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1993: Dolphins get their O.J.
The Dolphins thought it was better to receive than to give in the NFL Draft on Sunday.
They didn`t want to give up their No. 25 pick for more later-round picks, even though three teams offered trades.
Instead the team got another receiver, O.J. McDuffie of Penn State, whose return skills also made him desirable.
Although the Dolphins are loaded at receiver, the team figured the wisest course was taking another. McDuffie becomes the latest addition to quarterback Dan Marino`s arsenal. Irving Fryar came in a trade from New England last month, and the team also signed free agent Mark Ingram from the New York Giants.
The Dolphins continued their offensive emphasis in the third round by taking running back Terry Kirby of Virginia. The first defensive acquisition of the offseason, free agency included, came in the fourth round, when the team selected cornerback Ronnie Bradford of Colorado.
The Dolphins had no second-round pick because of the Fryar trade, so it was a long, uneventful afternoon at Dolphins draft headquarters. By the time the draft snaked through Miami, it was 4:23 p.m. Finally the phone lines started humming.
Three teams inquired about trades. One called back. The Dolphins refused each offer, including one from Green Bay for two second-rounders that Dallas accepted, and after using their full 15-minute allotment, the Dolphins chose McDuffie.
``The thing that attracted us was the fact that he`s such a versatile athlete,`` coach Don Shula said. ``We wanted to upgrade our returns on both punts and kickoffs and that`s something he has done his entire career.``
``To play for Coach Shula after playing for Coach (Joe) Paterno is just a great honor,`` McDuffie said. ``And to play with a quarterback like Dan Marino, that`s just an awesome thought. It`s going to be a lot of fun.``
Dolphins director of college scouting Tom Braatz said there was a ``strong consensus`` on McDuffie.
``There was no split,`` Braatz said. ``We just used our full time to explore all the trade options.``
Braatz said McDuffie had the highest grade of remaining players, except for tight end Troy Drayton of Penn State, but the Dolphins never considered a tight end.
McDuffie strained a knee ligament in the Japan Bowl in January, which has affected his speed lately. But the Dolphins were not scared away by his slow times in the 40-yard dash. McDuffie recently ran it in 4.51 seconds, same as linebacker Marvin Jones.
Dolphins physician Dan Kanell said McDuffie`s knee is fine and special teams coach Mike Westhoff said, ``He`s plenty fast enough.``
But he might not be good enough to start immediately on a team laden with experienced hands.
``He might not jump in and be a starter the very first year, but he`ll grow into being a receiver,`` receivers coach Larry Seiple said.
There was a long lull after McDuffie`s selection as the next pick, Kirby, didn`t come until after 8 p.m. That made five offensive moves this offseason (the team signed right tackle Ron Heller last week). The defense`s first addition came an hour later with Bradford, who was overshadowed in Colorado`s secondary by Deion Figures, taken by Pittsburgh in the first round.
``We took defensive players with eight of our first nine picks last year,`` Shula said. ``This year, we addressed needs at receiver and running back. After three rounds, we`ve got guys who are capable of helping us in areas where we need help. We got a return specialist, a running back and a cornerback who can be a cover guy in our nickel (passing) defensive scheme. We flirted with taking offensive and defensive linemen.``
Shula`s heart fluttered when asked about a potential vision problem with Kirby, who rushed for a school-record 3,348 yards.
One draft guide, published by Joel Buchsbaum, said Kirby was ``legally blind`` in his right eye, a claim the Dolphins denied.
``We tested him at the scouting combine and he had 20-40 vision in his right eye,`` Kanell said. ``That`s only slightly worse than normal. He`s nothing close to (legally blind).``
Still, after the pick was announced and Shula was questioned, he privately asked his staff, ``Is this guy blind?``
Kirby said his right eye has been weaker than his left eye since childhood: ``But it`s not a problem at all.``