Barry Jackson

NFL Draft’s top receiver calls Dolphins his ‘favorite’ team, would love to play in Miami

Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley (3) is tackled by Clemson linebacker James Skalski (47) in the first half of the Sugar Bowl this past season. Ridley is a likely first-round NFL draft pick.
Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley (3) is tackled by Clemson linebacker James Skalski (47) in the first half of the Sugar Bowl this past season. Ridley is a likely first-round NFL draft pick. AP

A six-pack of Dolphins notes:

▪ If the Dolphins lose Jarvis Landry — and they continue efforts to trade him — here’s the good news: Slot receivers aren’t particularly difficult to find. And this draft contains a bunch of them, including one projected for Miami’s draft range at No. 11.

Though Ridley has decent size (6-1), NFL Network’s Mike Mayock believes he’s ideally suited to play the slot.

Mayock also likes Texas A&M’s 5-11 Christian Kirk, a potential second- or third-rounder who last season had 66 catches for 859 yards and 10 touchdowns.

In his career, Kirk averaged an absurdly high 22.0 yards on 37 punt returns, including six touchdowns, to go along with one career kickoff return touchdown.

“Ridley and Kirk are somewhat similar,” Mayock said. “I like them both in the slot, although I think Ridley might be a little bit faster. I think Ridley can play outside, but he will become predominantly a slot receiver in the NFL, same with Kirk. They both run tremendous routes. They both have really good hands, and they’re very tough catching the football with good run after catch. Christian Kirk adds some value in the return game.” 

ESPN’s Mel Kiper believes Ridley isn’t a top 10 pick but worthy of taking soon after.

“There’s no top-10 talent at receiver in this draft class,” Kiper wrote on ESPN.com. “That doesn’t mean there won’t be a receiver who goes in the top 10, but there’s no Julio Jones or A.J. Green on the board. Ridley, my top-ranked wideout, is more like a top-20 talent. He’s not as big (6-0, 189) or explosive (31-inch vertical and 9-foot, 2-inch broad jump) as the elite players at the position. That’s OK, though, as we knew he was undersized. He’s still a great player and big-play threat with great speed (4.43 40).”

Ridley, who attended Monarch High in Coconut Creek, said at the NFL Combine that he would love it if the Dolphins drafted him.

“It would mean a lot. That’s my favorite team,” Ridley said. “I’m a Dolphins fan. If the Dolphins want to have me on their team, I would be very happy.”

Ridley caught 63 passes for 967 yards and five touchdowns last season and has 224 receptions for 2,781 yards and 19 touchdowns in his career.

▪ Mayock, on some of the other receivers in the draft: “James Washington from Oklahoma State is a vertical guy. He’s a late one, to late two. Dante Pettis from Washington, great return specialist, slot receiver; second or third round guy. DJ Moore from Maryland has some juice. I like him. Probably a slot receiver.

“Anthony Miller from Memphis is fast and quick. Really good hands. D.J. Chark, LSU, has been ascending since the Senior Bowl. Deon Cain, Clemson, reminds me of [Miami’s] Kenny Stills. Might be undervalued. J’Mon Moore, Mizzou, big kid. Too many drops, but a height, width, speed guy. You start throwing in Cedrick Wilson and Equanimeous St. Brown and Jordan Lasley, in all honesty, I might have a guy that’s a second rounder and another evaluator might have him as a fourth rounder.”

Of that group, Washington’s Pettis and Maryland’s Moore look like ideal second-day options if the Dolphins don’t have a slot receiver by then.

▪ Among veteran options at receiver, Tavon Austin will be available once the Rams release him, as expected. But his playing time was limited last season and he had just 13 catches for 47 yards, plus 59 rushing attempts for 270 yards. He’s not the ideal Landry replacement.

Other impending unrestricted free agent receivers (only some of whom are suited for the slot): Danny Amendola, Terrelle Pryor, Mike Wallace, Sammy Watkins, Eric Decker, Harry Douglas, Taylor Gabriel, Dontrelle Inman, Kamar Aiken, Kendall Wright, Jaron Brown, Andre Roberts, Matthew Slater, Albert Wilson, Charles Johnson, Michael Floyd, Marqise Lee, Jordan Matthews, Michael Campanaro, Jordan Matthews, Paul Richardson, Brice Butler, Brandon Tate, Cody Latimer, Louis Murphy, Allen Robinson, Brian Quick, Justin Hunter, Donte Moncrief, John Brown, T.J. Jones.

▪ Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant aren’t seen as the ideal replacements for Landry, though Grant is expected to be on the team and Carroo might be, too. Expect the Dolphins will look elsewhere for a Landry replacement.

A friend of Landry reiterated over the weekend that he plans to sign his franchise tag this week, which will allow the Dolphins to trade him. Several teams have shown interest, including Chicago and Baltimore.

▪ Mayock said seven running backs could go in the first three rounds, led by Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, a potential top three pick, and LSU’s Derrius Guice (Dolphins like him, as colleague Armando Salguero noted), USC’s Ronald Jones, Georgia’s Sony Michel and Georgia’s Nick Chubb.

Beyond that, “once you get into some of the third down change-of-pace guys, Mark Walton from Miami had some injury issues, but quick, change of pace,” Mayock said. “Nyheim Hines from North Carolina State is a change-of-pace guy on third down. Catches the ball extremely well. You could even get into [Northwestern’s] Justin Jackson or [Colorado’s] Phillip Lindsay in the fourth, fifth round type of player. Again, not big enough to carry the full load, but catches the football very well out of the back field.”

As for Michel — a graduate of Plantation American Heritage — Mayock said: “The more I watch Sony Michel, the more I think Sony Michel can make an impact like [New Orleans Saints standout] Alvin Kamara in the run game. I think he has burst acceleration, better toughness than people think, better contact balance than I expected. What he doesn’t have yet is the pass game ability Kamara did. I think he’s got good hands, but I’m not sure yet because they didn’t throw it to him too much. I know he didn’t run great routes. It was just check downs and flair screens. So the combine and his Pro Day are very important for him.”

▪ As I have reported in recent weeks, the Dolphins are willing to genuinely consider taking a quarterback at No. 11 in the NFL Draft. And as I first reported, they plan to dine with Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield on March 13, the night before his Oklahoma Pro Day.

Here’s what SI.com’s Peter King said about all this in his column on Monday:

“Miami, picking 11th in the April draft, is looking hard at quarterbacks, and several people I spoke with here think it’s likely they’ll go quarterback in the first round. Word already leaked that Miami officials will dine with Baker Mayfield the night before his March 14 pro day.

“The night before a pro day is prime time for teams interested in a player, and the Mayfield camp surely believes Miami is a strong contender to pick him. So what of Ryan Tannehill? In the immortal words of Bill Parcells, “I can only go by what I see.” Tannehill has missed the last 19 Dolphins games with injuries. By opening day this year it will have been 21 months since Tannehill played football. Adam Gase needs a challenger for Tannehill, and he needs him now.”

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