that is truly exceptional. [Deceased legendary former baseball coach] Ron Fraser would have agreed with that.”

When the Associated Press' Tim Reynolds asked Shalala in a longer interview if UM would be playing at Sun Life Stadium in five years, Shalala said she didn’t know and that Sun Life is “too big and cavernous for a college of our size.”

As we reported last year, UM remains highly interested in a joint facility with David Beckham’s MLS team, provided the stadium has at least 40,000 seats (MLS ideally would prefer smaller) and that it could escape its Sun Life lease (highly questionable). The site near Marlins Park would appeal to UM.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

April 29, 2015

Lots of Dolphins' Wednesday night draft nuggets: WR, LB, RB, DT, TE, DB, Tannehill and more

Talking draft on the eve:

### Receiver remains as good as a possibility an anything for the Dolphins in the first two rounds of the draft. But if the Dolphins end up with a cornerback or Todd Gurley at 14 --- and we first reported a few weeks ago about the Dolphins’ interest and detailed level of research work on Gurley --- then many expect they will come back and grab a receiver in the next few rounds (they don’t have a third-rounder but could trade for one.)

"Kenny Stills can play [but] do I think they could still upgrade the receiver position? Yes,” NBC's Cris Collinsworth said when I spoke to him in the past week. “I still think they are going to end up needing a consistent playmaker.”

People who have spoken to the Dolphins say the Dolphins believe they still need more at receiver.

“Maybe it’s one of these guys [for Miami] that goes up over the top: Breshad Perriman, DeVante Parker, Jaelen Strong,” Collinsworth said. “They’re Larry Fitzgerald kind of players. Then the smaller, quicker players like Devin Smith, Phillip Dorsett.

“Back in my day, you had to get open to get the ball thrown to you. Now as long as they’re one on one, throw it and let these guys get up and make a play. It’s easy to say give me the 4.3 guy, but there is an alternative with the way the game is being played now, with these jump balls and back shoulder throws. That’s why I think you will see such a big run on receivers. There are about five of them that play above the rim.”

People who have spoken to the Dolphins have come away with the impression they really like the draft's top three receivers: Louisville's Parker, Alabama's Amari Cooper and West Virginia's Kevin White. They would gladly pick any one of the three.

CBS’ Jason LaCanfora said today that Miami is trying to trade up for Parker, though it would be painful to sacrifice additional draft picks when this team has multiple needs.

They like Perriman (he's being considered at 14, though Parker is Miami's preference) and are intrigued by USC’s Nelson Agholor, but he might be obtainable with a first-round trade back. One person who has spoken to several league executives said draftniks seem more enamored with Agholor than some teams do.

If they don't get a receiver in the first round, the Dolphins would love if Dorsett were an option for them at 47, but most project he’ll be gone sooner. Auburn’s Sammy Coates is definitely an option at 47 and Ohio State’s Devin Smith would be if he lasts that long; both visited Miami. FSU’s Rashad Greene, who worked out for Miami, might be, though he could go lower than that.

And among receivers projected for the third or fourth rounds, the Dolphins have told people they like Georgia’s Chris Conley (as Armando reported on his blog) and Maryland’s Stefon Diggs. Diggs visited; Conley did not but that’s not for lack of interest. Jarvis Landry didn’t visit last year.

There are about 30 other draftable receivers, according to Mel Kiper, and Miami has shown particular interest in several, including Central Michigan’s Titus Davis, Houston’s Deontay Greenberry and Washington State’s Vince Mayle. They’ve auditioned two receivers from the University of New Hamphire.

And in the past week, they called Weber State’s head coach, offensive coordinator and receivers coach about potential undrafted free agent Shaydon Kehano, who caught 82 passes for 976 yards and had a 9.2 average on punt returns.

### The Dolphins have been privately working out several skilled returners, including USF cornerback Chris Dunkley, who averaged 24 yards per kickoff, 8.5 per punt.

### Don’t rule out a cornerback at No. 14 by any means, more so if Gurley is gone. Mike Mayock projects Miami to take Wake Forest corner Kevin Johnson, a quality player who has no red flags.

### Draft analyst Tony Pauline says Miami will pick Gurley if he's there at 14.

### After plucking Billy Turner from North Dakota State last year, the Dolphins have been showing interest in N.D. State running back John Crockett, who ran for 1994 yards last season and has been called a poor man's Eddie George.

He’s a potential late-round pick. They’ve also poked around on Texas A&M running back Trey Williams and BYU’s Paul Lasike (the former rugby player).

If the Dolphins don’t end up with Gurley (or Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon), they do want to address running back at some point this weekend, even if it’s immediately after the draft. Duke Johnson would be interesting in the third round (if Miami trades for a third round pick) or in the fourth round, if he lasts that long (as Mel Kiper believes he might).

### In the last post, we mentioned four defensive tackles that were summoned by the Dolphins to visit team headquarters. Three are potential second-round picks. (Their names are listed below in our visit tracker.)

Three others we hear they are high on: Arizona State’s Marcus Hardison (they like him a lot), Clemson’s Grady Jarrett (Miami’s d-line coach called to tell him what a good private workout he had for them) and Fresno State’s Tyeler Davison. They’ve also called on UCLA’s Ellis McCarthy.

Though the Dolphins like AJ Francis and Anthony Johnson, they believe they need more depth behind Ndamukong Suh and Earl Mitchell.

### Though tight end isn’t a need (with Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims), depth figures to be addressed there, perhaps on Day 3 or after the draft.

Besides bringing in UM’s Clive Walford, FSU’s Nick O’Leary and Massachusetts’ 27-year-old Jean Siffrin (a former warehouse employee), the Dolphins did a private workout with UAB’s Kennard Backman (39 catches, 399 yards last season) and Miami of Ohio’s Alex Welch (24-312).

### The Dolphins have spent considerable time with Louisville players besides Parker. Louisville safety Gerrod Holliman, cornerback Charles Gaines and guard Jon Miller have all privately worked out for them.

### Add Syracuse safety Durell Eskridge, who attended Miami Central High, to the potential late-round safeties Miami has shown interest in (as well as Minnesota’s Cedric Thompson)... The Dolphins also took a look recently at Texas A&M cornerback DeShazor Everett.

### If the Dolphins cannot address linebacker in the first four rounds, BYU’s Alani Fua, Marshall’s Neville Hewitt, Utah State’s Zach Vigil, Bowling Green’s Gabe Martin, and Tennessee Chat’s David Tull all hold some appeal later in the draft.

### Jon Gruden continues to rave about UM players more than any draft analyst. He said this week that he would draft linebacker Denzel Perryman in the top 10. Mayock has him going 30th.

### Pro Football Talk reported tonight what the Herald has said for months --- that the Dolphins will pick up Ryan Tannehill's fifth-year option for 2016 if the sides can't reach a deal on a longterm contract.

DRAFT VISITS

Teams are allowed to bring in 30 non-local players for visits, and we ultimately ended up confirming 28.  (Three of Miami’s first four draft picks visited last year.) The updated list:

### Potential first-round picks: receivers DeVante Parker (Louisville), Nelson Agholor (Southern California) and Breshad Perriman (UCF); cornerbacks Jalen Collins (LSU) and Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest) and Marcus Peters (Washington);  LSU offensive tackle/guard La’El Collins; Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon. Reports say Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley visited.

### Potential second-round picks: Defensive tackles Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma), Carl Davis (Iowa) and Xavier Cooper (Washington State), Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones, Utah cornerback/safety Eric Rowe, Auburn receiver Sammy Coates, Ohio State receiver Devin Smith, Mississippi State linebacker Benadrick McKinney, Oregon left tackle Jake Fisher. (There was a report that former Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham visited, but that’s unconfirmed.)

