The Sunday buzz column, with lots of Dolphins, Canes, Marlins and Heat, is below.
First, a 7:30 p.m. and then a 10:45 p.m. update with Dolphins post-draft signings:
The Dolphins, who did not select any linebackers in the draft, have signed four highly productive ones in the first hour after the draft: Penn State OLB Mike Hull (a third team All-American last season with 140 tackles, one pick and two sacks); Utah State inside linebacker Zach Vigil (154 tackles, 9 sacks last season); Cincinnati inside linebacker Jeff Luc (133 tackles, 6.5 sacks) and Marshall inside linebacker Neville Hewitt (123 tackles, 4.5 sacks, one pick).
The Dolphins had shown a lot of interest in Vigil and Hewitt throughout the process, as we noted earlier this week. Vigil is listed at 6-2, 240; Hull at 6-0, 231; Luc at 6-1, 256; and Hewitt at 6-1 and 231.
Other players added by the Dolphins tonight (with a caveat that while at least a couple of the names below have signed, others of these players might be just be coming in for tryouts this week, which won't be clarified until the Dolphins formally announce the names in a few days):
### Georgia defensive end Ray Drew. Had just 39 tackles, one sack last season but CBS' Rob Rang said his "relatively pedestrian statistics can be explained by the block-eating role he was asked to play at Georgia. He quietly emerged as one of the SEC's better and more versatile defenders."
### Tennessee punter Matt Darr. (Unlikely to unseat Brandon Fields.)
### RPI kicker Andrew Franks. Excels at kickoffs; special teams coach Darren Rizzi flew to New York to work him out two weeks ago. Caleb Sturgis already had one serious challenger: former Arkansas kicker Zach Hocker, the Redskins' 7th-rounder last season.
### Maine receiver Damarr Aultman. Had 48 catches for 498 yards last season.
### Illinois State offensive lineman Michael Liedtke. Played left tackle last season but well suited for guard.
### Tim Semisch, a 6-7 tight end from Northern Illinois, will try out for the Dolphins this week. He had just 10 career receptions for 100 yards.
### Bowling Green defensive end Kendall Montgomery. The Miami Pace High alum had two sacks last season. His agent said it's a contract, not a tryout.
### Alabama receiver Christion Jones. He had 19 catches and 264 yards last season after catching 34 the previous year. He averaged 23 yards on kickoff returns last season after scoring touchdowns on kickoff returns of 90-plus yards each of the previous two years.
### UCLA defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy. The 6-5, 330-pound tackle had three sacks last season.
### USC G/T Aundrey Walker. NFL.com's assessment: "Despite a promising start to his career, Walker has faded into irrelevance over the last two seasons and was a rotational player in 2014. His lack of functional strength and footwork might doom his draft chances."
### Kansas receiver Nigel King. Caught 30 passes for 537 yards, a 17.9 average last season. King has good size at 6-3.
### TCU 6-0 receiver David Porter. Caught 39 passes for 392 yards and three touchdowns last season. He's coming in for a tryout with the Dolphins.
### Arizona offensive tackle Mickey Baucas. Started at left tackle and "boasts an intriguing build with great height and long arms," CBS' Rob Rang said. ###############################################################################
SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
In the past 18 drafts, only one of the Dolphins’ fifth-round draft picks (Reshad Jones) has emerged so far as a longterm starter; a few others were decent (Chris Clemons, Caleb Sturgis, Donald Lee, Nolan Carroll), but most were forgettable: Tony Bua, Cecil Collins, Josh Kaddu, John Nalbone, among others. That’s worth keeping in mind when assessing a Dolphins draft that included four fifth-rounders and just three other picks.
But the Dolphins need at least a couple of Saturday’s fifth-rounders to become good players, and here’s a pearl of hope: The Dolphins snagged Jim Kiick, Bryan Cox and Zach Thomas in the fifth round.
