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Dolphins decide Mallett not 'a fit,' focus on run game instead

Nelson Chenault / US Presswire
Instead of going to a Dolphins team perceived to have a need at QB, Ryan Mallett fell to a division rival.


One of the most interesting developments was the fall of Ryan Mallett on draft day and the move by the Patriots, of all teams, to scoop him up.

Who to believe in a situation like that? Believe this: Actions speak louder than words. All 32 NFL teams -- including the one that took him -- passed on Mallett at least once, if not twice. There was no huge trade clamor, and if you want to read a team's actions, read those of Miami. The Dolphins traded back into the second round and took a tailback, Daniel Thomas, rather than Mallett, and I'm told the club simply decided Mallett "wasn't a fit." And that was coming from a team that did a ton of work on him.

Draft grades
Bucky Brooks says that while the Dolphins addressed some key areas on offense, the Patriots carefully manipulated the draft to produce another stellar class. More ...

Mallett didn't fall to the 74th pick by accident, and the key for him became when reward met risk.

"He's the prototypical at-some-point player," said one AFC personnel director. "He has first-round traits, but he's too rich there. So you say, 'I'm gonna put him down in this round and reassess that risk and reward when we get there.'"

That said, most feel he's hit the lottery with his landing spot.

"Not that I root for the kid, because I think he's a dumbass," said an AFC scout, "but he couldn't ask for a better situation."

Dolphins ramp up run game

Speaking of the Dolphins, chances are now that the team will go into the 2011 season with Chad Henne in the mix to start, and the Miami brass is actually OK with that.

As much as quarterback was a consideration this year, and the club really did its homework at that position, recapturing the physical edge the team had in Tony Sparano's early days as coach was a priority as well. And the way the draft board fell for Miami, management felt it was better served restoring that area of its game plan rather than go on a wild goose chase for the next Dan Marino.

Remember, the power trio of Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland and Sparano inherited Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, so Thomas is the first major investment they've made in youth at tailback. And after free-agent failures with Justin Smiley and Jake Grove, they did the same on the interior of the offensive line by taking Mike Pouncey, whom they hope will be interchangeable with Richie Incognito as a guard/center.

It's all in the name of improving a run game that ranked 29th in yards per carry and 21st overall last year. And by upgrading that area, the Dolphins help Henne, who they see as capable of being a "facilitator" for a winning team. Last year, he was asked to carry a mediocre one.

Dallas in win-win with Smith

Did the Cowboys reach a little bit for USC tackle Tyron Smith at No. 9? Maybe in the minds of some, but his flexibility really helped put him over the top and made him worth the pick.

Now, Dallas has two "swing" types of tackles. Smith is wildly athletic and could ultimately project over to the left side, where the big-money tackles play, but is a safe pick as a right tackle. In fact, the reason he stayed on that side at USC was because Matt Kalil -- a highly-regarded junior -- became a starter at left tackle last fall, not because he wasn't capable.

And if Smith can't cut it at left tackle? That's the beauty of the Cowboys' situation. The team's already happy with Doug Free there. And Free spent a large chunk of the 2009 season on the right side, before taking Flozell Adams' spot last fall. In the words of one club official, the idea is that Free and Smith will be "interchangeable." That wouldn't fix all the problems Dallas had up front last year, but it'd be a heck of a start.

Athletes still learning power of Twitter

After the Twitter snafu this week involving Rashard Mendenhall, I think it's worth mentioning this: It's not the medium, folks, it's a lack of understanding of that medium.

Watch what you tweet
NFL.com senior analyst
Vic Carucci says Rashard Mendenhall has become an example of the risks that social media can present
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Twitter can be great for players, helping fans connect with them, allowing their personalities to show, and making them more marketable in general. But what's important for all the guys to remember: What you say on Twitter, you might as well be saying to a reporter. And to take it to another level, in these cases, the reporter isn't there to clean up the words or interpret intent.

This is still an evolving dynamic for guys, but I won't soon forget talking to Steelers safety Ryan Clark -- about as outward a guy as you could possibly imagine -- about why he took his account down. He said that people "start to think they know you a little too well. As a married man, with some of the things these women might say, I just thought it was in my best interest just to get off it." And he added that, "I started to feel a little bit of an obligation, because when you're like me and you answer fans, they start expecting it all the time, and then when you don't, they're disappointed."

In the end, it's pretty clear, the decision on whether or not to be on Twitter is a complicated one for players.

Reassessing undrafted free-agent frenzy

To wrap up this week, there are some positive changes that some football people around the league are hoping this lockout brings: The form of how undrafted free agents are pursued.

Until this year, it was an Oklahoma land rush to those players once the draft concluded, with hundreds snapped up in a matter of hours. Because of the rules this year, that's changed, with those players considering their options (Wait for the NFL? Or, go to the CFL or UFL?) going forward.

"We can sit here, in an unchaotic moment, and look and say, 'OK, this is the guy we want,'" said an NFC exec. "You can carefully assess which guys have a shot to make your team and decide, 'We're gonna go pay this guy, and worst case he's on the practice squad.' Before, after the draft, it was just rolling them out and bringing them in. This is a little more sane."

The exec said he hopes this leads to some sort of "waiting period" after the draft that gets instituted in the future. His logic: It's best for everyone. Teams get a chance to reassess, focus on guys more likely to make their teams. And players and agents get a better chance to examine the rosters and find the best opportunity to stick.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @albertbreer.

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