A daylong, often tedious endeavor, the final day of the NFL Draft got awfully interesting, awfully fast.
The Dolphins selected three Florida players Saturday, most notably kicker Caleb Sturgis in the fifth round. The move sent an unmistakable message to incumbent kicker Dan Carpenter: Your job is on the line this summer.
“Our job is to put competition on the field,” Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said. “There’s definitely going to be competition at placekicker. We’re not giving the job away.”
Added coach Joe Philbin: “When I spoke on the phone to Sturgis I told him, ‘You’re going to learn what life in the NFL is all about.’ ”
Sturgis was on the 17th green when the call came from the Dolphins. Needless to say, he didn’t finish the round.
“I couldn’t be more excited about staying in the state of Florida,” Sturgis said. “Coming into the league, you have to compete against the best.”
Sturgis was the third Gator selected by the Dolphins on Saturday. They took linebacker Jelani Jenkins in Round 4, and then in the fifth round drafted running back Mike Gillislee. The Dolphins also took Michigan State tight end Dion Sims (109th overall) and Arkansas State defensive back Don Jones (250th) on Saturday.
Jenkins, a 6-foot, 243-pounder from Florida, had his 2012 season cut short by a broken foot, possibly hurting his draft stock. ESPN’s Todd McShay said that before Jenkins’ injury, he was one of the best cover defenders in college football.
“I think I tackle real well, cover real well,” Jenkins said. “Those are both things that I know I’m going to get better at. I feel like I have a lot of ability.”
Sims, a burly pass-catcher out of Michigan State, grabbed 59 passes for 707 yards and eight touchdowns during his college career. He had visited the Dolphins’ headquarters in the lead-up to the draft.
Sims enters the league with a character red flag. He was sentenced to a year of probation and suspended from football for all of 2010 for felony receiving and concealing stolen property, stemming from his connection of the theft of 100 laptops from Detroit Public Schools. Ireland said the club did its due diligence and was comfortable with the pick.
“It’s behind me,” Sims said. “I learned a lot from that situation. I learned to not be so naïve. It made me grow up fast. It’s past me.”
The Dolphins closed out the draft by selecting Jones, a hybrid safety-cornerback out of Arkansas State, in the seventh round. He was the third defensive back Miami took in the past two days.
Last fall, Gillislee became just the eighth UF running back to go over 1,000 yards on the ground. He is expected to compete with Daniel Thomas for the role of backup running back behind Lamar Miller.
“The Dolphins were always my favorite team,” Gillislee said. “It was always a dream, and now my dream came true.”
Still, the biggest intrigue of the day was the Sturgis pick, for many reasons. Kickers are rarely drafted that high, and those that are usually make the team. The Dolphins haven’t used a fifth-round pick on the position since taking Karl Kremser in 1969.
Sturgis made 70 of 88 kicks in his career at Florida, including 77 percent of his attempts from beyond 40 yards last year.
Carpenter has struggled from that distance in recent years. He was 19 for 22 on field goals of 40 to 49 yards, but 4 for 9 from 50 yards and beyond. Carpenter also missed three kicks last year that would have won games the Dolphins ultimately lost, and is due $2.7 million in 2013, the final year of his contract.
Among those expected to sign with the team: Oregon linebacker Michael Clay; Southern Illinois offensive lineman Eric Bergman; Michigan defensive back Jordan Kovacs; Mississippi State receiver Chad Bumphis; Arkansas State receiver Taylor Stockemer; linebacker Rob McCabe; BYU linebacker Brandon Ogletree; and Mount Union wide receiver Jasper Collins.Eric Winston Bryant McKinnie