### Potential mid-round picks: Guards Jarvis Harrison (Texas A&M) and Ali Marpet (Hobart); linebackers Jake Ryan (Michigan) and Ramik Wilson (Georgia); Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs.

### Potential later-round picks: Minnesota safety Cedric Thompson, Maryland defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, Bowling Green linebacker Gabe Martin, Tennessee State offensive guard/tackle Robert Myers.

### Potential free agents: Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy and USC receiver George Farmer.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

April 28, 2015

What should Dolphins do in first round? Ten analysts weigh in; Dolphins news; Canes, Heat, Marlins chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN 

What should the Dolphins do with the 14th pick in the first round of Thursday’s draft? Here’s what five draft analysts told me they would do (and another five weighing in on their own elsewhere):

### ESPN’s Mel Kiper: He advocates Central Florida receiver Breshad Perriman, on the presumption that  Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes, Louisville receiver DeVante Parker and Georgia running back Todd Gurley are off the board at 14.

“We have the intermediate targets in Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills,” Kiper said of the Dolphins. “Now I have the sub-4.3 speed to keep safeties honest, and Perriman is a playmaker after short catches as well. This helps my franchise QB.”

### NFL Net’s Charley Casserly, by phone: “I would take Trae Waynes if he’s there because you’re in a division where you have to beat New England. You need corners. If he’s not there, take Parker because Ryan Tannehill needs a true No. 1 receiver. Gurley is the best player in the draft but I don’t know that they have the luxury to take Gurley” with their needs at receiver and cornerback.

### ESPN’s Bill Polian, on ESPN2's mock draft show: “The Dolphins need to run the ball. That offense is an off-shoot of Chip Kelly’s and is a running offense. So if Todd Gurley passed their physical, take Todd Gurley and don’t look back. He changes their whole team.”

### NFL Net’s Charles Davis, by phone: “Parker, because he could be a legitimate No. 1 receiver. If Parker is gone, take Waynes. I would take Gurley out of the mix. I’m a monster Gurley fan, but we throw the ball 68 percent of the time in the league.”

### Draft analyst Tony Pauline, by phone: “DeVante Parker head and shoulders” if he’s there. “Parker is not a field stretcher but doesn’t drop passes.”

Pauline said if Parker is gone, he would take Kentucky defensive end/linebacker Bud Dupree because of his pass-rushing prowess. It would be easier to justify Dupree now than a week ago because of Dion Jordan’s season-long suspension.

Pauline said two others potentially in the mix, Waynes and Perriman, “are overrated. I like [Wake Forest cornerback] Kevin Johnson but he’s a bottom third of round one type of guy.”

### NFL Network’s Mike Mayock: He told me he likes a receiver or cornerback for Miami at 14, depending on who’s available.

“Perriman or Parker would be good, and even if Waynes goes 11 to Minnesota, there’s not a lot of drop off between Waynes and the next best corner,” Mayock said. “Kevin Johnson at 14 would not be too high for me. He’s a really good player.”

### NFL Net’s Daniel Jeremiah: Parker, if available. “If on the board, that would be a home run pick,” he told the Dolphins’ flagship radio show. “He doesn’t play with quite as much juice as AJ Green but there are a lot of similarities. His game is an easy transition to the next level.”

If Parker isn’t there, Jeremiah says Miami should take Waynes if he’s there: “Plenty of speed. Good instincts."

### Draft analyst Russ Lande, by phone: Assuming defensive end/linebacker Vic Beasley is gone (Lande loves him even though he isn’t a linebacker scheme fit for Miami), Lande said “it comes down to Parker, Waynes and Kevin Johnson for Miami, and I would lean Kevin Johnson. He has over 40 career starts, is polished in all three aspects of coverage. He is going to go a lot higher than people think.”

### Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, on SI.com: Gurley, because he’s “going to make a bunch of yards that aren’t there for normal backs. He’s the kind of back Miami hasn’t had in a long time.”

### CBS’ Pete Prisco, on CBSSports.com, says Iowa’s Brandon Scherff, if he’s there, because “they need help inside at guard and he also could play tackle, his college position.” Kiper said there’s no way Scherff will last to 14.

CHATTER

### The Dolphins summoned UM running back Duke Johnson to team headquarters Tuesday because a conflict with a Colts workout prevented him from attending Miami’s local pro day. Johnson said teaming with Lamar Miller with the Dolphins has “crossed my mind. It would be something to see.”

On NFL Network, Johnson named the Cowboys as the team he would love to join, citing their scheme.

### Even before his drug suspension, the Dolphins were exploring a trade for Dion Jordan; the Philadelphia Inquirer said a late-round pick or guard Evan Mathis were discussed.

But keep in mind that Jordan averaged just 22.3 defensive snaps last season and his friends thought he wasn’t being used correctly. That's all moot now.

Jordan’s $5.3 million 2015 cap hit will shrink to $3 million (according to cap expert Joel Corry), leaving Miami with $12 million in cap space, with an additional $3 million cleared in mid-May when Phillip Wheeler's contract comes off the books.

So Terence Fede, who defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle loves, becomes Miami's No. 4 defensive end for now, behind Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby. The Dolphins will add more defensive end help during and/or after the draft. Chris McCain also can play defensive end.

Last year, Jordan's ratio of sacks-per-pass rush chances (1 for 103) was lowest among the team’s defensive ends. Wake was 1 in 39, Vernon 1 in 72, Shelby 1 in 78, Fede 1 in 48 and McCain1 in 26.

### The Dolphins have done a lot of work with defensive tackles in this draft, knowing they need depth around Ndamukong Suh and Earl Mitchell. They brought potential second-rounders Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma), Carl Davis (Iowa) and Xavier Cooper (Washington State) in for visits, as well as potential late-round pick Darius Kilgo (Maryland).

### Despite signing Josh Freeman as a potential No. 3 quarterback, the Dolphins have been aggressive looking for a developmental backup and had private workouts with draft prospects Garrett Grayson (Colorado State; potential second-round pick so highly unlikely to land here), Connor Halliday (Washington State), Chris Donner (Colorado-Pueblo) and Andrew Hendrix (Miami of Ohio and formerly Notre Dame). They still figure to add a rookie quarterback after the draft.

The Dolphins don’t view Freeman as a threat to Matt Moore, who got a $1.6 million signing bonus.

Freeman could net the Dolphins a draft pick in a trade if he impresses in preseason, but his passer rating in his last three NFL games was ugly: 56.1, 54.5, 40.6.

###As Canesport first reported, Gerald Willis, the five-star defensive lineman who transferred to UM, is appealing to the NCAA to make him eligible to play this season, on the grounds that the Gators dismissed him from their team after multiple altercations with teammates.

### One FSU administrative official in regular contact with the athletic department said one of the problems with Jameis Winston is he always has to be the center of attention.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker said if the Buccaneers draft Winston, “We have some veteran guys, that will pull him to the side and make him understand that there’s a role here he has to play and sometimes he may have to tone that down,” David said.

### Though it wasn’t the overriding decision in parting ways with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the Marlins had some concern about how gracefully he would deal with being a backup, according to a team official. One friend said he's pleased to be moving on, hopeful of getting more playing time elsewhere.

### Marlins pitchers love throwing to rookie J.T. Realmuto. “J.T. has done a great job of blocking the ball; his knowledge of the game is special; and he has a lot of talent and upside,” Mat Latos said. Dan Haren said Realmuto deserves some credit for the team’s recent drop in ERA.

### The NBA's list of early draft entrants, released today, includes at least seven underclassmen who could go before the Heat potentially picks 10th, thus pushing down other quality players for Miami should the Heat retain the pick. The pick must be forwarded to Philadelphia if it falls outside the top 10 (nine percent chance of that happening). 

