A couple of points to keep in mind on Wes Welker, who is visiting the Dolphins today, following earlier visits by Michael Crabtree (exactly two weeks ago) and Greg Jennings (Tuesday).
### His yards and receptions have dropped each of the past three years, the last two of which were spent with Denver after six seasons with New England following the Dolphins' regrettable trade.
His reception numbers the past four years: 122, 118, 73 and 49.
His receiving yardage numbers the past four years: 1569, 1354, 778, 464.
### Some of that drop is a result of Welker's role in the offense diminishing. But with Welker turning 34 on May 1, this is more discouraging:
His yards per reception and YAC per reception have both dropped substantially over that time. His 9.5 yards per reception ranked 102nd of 110 receivers, down from 12.9, 11.5 and 10.7 the previous three years.
And his average YAC, which was a robust 6.0 and 5.7 in 2011 and 2012 (both in the top 21 in the league), dropped to 4.4 and 4.1 the past two years.
### The good news: Welker still catches the vast majority of balls thrown to him --- 76.6 percent last season, ranking sixth in the league. Peyton Manning's accuracy on short and intermediate routes obviously is a big factor in that. But Welker had only two drops last year.
### He's had three concussions in the past two years --- two in 2013, one early last season.
WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
As the NFL Draft approaches, the Dolphins have two clear-cut starting linebackers (Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi) but serious questions about the third starter: Spencer Paysinger, Chris McCain and Kelvin Sheppard are all candidates.
The Dolphins might find a long-term starting linebacker in the second round --- Denzel Perryman said the Dolphins told him they like him --- but NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said there’s no pure linebacker worthy of taking with Miami’s first-round pick at 14.
“I don’t see an inside linebacker in the first round,” said Mayock, who believes a receiver or cornerback makes the most sense for the Dolphins at 14.
But several linebackers would warrant consideration with Miami’s second round pick (47th overall), if they’re available: UCLA’s Eric Kendricks, Mississippi State’s Benardrick McKinney, TCU’s Paul Dawson, Clemson’s Stephon Anthony and Perryman. The Dolphins don’t have a third-round pick but have explored trading for one.
The Dolphins dispatched linebackers coach Mark Duffner to spend private time with Anthony, who was Clemson’s leading tackler the past two years.
“NFL teams in the market for an intense, physical run-stuffing inside linebacker would be wise to keep an eye on Anthony,” said CBSSports.com draft analysts Dane Brugler and Rob Rang, who rate him 47th among all prospects.
They say his “production, compact frame and aggression are impressive” but he “does not possess ideal speed to beat backs to the sideline or the agility preferred in coverage, traits required of middle linebackers in a standard 4-3 alignment.”
Perryman, who could drop into the third round because of concerns about his size (5-11) and lack of high-end speed, said: “I’ve been getting a great feeling with the Dolphins” and that Duffner said he hopes Miami drafts him. “He said it would be great if they land me and he’s not saying it just to say it,” Perryman said.
ESPN’s Todd McShay is a Perryman fan: “I get that Perryman isn't an elite athlete, but I've really liked what I've seen on tape, and he is the second-highest-ranked inside linebacker on our board right now (behind Kendricks). Speed is definitely a concern with him. But I still think he's worth a second-round pick for his excellent tackling ability, instincts and recognition skills, and leadership ability.”
McKinney has ideal middle linebacker size (6-4, 246) and is instinctive. “While he's a stout run defender, he isn't as consistent in space,” said Brugler and Rang, who rate him 45th among all prospects. “There are some concerns that his ineffectiveness defending in coverage could limit him to a two-down thumper role in the NFL.”
Kendricks, best suited to play WILL linebacker in a 4-3, had 146 tackles last season and “is a football magnet with... relentless motor to finish,” Rang and Brugler said. “He lacks a wow skill set but routinely shows up at the ball and is a highly underrated prospect, worthy of top 50 consideration.”
Some teams have character concerns about Dawson, according to nfl.com, because of tardiness and a failed drug test for Adderall earlier in his career. He lacks ideal size (6-0, 235 pounds).
But Rang --- who rates him 74th among all prospects --- compares him with LaDavonte David, a player that Tampa drafted when Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey was there. He was a playmaker at TCU (136 tackles, 20 for loss, six sacks last season). "Schematic limitations could push Dawson into the second round, just as it David," Rang said.
Among mid-round middle linebacker possibilities, the Dolphins brought Michigan’s Jake Ryan and Georgia’s Ramik Wilson to Miami for visits.
Brugler said Ryan, who might be better suited for a 3-4 defense, has “a motor that is always revving."
Brugler said Wilson, who led the SEC in tackles in 2013, “is a good effort player but can be a liability in coverage. He projects best on the outside as a strongside linebacker in a 4-3.
Southern California’s Hayes Pullard, Michigan State’s Taiwan Jones and Bloomsburg’s Justin Shirk are among other mid-round inside linebacker possibilities.
