WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
So what can the Dolphins’ realistically snag with the 14th pick of the first round of the NFL Draft on April 30?
Though a lot can change, a quick look at some of the prospects who are projected for that range and play positions that the Dolphins need help:
### Defensive tackle: The Dolphins badly need a skilled run stuffer, and Washington’s 6-1, 332-pound Danny Shelton (88 tackles, nine sacks) “is a potential top 10 pick, at worst probably top 15,” Mel Kiper said on a conference call.
Kiper has him 14th on his ESPN.com Big Board: “I have been raving about him all year. He can penetrate, collapse things. You've got to double him.”
And he has “very impressive quickness for his size,” ESPN’s Todd McShay said.
Shelton is the highest-rated tackle, but FSU junior Eddie Goldman (6-3, 315) might warrant consideration, if he turns pro as many expect.
Kiper has him 21st. “He hasn't been in the backfield a lot but has been effective taking on blocks and creating the occasional push,” Kiper said. “A known commodity since he was a five-star talent in high school -- a 300-pounder who destroys O-linemen with his quickness off the snap.” But “he has had some games where he didn’t dominate.”
Also keep an eye on Texas’ 6-3, 317-pound Malcom Brown as a player who could rise. “Borderline first-rounder who can wreak havoc,” Kiper said. McShay has him 24th in his mock and says he’s “very disruptive with his strength/quickness combo.”
### Outside linebacker: McShay has the Dolphins taking Washington junior Shaq Thompson if he turns pro, noting he’s very good in coverage and can defend the run sideline-to-sideline.
Kiper, who ranks Thompson 19th overall, said “his NFL position isn't set at all. You can project him as a highly versatile but undersized outside linebacker, with safety as an option. He's in some ways positionless, but he's an extraordinary athlete.
"The key for Thompson is to be able to play in space because he can get eaten up if a good blocker gets him engaged. But he's an effective tackler and playmaker, which is saying something for a guy who has played safety, running back and cornerback.”…
Clemson outside linebacker Vic Beasley projects for Miami’s range, also; Kiper has him 15th.
“Just so consistent,” Kiper said on ESPN.com. “Has made plays all season. Great quickness and closing speed as a pass rusher. He’s so strong, so fast, fits a 3-4 or 4-3. Where he can struggle is when a good blocker gets his hands on him and forces him to play with leverage.”
### Inside linebacker: Kiper and McShay have none in their top 20. Mississippi State junior Benardrick McKinney, who is reportedly likely to turn pro, is rated 24th by Kiper. “Love the length and the range,” Kiper said.
Kiper said McKinney, who’s 6-5 and 250, “can be effective in the middle and on the edge: His versatility is driven by what a special athlete he is. He's going to run as fast as many running backs and jump as high as some good wide receivers."
FYI: McShay has UM’s Denzel Perryman 32nd in his mock draft.
### Defensive end: Because Cameron Wake will be 33 next season, this would be an option if the Dolphins move Dion Jordan to linebacker. Two early possibilities: Florida’s Dante Fowler (rated 13th by Kiper and seventh in McShay’s mock) and Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun (20th), if he turns pro.
Fowler, who has announced plans to enter the draft, “isn't dominant in one area, but he's pretty good pretty much anywhere you line him up,” Kiper said. “He has good lateral quickness. I think there's more productivity to be found, but he's a potential top-15 pick because you can see he's capable of so much.”
Kiper said Calhoun “has impressive quickness” and is “constantly in the backfield creating pressure and allowing others to make plays.”
### Cornerback: The Dolphins need a starter opposite Brent Grimes but figure to sign one in free agency. Neither Kiper nor McShay has a corner in their top 18. The best prospects are Wake Forest’s Kevin Johnson (22nd by Kiper) and Michigan State junior Trae Waynes (23rd), who is reportedly likely to turn pro.
One wild card, though probably too risky at No. 14, is Marcus Peters, who was dismissed from Washington’s program at midseason because of multiple rules violations. McShay has him 26th in his mock draft: “Teams will need to be comfortable with his character and intangibles to draft him. But as a talent he has what you're looking for, with very good athleticism.”
Keep in mind that Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey added two players thrown off their college teams (Chris McCain, Damien Williams), but those were undrafted prospects. There’s obviously a lot more risk with a first-rounder.
### Receiver: Picking one in the first round would be justified if the Dolphins dump Mike Wallace or if they keep Wallace but part with Brian Hartline and fill their defensive needs in free agency.
Alabama’s Amari Cooper is expected to go much sooner than 14, but there are potential options for Miami, including Louisville’s 6-3 DeVante Parker (Kiper has him eighth, McShay 13th) and West Virginia’s 6-3 Kevin White.
Parker, according to McShay, “has a good combination of size and speed with good separation skills and the ability to run under the deep ball and make over-the-shoulder grabs.”
