Monday, May 04, 2015

Finding Some ‘Fins: Will Tactical Gambles Pay Off For Miami’s Once And Future Regime?

I should start out by saying that it’s difficult to evaluate this draft without factoring in Kenny Stills, the former Saints wideout landed by Miami for the price of its third-round choice. Of course, that means you have to consider Mike Wallace leaving for the price of a fifth-rounder, but both are certainly worth mentioning for context.

In comparison to last year’s draft, which featured picks from North Dakota State, Liberty, Coast Carolina, and Marist, this year’s haul focused on traditional football schools. The hope here is that translates to better tape against better competition, with more accomplished football men providing better evaluations. On the flip side, this draft felt heavy on the boom-or-bust picks, with more selections with medical or character concerns.

In the fifth round, Miami netted four selections in the span of 12 picks, and that is likely where this draft will stake its reputation. To me, the key to the draft is fifth-rounder Jay Ajayi, one of college football’s very best running backs who slipped due to a troubling knee condition but could end up being the stealiest of steals.

Anyway, here's the rundown: 

First Round (14th overall): DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
It’s no secret that Miami needed a big-bodied red zone threat, and with running back Todd Gurley and cornerback Trae Waynes already off the board, this became a surprisingly easy pick for the ‘Fins. At 6-3, 210 pounds, Parker rounds out the Miami receiving corps that now features deep speed (Stills), slot quickness (Jarvis Landry), veteran route-running (Greg Jennings) and the ability to win contested balls in tight spaces (Parker). This choice reminded me a bit of the year Miami drafted Ryan Tannehill, in that there was very little drama and a broad consensus. Now, it will be up to Tannehill to help make the most out of Parker’s dynamic skill set.

Second Round (52nd overall): Jordan Phillips, NT, Oklahoma
After trading back with Chip “Mad Scientist” Kelly and the Iggles, Miami opted for a luxury pick in this underachieving man-child. Knowing that it didn’t have a third-rounder, the Dolphins elected to choose a dude with weight issues and a pre-existing back injury at an already-deep position. Some of the hyperbole surrounding him reminds me of Darryl Gardener, whose Miami tenure was filled with highlights and lowlights. I don’t hate this pick, but it did have me scratching my head some.

Fourth Round (114th overall): Jamil Douglas, OG, Arizona State
It’s hard to shake the feeling of desperation that surrounded this pick. Miami needed a guard prospect, and with most of the consensus guys off the board, it reached for a guy who was a burglar and whose play has been characterized as “going through the motions.” He does appear to possess some position flexibility and tools to work with, but this marked a second straight underwhelming selection for me.

Fifth Round (145th overall): Bobby McCain, CB, Memphis
Using a fifth-rounder gained in the trade with Philly, the ‘Fins went pure playmaker here, tabbing a slot corner with kick-return ability. Though Miami’s needs lie at perimeter corner, you can never have enough nickel guys, and McCain has a reputation as a ballhawk to offset his lack of size. I’m decidedly a fan of this move in this spot.

Fifth Round (149th overall): Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State
Bone-on-bone knee deterioration certainly doesn’t sound like a medical file you want associated with, say, an NFL running back. However, acknowledging that doesn’t preclude this being a tremendous choice with one of four fifth-round options. Ajayi is a versatile, physical back who could prove to be a worthy complement to—and even a potential replacement for—Lamar Miller. Some hefty “ifs” involved here, but a really nice get for the Dolphins … and the kind of pick that can push a draft from good to great.
And don’t forget—this is the pick Miami got from Minnesota in the Mike Wallace trade. Though there was fault on both sides, the reality is the Dolphins weren’t constituted to get the most out of Wallace’s unique skills. So if they could jettison his salary and land a starting-caliber running back even for a couple of years, it could end up being a strong move for Miami after starting from a position without much leverage.

Fifth Round (150th overall): Cedric Thompson, FS, Minnesota
Thompson was a guy who seemed to be linked to Miami throughout the evaluation process, so he wasn’t much of a surprise in this spot. Not the biggest or most instinctual safety, but he’s got stellar measurables (4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 40.5-inch vertical. 4.28 second in the short shuttle). A solid developmental free safety with the type of athleticism that special teams coaches clamor for? That makes him a low-risk, high-reward choice at this spot in the draft, and another strong fifth-round pick for the ‘Fins.