And the Dolphins like Utah State inside linebacker Zach Vigil, a potential later-round pick, and have had several conversations/meetings with him.
Among outside linebackers, the Dolphins brought Clemson’s Vic Beasley (who most expect will be gone before Miami's first-rounder), to Davie and have studied Kentucky’s Bud Dupree (who is in Miami’s range, Mayock said). But both are pass-rushing ends/outside linebackers, similar to what Miami already has in Dion Jordan and Chris McCain. And if Beasley or Dupree play linebacker, they are better suited to a 3-4 defense, as opposed to Miami’s 4-3, analysts say.
Of Dupree, Rang said: “Dupree emerged the past two years in Mark Stoops' highly aggressive scheme that has previously made collegiate stars out of several pass rushers he coached at Florida State, most of whom have struggled to duplicate their success in the NFL.”
If the Dolphins draft a pure middle linebacker in the first two rounds, Misi could be moved to outside linebacker.
Miami was very interested in middle linebacker David Harris, but he re-signed with the Jets before free agency. They also spoke multiple times to Mason Foster, who told Sirius Radio's Alex Marvez that the Dolphins finished second behind Chicago in the competition for his services.
Keep in mind the Dolphins played only two linebackers a lot of snaps last season. And Dolphins coaches very much like McCain's upside.
### Here's where the Heat stands after this critical 105-100 win against Charlotte: alone in ninth in the East, one-half game ahead of No. 10 Indiana, one-half game behind No. 8 Boston and 1.5 games behind No. 7 Brooklyn. (For those fans dreaming about the lottery and the Heat's top-10 protected first-round pick due Philadelphia, the Heat has the league's 10th-worst record, FYI.)
Goran Dragic was terrific, with 28 points, including 11 in the fourth. As usual, he was efficient, shooting 10 for 16.
Erik Spoelstra "told me he needed me to be more aggressive," Dragic said. "I did that tonight. Hopefully, I will continue to play like that."
### Heat forward James Ennis has earned recent minutes because he’s playing well, but a team official said Miami also likes how he plays alongside Goran Dragic. Dragic likes to run and the athletic Ennis is well-suited to the up-tempo game.
Entering Tuesday's game, Dragic had a better plus/minus with Ennis (Heat outscores teams by 14 when they’re paired) than anybody on the team except Chris Andersen. Dragic and Ennis were again on the floor during some very good moments in both halves tonight.
Ennis, incidentally, entered tonight with a minus-36 plus/minus when not paired with Dragic, but his work the past week has been very good, the best of his rookie season. Incidentally, Dragic and Dwyane Wade entered tonight with a minus 29 plus/minus when paired together; that would obviously be better with Chris Bosh healthy.
### The Heat is 11-1 when Luol Deng scores 20. He had 21 tonight, playing through knee pain that has bothered him recently. He said he was worried before having an MRI on Monday, but the test showed no damage. "I can't make it any worse," he told Sun Sports.
### Mario Chalmers never played in the second half because of the flu. "He was very weak," Spoelstra said.... Because of illness and injury, "I probably haven't had a game with as many people to ask to come out as this one," Spoelstra said.
### This 0-2 Marlins start is disappointing enough, but even more so considering the Braves --- who drubbed Miami, 12-2 tonight --- have made replenishing their farm system the priority over winning this season. Mat Latos struggled this spring and that continued with his dreadful outing tonight (2/3 of an inning, seven runs allowed) --- the shortest stint of his career, spanning 154 starts.
Latos entered this season one of only five pitchers with an ERA below 3.50 each of the past five seasons (minimum 15 starts). His ERA is 94.5 (94.5!) after tonight.
"Worst night I've had in six years," he said. "It sucks. Straight embarrassed." He said he feels fine beyond a "bruised ego."
### It's the first time in team history the Marlins have allowed seven runs in the top of the first.
### Considering Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit .182 with runners in scoring position last season (among baseball’s worst), it was disappointing but not surprising when his bases loaded double play foiled a Marlins rally on opening day.
Saltalamacchia said Monday he believes he will be better than last year because he’s healthier and more comfortable with a year in the National League. We'll see. He's now 0 for 7 with five strikeouts through two games.
A Marlins official said the team has no choice but to give it another shot with him because it couldn’t find a taker for the last two years and $15 million of his contract.
### The Marlins say talks on a longterm deal with Adeiny Hechavarria, who is under team control through 2018, have been tabled. We hear there was a large gap.
### Because Ichiro is an icon in the Far East, the Marlins have more traveling beat writers from Japan covering the team this year (seven) than local ones (four).
### UM’s Al Golden has been pushing his assistants to visit NFL teams to get new ideas, and offensive coordinator James Coley said he is inclined to possibly take a second trip to Dallas (UM is incorporating some of Dallas’ offense) and potentially visit the Saints and Seahawks, too.