There’s nothing in sports surrounded by more subterfuge than the NFL Draft. And in evaluating the accuracy of information, here’s a key: who’s telling who. For example, if an NFL team’s scout tells a player’s coach that his team is interested in that coach’s player, that has a lot more credibility that one team’s scout telling another team’s scout.
That said, my belief — from what I’m hearing — is that if for whatever reason Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t end up with the Dolphins, another quarterback that intrigues them is Utah State’s Jordan Love.
Whether the Dolphins would consider Love with their second or third picks in the first round is highly questionable; my sense is there would be a greater comfort level in the second round in a no-Tua scenario. But it’s questionable if he will last that long.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay and Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy don’t yet have him as a first-rounder; others — such as The Athletic’s Dane Brugler — have him going in the 20s.
At the very least, Miami likes Love’s skill set and wants to learn more.
As for Tagovailoa, it was reinforced to us how much the Dolphins like him (no surprise there). But it was also reinforced that Miami must be thoroughly comfortable with his medicals in March and April to draft him. And that answer is unknown until he moves further from November’s hip surgery.
The Dolphins will continue to evaluate other quarterbacks, but when I asked about the possibility of waiting until 2021 for a franchise quarterback, that notion was by no means dismissed. That’s not the preference — and Tagovailoa is of great interest to the Dolphins if he checks out medically — but my sense is Miami isn’t going to overdraft a quarterback or force the issue, either.
The Dolphins know they have the ammunition to trade up for a quarterback in 2021 (Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State’s Justin Fields), if it comes to that, though they would need to hope that teams at the top of the draft would be willing to deal.
And a team source emphasized that general manager Chris Grier believes how these quarterbacks comport themselves in interviews is a key component to his evaluation. The Dolphins want natural leaders at the position.
As for Love, there’s no question about the physical talent, the arm strength and the ability to fit the ball into tight spaces.
But with a supporting cast with limited talent, his numbers fell off dramatically, from 32 touchdowns, six interceptions and a 64 completion percentage in 2018 to 20, 17 and 61.9 this past season. He completed 15 of 30 passes for 130 yards and three interceptions against LSU.
Draft analyst Tony Pauline notes that “Love’s 2019 college football season parallels what Josh Allen suffered through as a junior at Wyoming.” And Allen helped lead Buffalo to the playoffs in his second season.
The Dolphins will get to closely evaluate Love in the coming weeks, beginning with next week’s Senior Bowl in Mobile.
“I’ve compared Jordan coming to our game to Josh Allen two years ago,” Nagy told me. “Josh’s last year at Wyoming wasn’t great. Josh looked like he was pressing on tape, and that is what looks like happened to Love.
“Love had first-round love over the summer. The change in system and Jordan trying to do too much, you could see it on tape. He can right the ship in Mobile like Josh did. Don’t know that he could rise to seventh overall like Allen did. For most teams, Jordan is squarely in the second round. He’s really a natural thrower. He’s got such a natural stoke and release.”
Other quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl next week: Oregon’s Justin Herbert (the Dolphins have done a lot of work on him) and four quarterbacks who could be third-day picks: Washington State’s Anthony Gordon, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, Michigan’s Shea Patterson and Colorado’s Steven Montez.
Nagy’s thoughts on those five QBs:
▪ Herbert: “Justin has all the talent in the world. You look for guys with things your coaching staff can’t coach. He has all those things: size, athleticism, cannon for an arm and extremely intelligent. I think he plans on becoming a doctor one day.
“If you’re a buyer into Justin Herbert, the upside is he’s very raw still. He’s never had a quarterback guru. Most of these kids have someone working with them from middle school all the way through college. Seeing him at the Manning camp last summer, they would be chomping at the bit to work with him.
“There are some things — footwork and upper body mechanics stuff — he can tighten up [that could limit] some of the inconsistencies you see on tape with accuracy. I told him when he accepted our invite, I said his best football is ahead of him.”
▪ Hurts: “Jalen has come very far from a quarterback skill set standpoint. A couple years ago he was primarily just a runner. You were worried about a projection to the next level. Dan Enos put in good time with Jalen at Alabama, and give Jalen a ton of credit; he’s a tireless worker. He has progressed quite a bit as a passer and still has the run skill set you love.
“I would equate him with [former Penn State starter and current Ravens No. 3 QB] Trace McSorley, a really good athlete, tough, rugged, good runner. The guy who really helps Jalen is [Dallas quarterback] Dak Prescott; there were a lot of the same questions about Dak with accuracy and system conversion. Both are really strong leaders.”
▪ Gordon: “He got beat out in a pretty tight QB competition August 2018 with Gardner Minshew and looking what Gardner did going 6-6 as a rookie starter on a pretty average Jacksonville team and being the highest-rated rookie quarterback, that will help Anthony going through the process.
“Minshew was grossly underdrafted. It will be a slow momentum build for Anthony because any time you’re a scout and have a one-year starter at quarterback, you want to make him earn the grade. The thing that sticks out is his release; he’s got the quickest release I’ve seen in a few years. His feet don’t have to be right; he has some sandlot to his game.”
▪ Montez: “Steven Montez is a little like Herbert in the sense he has all the tools — big kid, really good athlete for a big guy, can buy time for himself, has good arm strength. Can make every single throw. A little inconsistent, which is frustrating at times. In his defense, he’s had different coordinators and that’s hard on a college quarterback. He’s a guy teams want to get another look at it.”
▪ Patterson: “Shea Patterson is a prime example of why we exhaust the entire college season before we send all our invites. Shea played himself into the game the last month of the year. You saw this year when he finally got settled in with Josh Gattis as his coordinator he looked like a different player.
“At Mississippi, he looked like Johnny Manziel 2.0. He’s got mobility, can extend plays and does have arm talent. I’m not saying he’s Pat Mahomes by any stretch, but he’s the guy people point to making those different arm angle throws. He’s one of those guys that makes you rewind the tape on some of his throws because he throws from different slots. At the very minimum, you’ve got a guy you can put in the game and move him around.”
Players at the Senior Bowl who could be in the mix for Miami’s picks at 18 and 26 include LSU cornerback Kristian Fulton, South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw and Alabama linebacker Terrell Lewis. The one UM player at the game: defensive lineman Trevon Hill.
DEFENSIVE ASSISTANT HIRED
The Dolphin hired University of Michigan linebackers coach Anthony Campanile for a role as a defensive assistant coach.
Campanile was co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Boston College in 2018.
Campanile, 37, was a former linebacker and safety at Rutgers. In the past two weeks, he turned down defensive coordinator offers from Rutgers and Boston College. He previously was wide receivers and tight ends coach at Rutgers and defensive coordinator at Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey.
Here’s my Wednesday piece with details on the Dolphins’ new offensive line coach.