In My Opinion

Armando Salguero: With early NFL Draft selections Miami Dolphins took care of big needs

 
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LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry (80) makes a leaping 22-yard touchdown reception during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. on Nov. 23, 2012.
LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry (80) makes a leaping 22-yard touchdown reception during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. on Nov. 23, 2012.
David Quinn / AP

ssalguero@MiamiHerald.com

They made three trades on Friday night. They dialed back twice, making it seem for a while like they didn’t want to pick at all in the second round, then, after picking late in that round they traded up to pick atop the third round.

There seemed to be little logic to this mad scrambling.

But all the Dolphins were doing was following a plan.

No, really.

When the second day of the NFL draft dawned, general manager Dennis Hickey knew he wanted to continue rebuilding Miami’s troubled offensive line.

The Dolphins did that in the third round when they picked North Dakota State lineman Billy Turner who played left tackle in college but projects to guard in Miami.

Coupled with Thursday’s first-round acquisition of right tackle Ja’Wuan James, the Dolphins have now filled the worrisome and obvious vacancies they had at right tackle and guard before the draft began.

We have no idea of either player will actually be good as advertised and start on the line. But the Dolphins, good or bad, have at least addressed their needs.

Hickey also knew he wanted to shore up the wide receiver corps.

A source familiar with the club’s thinking said the team has no intention of moving on from Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson or Mike Wallace (they know they’re stuck with him, the source said of the team’s highest-paid player).

RECEIVING NEEDS

But there has been a sense in Miami that the No. 4 wide receiver spot needed addressing. The team not only wanted competition for Rishard Matthews but wanted to upgrade because Matthews has had a troubling habit of “losing focus” and “not learning as quickly as coaches want.”

So that roster spot, so important because the Dolphins need reliability from the position, was a target. And that’s the reason Louisiana State’s Jarvis Landry was picked at the bottom of the second round to address the need.

Landry is a truly intriguing pick. He isn’t very big at 5-11 and 205 pounds and combines that with only modest speed, running maybe 4.6s and a shockingly terrible 4.77 at the Indianapolis Combine in February.

But rather than focus on those humble measurables, Hickey focused on what he actually saw happen on the field.

“He’s a guy we watched for a long time in the SEC,” Hickey said. “He’s tough, he’s smart, he’s productive. He jumps out at you. He has a passion for the game and makes plays.”

That slow 40-yard dash time at the Combine?

Where some scouts might have thought that a red flag, “I thought opportunity,” Hickey said.

LSU just produced two wide receivers selected the first two days of this NFL draft. Odell Beckham Jr., the bigger, faster prospect with higher ceiling, went to the New York Giants in the first round.

Landry, the team captain and a favorite of LSU coach Les Miles, followed as a likely slot receiver for the Dolphins. But ask Landry the difference between himself and his former teammate and the answer is almost startling.

“I’m the reliable one,” he said.

He wasn’t being disrespectful to his former teammate. He was probably just being transparent because, well, he was more reliable.

Landry now has to do something too many former Dolphins second-round draft picks have failed to do: Be good.

The Dolphins second round has been a wasteland of picks strewn with the draft cards turned in for Pat White, Jonathan Martin, Daniel Thomas, Phillip Merling, Chad Henne, John Beck, Matt Roth, and Eddie Moore, among others.

All of them came with plaudits and hope.

None have lived up to the billing.

VERSATILE PLAYER

Hickey says Landry comes mostly with “toughness and passion that for us symbolize what the Miami Dolphins are about.”

Turner is supposed to be very versatile in his ability to play multiple positions on the offensive line. Coaches often call it position flexibility.

Here’s a suggestion for the Dolphins: To heck with position flexibility, the kid’s a guard so stick him there and make it work. Position flexible players are nice to have at the back end of the roster. They make wonderful backups.

Richmond Webb wasn’t position flexible. Larry Little wasn’t position flexible. Dwight Stephenson wasn’t position flexible. They were just outstanding at their one position and locked it down for years.

That’s what the Dolphins need from Turner after so many other guard acquisitions — John Jerry, Shaun Murphy, Justin Smiley, Lance Louis — have failed lately.

Hickey said the Dolphins valued Turner just behind Landry in the second round and that’s the reason for the sprint to trade up and nab him.

Great, but the fact is Turner didn’t exactly blow anyone away at the Senior Bowl when he got the opportunity to compete against some of college football’s best after competing at the FCS level for North Dakota State.

“It makes you feel better to know they traded up to get you,” Turner said.

Turner was described as “dependable,” by one scout who watched his career from afar. But the same scout also said Turner seemed more a Saturday (rounds four through seven) player than a Friday (rounds two-three player) player.

The Dolphins obviously had a plan that said otherwise.

Read more Armando Salguero stories from the Miami Herald

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