FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN
A six-pack of Dolphins notes:
• With Miami not likely to land free agent Josh Norman, cornerback remains a high priority, though we hear a few other players also intrigue the Dolphins with their first-round pick if they fall to their range at No. 13.
If the Dolphins rate a non-cornerback as the best player on their board when they're picking at No. 13, there's a belief they could still land a quality corner at 42 and/or 73, a prospect such as UM’s Artie Burns (if there at 42) or Baylor’s Xavien Howard or Virginia Tech's Kendall Fuller or Samford's James Bradberry, among others.
Drafting two corners is very much a possibility.
Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott’s visit here Tuesday went very well, he would welcome the Dolphins drafting him if he slips to 13, and Miami has strong interest, according to someone involved. He already has a lease on an apartment in Miami, though that has nothing to do with any possibility of him landing with the Dolphins.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins recently sent a contingent to Los Angeles to conduct a private workout with UCLA’s Myles Jack, the draft’s best linebacker. There’s Dolphins interest if he surprisingly slips out of the top 10.
• What about UF’s 5-10 Vernon Hargreaves, who could be the best corner available at 13? Though he cannot be ruled out if he’s the best player available, I do know this: There is some resistance to Hargreaves among some Dolphins scouting/front office people who believe he’s undersized and see him more as a nickel back. Miami’s preference is a big, physical boundary corner.
The Dolphins prefer bigger corners in general and are intrigued by Houston’s William Jackson and Ohio State’s Eli Apple, two 6-1 corners who visited. Jackson at No. 13 is certainly a possibility, but analysts disagree about whether Jackson is good value at 13. (Mel Kiper says he’s not.) Most pundits have Apple in the 20s or lower.
One Dolphins official said trading down from 13 for a corner would be a consideration, if there's not a player at 13 that Miami covets in that range and if it believes one of the tall corners would be available later in the first round.
• Besides Jack, Elliott and the corners, the Dolphins have closely studied a handful of first-round front-seven defenders, including Clemson defensive ends Kevin Dodd (visited, but 13 is higher than projected) and Shaq Lawson and linebackers Leonard Floyd (Georgia), Reggie Ragland (Alabama) and Darron Lee (the Ohio State product is Kiper’s choice for the Dolphins, but at 6-1, 232 pounds isn’t their ideal size preference).
Ragland told Sirius XM tonight that he made seven visits in the past two weeks, and the Dolphins, Bears and Saints have shown the most interest in him. And we've also been told the Dolphins like Ragland.
• As one of several fallback options, the Dolphins have discussed taking one of the top offensive tackles if one slips and moving him to guard, though 13 is high for a guard. Kiper said he would take Texas A&M guard/tackle Germain Ifedi (who visited Miami) in the first round. But 13 would seem too high.
• The Dolphins, looking for a skilled returner who could lessen Jarvis Landry’s workload on special teams, have been in touch with several. They summoned Texas Tech’s 5-6 Jakeem Grant to Davie this week; he had four kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career and a 26.2 average last season. At UCLA, they auditioned Devin Fuller (24.2 kickoff average last season), among others.
They’re open to finding competition for kicker Andrew Franks and dispatched special teams coach Darren Rizzi or other staffers to privately audition several, including Texas’ Nick Rose and Albright’s Daniel Sobolewski.
• One team official said the past coaching staff didn’t use tight end Jordan Cameron to his strengths and expects that to change… Dolphins conversations remain ongoing with free agent defensive end Jason Jones, with both sides interested.
• The latest Hassan Whiteside historic feat: In shooting 8 for 8 in Game 2, he became just the second active NBA player to make all his shots (minimum eight) in a playoff game, according to Elias. The other: Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka, who was 11 for 11 in a 2012 postseason game…. What’s more, Whiteside is second this postseason (behind Steph Curry) in ESPN’s complex NBA efficiency ratings, after finishing eighth during the season.
• This is the first Heat team ever to score at least 115 points in two consecutive playoff games. For perspective, do you know how many times the Heat did this in non-overtime situations in four regular seasons with LeBron James? Just once: in November 2012, with 119 against Denver and 124 against Phoenix.
During the LeBron years, the Heat also reached 115 in two games in a row on two other occasions, with one of them going to OT and another going to triple overtime.
• What Dwyane Wade continues to do around the rim, at 34, and his ease in getting there is quite impressive.
He’s 8 for 9 on shots within five feet in this series, best among NBA guards, including one of them created Wednesday by an amazing stutter-step move on Jeremy Lin.
“I felt good to be able to do [that],” Wade said, his body helped by work with new trainer Dave Alexander over the past year.
Wade had 261 of those baskets (within five feet) this season, behind only Andrew Wiggins and James Harden among shooting guards and he made 62.7 percent of those shots within five feet (top five).
And there's this: Of the 100 NBA players who dunked at least 30 times this season, Wade was the only one who didn’t miss any (36 for 36).
“He’s like a big man that plays guard; it’s amazing,” Whiteside said. “Probably the best guard I’ve ever seen around the basket. I joke with him all the time and tell him, 'I think you were supposed to be a seven-footer.' Just the way he maneuvers in the paint. He’s got left and right hand jump hooks.”
• Wade and Courtney Lee were talkative with each other in Game 2, but Wade assures: “Just having a little fun with the game. I like that guy. I respect him.
“The guy's been in the Finals before. Very tough defender. Nothing wrong with a little talking back and forth. No disrespect either way.”
• For an in-depth look at the Heat’s amazing offensive evolution, please click here.
• The Hornets ruled Nic Batum (ankle) as out for Game 3 and said his status will be re-evaluated after that.
• Don’t underestimate the impact that Panthers general manager Dale Tallon’s trades are making.
He clearly got the better of last summer’s Boston deal, with Jimmy Hayes finishing with 29 points for the Bruins and Reilly Smith producing 50 points for Florida (25 goals) and now tied for the NHL lead in postseason points (eight).
Tallon gave up future second- and fourth-rounders for Jiri Hudler (12 points in 23 games here) and a third-rounder for Teddy Purcell (13 in 19 games).
“They've been huge for us,” coach Gerard Gallant said Thursday. “They're veteran players, very skilled and they add a lot of depth and experience to our lineup, especially this time of the season.
“Reilly has been outstanding. I'm pleasant surprised, but it's not a shock he has 25 goals. He’s playing with good players.”
• Some historical perspective on Game 5 of Panthers-Islanders: The team that wins Game 5 of a 2-2 series has won 78.4 percent of NHL playoff series.
• UM coach Mark Richt has no patience for any off-field problems and warned his players last week not to "hang around with fools."...
Defensive back Jonathan Abram, who left Georgia after Richt left and transferred to a junior college, told Canesport.com that he's considering joining Richt at UM. Abram started four games for Richt last season and can play safety and corner, though some consider him better suited for safety.
He said UM "is up on my radar" along with Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Abram would be required to sit out next season, per NCAA rules.