Sun Sentinel Broward Edition
Ex-Dolphins GM’s mock draft surprise
Notes on a pandemic scorecard: Former Miami Dolphins football czar Mike Tannenbaum worked with General Manager Chris Grier, preceded him in that seat and, yes, failed at these similar draft decisions too many times. But he has an insider’s view to Grier, so of all the mock drafts filling the ether, his matters more.
Tannenbaum has the Dolphins picking LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase with the sixth pick. No debate there. The interesting part of that pick is Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, seen by many as a coin flip with Chase for top receiver, doesn’t go in Tannenbaum’s draft until 12th to Philadelphia.
At No. 18, he has the Dolphins taking USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. There would be some furor with that, because the Dolphins would pass on running backs such as Travis Etienne or Najee Harris. But you know what? Running backs shouldn’t be taken in the first round unless you’re a built team. The Dolphins aren’t built.
The next big trade decision in South Florida is from the top team in hockey (as of Tuesday morning): Do the Panthers trade their better goaltender as of now?
Chris Driedger is the backup to Sergei Bobrovsky — at least by title and by Bobrovsky’s $72 million contract. But Driedger, 26, a career minor league, is having a breakout year. He’s outplaying Bobrovsky and every other NHL goalie except Andre Vasilevski of Tampa Bay right now.
Entering Tuesday’s game at Carolina, Driedger is the league’s second-ranked goalie with a .931 save percentage and 2.05 goalsagainst per game. Bobrovsky ranks 22nd in the league at a .910 save percentage with 2.79 goals against.
The Panthers obviously want Bobrovsky to seize the job, considering the investment in him. He’s started 12 of the past 20 games since February. He’s 9-3 in those games with a .919 save percentage and 2.58 goalsagainst average. Driedger, while 5-3 in that span, has a better .931 save percentage and 1.6 in goals against
The dilemma: He’s also a freeagent at year’s end. The added dilemma: Do you trust Driedger in his first playoffs - if he’d continue to play like this?
First-year General Manager Bill Zito has pushed the right buttons in getting to this surprise point. The Panthers are in position to do something they haven’t in a quarter-century — win a playoff series. Part of that is getting the right series. You’d hate to leave that to chance by trading Driedger if it wasn’t an overwhelming return.
What’s a 17th game mean to the Dolphins? It means you’d better grade players for cold-weather games, too. Games at New England, Buffalo or New York probably will be a week deeper into winter the way the schedules set up. Another question for Tua: Can his average-strength arm win with the January wind whipping in Foxboro or Orchard Park?
The Heat remain the only team in South Florida that doesn’t throw away seasons in the name of “rebuild” and still win more than everyone. That counts for a lot, doesn’t it?
Question: When’s the last time the Dolphins successfully used a first-round pick on an outside receiver? (for answer, see below.)
Kudos to Marlins CEO Derek Jeter for putting his name behind a statement against Georgia’s controversial voting law. The easy thing to do would be to simply sign it with an opaque organizational name — “The Miami Marlins.” That’s what the Heat did after Meyers Leonard’s use of an anti-Jewish slur that should have the name of owner Micky Arison or president Pat Riley behind it.
Yankees fans booed Giancarlo Stanton on Opening Day. Let that sink in when you wonder why the Marlins had to get rid of his contract.
Draftnik time: ESPN’s Todd McShay called Florida’s Pitts, “the most dominant player in college football last year.” He said of Patriots coach Bill Belichick,
“With all the money they spent on the tight ends and wide receivers, it feels like they have the opportunity to package some picks and move up to get a quarterback.” He said both Miami defensive ends Jaelan Phillips and Greg Rousseau going in the first round, but ranked them so close it depends on what style the team wants.
By the way, baseball’s decision to pull the All-Star Game from Atlanta wasn’t a political one. It’s not the sport being woke. Baseball is the least-woke major sport. It has 15 Black managers in its history. No majority owners are Black. This was a business decision all the way. When major Atlanta companies like Delta and Coca-Cola came out against the law, Commissioner Rob Manfred saw an All-Star event swamped in controversy in the city of Hank Aaron and the state of Jackie Robinson. He saw a quagmire coming. He picked up his ball and is going elsewhere.
Connecting dots: Manfred was in Miami for the Marlins opener Thursday just before the All-Star game was removed from Atlanta. Is Miami the destination?
The only question with VeraTucker would be how much the Dolphins have over-invested at guard. In the past three drafts, they’d have taken a first, third and fourth pick — maybe a second, too, depending where Robert Hunt ends up. Plus, they’ve wildly overpaid Ereck Flowers at $10 million a year.
Paul Pierce, a former Celtic and noted Heat basher, was fired by ESPN for posting racy videos on social media. Karma? No, just dumb.
Trivia answer: Dolphins GM Joe Thomas traded the No. 4 pick in 1970 for Paul Warfield. So many good draft decisions go back to Thomas, you have to ask why his name isn’t in the Ring of Honor.