1 a.m. update: A stunner in the middle of the night, with news that Dee Gordon has been suspended for 80 games without pay for testing positive for PEDs. It's obviously an enormous blow, with the Marlins losing one of MLB's best leadoff hitters coming off a batting title and stolen base title. He's hitting .266 through 20 games.
The best option to replace him appears to be Derek Dietrich, who's batting .333 with one homer and six RBI after hitting .256 with 10 homers and 24 RBI in 90 games last season.
He has 12 errors in 105 career appearances at second base, with four career outfield errors and five errors at third base. But he has played good defense so far this season, with no errors in nine appearances at third, second and third.
Other options: Moving Martin Prado back to second (where he thrived with the Braves) and playing Chris Johnson at third. Johnson has played third more than any position in the big leagues but is hitting just .227.
The Marlins also could give more time to Miguel Rojas at second base. Rojas, highly skilled defensively, is hitting only .222.
But Dietrich makes the most sense.
What analysts are saying on offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, the Dolphins’ first-round pick, who (as Armando reported on his blog) is projected to play guard this coming season:
• NFL Net’s Mike Mayock: “He’s got Pro Bowl feet. His pass protection gives him huge upside as a Pro Bowl talent. I have some questions about his ability in the run game. It’s the perfect situation for a young tackle. He can start at right tackle [and eventually] kick to left tackle or move him right into left tackle.”
• ESPN’s Mel Kiper: “He has all the talent in the world. He was the No. 1 player on the board for a reason. Kid has rare ability. Didn’t miss a beat when he came back from suspension [for taking impermissible benefits]. He’s had a variety of injuries but when he’s out there he has been a dominant presence at left tackle 95 percent of the time. I thought he got a little bored with the opposition.
“When he’s on top of his game, he’s a consummate left tackle. Quickness, tremendous feet, the footwork he plays with. As a run blocker, he’s got to fire out a little more.
“The drop [in the draft] had nothing to do with football ability. It had to do with durability – can he a play 16 game schedule? And will he take care of business off the field during the offseason? At one point, I thought he could go No. 1 if Tennessee would have kept the pick.”
• ESPN’s Jon Gruden: “He has what you’re looking for. He’s light on his feet. He has a pass set; it just looks so easy for him for a big man. Ryan Tannehill has been sacked 184 times. Let’s challenge Tunsil. Get it right off the field and prove to all of us you can be a great player for the Dolphins.”
• NFL Net’s Charley Casserly: “Tunsil becomes potentially the steal of the draft as well as the most scrutinized rookie this year.”
• ESPN’s Louis Riddick: “You start to assess the risk versus the reward. If you look at their roster, Branden Albert is going to be 32 in November. This isn’t necessarily a luxury pick. This will be something that pays off down the road.”
• ESPN’s Todd McShay: “Tunsil's ceiling is sky high. He has the natural ability to play at a Pro Bowl level for a long time.”
• Pro Football Focus’ draft guide notes Tunsil “faced the toughest slate of edge rushers of anyone in the country and yielded” no sacks and just five pressures in 185 pass blocking snaps. PFF says Tunsil is "the cleanest tackle to come out of college in some time. Tunsil simply looks different than your average tackle in the NFL.”
• CBS’ Dane Brugler: “On the field, Tunsil is a nimble big man with a rare athletic skill-set for the position, showing above average balance and flexibility to easily bend, handle speed and absorb power at the point of attack. He's not a perfect player, but his flaws are more nitpicking than true weaknesses and potential injuries are the only obstacles keeping Tunsil from being one of the better left tackles at the next level.”
MORE TUNSIL POSTSCRIPTS
Tunsil said tonight he doesn't have a drug problem. Asked at the draft if he took money from a coach in college, he said, "I'd have to say yeah." (Get ready for probation, Ole Miss!)
"Don't question my character," Tunsil said tonight. "I'm a good person. I'm a laid back guy."
• According to the Jackson-Clarion Ledger, Tunsil was sued this week by his stepfather Lindsey Miller, who claims Tunsil attacked Miller last June and that Tunsil defamed Miller’s character. The lawsuit alleges these two things were an “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”The two men filed domestic violence charges against each other last year.
Tunsil's attorney, Steve Farese, attacked the lawsuit in the Clarion-Ledger.
"The lawsuit filed against Mr. Tunsil appears to be yet another attempt by Mr. Miller to damage Mr. Tunsil, his family, and the University," Farese said in a statement. "This unsavory attempt to obtain money from a talented young man is a sad example of the times. The timing of this suit, on the eve of the NFL draft, speaks volumes as to Mr. Miller's motives."
