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Trader Jimmy sat still in the first round for the second year in a row and managed to take a flyer, again.
The Dolphins took University of Miami wide receiver Yatil Green in the first round of the NFL draft Saturday, getting a guy with tantalizing ability and a number of questions about his work ethic. A year ago, coach Jimmy Johnson used the No. 20 pick to take defensive tackle Daryl Gardener, another guy who can tantalize and frustrate.
Then again, the Dolphins offense went that way much of the time last season. With quarterback Dan Marino, a 1,000-yard rusher in Karim Abdul-Jabbar and tight end Troy Drayton, the Dolphins scored the second most points in the AFC East. They also went five consecutive games in the second half of the season with only one touchdown and were limited to one score in seven games.
Johnson put it this way: "There were a lot of times that we felt we didn't have the playmakers."
Much of that can be attributed to a revolving-door receiving corps that missed Fred Barnett much of the season and missed a deep threat all season.
In the second round, the Dolphins took Louisville cornerback Sam Madison, who figures to make a fair amount of noise, if not his ability then at least with his mouth. In the third round, the Dolphins had four picks and took Akron defensive end Jason Taylor, Mississippi State offensive lineman Brent Smith and linebackers Derrick Rodgers of Arizona State and Ronnie Ward of Kansas.
But Green perked the interest of South Florida immediately because of his local connection and his past. Green has had huge games and wowed people with his talents.
He missed the first three games of last season because of a suspension and a hamstring injury, but then came back to catch eight passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns against Florida State. He had nine catches for 152 yards against Virginia and six for 129 yards against Syracuse. He also had a 70-yard reception against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. He finished with 44 catches for 746 yards and four scores.
At the NFL scouting combine, Green had scouts and coaches salivating when he ran a 4.38 in the 40. Green was the lone top receiver to run at the combine, showing no fear of a poor running surface.
On the flipside, Green, 23, was suspended because of his involvement in the UM "Limogate" scandal in 1995.
He also missed time and came out of games early because of poor conditioning, often frustrating UM coach Butch Davis. Davis was at the Dolphins facility to watch the draft and be available for questions. Davis said this week that he liked Green, but Davis stopped short of giving a full endorsement.
In fact, the New York Giants refused to draft him. Tampa Bay, Kansas City and New Orleans also bypassed him, leading Green and agent Drew Rosenhaus to worry. When the Dolphins called Rosenhaus, the agent quickly agreed that there wouldn't be a problem with the negotiations.
The Dolphins were mulling a trade with San Francisco, which had the No. 26 pick. Or at least that's what they told Rosenhaus.
Johnson said he had four offers to move down. He said he even talked to St. Louis in the morning about moving to the No. 1 pick.
"Yeah, if we had wanted to give up our whole draft," Johnson said. Johnson said he never seriously thought about moving up. Rosnehaus had other concerns.
"If he didn't go there, I don't know where he ends up going," said Rosenhaus, who was with Green at a party in Lake City, Green's hometown. Colorado's Rae Carruth, for example, fell to No. 27 after some draftniks thought he'd go in the top eight.
That didn't matter much to the Dolphins, who were elated to get a playmaker of Green's caliber. The team had expected Green, who it had rated as the top receiver, to go in the top 12 picks.
Green will compete with O.J. McDuffie and Fred Barnett for a starting spot.
"I expect him to come in and start," receivers coach Larry Seiple said. "We took him to play and play every down. That doesn't mean we're handing him a job. Those guys will compete for the job."
As for Green's conditioning, Seiple said he didn't see a problem.
"It's his job now," Seiple said. "You talk to his coaches and they tell you that when you get him aside, he'll do anything you ask. He'll do all the work. It's when he's in a group and goofing around that he's a problem. That won't happen up here."
As for the rest of the draft, the Dolphins went for Madison, who set a school interception record with 16 at Louisville, after an early run on cornerbacks. Four of the first 11 players selected were corners and seven went before Madison at No. 44. Johnson said he had Madison projected to go at the end of the first round.
"[Johnson) said he got a steal, which he did," Madison said.
"Madison plays with the attitude I like on defense," Johnson said.
Taylor is a 6-foot-6, 250-pound defensive end who played his first three seasons at linebacker. He entered Akron as a 175-pound receiver. Johnson projected Taylor as a nickel pass rusher early on who could eventually bulk up and play full time.
Rodgers, who will be 26 in October, spent 4 1/2 years in the Air Force before picking up football in junior college and transferring to Arizona State. He played defensive end despite being only 221 pounds. He often lined up against 330-pound tackle Juan Roque in practice, but never backed down.
"I don't think the word chicken is in the Rodgers family," he said. Likewise, Ward is a 6-foot, 231-pound linebacker who played special teams and will play outside for the Dolphins.
Johnson said both were "good football players."
Johnson took Smith, a 6-5, 300-pounder, because of his exceptional speed. Smith ran the 40 in 5.0 and has the foot quickness to play either guard or tackle.