Jaylen waddle, drafted No. 6 overall by the Miami Dolphins in the 2021 NFL draft. (Criag Davis for Five Reasons Sports)

Pressure Point: Dolphins opt for athletic playmakers in Waddle, Phillips

The Miami Dolphins addressed a pressing need right out of the gate Thursday in the opening round of the NFL Draft when they selected Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle with the No. 6 pick.

They rolled the dice for a big-play target for Tua Tagovailoa in his former Crimson Tide teammate.

Waddle made the point when asked on ESPN about his primary asset moments after the pick was announced.

“Playmaking ability,” he said. “I’ll do my best to try to showcase that.”

They got another playmaker, this time on defense, when they took University of Miami defensive end Jaelan Phillips at No. 18. Phillips, who played one season for the Hurricanes, was the first pass-rusher selected.

Dolphins picks fill key positions on offense, defense

Both players are impressive athletes who come with some questions. They were both fan-pleasing picks, focused on glamour positions of both sides of the ball.

Regarding Waddle, the intriguing question will be whether the Dolphins made the right choice from a premium array of top-tier receivers.

The Dolphins clearly put their money on speed, which is never a bad bet.

Through pre-draft trades with San Francisco and Philadelphia that took them from the No. 3 pick to 6 by way of 12, they moved themselves out of the running for Florida tight end extraordinaire Kyle Pitts, who was the first non-quarterback taken at No. 4 by Atlanta.

LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase was then reunited with his college quarterback, Joe Burrow, with the No. 5 pick by Cincinnati.

Then came the Dolphins with the choice between speedy but slight Alabama receivers. They opted for Waddle over Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, who eventually went 10th to the Eagles.

The fun will come in comparing the careers of this group in the coming years. That is the measuring stick of the draft.

Similarly, Tagovailoa faces questions about whether the Dolphins erred last year in taking him over Justin Herbert, who went to the Chargers one pick later and had a record-setting rookie season. The final verdict is still on the horizon.

Waddle compared to Tyreek Hill

This time, Pitts was my preference for Miami, but the Dolphins opted for a receiver with explosive speed who can stretch the defense deep or turn a short route into a big gain. Waddle has the ability to create separation through acceleration, which was notably missing among Dolphins receivers last season.

A stat that stands out is Waddle averaged 9.8 yards after the catch during his career, the most among all Power 5 receivers since 2014, according to Pro Football Focus.

The popular comparison is with Kansas City Chiefs five-time Pro Bowl receiver Tyreek Hill.

“I get a lot of comparisons to Tyree just because of our small size and being able to be a runner,” Waddle said in a conference call with South Florida media Thursday night. “But I want to be my own player and try to play the game that I play. … So I think I’m going to try to be the player I always have been and try to make plays for the team.”

Waddle gets a head start in that he already has chemistry with Tagovailoa, as would have been the case if Smith had been chosen.

Choice between Alabama teammates

Did Miami pick the right Alabama receiver?

If Waddle didn’t break an ankle in October, maybe he wins the Heisman. Through four games, he was putting up better numbers than Smith, averaging 139.3 yards a game and 22.3 per catch.

Which will become the better pro? The Dolphins saw enough to make a distinction in their evaluation.

Waddle can fly, and is a tremendous kick returner, aided by 4.37 (40-yard-dash) speed.

Give him bonus points for returning to limp through the national championship game and contributing three catches. He didn’t participate in a pro day but says he’s over the injury.

As with Smith, there are questions about Waddle’s size. He is 5-9 ½ and 182 pounds. Similar stature hasn’t hampered Hill or others like Hall of Fame receivers Marvin Harrison and Isaac Bruce.

Soon-to-be-teammate Phillips offered a defensive player’s view on Waddle, saying, “He’s a dog. I’ve been watching him for a little while now and he’s just electric, man. He’s a playmaker through and through. I was super-excited to get to know him. I know he’s going to contribute to this team greatly.”

Phillips overcame career-threatening injuries

Phillips, who expressed joy about remaining in the 305, comes with a troubling injury history while at UCLA and it appeared his football career was over before resurrecting it at Miami.

He showcased his pass-rushing skills last season and put on a dazzling performance at the UM pro day, which certainly elevated his draft stock.

“I had two concussions while I was at UCLA. I play football, man, it’s a physical sport. Ask anybody in the NFL, I guarantee they’ve had some concussions in their time. It’s nothing to be worried about,” Phillips said Thursday night.

The physical aspect of the game means nothing is a given beyond draft day.

The Dolphins added obvious talent at two vital skilled positions to start this draft. They have six more picks over the next two days.

The rigors of football will determine how it all plays out.

Dolphins remaining 2021 draft picks:

  • Round 2: No. 36 (from HOU)
  • Round 2: No. 50.
  • Round 3: No. 81.
  • Round 5: No. 156 (from DAL through PHI)
  • Round 7: No. 231.
  • Round 7: No. 258.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

The pressure is on Chris Grier to rebuild the Miami Dolphins through the draft.

Pressure Point: Dolphins may regret missing chance at Kyle Pitts

Through all the debate and speculation about the 2021 NFL Draft, the central question surrounding the Miami Dolphins boils down to: What is in Chris Grier’s mind?

What is the assessment of the Dolphins general manager and coach Brian Flores and their lieutenants concerning their options for selecting an impact playmaker in the first round to energize the offense?

They were positioned to land the best non-quarterback with the No. 3 pick and gave up that option in the interest of adding future draft capital.

Trades to move from No. 3 to 12, then back up to 6 have added more mystery and intrigue than usual.

It is puzzling because it has clearly weakened the Dolphins’ hand in Thursday’s opening round. That may well come back to haunt them if Florida tight end Kyle Pitts turns out to be the dynamic pro that many evaluators expect — for another team.

Kyle Pitts a rare talent

Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has called Pitts the highest-rated tight end in all the drafts he has analyzed. Gators coach Dan Mullen has referred to Pitts as a “unicorn.”

I’ve felt for weeks that I’d be thoroughly disappointed if the Dolphins don’t come away with Pitts, who possesses a rare combination of skills to give opposing defensive coordinators fits for years.

Disappointment has already set in because Pitts is almost certainly out of Miami’s reach now.

After quarterbacks are taken with the top three picks, the Atlanta Falcons are said to be set to snatch Pitts. And why wouldn’t they jump at the chance to add such a game changer for the twilight of quarterback Matt Ryan’s career?

Worse yet for Miami, the Cincinnati Bengals are likely to use the No. 5 pick to reunite LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase with quarterback Joe Burrow.

Chase gets top marks on most rankings of the wide receivers in this draft.

Which would leave the Dolphins to go eeny, meeny, miny, moe with Tua Tagovailoa’s former Alabama teammates, wide receivers DeVonata Smith and Jaylen Waddle.

Dolphins’ plan shrouded in mystery

Unless they play the “highest rated player available on the board” card and take offensive tackle Penei Sewell. No matter how dominant Sewell was for Oregon (prior to opting out of 2020 for COVID considerations) that pick would surely spark mass outrage in Dolphinland.

Which brings us back to the initial question: What are Grier and Flores thinking going into this all-important draft?

If, as recent reports have indicated (ESPN’s Todd McShay among others), Pitts is the Dolphins’ preferred choice, why didn’t they stay at No. 3 when they had the pick of the receiver litter?