Fifth Round (156th overall): Tony Lippett, WR, Michigan State
Well, if you’re going to draft a dude only to switch him to a new position, this is the spot to do it. Lippett was a productive wideout for Sparty, but the Dolphins reportedly envision him as a corner. It’s impressive to start at both positions against top college competition, and Miami obviously saw something in Lippett to make them think there were tools there worth exploring.
With four fifth-rounders, I couldn’t help wondering whether it made sense to flip one for Zac Stacy of the Rams, but once Ajayi was available, that resolved itself. I also found myself wondering whether it was worth using the final fifth-rounder on LSU’s La’El Collins on the chance that he is innocent—but I do obviously understand why using a fifth-round pick on someone with a possible connection to a murder would be, er, tricky.
Anyway, as I mentioned, Lippett is most certainly a gamble, but one that Miami was in a position to afford.

The post-hoopla draft grades have been largely kind to the ‘Fins, and it will be interesting to see how the talent landed by the new evaluation duo of Mike Tannenbaum and Dennis Hickey is handled by holy-crap-how-is-he-still-here coach Joe Philbin. 
I’ve long been concerned about Philbin & Co.’s inability to not only develop players, but have a viable vision for how they see a player growing into the Miami system in terms of role and accountability. While I’d love to see Philbin prove me wrong, the overriding sense I have is that the next coach will be tasked with assessing and developing Miami’s Class of 2015.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXVXXVIII: “Mad Men” Careens To A Sobering Conclusion, Plus ‘Fins Weather The Storms

A punchline is what Don’s become?
As the '70s arrive for some?
An uneven stretch run
For an epic series almost done
“Mad Men” needs some focus and rum

A bust of epic proportions
Says a lot, considering ‘Fin abortions
Dion Jordan suspended yet again
His career over before it began
Will there ever be a change in draft fortunes?

They took difficult shots
And yes, they took lots
But Lacey as a fit was fantastic
Washington brought energy spastic
Unexpected choices for State kinda rots

A relatively weak season three
Ended with the Underwoods up a tree
A highlight was Doug
His story not swept under the rug
“House of Cards” fading, but still can’t quit ye

A big receiver fit the bill
So they took Parker from Louisville
He was a nice scoop
To round out a nice group
No more excuses, Tannehill

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Vetting the Vets: ‘Fins Actually Make Right Choice In Free Agent Receiver Pool

With Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, and Brandon Gibson ushered out the door in the turnstile that is the Dolphins receiving corps, Miami had a desperate need for a veteran presence to bolster breakout candidate Kenny Stills, promising Jarvis Landry and journeyman Rishard Mathews.

The braintrust of Mike Tannenbaum and Dennis Hickey narrowed their focus to a group of three free agents at varying stages of their careers in the NFL: former San Francisco wideout Michael Crabtree, ex-Viking Greg Jennings and one-time Dolphin Wes Welker. While each has made significant contributions in the league, there were major reasons why they were still available deep into the offseason.

For Crabtree, injuries and ego were the limiting factors. Much like Keyshawn Johnson, Crabtree is a guy who deemed himself a No. 1 receiver but never brought the production to bear out that anointment. In the often-fragile Miami locker room, would bringing in an often-injured receiver with an overinflated sense of skills and overinflated contract demands be counterproductive?

In Jennings, you’re looking at a 31-year-old wideout whose best days are behind him. Would what he has left and possible leadership skills outweigh the diminishing returns of a skill-position player on the decline?

For Welker, a litany of recent concussions has cast his NFL future in doubt. Would a 34-year-old with consistent and troubling medical concerns coming off his worst season in a decade who happens to play at a position of strength (the slot, where Landry operates) find any fit at all in Miami’s system?

