Greg Cote

Greg Cote: Miami Dolphins’ No. 14 pick in NFL Draft has plenty of intrigue

Breshad Perriman #11 of the UCF Knights catches a pass against the Baylor Bears. Perriman is one of the highest rated receivers in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Breshad Perriman #11 of the UCF Knights catches a pass against the Baylor Bears. Perriman is one of the highest rated receivers in the 2015 NFL Draft. Getty Images

The NFL Draft commencing with the first round Thursday is supposed to be below average in overall talent relative to most years, although you wouldn’t know it by the gushing excess of televised buildup. As an example, the glorified crap shoot’s two most-talked-about players, quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, are hounded by questions more than hailed as certain franchise makers.

This draft could use some excitement or drama. An arrest or sudden scandal involving a top player might work, but so would a big, well-timed trade rumor.

Shall we start one? Let’s!

Man on the street: “Hey I just read that the Dolphins might trade their No. 1 draft pick and running back Lamar Miller to the Vikings for Adrian Peterson!”

Guy with him: “Really? No way. Where’d you see that?”

First man: “Um, I’m not sure. Some tweet, I think. Yeah, apparently Miami wanted to throw in Dion Jordan, too, but Minnesota said ‘no way.’ ”

Other guy: “But that’s ridiculous. Why would Miami trade its first-round pick for a 30-year-old running back coming off an injury and a child-abuse suspension? Not to mention a player whose salary alone makes the possibility ludicrous?”

First man: “Hey I dunno, dude. But it was on Twitter, so …”

That night’s tease for the late local news: “ARE THE DOLPHINS PLANNING A DRAFT-NIGHT BLOCKBUSTER!? ALSO, TROPICAL STORM GILDA ENTERS THE CONE OF PENDING CALAMITY! COMING UP NEXT!”

On second thought, let’s let some other NFL city have the A.P. rumor. A handful of teams are actually interested and could swing a draft-day deal.

Miami’s Thursday night should be exciting enough on its own — especially compared with last season.

A year ago, the Dolphins’ clear pressing need was an offensive tackle, and everybody knew it, and Miami surprised nobody by taking Tennessee behemoth Ja’Wuan James 19th overall. It worked out fine; he had a solid rookie season and should be the team’s right tackle for years.

Let’s be honest, though. Drafting a tackle No. 1 might be prudent but seldom is exciting.

Offensive tackle is to a draft what the vacuum cleaner is to a Christmas gift. You know you needed one, but the heart doesn’t palpitate at its unwrapping.

This year, Miami has no one clear, pressing need for the 14th overall pick. That adds intrigue. Also, the Fins are far more likely to draft a skill-position player than a blocker. That adds excitement.

The Dolphins, of course, offer no clue to their intentions. At Friday’s annual pre-draft media session, subterfuge reigned. The modus operandi for executive VP of football ops Mike Tannebuam and general manager Dennis Hickey is to deny no possibility.

To hear them tell it, the Dolphins might trade up, might trade down, might trade sideways, might stay put, might draft for offense, might draft for defense, might know who they really want, but definitely won’t tell you.

They profess no leaning. “The board is firmly etched in pencil,” Tannenbaum kidded, noting that when Miami is on the clock at 14, “there’ll probably be 12 players we love” still available.

Wide receiver had emerged — from an amalgam of roster and logic, a consensus of major mock drafts and pure speculation — as Miami’s likely targeted position for its top pick, though less so now, with the team recently signing veteran wideout Greg Jennings, 31.

My own annual Miami Herald mock draft will run on Thursday, so I’ll make no prediction for Miami’s top pick here, but will offer here some players who should be in the team’s Zone of Consideration and could be available. My short list does include receivers, because the Dolphins would be unwise to pass by a dynamic talent just because of Jennings. No quarterback in history including Ryan Tannehil has ever complained about having too many talented receivers.

Some names to watch:

▪ Breshad Perriman, UCF receiver. The son of ex-Cane Brett is 6-3, almost 220 pounds and runs a sub-4.3 40. Oh my. Uncommon combo of size and speed.

▪ DeVante Parker, Louisville receiver. Could go ahead of Perriman, though.

▪ Phillip Dorsett, Miami receiver. Speed like Perriman, but much shorter.

▪ Todd Gurley, Georgia running back. There are doubts Lamar Miller can be a full-load carrier, so Gurley could really tempt if he slips to 14. “His ability stands out and shines,” said Fins assistant GM Eric Stokes.

▪ Trae Waynes, Michigan State cornerback. He’s draft’s top corner and would make most sense if he’s still available and if Miami opts to fill its biggest defensive need.

(Two other names that might pique interest: Kentucky linebacker Bud Dupree, though he could go higher; and LSU guard La’el Collins, though he could be a bit of a reach at 14).

Tannenbaum said there could be “12 players we love” when Miami is on the clock, but the question is which of the players they’d most love to draft might still be around.

If two of them are Perriman and Waynes, especially, Miami will have a can’t-miss, can’t-lose choice. I might even trade-up a few spots to land either.

The Dolphins need to come out of this draft — and the No. 1 pick disproportionately defines any draft — with a sense they’ve continued the momentum achieved with the offseason mega-signing of free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Miami needs a face-of-the-draft player who will enhance this as a franchise finally trending up for real as it enters its 50th anniversary season.

Several players might get that done, but, in a pass-first league, probably none better than a dynamic receiver or a ready-to-start corner.

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