When the Dolphins made the trades that landed them at No. 6 there was conjecture that they were OK with any of the top tier wideouts or Pitts. I don’t believe any NFL team approaches any draft like that. Ever.

They evaluate. They prioritize. They have a list.

Grier and Flores have a plan. We just don’t know what it is.

It may be a winner. It may not.

Trades for draft picks get mixed results

Trading to stockpile high draft picks is a valid strategy for rebuilding teams. But there’s no way to be sure where those picks are going to land in future years or what return you’ll be able to get with them.

The Dolphins may have gotten a bit too clever for their own good in the trades with the 49ers and Eagles, which netted an extra 2023 first-rounder and a 2022 third-round compensatory pick.

But they gave up the No. 3 pick this year, which was part of the 2019 trade with Houston for Pro Bowl offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil.

Consider that they essentially replaced Tunsil on the offensive line with Austin Jackson, who they took at No. 18 in 2020 with the pick obtained from Pittsburgh for defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Jackson was so-so as a rookie, though he has potential and may yet develop into a stalwart on the line. Fitzpatrick has been outstanding in two seasons for the Steelers, and right now that trade is a net loss for Miami.

As much as I like Flores as a coach, and I do, the personnel side of the Grier/Flores partnership has had ups and downs.

Yes, they have greatly improved the roster over the past two years and banked a 10-win season in 2020.

The really difficult challenge in the NFL is the steep climb from nine or 10 wins to 12 or 13 and a team capable of going deep in the playoffs.

To make that leap requires a roster with genuine stars who move the ball and make a difference in big games. Those type of players are notably absent from the Dolphins roster.

Playmakers for Tua must be priority No. 1

They hope Tagovailoa will grow into that description. They need to give him high-quality resources to make it happen.

This week’s deal that sent veteran guard Ereck Flowers to Washington added more mystery and intrigue than usual. Some interpreted it as a preface to drafting Sewell, with 2020 second-round pick Robert Hunt moving from right tackle to guard.

What the Flowers deal primarily did was create some needed salary cap space and cut ties with a player who wasn’t worth the three-year, $30 million contract they gave him as a free agent last year.

Sewell may well prove to be a cornerstone offensive tackle in the NFL. Can’t help recalling that Jake Long was supposed to be that when the Dolphins took him first overall in 2008 rather than Matt Ryan.

Long is long retired due to injuries and Ryan is still compiling hall of fame credentials for the Falcons, and may soon have Kyle Pitts to help finish the job.

Offensive lineman won’t cut it

The Dolphins took Jackson, Hunt and guard Solomon Kindley in the first four rounds last year. It’s up to Flores the coach to make those picks pay off through development.

It’s up to Grier the GM to add playmakers in this draft who can create magic with the ball in their hands.

I suspect they’ll end up with DeVonta Smith with the first of two first-round picks.

Maybe the Heisman Trophy winner, paired again with Tagovailoa, will prove as dominant a force for the Dolphins as he was for Alabama.

Or maybe they’ll rue letting Kyle Pitts get away.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

Twas the Night Before Draft Day

‘Twas the night before Draft Day, when all through the Rock
Not an analyst was stirring, not even a mock;
The draft boards were hung by the interns with care,
In hopes that at Six, Kyle Pitts would be there;
The Fins fans were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of Najee ran through their heads;
And Grier in his windbreaker, and Flo in his cap,
Are racking their brains if they need to trade back,
When on the TV there arose such a clatter,
I flipped on FS1 to see what’s the matter.
On Undisputed, there I saw a dumb clip,
Who’s that crazy old lady? Oh, it’s just Skip.
Saying go draft a QB on his tired old show,
As Dolphins Twitter answers, “nah bro, just no,”
Waddle, Chase, or Smith, it soon should be clear,
Which pass-catcher has the eye of Chris Grier,

Forgetting ’bout gasbags who only want clicks,
Dolphins fans remembered we have two first round picks.
Is it the o-line or weapons, who is to blame,
Tua’s needed help since Goodell called his name:
“Now, Sewell! now, Waddle! now Najee and Pitts!
On, Jenkins! on, Parsons! on, Creed and Smith!
At the top of the draft! to the agent, Grier calls!
To Dolphins’ Twitter’s chagrin, we can’t draft them all!”
Who doesn’t love Waddle, you know he can fly,
Sewell hasn’t played right tackle, but he said he could try;
A Heisman Trophy and a title with Tua,
Let’s not forget Devonta, who needs Cua Cua —
Watching the Bengals, in forever last place,
Praying they leave Pitts or at the very least, Chase.
Watching the centers, a drop would be nifty,
If Landon or Creed was there at pick 50.
We all know at some point, we’ll need a D-End,
But it’s just so tempting to think of Harris and Etienne;
A bundle of toys for the young quarterback,
Also some line help so he can avoid taking sacks.
Flo loves versatility, just look at Malcolm Perry!
We need a back who can catch, in addition to carry!
The Bears want us to trade back, but no that’s too low,
In the top 10 there’s groceries, for a dinner by Flo;
If you want to trade with Grier, just know he’s a thief,
“Add another first,” he says through gritted teeth;
I do love Creed Humphrey, like a young Ryan Kelly,
Gesicki’s the peanut butter, could Kyle Pitts be the jelly.
Will we see Greg or Jaelen, either end from the U,
Who’s the best of the edges, any one can be true;
Will there be a sleeper, found in late rounds,
With off-the-field problems, or too many pounds;
Saturday’s the end of a long spring of work,
GM’s are desperate not to be this year’s jerk,
Whatever will they do, almost no one knows,
Just please be better than the AFC foes;
Thinking of misses makes any fan bristle,
But a good draft haul steal, warrants any good whistle.
It’s finally here, and oh what a sight—
“Happy Draft Eve to all, and to all a good night!”

What Draft Precedents for Tight Ends Mean for Kyle Pitts

The 2021 NFL Draft is just 10 days away and while the top two picks appear to be etched in stone, the rest of the top 10 is still in flux. One of the more polarizing prospects in the mix is Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. The 2020 John Mackey Award winner is an enigma to a league that specializes in compartmentalizing its personnel.

Pitts is expected to be a candidate for the Atlanta Falcons at No. 4 if they decide not to draft the heir-apparent to Matt Ryan, or trade the pick to a quarterback-needy time with stars in their eyes for Trey Lance or Justin Fields. If he falls past Atlanta, many think he could go off the board a pick later to the Cincinnati Bengals. No one appears to have a clue where Cincinnati is leaning, be it to protect 2020 No. 1 pick Joe Burrow with an offensive tackle like Oregon’s Penei Sewell, or support his development with an additional weapon like Pitts or Burrow’s former teammate Ja’Marr Chase. 

Then there are the Miami Dolphins at No. 6, who like the Falcons with Hayden Hurst already have a dynamic pass-catching tight end in Mike Gesicki. That has not halted speculation that Pitts is a top target for general manager Chris Grier & Co. due in part to 2021 being a contract year for Gesicki. Miami could opt to create football’s best two-tight end set, or could opt to take a receiver like Chase or 2020 Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith. 