After doing their due diligence and vetting each candidate, the Dolphins took their time. They analyzed fit, salary cap, intangibles, familiarity, and availability, then made their pick. Two weeks before the draft, Miami announced the signing of Jennings to a cap-friendly, limited-risk deal. In return, the ‘Fins got a player with a couple of good years left who has a familiarity with Joe Philbin from their time with the Packers and is a respected presence in the locker room. 

For what Miami needed in terms of leadership for a young receiving corps, a proven route-runner for an ascending quarterback, and a known commodity for the right price, the front office landed the right guy—giving the team flexibility in the draft and reliability at a position of need.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXVXXVII: Spieth Humiliates Augusta National, Plus When Will Don Draper Start Swinging Back?

Tiger’s involuntary bequeath
The title to Jordan Spieth
Trounced the field at the Masters
His ascents just got even fasters
He and Rory could be a rivalry with teeth

“True Detective” trailer
Couldn’t really be any fail-er
Casting choices gone wrong
Gonna pay for it for long
Can Fukunaga find a way to tailor?

The draft is quickly approaching
Insanity the ‘Fins usually encroaching
A receiver or running back, perhaps indeed
Or a corner or guard, both needs
But does it really matter, with the coaching?

“True Detective” captivated
“The Jinx” agitated
Now “Silicon Valley” is back
Plus “Veep” returns to attack
With HBO, no one’s equated

Don getting beaten down
By women all around
Loneliness pervades his pores
The ad life, it only bores
Will he skip New York town?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXVXXVI: “Better Call Saul” Chicago-Sunroofs Its Way To End Of Remarkable Season One, Launching Hotbed of TV News

Fate, Jimmy couldn’t duck it
After Marco kicked the bucket
Took a deal to fill his coffer
Then got a plum job offer
Saul Goodman was born and said “Fuck it”

Coulda been one for the ages
Instead, Wisconsin rages
Duke’s rookies led the way
But the refs held full sway
Handed it to the Devils for higher wages

Mortality the theme of the day
As hemlines rise and sideburns sway
Don wonders what it all means
Legacy’s worth a hill of beans
“Mad Men” time is slipping away

While the media reported on Tiger’s smile
They missed real stories by a mile
At 21, Spieth made every birdie
At 65, Watson’s game is still sturdy
The Masters opened in fine style

TV is gonna get bolder
With the return of Scully and Mulder
For six epis, anyway
Good material in the NSA
Conspiracies and “X-Files,” shoulder to shoulder

Monday, April 06, 2015

“Content Strategy For Mobile” Seeks To Help You Paddle With The Mobile Wave Instead Of Against It

"Writing this way isn't just good writing for mobile. It's good writing for everyone."

For many companies, navigating the treacherous waters of mobile marketing and responsive design can be akin to tackling Bells Beach on a Boogie Board. Though “Content Strategy for Mobile” would seem to describe a book of relatively narrow focus, Karen McGrane’s work covers a lot of ground related to best practices in web writing. Taken as a package, she delivers the board, wax, and leash necessary to at least be competitive in the mobile swell.

Setting the tone early, she highlights the distinction between users and readers right from the start. McGrane points out that the user is unpredictable, while the reader “is us.” Most importantly, she goes to great lengths to emphasize that mobile is not a trend and can be ignored only at the risk of lost business. As a result, it’s simply bad practice to identify desktop-only content.

"You are in the content publishing business. It is your mission to get your content out, on whichever platform, in whichever format your audience wants to consume it. Your users get to decide how, when, and where they want to read your content. It is your challenge and your responsibility to deliver a good experience to them."

As we’ve seen elsewhere, McGrane argues for us to “stop thinking about ‘pages’ and start thinking about ‘packages,’” which facilitates the process of guiding the user to where they want to go. In addition, many organizations conflate the words “content” and “copy” to mean the same thing, so it’s important to remember the differences, which this book points out.

The author delves into ever-evolving user behavior, noting that it is difficult to draw conclusions based on identifying someone as a mobile user; we simply don’t know for sure how it changes their behavior. In essence, making the choice to use a smaller screen doesn’t mean that the reader is adopting an expectation of inferior or lesser content.