### Among the reasons the Marlins should be concerned about their closer: Steve Cishek’s velocity is at a career-low: He’s averaging 89.1 mph on his fastball, down from a career mark of 92.0, and 79.0 on his slider (down from 82.2), according to fangraphs.com. 

Cishek rebounded from last night's blown lead with a save in tonight's 4-3 win against the Mets.

### First baseman Michael Morse, who entered Tuesday hitting .222, reminded me that his best season in the majors (.303, 31 homers, 95 RBI for Washington in 2011), “started the same way [hitting .224 in April]. So I’m excited. I know it will turn. I know I’m a good player.”

Though Justin Bour has hit .368 in 16 career starts, Mike Redmond understandably said he's committed to Morse because "we want to get his bat going." Morse's body of work warrants patience.

And Morse's eighth-inning RBI single tonight delivered the game-winning run for Miami.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

April 27, 2015

Analysts weigh in on UF, FSU and other non-UM state prospects; Marlins, Canes notes

MARLINS NOTES

The Marlins moved on from catcher Jarrod Saltamacchia, designating him for assignment today, and the only question is where he ranks among their free agent busts of recent years. I would slot him second, behind Heath Bell but ahead of John Buck. (Don't include Jose Reyes or Mark Buehrle, who were decent before being traded.)

Saltalmacchia's final Marlins numbers: .209, 12 homers, 45 RBI and 17 errors in 123 games in a little more than a season. He was 2 for 29 this season.

Manager Mike Redmond and president/baseball operations Michael Hill both said they feel rookie catcher J.T. Realmuto is ready to be a full-time starter.

The Marlins have 10 days to trade Saltalamacchia, but they've tried unsuccessfully to do that for a while. He's still owed $15 million through next season.

"Fifteen million is not easy to part with, but we've never been afraid to make decisions," Hill said. "It was right to do this."

Said Redmond: "Last year was a tough year [for Saltalamacchia]. We were looking for him to be better and it just didn't happen."

### Throughout the first 21 days of this rollercoaster Marlins season, this has been a constant: exemplary defense.

After another error-less game Sunday, the Marlins own the best fielding percentage in baseball and have the fewest errors (five). No other National League team entered Sunday with fewer than nine errors.

Of the Marlins’ five errors, two were committed by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, one by right fielder Giancarlo Stanton and one each by shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (on a questionable call) and second baseman Dee Gordon.

Closer Steve Cishek said the Marlins’ infield defense is as good as he can remember in his time with the team. “Hech and Dee up the middle are incredible,” Cishek said. “Martin Prado has always been great.”

First baseman Michael Morse, who has split time between first base and the outfield in recent years, has “done very well” defensively at first base, Marlins infield coach Perry Hill said. “Mike saved the [butt] of a couple guys by picking up several balls.”

Hill, who always has praised Hechavarria’s defense, said Gordon “has made every play he should have. And Prado is a pro.”

### Hechavarria has 16 RBI in 19 games this season. Last season, he didn’t drive in his 16th run until his 72nd game.

### On Sunday, Gordon was thrown out for the sixth time (most in baseball) in 14 stolen base attempts. He was 64 for 83 on steals last season.

### Justin Nicolino, the Marlins’ top left-handed pitching prospect, is 2-0 with a 0.79 ERA at Triple A New Orleans and hasn’t given up an earned run in his last three starts, covering 18 innings.

### Marlins TV analyst Tommy Hutton is back Monday after missing three games with the flu.

CANES ITEMS

Two quick Canes items: Cornerback Antonio Crawford, who left the Hurricanes football team in February, announced he's enrolling at West Virginia. He will need to sit out one season.

Crawford would have played a lot as UM's nickel corner had he stayed for his senior season but he indicated he didn't believe coaches had as high a regard for him as they should have...

Three-star Lakeland-based Keyshon Camp, who had been UM's only defensive tackle in its group of 20 oral commitments for 2016, told canesport.com that even though he recently de-committed from Miami, the Hurricanes are still in the mix for him.

DRAFT TALK

The state’s draft class is so deep and so good this year that as many as 10 could go in the first round.

We analyzed UM’s prospects in our last post/column. (Please see it if you missed it.) Here’s a look at the players from the other state schools:

### Early first round: FSU quarterback Jameis Winston, projected by most to go the Tampa first overall. ESPN Mel Kiper: “He's the most NFL-ready QB in the draft. He's big, durable, strong-armed and has both a high football IQ and an ability to read, anticipate and process at a very high level what defenses are trying to do. The off-field stuff is on everyone's radar, but I'm still betting on the talent.”…

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock: “I think he throws too many interceptions. I have trust issues on and off the
field. Had 18 interceptions, could have been 40 easily. Can I trust him with the ball and can I trust him off the field? [The good news is] he throws with anticipation and timing, which is unusual in today’s college football world. I think the bigger concern is whether or not this guy can be the face of your franchise. Let's face it. He was the face of the Florida State franchise and that didn't stop him from making a bunch of bad decisions off the field."...

UF defensive end Dante Fowler: Kiper: “He can stand up or play with his hand on the ground and rush the passer or set the edge. If there's a concern, it's that he's still pretty raw as a pass-rusher, and you have to bet high on that skill if you take him top-five there's more productivity to be found, and Fowler will get better.”

### Possibly mid-first round: UCF receiver Breshad Perriman: Mayock: “I had a bunch of people tell me he didn't have good hands, and boy, do I disagree with that, even though he's got more drops than he should. There's kind of a way to interpret that. A wide receiver who has too many drops should have bad hands, right? Well, I look at his hands and say he makes acrobatic catches, he makes high point catches, he makes contested catches, however, once in a while he drops an easy ball, but I think he's a natural hands catcher. He runs good routes. To me he looks like a first-round wide receiver.”

Kiper: “Has the explosiveness off the line and deep speed of a player who typically comes in a smaller package. No player has moved up more on my board since the season began. Perriman can make the big play with his ability to win on contested throws by beating defenders in the air via size and strength, and with the ability to turn short catches into big plays by running past tacklers and through contact. He's raw in terms of some of the finer points, but he could put up big numbers early if he gets his share of targets.”

### Possibly mid-to-late first round: FSU’s Cameron Irving: Kiper: “ It's pretty rare to find a player who can offer up good tape at center, guard or tackle -- all positions that Erving was asked to play in his time at Florida State. I like Erving at center because he was outstanding there after a midseason switch from tackle.”…

FSU defensive tackle Eddie Goldman. Kiper: “Good interior defender who can occupy blocks. Has a chance to become really good if his growth continues.”

UF offensive tackle D.J. Humphries. Kiper: “Humphries is a guy who rose on my board after I saw him play well against some of the top pass-rushers in the SEC. He lacks polish, but he plays mean, keeps a wide base that makes him tough to get around, and the physical traits are there for him to potentially stick at left tackle.”….

### Potentially second round: FSU offensive tackle Tre’ Jackson: GM Junior draftnik and Montreal (CFL) executive Russ Lande: “A definite NFL starter. Wouldn’t shock me if he moved into the first round. A lot of teams like him.”…

### Potentially second to fourth rounds: FSU cornerback PJ Williams: Williams got good news today --- charges against him were dropped after a recent DUI arrest.

Mayock: “I think PJ Williams [has the talent to be] a first-round corner because of his length. Some teams are looking at him inside, but most of the teams will continue to look at him outside in the NFL's continuing quest to get longer.”… 

FSU receiver Reshad Green: Mayock: “He gets overlooked a little bit too much. Rashad Greene is considered one of the safest picks in the draft. Love everything about him. But when you have a guy 5-11, 180 and runs 4.53, he’s really slight. Can he mix it up with big guys? He did it with FSU at the highest level. I think he’s going in the third round." 