The general consensus, however, is even if somehow Pitts gets past Miami at six, there is a snowball’s chance in hell he gets past the eighth pick, be it selected by Carolina, or due to a trade up from someone else. That is how special Pitts is as a prospect, embodied best by his college coach Dan Mullen’s description of him as a “unicorn.” If Pitts is drafted eighth, it won’t raise many flags seeing as how tight end TJ Hockenson was selected by the Lions at eighth overall just two years ago. Seeing as how eighth is the absolute floor, it’s more likely that Pitts will find himself in less precedented waters.

If Pitts goes sixth to the Dolphins, it will mark the highest a tight end has been selected since the San Francisco 49ers took Vernon Davis out of Maryland sixth overall in 2006. If Cincinnati snatches him up at five, that will mark the third time in history a tight end was selected fifth overall, joining Houston’s Riley Odoms selected by the Denver Broncos in 1972 and Pittsburgh’s Mike Ditka taken by the Chicago Bears back in 1961. That’s where the precedent ends, however, as no tight end has ever been taken higher than five, meaning Atlanta would set a new mark for the position should they go with the Florida prospect.

So where does that leave us with Pitts? The NFL’s positional valuation is an ever-changing dynamic. For instance, in five of the last 10 years, the first running back was not taken off the board until the 20s. In the 10 years before that, that only happened one time. The opposite is true for quarterbacks as 22 signal-callers were taken in the top 10 from 2011-2020. From 2001-2010, 15 quarterbacks were selected in the top 10. Elite quarterbacks have always been taken near the top of the draft, but the reaches have grown even for the second-best QB prospect. In the last 10 years, the average selection for the second quarterback off the board is 9.9, compared to 15.5 in the 10 years prior. 

So, how should the NFL gauge tight end value relative to the draft? A total of 14 tight ends have been drafted in the top 10, with seven coming since 1980. Those seven are Hockenson (eighth in 2019), Eric Ebron (10th in 2014), Davis (sixth in 2006), Kellen Winslow, Jr. (sixth in 2004), Rickey Dudley (ninth in 1996), Kyle Brady (ninth in 1995), and Junior Miller (seventh in 1980). Out of those seven, three (Davis twice; Dudley, and Brady once each) appeared in Super Bowls in their careers, a good percentage. Unfortunately, only Davis appeared in one for the team that drafted him. He had a monster game of six catches on eight targets for 104 yards in the 49ers’ loss to the Ravens. The other three appearances saw Davis (with Denver), Dudley, and Brady combine for one catch on two targets for a total of three yards.

*****

While that provides some historical perspective over the decades, let’s look back at recent history. Here are the first tight ends off the board over the last decade:

2020: Cole Kmet taken in the second round, 43rd overall

2019: TJ Hockenson taken in the first round, eighth overall

2018: Hayden Hurst taken in the first round, 25th overall

2017: OJ Howard taken in the first round, 19th overall

2016: Hunter Henry taken in the second round, 35th overall

2015: Maxx Williams taken in the second round, 55th overall

2014: Eric Ebron taken in the first round, 10th overall

2013: Tyler Eifert taken in the first round, 21st overall

2012: Coby Fleener taken in the second round, 34th overall

2011: Kyle Rudolph taken in the second round, 43rd overall

Out of those 10, not one them has made a single All-Pro team in their career. Additionally, none of them played in a Super Bowl. Howard’s team made it to the 2020 Super Bowl, but he was sidelined with injury, and found himself all year in a logjam at the position with Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate, anyway. The All-Pro list over the last decade features a significant amount of redundancy as a handful of tight ends have dominated the spots.

2020: Travis Kelce, drafted third round (63rd overall) and was the fifth tight end taken

2019: George Kittle, drafted fifth round (146th overall) and was the ninth tight end taken

2018: Kelce

2017: Gronkowski, drafted second round (42nd overall) and was the second tight end taken 

2016: Kelce

2015: Gronkowski

2014: Gronkowski

2013: Jimmy Graham, drafted third round (95th overall) and was the fifth tight end taken

2012: Tony Gonzalez won the AP, drafted first round (13th overall) and was the first tight end taken; Gronkowski won the PFWA; Jason Witten won the SN, drafted third round (69th overall) and was the fourth tight end taken

2011: Gronkowski

****

So out of the last 10 years of All Pros, there were as many fifth round picks as first round picks, with Gonzalez as the lone player who was the first tight end taken in his draft class. While being the best at your position is well-and-good, football is a team sport where winning is what ultimately matters. Now, no one is ever going to say wins are a tight end statistic, but let’s take a look at the starting tight ends in the last 10 Super Bowls and see where they were picked and how they stacked up statistically that season.

2020: Kelce (3rd:63rd) vs Gronkowski (2nd::42nd)

Kelce was first in the NFL for yards as a tight end; Gronkowski was 10th

2019: Kelce vs Kittle (5th::146th)

Kelce was first in yards; Kittle was second

2018: Gronkowski vs Tyler Higbee (4th::110th)

Gronkowski was sixth in yards; Higbee was 29th

2017: Gronkowski vs Zach Ertz

Gronkowski was first in yards; Ertz was third

2016: Gronkowski vs Levine Toilolo (4th:133rd)

Gronkowski was *20th in yards; Toilolo was 40th

*Gronkowski played in just eight games with Martellus Bennett ranking ninth among tight ends in yards in 2016.

2015: Owen Daniels (4th:98th) vs Greg Olsen (1st:31st)

Daniels was 17th in yards; Olsen was 2nd

2014: Gronkowski vs Luke Willson (5th:158th)

Gronkowski was first in yards; Willson was 24th

2013: Julius Thomas (4th:129th) vs Zach Miller (2nd:38th)

Thomas was eighth in yards; Miller was 30th

2012: Dennis Pitta (4th:114th) vs Vernon Davis (1st:6th)

Pitta was 11th in yards; Davis was 17th

2011: Gronkowski vs Jake Ballard (Undrafted)

Gronkowski was first in yards; Ballard was 17th

Out of the 20 appearances by starting tight ends, more often than not the tight end was in the top 10 in the league in receiving yards at the position. It has become increasingly important, however, as in the last four Super Bowls, only Higbee was outside of the top 10 for the season as Gronkowski, Kelce, Kittle, and Ertz have shown to be the class of the position. 

Ultimately, a lot of this has putting the cart before the horse. After all, Pitts is just three years removed from his Senior Prom and despite looking like a fully grown man, will begin his rookie season at just the age of 20. If he lives up to the ceiling set for him by others and does go down as one of the best to ever play the position, he has a precedent set before him. A total of nine tight ends have been enshrined in Canton, Ohio as part of the Hall of Fame for their playing careers: Ditka, Mackey, Jackie Smith, Kellen Winslow, Sr., Ozzie Newsome, Dave Casper, Charlie Sanders, Shannon Sharpe, and Gonzalez. Out of those nine, almost half (Ditka, Winslow, Newsome, and Gonzalez) were all selected in the first round. 

What, if anything, does this really conclude? If you are one to look at patterns, you should be able to surmise that vastly more often than not, the tight end that ends up becoming the best in the league or helping his offense to a Super Bowl is not the first tight end taken, nor is it usually even in the first round. 