Personally, I wasn’t aware of the demographic breakdown of Internet access—that billions of people all over the world can only access the Internet through their mobile phones and that nearly 90% of Americans without a high school diploma don’t have a broadband Internet connection. McGrane points out that some companies actually have a moral obligation to create a mobile experience in order to reach those who need their services most.

The author advocates for the pursuit of content parity (“the same content where it’s feasible, and equivalent content where it’s not”) and a mobile-first strategy, as well as both qualitative and quantitative assessments of content in the leadup to site redesign. This is inevitably going to lead to some difficult conversations with owners of existing content, who want to apply niche needs to the broader site.

"As with any evaluation process, the art of the content audit is the art of persuasion."

“Your website structure shouldn't map to your org chart -- it should map to how users think about their tasks and goals."

Easier said than done, right? Indeed, content prioritization across platforms will necessitate a streamlined and rigid editorial workflow. This is where McGrane advocates for adaptive content, which allows for device and screen flexibility. This type of content can also be repurposed and restructured with meaningful metadata, which Jason Scott refers to as a “love note to the future.” By using metadata and categorization, then structuring content into meaningful chunks, it can be reused in myriad ways. In the author’s view, the ability to slice and dice your content—content modeling—is the key to maintaining relevance now and into the future.

"If you care about providing great design and a user experience that's appropriate for a given platform, you need to be thinking about adaptive content."

"Develop a process and workflow that will support and enable maximum content reuse with minimum additional effort. That's adaptive content: structured content that's created so that it can be reused."

To create a good user experience within any content management system (CMS), McGrane mentioned the importance of ensuring all understand the message that content management is “bigger than just the CMS.” She also made some interesting points about couple vs. decoupled CMSs, and the impact each has on the potential of multi-channel publishing. In pursuit of “future-friendly” content management, McGrane points out, content creators have to be given the tools and ease of use needed to facilitate flexible content reuse. In the same breath, she wrote that almost 60% of domains under development by American federal agencies aren’t being built with a CMS, another fact that caught me off-guard.

"Too often, people wind up fulfilling the technology's needs, as servants of their content management system, rather than having the tool support and facilitate their needs. We force people to conform to the system's needs as they fight their way through fields and dropdowns, rather than have the technology do what it does best: handle routine tasks automatically."

The author spends little time on the topic of using data gathering to influence content changes, as well as SEO ramifications. However, she does point out that partial mobile optimization that depends on linking to the desktop version is “going to break search.” From an analytics standpoint, McGrane pointed out that content choices often made based solely on gut feel, without being supported up by the metrics. She does decry the importance of having a process for data collection and analysis, as well as the positive SEO implications inherent in having no differentiation between desktop, mobile, and tablet content.

"You can't do mobile content strategy correctly until you define how you're going to measure and optimize performance."

In terms of tone, McGrane favors a straightforward, no-nonsense style. I found the book somewhat short on examples, and the author went to the well a few too many times on the “forking” pun. However, there were a number of tremendous resources shared, ranging from figures showing how to apply content inventory audits to acronym usage (COPE: Create Once, Publish Everywhere is a particularly useful one).

For those who have had the mobile wave pass them by and are caught between sets, “Content Strategy for Mobile” offers the direction—and push—to catch the next ride to shore sure success.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Limerick Friday LXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXVXXV: Bounceback TWD Season Closes Without A Bang, Plus State Lets Elite Eight Slip Through Fingers

A brilliant fifth season did rally
Chose forgiveness instead of a sally
Morgan returns as a samurai
The Wolves are lurking nearby
Restraint the theme of the finale

Draft winds are blowing off the sound
Fin missteps are sure to abound
Tannenbaum now in charge
Of decisions small and large
Tell me again why Philbin’s around?

Betrayed by his brother Chuck
Just when he’d found good luck
The trials of Slippin’ Jimmy
Gets by on his hustle and shimmy
Saul emerges saying, “Who gives a fuck?”

Duke continues to roll
The Zags couldn’t take their toll
Handchecking continues uncalled
Offenses, in response, get stalled
Can Sparty keep them from their goal?
A golden opportunity lost
The Elite Eight it did cost
Cat ate some bad eggs
So he didn’t have his legs
Rally caps all over were tossed