FSU cornerback Ronald Darby: Mayock: “The Darby kid is interesting. He's quick. I think he's more of a third-, fourth-round corner. I do like him in certain areas. Some teams are looking at him inside, also as a nickel.”... ESPN's Todd McShay: “Exceptional athlete who can turn and run with the fastest NFL receivers, but he doesn't have the same instincts or ball skills as PJ Williams.”

FSU linebacker Mario Edwards: Mayock: “From my perspective, he's an intriguing prospect because he flashes talent but not consistency. If he was a more consistent player, I think we'd be talking about him a little bit higher in the draft. I like his height, weight, speed, but I think he's going to be more a third-round pick.”…

FSU’s Josue Matias: Mayock: “Borderline third- or fourth-round guard.” CBS’ Rob Rang: “Needs work as a run blocker.”

UCF cornerback Jacoby Glenn: Mayock: “I think he's quietly moved up some boards. Wouldn't surprise me at all if he's a third-round corner.”

### Notable potential mid-to-late round picks: FSU tight end Nick O’Leary: Lande: “Great hands and smart player, but I don’t think he will gain separation in routes. Maybe another Scott Chandler.”… McShay: “Really good football player, and I love watching him on tape. He has great hands, plays the game the right way and he's one of those guys who will go on Day 3, stick with a team and play a bunch of years, contributing on special teams.”…

FAU cornerback D’Joun Smith: CBS' Dane Brugler said he’s similar to the Dolphins’ Jamar Taylor. Like Taylor, “Smith has the speed, hips and footwork that translate well to the NFL level, as well as the attention to technique that creates turnovers.”

UF running back Matt Jones. CBS’ Rang: “Powerful frame to potentially serve as the thunder in an NFL backfield. [But lacks] lateral agility and breakaway speed."

Others: UT defensive tackle Leon Orr and left tackle Chaz Green and guard Trenton Brown; UCF safety Clayton Geathers and receiver Rannell Hall.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

April 25, 2015

Evaluators analyze UM draft prospects; Dolphins draft nuggets; Canes; Whiteside record; Marlins

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The question you keep hearing about this UM draft class, which has eight or nine draftable players and several others who will be in NFL camps, keeps being asked in different ways.

Here's how one NFC scout phrased it: How could this team go 6-7 with more legitimate draft-eligible prospects than Oregon? ESPN’s Jon Gruden said last week he’s “shocked” Miami didn’t win more games.

What evaluators are saying about the prospects in this UM draft class:

### Receiver Phillip Dorsett. ESPN’s Mel Kiper says he’s one of the top 20 players in the draft and has risen to first-round status. Kiper draws comparisons to Colts and former FIU receiver T.Y. Hilton

Gruden wonders if there’s a “faster, more dynamic player” in the draft… NFC scout: “He plays bigger than his size. He’s tough. He blocks. He’s a complete package. Has return skills. He will be a good No. 2 receiver and could start as a slot guy now. There’s no question about his courage and willingness to go across the middle of the field.”…

GM Jr. draft analyst Russ Lande, who serves as scouting director for the CFL's Montreal team, said of Dorsett: “Really helped himself at the Senior Bowl. He will really move up boards.”… ESPN’s Todd McShay: “It wouldn't be surprising at all to see him go in the first round.”

### Offensive tackle Ereck Flowers. Gruden predicts he will be a Pro Bowl player… Kiper has him going 20th to 32nd…. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock: “He’s so raw and so young but so gifted. He’s big, he’s long, great feet. He’s a potential Pro Bowl right tackle. A lot of technique he will have to clean up. He will go somewhere in the first round.”…

Sporting News' Lande: “This kid is more athletic than any tackle out there. He could be a superstar in two years.”… NFC scout: “He’s the best player in their class. Love his size and athletic ability.”… McShay: “Flowers and Pitt's T.J. Clemmings are the two pure right tackle prospects who could go in the back half of the first round, and, in my opinion, Flowers is the better player. I imagine he'll go off the board at some point toward the end of Round 1.”

### Linebacker Denzel Perryman. Mayock: “Second or third round. Some questions about whether he can cover people. Reminds me of Jon Beason. Everybody said he was too small. All Perryman does is make plays.”…..

NFC scout: “He’s a leader and winner. But he’s 5-10, and if you are an undersized guy, you better be fast and I don’t think he’s fast enough. With his size, he’s vulnerable against tight ends. Tight ends will push him away. To me, he’s primarily a special teams player.”

### Tight end Clive Walford. Kiper says he’s a second-rounder… Lande: “Athletically, he’s as good as [Minnesota’s] Max Williams [a projected first-round pick], but not nearly as good a player.”..

NFC scout: “Love how he played against Florida State and North Carolina but I wish you would have seen more consistency. He’s got first-round ability, but he’s erratic. He should be able to block defensive ends one on one.”… McShay: “He could wind up landing in the late second round or early third.”

### Running back Duke Johnson. NFC scout: “I see him as a third-down back. Has speed, quickness, a willing pass blocker. He’s a powerfully built kid but he’s also tiny [5-9, 206 pounds]. You talk about picking up 6-3, 250-pound linebackers on blitzes, and that’s difficult at his size. He will be a part of a rotation but he won’t be able to carry the load at that size. I don’t see him as a frontline back.”… Kiper says he’s a third- or fourth-rounder….

Lande: “A little upright as a runner, and I don’t see premier speed. Guys can track him down from behind. A poor man’s Darren Sproles. But he breaks tackles more than I would expect for a guy his size.”…

McShay: “Among the running back prospects in this year's class, Johnson offers some of the best skills as a pass-catcher. I did talk to one scout, however, who raised concerns about Johnson's ability to stay on the field, in terms of his toughness and because of his smaller frame. If teams are worried he could miss multiple games each year, that will certainly hurt his stock. When he's on the field, he provides a lot in terms of his third-down capabilities and big-play ability.”

### Others, Kiper said, will be taken late: Defensive end Anthony Chickillo. NFC scout: “He’s smart, tough, instinctive and knows how to get to the football. Probably a fifth lineman on a team.”… Lande: “Not a real explosive kid. He’s a tweener. Not a starting talent.”…

CBS’ Dane Brugler: “His play leveled off and he might have peaked early in regards to his development. His senior tape looked too similar to his freshman tape. Projects as a rotational left end in a 4-3."...

Cornerback Ladarius Gunter. NFC scout: “I was disappointed in him last season. Thought he would be more productive. Like his size, but he’s a backup at best.” …Lande: “A lot of people were impressed with his size and athleticism. Could go higher than people thing.”…

Offensive lineman Jon Feliciano. NFC scout: “Ornery and tough. [Jaguars and ex-Hurricanes tackle]  Brandon Linder was a better athlete, but I kind of like the kid. Later-round pick.” Kiper said Feliciano and Shane McDermott will be NFL players.

### Among potential free agents (Olsen Pierre, Thurston Armbrister, Ryan Williams), the Dolphins indicated they liked Williams’ audition for them and Green Bay brought him in.

DOLPHINS CHATTER

### With Dion Jordan's future in doubt, the Dolphins are expected to at least give more thought, during the draft, to defensive ends who could be developed behind Cam Wake, who's 33 and has a big 2016 cap hit, and 2016 free agent Olivier Vernon. But even if Miami moves forward without Jordan, defensive end is still not a huge need.

The staff likes Derrick Shelby, and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said Terence Fede has "a great future with us" and will grow "into a very effective defensive end." There's also Chris McCain, who said he split his practice snaps between defensive end and linebacker last season.