Conversely, Pitts is not being trumpeted because he’s a tight end. His respect and hype is due to talk about him being unlike any tight end we have seen come into the draft in a generation. If that is indeed true, then nothing else that’s happened in recent history should affect that thinking. Gronkowski is the most dominant tight end of this millennium, appearing in six of the last 10 Super Bowls and earning All-Pro honors in five of the last 10 seasons, despite taking a brief hiatus from the league in 2019. If a general manager believes that Pitts can be as transcendent of a player as Gronk has, then he would be wise to do what he can to get him.

No matter what, in just a few years time, all of will know whether or not unicorns are real.

THE EXTRA YARD: Alf’s 2021 NFL Mock Draft 3.0 FINAL

(This is a NO TRADE MOCK DRAFT. For more, download Three Yards Per Carry)

This is a No Trade Mock Draft, but there are two instances I do see the Miami Dolphins making a move with their 1st round picks. For one, if they are presented with a lucrative offer from the Broncos for #6 (swap), I do believe they would entertain it, having a reasonable expectation that Waddle or Smith will be there at #9.

The other instance I can see a trade, is in a Trade Down from #18 that lands them in a sweet spot before RB hot spots #24 (Steelers) or #30 (Bills) in order to gain an asset (or two) and land Najee Harris (or the Edge/LB of their choice) anyway, or possibly, a Travis Etienne. #18 is wide open, and all of these positions are in play with their 2nd pick in the 1st round (RB, Edge, LB, RT)

1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15)

Trevor Lawrence QB Clemson Junior 6’6″ 220 lbs

The Best QB Prospect since Andrew Luck. This time..for real.


2. New York Jets (2-14)

Zach Wilson QB BYU Junior 6’3″ 210 lbs

Zach Wilson really ran up boards in a short amount of time. The Jets went from a lock for Lawrence to blowing their draft position, to settling in and being happy with the BYU signal caller at #2.

3. San Francisco 49ers (6-10) (from Miami through Houston)

Trey Lance QB North Dakota State RS Sophomore 6’3″ 224 lbs

Some serious Tea Leaf reading suggested that this move up to #3 was made for Justin Fields. There are now reports that the 49ers have settled on Trey Lance or Mac Jones. This is not a spot where they really need to hide their intentions all that much, so I tend to believe these reports, but just refuse to believe this move was made for Mac Jones. Trey Lance goes here.

4. Atlanta Falcons (4-12)

Kyle Pitts TE Florida Junior 6’5″ 239 lbs

An extension for Matt Ryan, and one last shot at it with a Unicorn to pair with Ridley/Jones.

5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1)

Ja’Marr Chase WR LSU Junior 6’1″ 208 lbs

Rumors that Burrow is pushing for Chase, are just rumors (disputed), and Bengals brass need to protect their investment. Having said that, I think they convince themselves that the investments they made in Williams and Reiff is enough at the tackles, and they get Burrow his 2019 bestie.

6. Miami Dolphins (10-6) (from Philadelphia)

DeVonta Smith WR Alabama Senior 6’1″ 170 lbs

I wonder what the Dolphins brass would do, presented with the choice between Waddle and Smith. On one hand, Waddle is probably the better fit schematically. On the other hand, HIS TEAMMATE won the Heisman, had better numbers, and is objectively, the better player overall. It’s close, but Smith gets the nod. BTW, who would Tua pick?

7. Detroit Lions (5-11)

Jaylen Waddle WR Alabama Junior 5’10” 182 lbs

While Detroit sends away Golladay and Jones, they need talent at the position. This is a gift.

8. Carolina Panthers (5-11)

Penei Sewell OT Oregon Junior 6’5″ 325 lbs

A big move for Watson didn’t martialize, so a smaller move for Sam Darnold has them looking to bookend Taylor Moton (current RT) with the best Left Tackle in the draft.


9. Denver Broncos (5-11)

Justin Fields QB Ohio State Junior 6’3″ 223 lbs

Broncos have a pretty talented roster, but Drew Lock has not settled the QB position. He gets competition for it now.


10. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)

Patrick Surtain II CB Alabama Junior 6’1″ 203 lbs

A Cowboys defense that was historically bad, pairs one promising Bama CB (Trevon Diggs) with another.

11. New York Giants (6-10)

Micah Parsons LB Penn State Junior 6’2″ 245 lbs

Giants made an investment on skill talent, and were big spenders overall in free agency. Parsons gives them a signature player for the Defense.


12. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1) (from Miami Dolphins through San Francisco)

Jaycee Horn CB South Carolina Junior 6’1″ 205 lbs

Their gambit to move up for a QB didn’t work, so you add talent to a secondary that has been begging for upgrades for the last 3 years.

13. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9)

Rashawn Slater OT Northwestern Senior 6’4″ 315 lbs

With Herbert, Skill players in Tow, Tackle help is necessary with an aging Bryan Bulaga as the only reliable starter at OT.


14. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)

Christian Barmore IDL Alabama RS Sophomore 6’5″ 310 lbs

Vikings need new blood on the Defensive line, and get a 3 tech penetrator for the interior to help the front 7.

15. New England Patriots (7-9)

Mac Jones QB Alabama RS Junior 6’2.5″ 217 lbs

With J.C. Jackson ready to break the bank, and Gilmore on the way out, one of the top cornerbacks makes sense, but Mac Jones drops to them instead, and they invest in the QB of the future at #15.

16. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)

Zaven Collins LB Tulsa RS Junior 6’4″ 260 lbs

Cards have a need at Linebacker, the Edge (Age), and they get both in one package here. Zaven is a versatile 3 down player that this defense desperately needs.

17. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8)

Alijah Vera-Tucker IOL USC RS Junior 6’4″ 300 lbs

LT Kolton Miller gets a partner on the left side for now. Vera-Tucker has also played Left Tackle before, which affords the Raiders some flexibility in the future.


18. Miami Dolphins (10-6)

Najee Harris RB Alabama Senior 6’2″ 230 lbs

So many ways the Dolphins can go here, from reinforcing the Offensive line with Tevin Jenkins to getting another chess piece for Coach Flores on defense, but I settled where I started. There is enough smoke to suggest that new OC Eric Studesville will get his way on a back, and he gets RB1 here.

19. Washington Football Team (7-9)

Christian Darrisaw OT Virginia Tech Senior 6’5″ 314 lbs

A team building well at all positions, besides tackle, makes Darrisaw an obvious choice here.

20. Chicago Bears (8-8)

Teven Jenkins OT Oklahoma State RS Senior 6’6″ 315 lbs

Bears can use some skill talent, but it has to start up front with them. Jenkins is a perfect fit.

21. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

Jaelan Phillips EDGE Miami RS Junior 6’5″ 258 lbs

Colts can use a pass rusher, and Phillips may be the best off the edge for the job.


22. Tennessee Titans (11-5)

Caleb Farley CB Virginia Tech RS Junior 6’2″ 197 lbs

Titans can go in many directions (RT is one), and in this case, the BPA could be Caleb Farley, at a position (CB) that immediately helps an average secondary.


23. New York Jets (from Seattle 12-4)

Jalen Mayfield OT Michigan RS Sophomore 6’5″ 319 lbs

After drafting Wilson #2 overall, it makes a lot of sense to take a Right Tackle to play opposite of standout 1st rounder from last year, Mekhi Becton.