Some reaction on Miami’s four fifth-rounders on Saturday and its fourth-round pick, Arizona State guard Jamil Douglas:
### Memphis cornerback Bobby McCain: NFL Network’s Mike Mayock: “Ironically, he will be competing with Brice McCain for that nickel spot. Quick footed. This kid is feisty. [But] he’s too short to play on the edge. Tough, competitive kid.” (Brice McCain is the heavy favorite for that job.)...
ESPN’s Mel Kiper: “What I love about this kid is when he picks a pass off, he can take it the distance [did that four times in college]. This kid is an interception waiting to happen. What he needs is more consistency. Can be a nickel back right away and maybe develop into a starter. Needs a little more consistency. Also did a good job as a kick returner.”…
ESPN’s Todd McShay: “Really good instincts. Good feel for the game.”… NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein: “Lacks desired height and frame to be an outside cornerback. Undersized slot corner. His 19 passes defended and 11 interceptions over his last 22 starts are indicative of his athleticism and talent to play on the next level.”… Draft Insiders’ Tony Pauline: “Rarely has mental breakdowns or gets beat. He lacks deep speed but offers potential in nickel or dime packages and on special teams. Underrated corner with solid ball skills.”
### Boise State running back Jay Ajayi: Kiper: “A downhill runner. He’s a little loose with the football at times, especially when he gets into traffic. He’s got to shore that up. He runs with explosive aggressiveness, toughness. He is a physical runner. Can really challenge guys. You talk about a guy like Marshawn Lynch. This guy runs with that power and explosion. He’s got to block in pass protection a lot better than he did.”…
McShay: “He’s a great receiver out of the backfield. Very light on his feet. I don’t see quite as much power as [Kiper] sees. I see tough, hard running. Really impressive. Born in London to Nigerian parents. Moved to United States in 2000. Had a chance to play for the Nigerian national team; he was that good of a soccer player.” McShay said the concern is Ajayi had “673 offensive touches the last two seasons” which “really took a pounding on his body.”
ESPN’s Bill Polian: “The one thing Miami needed more than anything in the run game was somebody who could stick it up in there, hang in there with toughness. And this kid does.”… ESPN’s Adam Schefter said Ajayi flunked some physicals because of a knee issue; the Dolphins say they aren’t concerned…. Ajayi caught 50 passes for 535 yards and four touchdowns last season and has a good chance to wrest the third down job away from Damien Williams.
Mayock: “Unfortunately, Jay slid for something out of his control. The medical is the question mark. On the positive side, he has great pad level, acceleration and burst. I like his patience. His knee is bone on bone and teams don’t know how long they will get high level production. His tape is outstanding. He’s one of the toughest kids in the draft. They needed that big back to complement Lamar Miller.”
NFL Net’s Daniel Jeremiah said he rated him as a top-20 player in this draft… Pauline: “Solid downhill grinder who can carry the load for a team on the next level. Large, powerful runner best on the inside.”
### Minnesota safety Cedric Thompson: Kiper rated him the draft’s 10th-best safety. “You love the way he plays,” Kiper said. “His game day tapes are very solid. He’s adequate in coverage. He’s a good tackler, he makes plays, very instinctive. Those kind of guys make it in this league, guys who can set up a defense that are consistent week to week, that understand how to play the game.”
NFL.com’s Zierlein disagrees with Kiper in one regard: “Above-average athletic traits and size, but instincts and awareness are below average. Takes too long to commit once play direction was been declared. Played as deep safety and near the line of scrimmage. Has enough size to match up against tight ends.”
Pauline’s thinking is more in line with Kiper’s: “Instinctive run-defending safety who keeps the action in front of him. Must earn his living on special teams.”