By the way, there are Instagram pictures of Jordan boating with his girlfriend a few days before the Dolphins' offseason program began last Monday.

### Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey has taken low-risk gambles on players thrown off college teams (fourth-round pick Walt Aikens, undrafted free agents Chris McCain, Damien Williams) and it paid off last year. And the Dolphins are exploring those types of players again.

This year, Miami has had meetings/visits with Washington cornerback Marcus Peters and Oklahoma receiver Dorial Green Beckham (two high-round possibilities) and multiple conversations with Colorado State running back Dee Hart, a five-star recruit who was dismissed from the Alabama team 14 months ago after an arrest for marijuana possession and giving false information.

He rushed for 1275 yards and 16 touchdowns for Colorado State last season. But he’s only 5-foot-7 and has had two ACL tears.

Peters --- who was thrown off the Washington team after arguing with coaches --- visited the Dolphins, according to his hometown newspaper in California. Joe Philbin doesn't like players who have issues with coaches (and Philbin is hardly alone in that regard), but Bleacher Report insists Peters is in the mix for Miami at No. 14.

### What did Georgia running back Todd Gurley’s high school coach, Tarboro (N.C.) High’s Jeff Craddock, tell Dolphins running backs coach Jeff Nixon during a lengthy phone conversation?

“I told him Todd will be special and if you get him, congratulations. His passion to be the best separates him. Combine that with his size and speed. I believe he will be a Hall of Famer if he stays healthy.”

Miami has spent private time with Gurley (coming off a torn ACL) , as well as Wisconsin potential first-round back Melvin Gordon.

But when I spoke to Jimmy Johnson last week, he cautioned: “As great a player as Gurley is, there are two negatives with using a high pick: the value of running back and an injured running back. I don't see running backs winning games in the NFL. I see quarterbacks and receivers winning games.”

HEAT, MARLINS, CANES CHATTER

### Pat Riley indicated the Heat shouldn’t go more than three or four possessions without getting the ball to Hassan Whiteside and Whiteside should have the mentality of Alonzo Mourning.

“If Alonzo didn’t get a touch three or four times down the court, he would put his big hands around my neck verbally or physically,” Riley cracked.  

But Whiteside must improve his passing out of double-teams. He was the first player in NBA history this season to log at least 1000 minutes and have six or fewer assists, according to the good folks at Elias Sports Bureau. His assist-to-turnover ratio (6 to 58) was abysmal.

### UM wants to add Central Florida to its 2016 non-conference home football schedule, joining Florida A&M and FAU. Miami will play at Notre Dame that year.…

UM will try a new 6 p.m. start time for this year’s Sept. 5 opener against Bethune Cookman at Sun Life. The thinking is that it will allow children to get to bed at a reasonable hour, and it's not as hot as an afternoon start... UM wisely pursuaded FAU to start the Hurricanes-at-Owls game on Friday, Sept. 11, at 8 p.m., allowing Hurricanes fans in Dade and Broward some extra time to get to Palm Beach after work.

### Biggest reason for this four-game Marlins winning streak after a 3-11 start? The starting pitching has been excellent during this stretch, with the Phillies and Nationals combining to score only four runs in those games.... What a turnaround: After a 1 for 22 start, Adeiny Hechavarria is now at .324 (fourth among MLB shortstops) after a three-run homer today.

### It wouldn't be surprising if Justin Bour gets more playing time against right-handers after going 2 for 3 in his first game of the season today after a promotion from the minors. Bour hit .352 in his 15 Marlins starts last season.

### Miami could end up regretting the Mat Latos trade, even though he pitched well Friday and even though it made sense at the time.

Anthony DeSclafani, who went to the Reds in that deal, has been brilliant so far (2-0, 0.86 ERA) and is under team control for six more years. Latos will be a free agent at the end of the year. But it's too soon to make any conclusions on DeSclafani, who was very hittable during his previous Marlins appearances. 

### Though Dan Haren is allowing batters to hit only .167 (11th-best in baseball entering the weekend), the Marlins shouldn’t be surprised that five of his 11 hits allowed are home runs (highest ratio in baseball). After all, he relinquished baseball’s third-most home runs last season as a Dodger (27).

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz  

April 24, 2015

NBA Commissioner says league erred with regard to Heat; The Dolphins' predicament and thoughts at guard and draft prospects they've approached

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Friday he erred by holding a basketball clinic in Cuba this week without first consulting with the Heat.

"Yes, I can confirm that they were miffed," Silver said of the Heat's angry reaction, which was reported by The Miami Herald earlier this month. "I have had multiple conversations with those who were miffed since the miffing took place.

"Our bad. We made a mistake. We didn't appropriately consult the Miami Heat before agreeing with the state department to take that trip. A rookie error on my part."

Silver made his comments at a gathering of sports editors in New York.

The NBA scheduled the four-day clinic --- which features Steve Nash, Dikembe Mutombo and other former stars --- months after the White House's announcement last December that it would move toward normalizing relations with Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years. The NBA is the first U.S. league to hold an event in Cuba since that announcement.

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The Dolphins enter the draft with this non-descript collection of guards: an unproven second-year player (Billy Turner) who logged just 17 offensive snaps as a rookie; a guard/tackle (Dallas Thomas) who has been overwhelmed by elite players and allowed seven sacks in 333 snaps last season; a serviceable center (J.D. Walton) without much experience at guard; a veteran (Jeff Linkenbach) whose metrics have ranked in the bottom third the past three seasons, if you trust Pro Football Focus; and guard/center Jacques McClendon, who’s just trying to make the team.

So it’s no surprise the Dolphins have invested a lot of time and resources in draft-eligible guards, including several who played tackle in college.

At least five offensive linemen have been summoned to team headquarters in Miami’s search for a potential starter at guard: LSU offensive tackle La’El Collins (an option at No. 14); Hobard’s Ali Marpet (projected by most for the third or fourth round; Miami doesn’t have a third rounder); Texas A&M guard Jarvis Harrison; Oregon tackle Jake Fisher (considered a first- or second-rounder) and Tennessee State’s Robert Myers, a late-round pick.

All played some tackle in college, though Myers also logged some time at guard and Harrison played 33 games at left guard, four at left tackle.

Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey has spent some time with UM’s tackle Ereck Flowers, a potential first-rounder. Miami met with UF offensive tackle DJ Humphries, a potential first or second rounder.

According to his diary in USA Today, the Dolphins flew to Pittsburgh this week to check out Pittsburgh first-round tackle T.J. Clemmings, who has a stress fracture in his foot, according to NFL.com. (His agent told the web that that has never caused him pain or rehab work.)

The Dolphins privately worked out four FSU players who could play tackle --- Tre’ Jackson and Cam Irving (two high-round picks), mid-rounder Josue Matias and potential free agent Bobby Hart.

They’re spent time with Iowa’s Brandon Scherff, perhaps the draft’s best tackle who could transition to guard. (Mel Kiper said he won’t fall to 14.) They’ve met with Duke’s Laken Tomlinson.

Marpet and Myers are two small-college standouts who intrigue the Dolphins.

CBS’ Dane Brugler said Marpet, a two-time Division III All-American who was a tackle in college, “doesn't stand out physically, but he is always under control with core strength, a tenacious technician, a competitive overachiever with zero passiveness to his game, Marpet has the next level intangibles and skill-set to start in the NFL for a long time, ideally suited inside at either guard or center as a bargain brand version of Cowboys' Zach Martin.”

Brugler said Myers has “interesting upside. Make no mistake -- he's a project. Struggled with speed rushers and projects best to guard in the NFL. To make the transition, he must get stronger. Would ideally be drafted with a developmental year in mind.”