24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

Alex Leatherwood OT Alabama Senior 6’5″ 312 lbs

The Steelers have traditionally had strong offensive lines in the Big Ben era, but there was a noticeable dropoff last year. Leatherwood begins to rectify that a bit.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from LA Rams 10-6)

Asante Samuel Jr. CB Alabama Junior 5’10” 184 lbs

The defense needs help, and here they add a CB to pair with 2nd year player C.J. Henderson.


26. Cleveland Browns (11-5)

Kwity Paye EDGE Michigan Senior 6’4″ 277 lbs

Olivier Vernon’s injury leaves a vacancy opposite of all-world end Myles Garrett, who himself battled injury in 2020.


27. Baltimore Ravens (11-5)

Azeez Ojulari EDGE Georgia RS Sophomore 6’3″ 240 lbs

Ravens need some help on the edge, and Ojulari fits the bill as a WLB/EDGE pass rush specialist they desperately need. Ojulari steps in and plays important snaps right away.


28. New Orleans Saints (12-4)

Rashod Bateman WR Minnesota Junior 6’1″ 210 lbs

The Saints can go in many directions, so going with Bateman here makes sense to compliment Michael Thomas and a skill group that didn’t look as formidable last year, as it did in years past.


29. Green Bay Packers (13-3)

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah LB Notre Dame RS Junior 6’2″ 216 lbs

The Packers take a swing here on a day 1 starter, to compliment a pretty good LB corp. 3rd down defense can use a boost.

30. Buffalo Bills (13-3)

Javonte Williams RB North Carolina Junior 5’10” 220 lbs

Not a reach when there is a “run” on RB’s for 2021 standards. Bills would be content with any of the top 3 backs, and they get one of them here.

31. Baltimore Ravens (11-5) (From Kansas City)

Levi Onwuzurike IDL Washington RS Senior 6’3″ 290 lbs

Ravens can use help all along the defense, and it probably starts with the DL. Age, depth are issues, and several roles get filled with the 2nd of two first round picks.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)

Jayson Oweh EDGE Penn State RS Sophomore 6’5″ 257 lbs

The Bucs are clearly in BPA mode as they really have “everything”, so why not a high upside player at a premium position?

 

Alfredo Arteaga (@Alf_Arteaga) is one-third of the trio that does the Three Yards Per Carry (@3YardsPerCarry) podcast.

Miami Heat Respond to Jimmy Butler’s Tebow Moment

It was a rough time in Dadeland. Fresh off winning six of seven games, the Heat lost three-straight to the Suns, Nuggets, and Timberwolves by an average of 15 points per game. Each contest saw Miami jump out to big first quarter leads only to get manhandled in the second period of play.

Then, to cap it all off, Miami fans had to watch from afar as the embodiment of Heat Culture, Dwyane Wade, traded in bunuelos for wheat bread and took an ownership stake with the Utah Jazz. Seeing D-Wade getting a standing ovation in Salt Lake City is like seeing Ronald McDonald eating a Frosty; it just did not feel right. Nothing felt right. Not until Jimmy Butler stepped in with a quote that will one day be recited when Heat scholars tell their pupils, “please turn your pages to the Book of Butler, chapters 28-28.”

“It’s not frustrating because we do it so often,” Butler said, via ESPN. “It’s almost like it’s expected, in a bad way to put it. We just think we’re such a good team, and then reality hits us, we’re humbled. And I’m glad, because that’s what this game does for you. Home, away, no matter what opponent you’re playing against, you just stroll into the game thinking you’re nice, you’re good. This is what happens. I’m glad it happened to us. And if we don’t fix it, I hope it continues to happen to us.”

“We’re just being soft. That’s it,” Butler said. “Not getting into bodies, scared of some contact. Soft overall.”

Heat players being soft? What’s next? Kardashians looking physically natural? Tok Tok stars acting well-adjusted to society? Samuel L. Jackson cast in a PG movie? It just does not compute. Miami responded well to the call-out from their teammate, however, as the Heat reeled off a pair of wins. On Sunday afternoon, Bam Adebayo hit a buzzer beater to take down the James Harden-less Nets 109-107 before completing the back-to-back with a 113-91 demolition of the Houston Rockets, both games without Butler.

Miami will have to take that same attitude and apply it to the stretch run. There are 14 games remaining, with only two of the next nine coming against teams currently with winning records: the Hawks and Mavericks. Then, they close out the year with a pair of potentially vital-seeding games in Boston before coming home for a tilt with Philadelphia, then road games at Milwaukee and Detroit.

While some of pointed to Butler’s quote as further proof to the narrative he is a difficult teammate, I choose to view it as the opposite. Nothing has emanated from the Heat locker room about Butler being a bad teammate, and if anyone thinks blowing big lead after big lead culminating in a loss to the hapless T’Wolves is anything but soft, then well, they’re soft. Instead, I view it as more along the lines of Tim Tebow’s “Promise” which he delivered following a home loss in 2008 to Ole Miss. Afterwards, the Gators won their final eight regular season games, all by at least four touchdowns, before defeating No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oklahoma to win the national title.

Some say in life one has to hit rock bottom before realizing they need to change their actions. If losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves isn’t basketball’s equivalent to waking up freezing and destitute in a gutter, then what is? Miami (30-28) gets back to action Wednesday night with a road game in San Antonio.

Bam Adebayo Belongs in Defensive Player of the Year Discussion

The 2020-2021 NBA season is nearing its home stretch, and there’s a lot of awards talk starting to surface. The MVP race appears to be down to Joel Embiid vs. Nikola Jokic. The Most Improved Player award is being delivered to Julius Randle’s house as we speak. The Rookie of the Year might come down to whether or not LaMelo Ball finishes out the season with a certain number of games.

However, the Defensive Player of the Year award has been quite the topic recently among the basketball zeitgeist. You can hear the passionate pleas from Jazz fans pushing for their rim protector to win once more. You can also hear the case being made for Ben Simmons by Ben Simmons. The 76ers Point Guard has said he believes the award should be his. In a recent interview, he’s even pointed out how he thinks he’s the only one in the league who can guard guys like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

Those comments sure seemed to rile up Jazz fans who believe Rudy Gobert’s elite rim protection is more than enough to warrant the award. But no one in the general NBA stratosphere batted an eye, as they (and Ben Simmons) failed to realize there’s a 6’10 tall Center with a 7’3 wingspan in Miami who has been doing those things Simmons talked about. Bam Adebayo isn’t one to toot his own horn. And he isn’t one to make an extensive campaign for a regular-season award. That’s not how he’s wired, despite being as good as he is.

He’s not going to be out here doing interviews about how he can defend Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon in the same game at a high level. Adebayo lets his game do all the talking for him. It’s a far cry from the Center Miami used to employ not too long ago. And maybe that’s why Bam has been even more careful of being a team-first guy on and off the floor. He saw how Miami dealt with Hassan Whiteside’s brashness about awards and individual numbers and didn’t want to be seen as that kind of player in any way.

But I’m not Bam Adebayo, and I’m here to let you know that this 23-year-old star needs to be in the DPOY discussion of every pundit, message board, Twitter thread, and barbershop. Adebayo is a truly astonishing defensive player to watch on a nightly basis. He puts on defensive masterclasses every game. When you watch him on every possession, he does so much to muck up the opposition’s game plan. He’s the powerful wrench Erik Spoelstra can unleash to make most offenses second guess their next move.