• Dolphins GM Chris Grier said Miami will play the five best linemen. That could mean Mike Pouncey, Tunsil, Albert, Ja'Wuan James and Jermon Bushrod. Pouncey, Bushrod and Albert have been Pro Bowlers; Tunsil was rated a top-five talent; and James was a top 20 pick. No more offensive line excuses!
As we wrote last week, the Dolphins discussed taking an offensive tackle at No. 13, if one of the top ones slipped, and moving him to guard (which is the plan with Tunsil). But they didn't expect Tunsil would be the one to slip.
"He was No. 2 on our board," Grier said. "We didn't expect him to be there."
• Now the Dolphins almost certainly need to pick a cornerback at 42 or 73. Baylor's Xavien Howard and LSU's Rashard Robinson and Samford's James Bradberry are among the remaining options who visited the Dolphins. Virginia Tech's Kendall Fuller is another option. The Dolphins really liked Houston's William Jackson but Tunsil was too tempting. Miami also liked Ohio State's Eli Apple, who was taken by the Giants at No. 10.
• A USA TODAY study determined that the University of Florida had the highest percentage of first-round draft busts of any team from 2000 to 2014, and that UM had the fewest first-round busts. Of the Gators’ 15 first-rounders during that time span, eight were deemed busts (53.3 percent). That edged Penn State and Oklahoma State (half of their first-rounders were busts). FSU was fourth on the bust list, with 9 of 19 first-rounders falling well short of expectations.
Conversely, only four of UM’s 26 first-rounders from 2000 to 2014 were deemed busts, with that 15 percent edging No. 2 Texas (23 percent).
• Thoughts on UM’s draft class, from an NFC scout who watched UM a lot: “Artie Burns was productive, a smart kid, has the skill level Vernon Hargreaves has. But he was really undisciplined and reckless at Miami. He looks like he’s playing his own defense at times." Pittsburgh took him at No. 25 tonight.
The scout said: “I have [safety] Deon Bush as a third-rounder. Runs well; big, strong, tough. Interviewed well with us. But he has a difficult time communicating on the field and that’s vital for a safety… [Receivers] Rashawn Scott and Herb Waters will be taken late or UFAs. Scott has better hands, Waters good speed. We would take a look at Calvin Heurtelou and Ufomba Kamalu" as UFAs.
Another likely free agent: Miami’s only departing five-star player, cornerback Tracy Howard, who visited the Browns…. Former UM safety Dallas Crawford, hoping for an NFL contract after the draft, has moved back to running back.
• The Dolphins, like most teams, already are planting seed with players who have a good chance of going undrafted, indicating an interest in signing them after the draft. Among those Miami has called: Utah State defensive tackle David Moala.
• The Dolphins’ draft search has extended north of the border, with Miami showing interest in University of Manitoba defensive lineman David Onyemata, who had five sacks and 39 tackles in eight games. Miami wanted to fly him to Davie this month but he had a schedule conflict…
The Dolphins drafted one defensive back who had been a receiver (Tony Lippett) and they’ve shown interest in another, Clemson safety TJ Green, a speedy safety who moved over from receiver after 2013. Teams believe he can play safety or corner. Miami likes him as a safety.
MORE HEAT CHATTER
The Heat hasn’t been a good road team in weeks, and their offensive metrics were much better at home this regular season (103.2 points, 48.3 percent shooting) than on the road (96.9, 45.8).
Among all Heat players, Hassan Whiteside and Josh Richardson had the biggest offensive dropoffs on the road. Whiteside averaged 16 points and 64.5 percent shooting at home, 12.3 and 55.4 on the road. Richardson shot 51.6 percent at home, 39.9 on the road. The only Heat player who shot better on the road this season? Justise Winslow, narrowly.
• Whiteside is taking 7.6 shots per game, nearly four less than he took after the All-Star break, and said “of course I would” like more shots but “it’s not there” because multiple defenders are swarming around him.
He bristles at any suggestion that Al Jefferson is victimizing him: “I feel like I did a great job on Jefferson; Jefferson is not the problem.”
• Though Heat interest has remained strong since LeBron James left, courtside seats at first-round games are going for 50 to 60 percent less dollar-wise than what they did when James was here, Tickets of America tell us. Meanwhile, Heat fans were scolded on national radio this week by former NBA center Brendan Haywood.
“Miami is not a tough gym to play in,” Haywood said on Sirius XM. “They have the wine and cheese crowd. They have the late arriving crowd. They have the crowd that will leave early if their team is down. There’s a lot of eye candy… [But] as far as homecourt advantage, Miami, I’m sorry, the city doesn’t have it. It’s not in ‘em. They don’t have that same passion the fans in Portland have.”
As AP's Tim Reynolds smartly noted after I posted this, he was 7-14 in games he played as a visiting player in Miami.
• For a lot more Heat nuggets from today, please click here.