A few other guards to keep in mind besides the aforementioned: South Carolina’s A.J. Cann, Arizona State’s Jamil Douglas, Alabama’s Arie Kouandjio and West Virginia’s Mark Glowinski.

The Dolphins like guards and centers with positional flexibility. Turner, Thomas, Linkenbach, McClendon and Walton all have that.

The Dolphins continue to express faith in Thomas, despite his struggles, most of which have come at tackle. Why so?

“There was a little bit of inconsistency there without a doubt,” coach Joe Philbin said. “We want to get that out of his game. But the guy has a future. He played at both guard spots, played at right tackle, did some good things. He’s a very good athlete. Very good feet.

“He’s got the ability to pass set on the outside, on the perimeter, as a tackle. But also quick enough, athletic enough to sustain a block [inside]. We probably will take a look at him at guard and see how things go.”

Meanwhile, the front office is projecting Turner, a third-rounder out of North DakotaState, as a starter.

“Turner continually got better and better,” Philbin said. “You could tell that in the tape and at practice. The reason we’re optimistic about Turner is we saw development, we saw progress. We want to give him an opportunity to win a job. You draft guys and you’re charged as a coach to develop them. We have to have some faith in the process in how we develop players.”

Though he played left tackle in college, Philbin wants Turner to play right guard this season because Philbin believes he looks more comfortable there and “I am kind of fixated on stances. I know it sounds crazy.”

The Dolphins foresee Walton as a replacement for former top reserve Nate Garner, but he could have a chance to compete to start at guard.

Regardless, more quality is needed at guard. The Dolphins presumably know it.

We’ll have a lot of Canes, Dolphins, Heat and Marlins in our next post on Saturday…. Twitter: @flasportsbuzz  

April 23, 2015

Mayock opines on some Dolphins draft possibilities, Gurley, big concern on Winston and more

Some snippets of local interest from Mike Mayock’s pre-draft conference call with reporters:

### Though some draftniks have Todd Gurley rising into the top 10 –-- before Miami picks --- Mayock isn’t among them. In fact, he rates Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon ahead of Gurley.

“I think two running backs go 17 to 32,” he said. “If one goes before that, it wouldn’t stun me. Gurley’s a home run hitter, a difference maker. You have to worry a little bit about the durability and his ACL. He’s had two injuries…

“At 222 pounds, he’s a world class sprinter. When you look at the big plays he made in the SEC, it’s easy to say he’s a difference maker for us. I slightly prefer Melvin Gordon more. Melvin Gordon reminds me of Jamaal Charles. Doesn’t have the breakaway speed of Charles but has everything else. To me, he’s a difference maker. Running back interest probably starts at 17 with San Diego.”

Gordon visited the Dolphins on Wednesday.

### Mayock wouldn’t be surprised if Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes is available to the Dolphins at 14. “I think Waynes goes 11 to 20,” he said.

“Perhaps 11 to Minnesota, New Orleans 13, Miami 14. Waynes is my No. 1 corner.” 

A friend of Waynes involved in his pre-draft preparation indicated two weeks ago that Waynes would be visiting the Dolphins. That ultimately did not materialize; the Dolphins instead decided to spend time with Waynes outside South Florida. 

Mayock said the “cleanest” cornerback in the draft is Wake Forest’s Kevin Johnson, who was invited by the Dolphins for a pre-draft visit.

“He will go somewhere 16 to 25," Mayock said. "Really solid player. He’s gotten pushed up because coaches love him.”

He said Washington cornerback Marcus Peters, who was thrown off his college team after arguing with coaches, “will go between 20 and 32.” Bleacher Report's Jason Cole said he's in the mix for Miami at 14. Peters visited the Dolphins, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Mayock also had some insight on Utah corner/safety Eric Rowe, who visited the Dolphins and intrigues them:

“Teams are really split on Eric Rowe. I have him in my top 50. Half the league thinks he’s a third round pick. Teams that like him say if he’s a top 50 pick, is he a corner or safety?... I feel very strongly he’s a second round corner. He’s got length. No way he gets out of the second round and if he went early in the second round, it wouldn’t surprise me at all.”

By the way, Mayock is in the minority in that he rates Arizona State’s Damarious Randall as his No. 1 safety, ahead of Alabama’s Landon Collins.

"It’s such a bad safety class,” he said. “It’s which corners can convert over. I think [Miami of Ohio’s] Quinten Rollins goes in the second round as a safety.” The Dolphins like Rollins, a former basketball player who had seven picks as a corner last season in his first year of football.

### Mayock’s assessment of UCF receiver Breshad Perriman, who visited the Dolphins Wednesday:

“He’s in the conversation with DeVante Parker about who the third receiver is. Does he play to that [4.25 in the 40] speed? No. That’s one of the things he has to learn to do – to play faster. Once he learns how to use his speed to set up corners, his upside is as dramatic as any receiver in this draft.

“The misnomer is he has bad hands, because he had seven or eight drops. He has great hands. Just some dumb concentration drops. At his pro day, he caught everything. He’s a natural hand catcher.  I would expect all four [Amari Cooper, Kevin White, Parker, Perriman] to be gone by 20.”

Though Bleacher Report said Miami has fallen in love with Oklahoma receiver Dorial Green Beckham, he has had worrisome off field issues (two involving marijuana; another incident in which he allegedly pushed a woman down four flights of stairs). Picking him at 14 would seem too risky. He reportedly spoke to the Dolphins on Monday.

“He’ll probably go 25 to 40,” Mayock said. “Off the chart measurables but all kinds of character questions.”

Mayock said Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs, who was summoned by the Dolphins to team headquarters, “is special with ball in his hands. Probably [goes in the] fourth or fifth round. Key is finding him touches, whether it’s receiving or in the return game.”

### Pittsburgh offensive tackle/guard T.J. Clemmings, a potential mid to late first-round pick who’s doing a diary for USA Today, told the newspaper that the Dolphins are flying to New Jersey to give him a private workout this week.

But Mayock said “after Brandon Scherff, who was a tackle at Iowa and will get kicked inside and will probably go in first 10 or 12 picks, there are a lot of question marks [about the other first-round offensive linemen].

"[UM's] Erik Flowers, [Stanford’s] Andrus Peat, [UF’s] DJ Humphries, Clemmings. All are gifted first-round tackles, but I can punch a hole in every one of those kids. They’re not all ready to play day one. I think they’re getting pushed down to the second half of the first round.

"The reason I have [LSU’s] La’El Collins as my No. 1 tackle is he’s the only one I know exactly what I’m getting --– a starting tackle who can kick inside to play guard.”

Collins visited the Dolphins; Flowers and Dennis Hickey spoke for several minutes at UM's Pro Day.      

### Mayock said Florida State could have 10 to 12 players drafted and the most draft picks in a three-year period in the history of a seven-round draft.

“I go back to the great Miami teams of the early 2000s, and you’re like, 'My --- first rounder after first rounder,'” he said. “While Florida State hasn’t had as many first round picks as those Miami teams, just the sheer volume puts them in the top echelon.”

### Mayock, on Jameis Winston: “I've got (Marcus) Mariota one, because I believe in Mariota, but the other piece of that is, with Jameis Winston I've got trust issues both on and off the field. Do I trust him with the football on the field, given the way he turned the ball over, especially this year with 18 interceptions? It could have been 40 very easily,"  Mayock said.

"Can I trust him with the ball, which is the most important thing during an NFL game? And two, can I trust him off the field? To me, those red flags are significant enough that my answer is, I would go the other way with Mariota."

Mayock gave Johnny Manziel the benefit of the doubt last year with regard to off-field issues and  "I have to put my hand up and say I missed that last year with Manziel, and I'm upset with myself.