Rudy Gobert is an elite rim protector and can deter so many people away with his presence. But it’s not like Adebayo is a slouch on that end, allowing a -6.6 DIFF% at the rim. It may not be Gobert’s -13.8 or Myles Turner’s -13.7, but it doesn’t need to be because Bam doesn’t allow guys to get to the rim in the first place. Turner and Gobert play in systems that funnel guys into the paint for them to deter. Adebayo plays in a system where he’s out on the perimeter as the first and then the last line of defense. There is no Heat defensive system without the unicorn that is Bam.

Myles Turner is an amazing rim protector, but I’ll scoff at you if you think he should be in the conversation ahead of Adebayo. Bam has to fill the role of point of attack defender while also being the rim protector. He hasn’t been able to rely on any of his guards all year, especially with Oladipo out with injury. The defensive burden he’s had to carry this season is truly remarkable.

The man blows up so much of what most teams like to do by presenting the opposition with a Rubix cube of defensive wizardry. Coaches and offenses have to find their way around the Adebayo conundrum. Recently teams have begun to use Bam’s willingness to switch against him by getting mismatches in the post. The unnecessary switches are something Bam does need to clean up, and I’m sure he will. He has the right coach and assistants for the job.

Think of how much of a First Defensive World Problem that is? The starting Center is so elite on the perimeter that teams can’t go at him with their Guards and Wings. Teams are changing the way they play to get around dealing with him. And man, how those teams hate dealing with his perimeter defense. This is a Center that held Kyrie Irving to 0-8 shooting. On the season, he’s held All-Stars like Steph Curry to 1-5 shooting, Domantas Sabonis to 2-6, LeBron James to 2-8, Giannis Antetokounmpo to 5-13, and Julius Randle to 7-22.

Lost in those statistics are the shots they don’t take because of how pesky Bam can be. They try some dribbling and basically throw in the towel because they can’t get around a mobile wall that moves laterally. Players look like they’re dribbling the air out of the ball instead of running an actual offense. Bam stands his ground like a soldier protecting his fort. Sliding his feet in a perfect defensive stance that would make any level of basketball coach proud. The sheer intimidation he gives staring at the offensive player’s soul, knowing they don’t have a plan. He feels powerful therefore rendering the opposition powerless. They’ve already lost before they can even think about the next move.

The ones who are lucky to see the rim will still be met with a fight they’ll need to win by K.O. There’s a reason his most famous playoff moment was a stunning block on Jayson Tatum. He still has the timing of a Batman villain obsessed with clocks. Don’t think treading lightly in the paint will do you any favors. Bam works so tirelessly to keep you from the rim and if you’re lucky enough to make it there, you’ll be met with his powerful presence there too.

This is only the beginning of Bam’s journey. If he doesn’t win this year, he’ll more than likely get one before it’s all said and done. Why do I feel so certain about that? Because he’s one of the hardest workers the team’s ever had. Everyone raves about his work ethic and how much he strives to get better. Any smudge in his defensive game, he’ll look to clean up with gusto. Be grateful that this tireless leader is your franchise player, Heat fans. Players like this don’t come around often, and you’ve had the privilege of seeing both Alonzo Mourning and now his rightful defensive heir.

An heir pulling triple duty as Miami’s rim protector, perimeter wrench, and intimidating help defender. Bam’s keeping your team away from the rim and away from your usual playbook. It seems as if Ben Simmons and the DPOY voters haven’t heard of Bam Adebayo: but his defensive play is all you need to hear. The Defensive Player of the Year conversation is seen as a two-horse race when there’s a thoroughbred in the stables quietly awaiting his turn.

Jimmy Butler’s Needed Boiling Point

 

MIAMI, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 29: Bam Adebayo #13 and Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat prior to the game against the Atlanta Hawks at American Airlines Arena on October 29, 2019 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

It was an ugly night of basketball once again for the Miami Heat against the last-place Minnesota Timberwolves. It was the same story Miami had seen over the past two games against the Suns and Nuggets. A decent first quarter followed by an immediate avalanche of disappointment. All the defensive habits they had built up were getting torn down brick by brick in the past few games. Those tendencies had now spilled over to a game against a much worse team than those Western Conference contenders they faced. A wrecking ball seemingly tore down what little remained.

It was all crumbling down in front of the team in so many ways. The face on Jimmy Butler throughout the game said it all. He looked around the floor for any semblance of a spark from that same flame that used to burn so bright. A flame that allowed him to entrust the team with a portion of his genius-level athletic prime that we’ve been so lucky to witness. Butler rarely ever hides his emotions on the floor. You can always catch him laying onto guys when they’re not where they’re supposed to be — but this was different. The amount of slumped shoulders from Jimmy were eye-opening. It was as though he couldn’t recognize who these guys on the floor were. He rarely needed to go Alpha Mode for them last year – another reason he adored the 2019-2020 team.

The guys he fell in love with, like Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro, aren’t rewarding him, in the same way. But there he was going Finals mode, posting a 30 point near triple-double with that same elite defense we’ve grown accustomed to. But to need that against the Timberwolves? It seemed like he was starting to realize what everyone else could see.

Those same dreary thoughts that probably occurred on the floor seemed to have made their way onto the postgame Zoom calls. And it was jarring to hear if you’ve followed Jimmy Butler’s tenure with the Heat. Jimmy’s always believed in the guys he shares the court with — but this was not the same spiel everyone had heard before. “A loss is a loss to me. We don’t deserve to win when we take these things lightly. We look bad.” These words are a far cry from the usual “we know what we’re capable of” talk that Jimmy had kept saying in previous pressers. Now you hear stuff like “we’re just being soft” because he’s tired of coddling this group, and it could not come any sooner.

He came to Miami because he knew everyone held each other accountable as much as possible. He’s putting on his Big Boy Pants and letting the team know that the leash is getting shorter than Erik Spoelstra’s on KZ Okpala. “I don’t know what team is going to show up on any given night.” Jimmy is echoing the sentiments felt by so many of the fans and, more than likely, the front office as well.

The unquestioned leader of the Heat is taking it upon himself to hold up the mirror to the rest of the group. He’s letting them know that this isn’t going to cut it. This isn’t the same team he put his faith into. The player who famously called out the very same Timberwolves they just lost to doesn’t want those same tendencies crawling their way into the Heat. He’s already dealt with that once, and he certainly doesn’t want to put on his Rolex and embarrass Tyler Herro in practice. It’s only appropriate that he also spoke after the game about wanting more from his fellow All-Star in Bam Adebayo. “I want Bam to attack the rim because nobody can stand in front of him. I like the mid-range jumper, but he lets people off the hook.” I say it’s appropriate because this came against his former teammate in Karl Anthony-Towns, who similarly frustrated him.

Jimmy sees something more in Bam, and so does the rest of the fanbase. These comments seemingly contradicted Erik Spoelstra’s earlier ones about how Bam’s offense isn’t his main issue or the number of shots he’s taking don’t matter to him. Jimmy Butler knows it’s time to unleash that lion from his cage of passing tendencies. You could almost see the Jack Nicholson nodding gifs from the Heat fans after these comments. He’s almost as tired of hearing about the aggressive comments as everyone else on Twitter seems to be.