As for White, he “can dominate defenders on contested catches and has been far more consistent with his hands this season,” Kiper said. Kiper ranks him 16th among all prospects.
McShay also has Arizona State’s 6-3 Jaelen Strong going in this range, but Kiper projects him as a second-rounder.
And there’s also Michigan’s 6-4 Devin Funchess, who can play receiver and tight end. McShay has him 15th and says he’s a downfield threat. But Kiper said he sees him as a second-rounder.
### Safety: Only one who merits top 20 consideration: Alabama junior Landon Collins, rated 10th on Kiper’s Big Board and considered likely to turn pro.
“He probably will go five to 15, Kiper said. “Super-versatile. He's what every NFL coach wants right now. Can play deep -- making good reads and taking the right angle to the ball -- and he also has the ability to line up close to the line and run with tight ends. Strong tackler,… fearless in taking on running backs.”
### Offensive line: There are several offensive tackles projected to go in Miami’s range. The Dolphins obviously don’t need a starter, so there could be potential to move up or down if a team covets one….
It’s rare to take a guard in the top half of the first round, but a couple of the first-round tackles, Iowa’s Brandon Scherff (projected by Kiper and McShay as a top 10 pick) and LSU's La'el Collins (18th by Kiper) are also strong prospects at guard (a Dolphins need) and merit discussion, at the very least.
(The preference here would be to sign an established guard in free agency, with Denver and former UM OL Orlando Franklin especially appealing.)
### Running back: McShay has Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon 23rd and Todd Gurley (off a torn ACL) 29th. But running backs tend to slip and with Lamar Miller’s emergence, it would be very surprising if Miami took a back high. But if UM’s Duke Johnson slips to the third round --- which Kiper believes is possible --- he certainly would be worth considering.
### If the Dolphins dump Wallace because of his sideline antics, there aren’t a lot of great options in free agency, if one assumes Dez Bryant (Dallas), Jeremy Maclin (Eagles) and Demaryius Thomas (Denver) stay put with franchise tags or longterm deals.
That leaves a free agent class including Torrey Smith, Kenny Britt, Randall Cobb, Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks, Eddie Royal, Michael Crabtree, Nate Washington and Wes Welker.
A Dolphins player reiterated that even before Sunday, Wallace complained during previous games about Ryan Tannehill not throwing him more passes.
Joe Philbin's history has been to part with players he doesn't feel he can handle, so cutting Wallace would actually be in character for Philbin. But it would leave a big void and Philbin and Dennis Hickey need to give this a lot of thought before acting.
### Boomer Esiason torched Wallace on Showtime's Inside the NFL tonight, saying Wallace "quit on his team... What a disgrace. Don't ask a teammate to look like an idiot and talk for you."
### Unlike past years, the Dolphins haven’t told any of their free agents if they want them back because Hickey wants to do a thorough review with his personnel staff and Philbin.
Impending free agents Charles Clay and Jared Odrick have been given no idea if the Dolphins plan to make them an offer. Both have said they would love to return. I wouldn't be surprised if Odrick gets more money elsewhere. We'll see.
### At his request, the Marlins have been trying to trade pitcher Dan Haren to a team closer to his Southern California home but have found no takers. The Marlins have no intention of parting with the $10 million that the Dodgers are giving them to pay Haren’s salary or to keep if he retires.
If Haren retires, the Marlins will allocate that money toward Mat Latos’ estimated $8.4 million salary.
Haren’s agency said Tuesday he hasn’t decided whether to retire. He was 13-11 with a 4.02 ERA for the Dodgers last season.
### Heat forward Danny Granger, who played 8 ½ seasons and 566 games for the Pacers, returns to Indianapolis on Wednesday on an 18 for 25 shooting streak and for his first game there since the Pacers traded him to the Clippers last season.
Granger said that in the past few weeks, he has been watching a lot of tape of himself in his prime with the Pacers and “my body hasn’t felt better in four years.”
### Heat-Pacers has lost some luster, but “I’m sure they continue not to like us and we don’t like them,” Chris Bosh said.
Please see the last post for a lot more Heat notes from Tuesday, including Shabazz Napier's demotion.
### Cassandra Prophet Mitchell, Duke Johnson’s mother, created a stir on Facebook by saying “the majority of the team would not be there” if players could transfer without sitting out a year and that “kids [are] tired of this crap.”
Told Tuesday that her comments could be perceived as a shot at Al Golden and the UM staff, Mitchell declined to clarify what she meant and said she wouldn’t be commenting on the matter.
### Jedd Fisch, who left UM two years ago to become the Jaguars' offensive coordinator, was fired Tuesday because of philosophical differences with coach Gus Bradley regarding the development of Blake Bortles. Bradley thought Fisch was overloading Bortles with too much information at once.
Both Al Golden and the UM administration like Fisch but there's obviously no opening here. Several reports have speculated that offensive coordinator James Coley might become a candidate for the same job at Georgia. Coley declined overtures from Kentucky earlier this month.