“When kids have significant red flags, how often do they change? My perception and my experience is, plus or minus, 90 percent of the time, a kid ultimately turns into who he's always been," Mayock added.

"When you get a repeated pattern of bad decisions, you might be on your best behavior leading up to the draft, you've got all kinds of people around you telling you what to say and how to act. But once you get comfortable, whether it's one year in, two years in, three years in, once you get comfortable again in the NFL and you get paid, typically that kid goes back to being who he always was."

### Washington State defensive tackle Xavier Cooper, a potential early to mid-round pick, said he visited the Dolphins, in an ESPN piece chronicling the visit process for prospects.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

April 22, 2015

Wednesday night notes: Dolphins (Jennings/Wallace; draft tidbits); NFL TV nuggets; Marlins manager

A six-pack of Dolphins, NFL TV and Marlins notes:

### In considering the Dolphins dumping of Mike Wallace and signing of Greg Jennings, it’s notable that their numbers last season were very similar in average per catch and average YAC (yards after catch).

Wallace averaged 12.9 yards per catch, Jennings 12.6.  

Jennings averaged more yards after the catch (3.5) than Wallace or Brian Hartline, who were both at 3.3.

Wallace was thrown 20 more passes than Jennings but had only eight more receptions and 102 more yards.

Wallace caught four more touchdowns (10 to 6). Jennings had one more drop (five to four), according to Pro Football Focus.

Is it a step down from in-his-prime Wallace to the slightly past-his-prime Jennings, who at 31 is three years older? Absolutely.

But on this team, it’s not a monumental one (IF Jennings' skills don't erode next season) because you must take into account Ryan Tannehill’s inability to maximize Wallace’s greatest strength (the deep ball). And the Dolphins believe chemistry will improve without Wallace complaining about not getting more targets.

Colleague Adam Beasley framed it this way: Miami essentially traded Wallace and a seventh-rounder for Jennings, a fifth-rounder and cap space.

We compared Jennings and Wallace as two marquee, accomplished veterans who essentially traded teams, one from Miami to Minnesota, the other in reverse. Of course, you could also look at this as Kenny Stills replacing Wallace and Jennings replacing Hartline.

How ever way you look at it, a lot will depend on whether Stills proves reliable and continues to develop after a promising first two seasons in New Orleans, and if Jennings doesn't lose his speed in his early 30s. Those are the variables impossible to predict.

### By adding veterans who have started some or a lot at receiver (Jennings), guard (Jeffrey Linkenbach), linebacker (Spencer Paysinger) and cornerback (Zack Bowman), the Dolphins have put themselves in a good spot where they don’t desperately need to draft a particular position at No. 14 next week.

They’ve also put themselves in position to feel more at ease about trading back in the first round in order to replace the third round pick that the Dolphins dealt for Kenny Stills, should the player they love not be there at 14.

The signing of Jennings naturally will raise speculation about the Dolphins and Georgia running back Todd Gurley.

As we’ve reported, the Dolphins have called people close to Gurley to find out more about him (including his high school coach), spent time with him outside South Florida and have thoroughly researched his medicals.

Jeff Nixon, the Dolphins’ running back coach, told Gurley's high school coach how much he likes Gurley, though he was speaking more for himself that the organization.

It’s also noteworthy that while the Dolphins have scrambled to add veterans at receiver, guard, linebacker and cornerback the past three weeks, they have not yet done so at running back.

Though the Dolphins brought in Stevan Ridley for a visit, the understanding was that Miami was not looking to sign him until after the draft, according to a person with direct knowledge of the discussions. Ridley’s finalists were thus the Jets and Redskins and he signed with New York.

If the Dolphins had signed Ridley and drafted Gurley (or Melvin Gordon, who visited today) to share carries with Lamar Miller, then they might have regretted adding Ridley.

Whether Gurley falls to Miami’s range is another story. Yahoo’s Charles Robinson reported today that Gurley’s range is “supposedly now” between picks 6 and 10. Todd McShay has him going sixth in his new mock draft.

Gurley, who sustained a torn ACL last November, received a favorable review from the NFL scouting medical recheck. And NFL Network reports that teams believe he has an excellent chance to play in the first week of the season.

The best player at 14 could end up being Gurley or Gordon; a receiver (Breshad Perriman or Nelson Agholor if the top three are gone), a guard (La'El Collins or Brandon Scherff if he surprisingly falls), a cornerback (Trae Waynes, Jalen Collins, Kevin Johnson, Marcus Peters), a defensive tackle (Danny Shelton, who hasn't visited but is a very good player) or 4-3 defensive ends Vic Beasley or Arik Armstead (if either is there at 14, particularly IF Miami trades Dion Jordan and wants to develop an eventual successor to Cam Wake). If 3-4 outside linebacker Randy Gregory falls to 14 and a team covets him, Miami could always trade down.

 ### The Dolphins’ kicking battle seems likely to come down to Caleb Sturgis and former Redskins draft pick Zach Hocker.

But Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi has still been flying around conducting pre-draft auditions with kickers and other special teamers, including one in New York today with RPI kicker Andrew Franks, who hit only 37 of 56 field goals in his career but is excellent on kickoffs.

### In addition to the linebackers who visited (please see the last post for that), the Dolphins also have shown interest --- through private workouts, dinners or multiple phone calls --- in Clemson’s Stephone Anthony, Utah State’s Zach Vigil, Marshall’s Neville Hewitt, BYU’s Alani Fua, San Diego State’s Derek Largent and Tennessee-Chatanooga’s Davis Tull.

### A few TV tidbits from the NFL schedule: The opening week prime-time games: Steelers-Patriots (NBC Thursday), Giants-Cowboys (NBC Sunday), and Eagles-Falcons, Vikings-49ers as the opening MNF double-header on ESPN… Thanksgiving games: Eagles-Lions, Panthers-Cowboys, Bears-Packers…

Once again, the NFL is giving a few NFC games to CBS (including the Cowboys on Thanksgiving) and a few AFC games to Fox to balance the schedule. For example, on Week 3, a CBS double-header week, Bills-at-Dolphins is the only AFC game at 4:25 p.m.

But instead of showing that to most of the nation, CBS was given a Bears-Seahawks game from Fox, which likely will be seen in much if not most of the country during that late window….

There are two Saturday night games: Jets-Cowboys Dec. 19, Redskins-Eagles Dec. 26…. Dolphins-New England in Week 8 will be one of eight Thursday night games aired on both CBS and NFL Network. CBS will air the games in Weeks 2 through 8, as well as an early December Thursday game (Lions-Packers).

### The Marlins won 6-1 in Philadelphia tonight to snap a five-game skid and raise their record to 4-11. If the Marlins make a managerial change, figure on them looking at candidates with big-league managerial experience.

So who’s available?

Besides 71-year-old Charlie Manuel (who stepped aside from the Phillies after 2013), we would point to Dusty Baker and Ron Gardenhire, who both have winning career records, as probably having the best resumes of those realistically available if you do not include some of the great retired managers such as Tigers special assistant Jim Leyland or Diamondbacks executive Tony LaRussa, neither of whom has publicly indicated any inclination to manage again. Jeffrey Loria always has been fascinated by Bobby Valentine.

Jack McKeon, at 84, presumably is not walking through that door.

Among others available: Eric Wedge, Manny Acta, Kirk Gibson and Jim Tracy.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

April 21, 2015

An overview of non-local players Dolphins have summoned to team offices and some thoughts; Fins to bring in veteran guards; Marlins fallout; Heat

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

NFL teams are permitted to fly as many as 30 non-local players to their headquarters to meet with coaches and executives, and the Dolphins typically draft or sign several who visit, including three of their top four picks last year (Ja’Wuan James, Billy Turner, Walt Aikens).