### Michigan State cornerback Tony Lippett, a former receiver who played corner as a freshman and in four games in 2014: NFL Net’s Charles Davis: “I always thought corner was the right spot for him. That length [6-2 1/2] can take away some of the [concerns about his] speed. He is going to have to play with the same intelligence that Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner play [to compensate for mediocre speed]. No false steps.…
Mayock: "I really want to see if he could be an NFL-quality corner because the length intrigues me. With all those big-bodied wide receivers, more and more teams are looking for corners that are 6-feet and above. He is going to have to be a Richard Sherman type corner. [Sherman and Browner] are guys that have to use length to their advantage at the line of scrimmage.'
### Douglas: Kiper said he should be “solid” but “you would like him to play with a little more power.”… McShay: “Really smart player, 3.92 GPA. Impressive with his awareness picking up stunts and blitzes.”…
Tony Pauline: “Douglas was a terrific college lineman and possesses the skills necessary to start at guard in a run-oriented system.”
Zierlein again is the dissenting voice here, claiming Douglas “fails to generate push at the point of attack” and “shows very little fire in his play. Looks like he’s going through the motions.”…
Joe Philbin said he likes Billy Turner (a front-runner to start) at right guard, so it makes sense that Miami will put Douglas at left guard to compete with Dallas Thomas, Jeff Linkenbach and perhaps J.D. Walton.
### How unusual is it for a college team to finish below .500, as UM did last season, and then have at least seven players drafted months later, as Miami did?
I studied the previous 11 drafts (entering this one) and found no team with that many draft picks that finished with a losing record the previous year.
Over those 11 drafts coming into this one, 48 teams had at least seven players selected in a single draft. Of those 48 teams, 33 won at least 10 games the previous season.
Only two of those 48 teams won fewer than eight games the previous year --- coincidentally, UM, which went 7-6 under Randy Shannon in 2010, then had eight draft picks in 2011. Also, South Carolina, which went 7-6 in 2008 and then had nine picks.
And now UM has seven players picked after going 6-7. Amazing.
By the way, the Gators, who went 7-5 last season, had eight players drafted today. Remember, UF had one game canceled for weather reasons last season.
And this will make blood boil further for Canes fans: McShay said “if used properly,” defensive end Anthony Chickillo, the seventh Cane picked today (by Pittsburgh in the sixth round), “will be a much better player in the pros than college.”
### Not only did Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon enter Saturday leading baseball in batting average (.423) and not only is Adeiny Hechavarria fourth among shortstops in average (.318) and first in RBI (16), but defensively, “look at the metrics,” president/baseball operations Michael Hill said. “Has there
been a better middle infield in baseball than ours? There has not been.”
If Hechavarria’s offensive evolution --- from .227 in 2013 to .276 last season to now this – continues over the next few years, his agents will have made the right gamble by declining the Marlins’
longterm contract offer this past winter. He’s under team control through 2018.
Not chasing pitches out of the zone “is the No. 1 thing” that has changed with Hechavarria, Hill said. “Omar Vizquel hit [.220, .247, .230 his first three seasons] but was playing Gold Glove defense. I’m glad it’s come along faster for Hech. Defensively, we knew he was one of the best.”
Incidentally, Gordon’s 34 hits were the most ever in a player’s first 20 games as a Marlin, and then he had three more in the 21st game. And he has remained on fire since.
### More good news: Left-hander Justin Nicolino, who could be in the rotation next season, has now gone four starts in a row (24 innings) without giving up an earned run at Triple A.
### As of Saturday, Luol Deng hadn’t decided whether to opt out of the second year of his two-year deal (worth $10.1 million), according to his agent. He could pursue a longer deal somewhere by opting out.
If he opts in, and Goran Dragic re-signs as expected, the Heat will be well into luxury tax territory and Pat Riley couldn’t commit to the Heat’s willingness to use a $3.4 million exception (its best tool to improve). “Transcendent players change [owner] Micky [Arison]’s mind very quickly,” said Riley, who has been scouting draft prospects in Europe.
But transcendent players aren’t available at $3.4 million. And if Deng opts out but Dragic stays, Miami would not have cap space to replace Deng beyond an exception.