Jimmy Butler is in “I’m done being nice” mode. He’s finally laying it out on the table. He wants his teammates to justify his love and confidence in them. If putting on some tough love is what it takes, so be it. It feels like he knows it’s a breaking point of the season. Maybe he knows that the Victor Oladipo injury might have taken the air out of the room that was starting to regain its oxygen. “I don’t know what team is going to show up on any given night,” Jimmy exclaimed at the press conference. He wants to go back to that team he knew he could count on to give their all and instill their will on opponents. He wants that team that showed up against the Trailblazers, but consistently.

Butler is finished guessing and is trying to reignite that flame that fueled them all the way to the Finals last year. He’s tired of seeing a listless, lifeless, and sometimes disjointed team on the floor. It’s not only a boiling point for Jimmy Butler but a possible turning point for the team going forward.

These aren’t “toxic” quotes of a man who’s looking to leave — these are needed musings of a frustrated superstar. Sometimes you need to delve into the messy part of yourself as a leader. He’s put the metaphorical ball in the court of his teammates; now it’s up to them to take the ball and go home or go strong to the hole. This coming month and a half will tell us what this team is made of. Maybe they hear that Victor Oladipo is on his way back and get a lift from it, as well as the Butler comments, and proceed to go on a run. Or maybe they hear he’ll be out for another 3 weeks, and they’ll crumble like a Jenga tower during an earthquake. One thing’s for sure; Jimmy’s going to do everything in his power to raise the ceiling. It’s up to everyone else to put in their end of the deal, or there might be drastic changes to the team this offseason.

Trusting the Defensive Process of Erik Spoelstra


Erik Spoelstra is a known mad scientist when it comes to the atmosphere of the NBA playoffs. He knows what the strengths of his team are and how to maximize them to their potential. Last season, we saw the team go from a drop-centric scheme throughout the regular season into a high-flying hyperactive switching group of maniacs with Jae Crowder’s insertion into the starting lineup. It’s no secret that Coach Spoelstra is a master of adapting his scheme to the roster’s strengths and weaknesses. The guy squeezed a top 10 defense out of a lineup that had no business in doing so in 2016-2017. You give Erik Spoelstra lemons, and he’s making lemonade with a 4-course meal on the side.

In his tenure with the Heat, he’s made sure to help his team build habits throughout the course of a season. Spoelstra has never worried about a singular regular-season game but about what direction the team trends in the season as a whole. He knows the goal should be to smooth out those edges so that in the playoffs, you know your identity just as well as you know the back of your hand. This then allows you to enforce your will on your opponent to the point where they’re succumbing to it. Doing all of this while still being flexible enough to make adjustments in the margins is what makes him such an outstanding coach.

Fans of the team recently had some questions about the defensive scheme they played against the Memphis Grizzlies. Everyone wondered why they continued blitzing pick and rolls with guys like Grayson Allen or Killian Tillie as the ball handler. When, in reality, the fans should have been asking why the rotations weren’t up to snuff. Or why they allowed so much dribble penetration even though limiting such action is a staple of Miami’s identity.

At that moment, it seems easy to ask, “why are they not switching to a drop coverage?” Yes, I asked similar questions, but everyone needs to take a step back for a minute and remember what coach you’re dealing with. Coach Spoelstra has only so much time left before the playoffs begin and plenty of new additions he’s looking to integrate into the system. He knows he needs to start nudging the pieces closer and closer together. The Grizzlies found the seams in the defense, and Miami wasn’t sharp on their rotations, and the team knows that. Coach Spo, after the game, stated that a lot of their open looks “weren’t scheme related.” Bam Adebayo shared similar sentiments when he said “late rotations, lock of communications” and “defensive reps” were the cause of the trouble. It’s not really something fans want to hear, but you realize just how far off the Heat were in executing their game plan when looking back at the game. The inordinate amount of dribble penetration to the lack of knowing who would be where on the weakside help.

In the play above, you can see Miami blitzing Ja, as is their game plan, but Duncan Robinson sits in No Man’s Land for the slightest second after the blitz. He relaxes for a millisecond, not really guarding anyone before realizing Jimmy has Kyle Anderson and that he needs to head over to the man in the corner. Props to Duncan for even getting a semi-contest in this spot, though. He did well enough to get out there, but this is also credit to Memphis for making the right read and keeping Miami on their heels as they did all night.

Above is an example of the rare dribble penetration allowed throughout the game. Jimmy takes a really rare bad angle on Brooks as soon as he heads towards the ball. Iguodala and Bjelica both give a semi-dig, but they’re worried about their men getting an open corner 3 or a dump-off pass. These sorts of plays happened a lot, and if it wasn’t a layup like the play above, it was a Grizzlies player collapsing the defense and forcing scrambling rotations.

It was a mess all around, but it’s a necessary one for a team who wants to make sure these sorts of things don’t happen once the playoffs come around. It’s a process, and the coaching staff knows it. They’re not trying to hunt wins – they’re trying to get ready for the primary hunt that is the playoff beast. In doing this, the team and staff hope that the wins will start stringing along as those smudges get cleaner and cleaner.

It was no surprise that in the next game against Portland, the rotations and communications were about as crisp as it gets. The team learned from their mistakes and were back to that defense everyone had grown accustomed to. Everyone was making the rotations a second faster than before, and a second in NBA game terms is a lifetime. The defense that Miami wants to run requires those rotations to be on point and you need to get as much cleaned up in the meantime as possible.

Whether it’s against Grayson Allen or Damian Lillard or Jayson Tatum in the future, the Heat knows what they need to do to reach another level. The switching style they play is going to pay dividends once the postseason starts. Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler blow up so much of what the opposition wants to do already. It’ll be even better in the homestretch as Jimmy Butler continues being a better Free Saftey than prime Earl Thomas. The defense they’re playing right now will be important for their playoff success more than switching to a drop scheme for a game in the middle of a messy covid protocol-filled season. Good habits are built stronger if you don’t deviate from them, and Miami will make sure that they have those habits now so that they don’t have to do it in the middle of a playoff series.

This definitely doesn’t mean Miami won’t adjust when it comes to the playoffs. Again, Erik Spoelstra is a magician when it comes to in-series adjustments. But they need to have an identity they can rely on to help get them there. Remember when not too long ago, the fans were even questioning what exactly their identity was? They’re already in a much better place than they were not even two and a half months ago. And having a defensive identity isn’t anything new to Miami Heat teams since Erik Spoelstra took over. Since he became the Head Coach, the Heat have been top 10 in defensive rating 9 of his 13 seasons (including this year.) And 3 of those remaining seasons, they were right on edge sitting at 11th. Hell, it’s been that way going back to when Pat Riley arrived in 1995. So those messy nights may happen here and there, yes. It’ll just be up to the team to make sure they don’t happen too frequently. Ironing out the mistakes in the regular season will lead to a smoother time in the playoffs. As always, Trust the Spocess.

 

Marco Romo can be found at @MarcoRomo_ on Twitter

 

THE EXTRA YARD: Alf’s 2021 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

(This is a NO TRADE MOCK DRAFT. For more, download Three Yards Per Carry)

 

1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15)

Trevor Lawrence QB Clemson Junior 6’6″ 220 lbs

The Best QB Prospect since Andrew Luck. This time..for real.

2. New York Jets (2-14)

Zach Wilson QB BYU Junior 6’3″ 210 lbs

Zach Wilson really ran up boards in a short amount of time. The Jets went from a lock for Lawrence to blowing their draft position, to settling in and being happy with the BYU signal caller at #2.

3. San Francisco 49ers (6-10) (from Miami through Houston)

Justin Fields QB Ohio State Junior 6’3″ 223 lbs

Some serious Tea Leaf reading suggests that this move up to #3 was made for Justin Fields.

4. Atlanta Falcons (4-12)

Trey Lance QB North Dakota State RS Sophomore 6’3″ 224 lbs

An extension for Matt Ryan, but the talent of Trey Lance is undeniable. New regime, new vision, new QB for Atlanta.

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5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1)

Ja’Marr Chase WR LSU Junior 6’1″ 208 lbs

Rumors that Burrow is pushing for Chase, are just rumors (disputed), and after mocking several players here, the pull of reuniting Chase with Burrow is too much. Good skill group gets better.

6. Miami Dolphins (10-6) (from Philadelphia)

Kyle Pitts TE Florida Junior 6’5″ 247 lbs

I have wondered what the choice would be between Chase, Pitts, Smith, and while I have always thought that Smith gets the nod over Chase, I believe they view Pitts as that Unicorn you can’t pass up.

7. Detroit Lions (5-11)

DeVonta Smith WR Alabama Senior 6’1″ 170 lbs

While Detroit sends away Golladay and Jones, they need talent at the position. This is a gift.

8. Carolina Panthers (5-11)

Penei Sewell OT Oregon Junior 6’5″ 325 lbs

A big move for Watson didn’t materialize, but one for Sam Darnold did. They give it a go with Darnold, by getting him the best tackle in this draft.


9. Denver Broncos (5-11)

Mac Jones QB Alabama RS Junior 6’2.5″ 217 lbs

Broncos have a pretty talented roster, but Drew Lock has not settled the QB position.  He gets competition for it now.


10. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)

Patrick Surtain II CB Alabama Junior 6’1″ 203 lbs

A Cowboys defense that was historically bad, pairs one promising Bama CB (Diggs) with another.

11. New York Giants (6-10)

Micah Parsons LB Penn State Junior 6’2″ 245 lbs

Giants made an investment on skill talent, and were big spenders overall in free agency.  Parsons gives them a signature player for the Defense.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1) (from Miami Dolphins through San Francisco)

Jaylen Waddle WR Alabama Junior 5’10” 182 lbs

Their gambit to move up for a QB didn’t work, so you have to give Jalen Hurts every opportunity to succeed. The move down from #6 pays big dividends.

13. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9)

Rashawn Slater OT Northwestern Senior 6’4″ 315 lbs

With Herbert, Skill players in Tow, Tackle help is necessary with an aging Bryan Bulaga as the only reliable starter at OT.


14. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)

Caleb Farley CB Virginia Tech RS Junior 6’2″ 197 lbs

Farley has a real case for CB1, and the Vikings should be over the moon to get him here.


15. New England Patriots (7-9)

Jaycee Horn CB South Carolina Junior 6’1″ 205 lbs

With J.C. Jackson ready to break the bank, and Gilmore on the way out, Horn makes too much sense here at #15.

16. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)

Najee Harris RB Alabama Senior 6’2″ 230 lbs

Cards continue to add to a stacked offense. Big numbers are expected for Kyler Murray and this offense.

 

17. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8)

Alijah Vera-Tucker IOL USC RS Junior 6’4″ 300 lbs

LT Kolton Miller gets a partner on the left side for now. Vera-Tucker has also played Left Tackle before, which affords the Raiders some flexibility in the future.

18. Miami Dolphins (10-6)

Travis Etienne RB Clemson Senior 5’10” 215 lbs

While all the noise has been about Najee Harris, Travis Etienne has quietly gone under the radar. Etienne was a top of many boards for the 2020 draft, Dolphins get him a year later. CO-OC Eric Studesville has (correctly) pounded the table for a RB before. He gets rewarded for it here.

19. Washington Football Team (7-9)

Christian Darrisaw OT Virginia Tech Senior 6’5″ 314 lbs

A team building well at all positions, besides tackle, makes Darrisaw an obvious choice here.

 

20. Chicago Bears (8-8)

Teven Jenkins OT Oklahoma State RS Senior 6’6″ 315 lbs

Bears can use some skill talent, but it has to start up front with them. Jenkins is a perfect fit.

 

21. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

Jaelan Phillips EDGE Miami RS Junior 6’5″ 258 lbs

Colts can use a pass rusher, and Phillips may be the best off the edge for the job.


22. Tennessee Titans (11-5)

Jalen Mayfield OT Michigan RS Sophomore 6’5″ 319 lbs

Titans can use a ready made Right Tackle to start on day 1 and Jalen is it. After their failed Isaiah Wilson experiment, they finally get it right here, for an AFC contender reliant on a sledge hammer run game.

 

23. New York Jets (from Seattle 12-4)

Rashod Bateman WR Minnesota Junior 6’1″ 210 lbs

Zach Wilson early. Get him a weapon later. Bateman is a physical chain mover, perfect as a security blanket for a rookie QB.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

Asante Samuel Jr. CB Florida State Senior 5’10” 185 lbs

Steelers can go in many directions, and one of them is an immediate need. A CB to pair with standout Joe Haden is of the upmost importance.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from LA Rams 10-6)

Greg Newsome II CB Northwestern Junior 6’1″ 190 lbs

The defense needs help, and here they add a CB to pair with 2nd year player C.J. Henderson.


26. Cleveland Browns (11-5)

Kwity Paye EDGE Michigan Senior 6’4″ 277 lbs

Olivier Vernon’s injury leaves a vacancy opposite of all-world end Myles Garrett, who himself battled injury in 2020.

 

27. Baltimore Ravens (11-5)

Jayson Oweh EDGE Penn State RS Sophomore 6’5″ 257 lbs

Has that rangy, long, edge defender look that the Ravens love.  Oweh in time develops into a consistent threat to QB’s off the edge.


28. New Orleans Saints (12-4)

Zaven Collins LB Tulsa RS Junior 6’4″ 260 lbs

This Defense is/was begging for a versatile LB to pair with Zach Baun. Collins is a similar player to Baun, but quite possibly the clear cut BPA at this point.


29. Green Bay Packers (13-3)

Christian Barmore IDL Alabama RS Sophomore 6’5″ 310 lbs

The Packers take a swing here on a day 1 starter, to compliment Kenny Clark on the interior DL.

 

30. Buffalo Bills (13-3)

Javonte Williams RB North Carolina Junior 5’10” 220 lbs

Not a reach when there is a “run” on RB’s for 2021 standards. Bills would be content with any of the top 3 backs, and they get one of them here.

 

31. Kansas City Chiefs (14-2)

Alex Leatherwood OT Alabama Senior 6’5″ 312 lbs

A Team that jettisoned both starting tackles, replaces one with a 2020 draft pick (Lucas Niang), the other with Leatherwood after a precipitous drop.

 

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)

Levi Onwuzurike IDL Washington RS Senior 6’3″ 290 lbs

What do you get the team that has everything? A versatile interior Defensive lineman for the rotation is my guess.

Alfredo Arteaga (@Alf_Arteaga) is one-third of the trio that does the Three Yards Per Carry (@3YardsPerCarry) podcast.