The Dolphins don’t announce visits, but I’ve confirmed 26 of them (many of which were first reported here; some were reported first by NFL Net's Ian Rapoport and a few others and later confirmed).

The names and some thoughts:

### Potential first-round picks: receivers DeVante Parker (Louisville), Nelson Agholor (Southern California) and Breshad Perriman (UCF); Clemson defensive end/linebacker Vic Beasley; cornerbacks Jalen Collins (LSU) and Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest);  LSU offensive tackle/guard La’El Collins; Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon.

Comment: Parker or Trae Waynes (who spent private time with Miami on his campus) would be difficult to pass up if either falls to Miami’s pick at 14. But Mel Kiper said Tuesday that Parker will be off the board by the 12th pick…. Kiper said he doesn’t see Perriman going lower than 15th to 20th, at worst, and he could be another Dez Bryant if he eliminates “some of those drops.”…

Kiper says the 6-foot Agholor (104 catches, 1313 and 12 TDs last season) would be justified at 14 for Miami because he is "a very good route runner, has good hands, and is quietly an explosive athlete who can set up defenders and create space underneath or beat defenses over the top." His stock has risen more than any other receiver in this draft. He's visiting the Dolphins on Wednesday... 

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said cornerbacks Collins and Johnson also would be justified at 14, though both might be available if Miami trades down a bit. Gordon and running back Todd Gurley also have emerged as possibilities at 14; Gurley hasn’t visited team headquarters but has spent time with Dolphins officials and Miami has thoroughly researched him…

Many believe La'El Collins would be an excellent guard, but taking a guard at 14 seems uninspiring; only two NFL starting guards were drafted higher than 14th, as Dave Hyde noted. Kiper said Collins will be available at 14 but he is certain that Iowa guard/tackle Brandon Scherff won’t be… Beasley is not a 4-3 linebacker, which is what Miami needs. He's a 3-4 linebacker or 4-3 end, most evaluators say…. Receiver Dorial Green Beckham, a terrific talent with considerable off-field baggage, met with the Dolphins on Monday, according to Rapoport, but nobody -- including that report -- has confirmed if he visited Davie.

### Potential second-round picks: Oklahoma defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones, Utah cornerback/safety Eric Rowe, Auburn receiver Sammy Coates, Ohio State receiver Devin Smith, Mississippi State linebacker Benadrick McKinney, Oregon left tackle Jake Fisher.

Comment: Local players don’t count among top-30 visits, so you can throw UM’s Phillip Dorsett, Denzel Perryman, Clive Walford and FSU receiver Rashad Greene in this mix, too, among a few others. Dorsett might not be there at 47; Kiper said he’s now a first-rounder and ranks him in his top 20…. If Miami doesn’t take a receiver at 14, Coates and Smith (and Dorsett, if there) are all top candidates for Miami’s pick at 47.

Jones might not be there at 47, but Rowe (who moved from cornerback to safety last season) could be; those two have risen as much as any players in the draft. McKinney, highly-productive, can play any of the three linebacker positions.

### Potential mid-round picks: Guards Jarvis Harrison (Texas A&M) and Ali Marpet (Hobart); linebackers Jake Ryan (Michigan) and Ramik Wilson (Georgia), Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs.

Comment: The Dolphins want to add a guard and like Harrison (please see the last post for more about him) and Marpet, a Division III standout who impressed at the Senior Bowl…. Ryan and Wilson are highly productive (112, 110 tackles respectively last season) but some believe they’re better in a 3-4 defense than Miami’s 4-3… Kiper said Diggs, an explosive receiver and skilled returner, could be a third-rounder. (Miami doesn’t have a third-rounder at the moment.)

### Potential later-round picks: Minnesota safety Cedric Thompson, Maryland defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, Bowling Green linebacker Gabe Martin, Tennessee State offensive guard/tackle Robert Myers.

Comment: The Dolphins have high regard for Martin (an impactful, high-energy but underweight linebacker --- 234 pounds --- with 18 tackles for loss last season) and really like Thompson, who ran a 4.37 in the 40 and can play cornerback or safety.

Thompson, a three-year starter, has seen his stock rise (he could go in the middle rounds) because he’s an excellent athlete, good communicator at safety, strong tackler and solid against the run and in coverage. Thompson, who had 83 tackles and two picks last season, has an interesting background: To avoid the gang violence in South Central Los Angeles and problems arising from the racial tension prevalent in his L.A.-area high school, he moved to Bombay Beach, California, along the Salton Sea, a desolate area about an hour south of Palm Springs, which entailed daily two-hour bus rides to school. He lived there with his father, became focused and driven. He's one of at least a half dozen players summoned by the Dolphins this week for Miami's final round of pre-draft visits.

### Potential free agents: Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy and USC receiver George Farmer.

Teams are looking at Murphy as a Wildcat quarterback; the Florida Gator transfer threw for 1623 yards and ran for 1066 last season.

Kiper said people thought Farmer “was going to be a star. Never worked out there.” Ranked as rivals.com's No. 1 receiver out of high school in Gardena, Cal., Farmer had 25 catches for 314 yards and four touchdowns last season.

CHATTER

### With a clear need at guard, we hear the Dolphins plan to bring in several veteran offensive linemen on Wednesday.

Among them: former Colt/Chiefs player Jeffrey Linkenbach, who has started 36 games over five seasons, and former Vikings sixth-rounder Jeff Baca.

Linkenbach, 27, played his first four seasons with the Colts, starting 33 games, then started three games for the Chiefs last season.

Baca played in four games for Minnesota as a rookie in 2013 and was on San Diego's roster last season.

The Dolphins could sign one or two of the handful of linemen coming to town Wednesday, if they like what they see. Against that backdrop, the Dolphins waived guard Davonte Wallace tonight.

### Even though Pat Riley hopes the Heat gets its top-10 protected draft pick, he made this clear: “We want developed players, experienced players. Every time you watch a playoff game, the very best teams are playing developed players, with [three or more] years of experience. This year, three, four, five players made the sojourn between Sioux Falls and Miami. I don’t want that to be the norm, because if that’s the norm, you’re not going anywhere.”

That makes me wonder whether Riley would take a one-and-done college player, several of whom could be in the range of the 10th pick if Miami ends up with that pick.

In recent years, Riley has prefered college players with three or four years of experience. (Of course, Dwyane Wade played just two years at Marquette.)

### LeBron James today was asked about Monday's comments by Riley, who said this offseason will feature "no more smiling faces with agendas." Riley later claimed he wasn't talking about anybody in particular.

"I'm unaware," James said. "Whatever he said, it's not my concern now.... I have no notion of what transpired [Monday]."

### So it's 3-11 for the Marlins now after a 7-3 loss in Philadelphia tonight, and as our Clark Spencer reported, we've heard everything has been discussed --- from roster changes to coaching staff changes to a managerial change. If this continues, there will be changes. The only question is how soon.

Jeffrey Loria, whose patience is wearing thin, declined to give Redmond a public vote of confidence before the game.

"It's been tough; we had a lead and couldn't hold it," Redmond said of tonight's latest implosion by his pitching staff. (Dan Haren gave up four runs, Mike Dunn three in relief.)

"Literally all the runs I've given up this year have been on home runs," Haren said. "It's been a problem for me."... Christian Yelich expects to remain sidelined for a few days with back problems.

### Beyond general dissatisfaction with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the Marlins also haven’t been pleased with center fielder Marcell Ozuna, according to a team official.

Besides starting slowly offensively (he's rebounded a bit and is at .262 now), Ozuna is running to first base more slowly than last season (causing some internally to believe he could be in better shape), made a recent mindless defensive gaffe that irritated Marlins people and was benched a game for tardiness.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz