Dennis Hickey appears intent on not repeating the mistakes of his predecessor.
For example, Jeff Ireland wouldn’t pull the trigger on Branden Albert (and paid heavily for it). Hickey backed up the Brinks truck.
And Ireland passed on a promising, pass-catching former basketball player (who happened to play down the road) not once, not twice, but three times in the 2010 draft. The Dolphins could have had the University of Miami’s Jimmy Graham, now one of the league’s premier tight ends. Instead, they took John Jerry.
With Hickey now in charge, could things be different this time around? If the draft falls right, it’ll be an intriguing case study. His team – which still hasn’t solved its tight end issue – might have a chance to take a player with a similar history and skill set.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the 2013 Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end, is expected to be drafted somewhere in the second round on May 9.
There’s certainly interest on Miami’s part; the Dolphins had the former University of Washington standout down for a pre-draft visit. If he’s still there when the Dolphins pick at 50 (assuming they stand pat), the selection would make great sense.
Even with Charles Clay’s development, the team clearly needs help at the position. The tight ends not named Charles Clay currently on roster have a combined 13 catches for 101 yards and one touchdown in their careers. (Graham once caught 10 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown in a game.)
So is Seferian-Jenkins, who played a year of college basketball before focusing on football, the next Jimmy Graham? The two appear to be kindred spirits, if nothing else.
“I met Jimmy Graham when I was in Miami taking an unofficial visit, met him a while back when he was training for the draft,” Seferian-Jenkins said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “And I watched [Broncos tight end] Julius Thomas, who went to Portland State and played basketball.”
Seferian-Jenkins continued: “They are great tight ends in their own right and they do a lot of good things. I think I can do a lot of good things also.”
So long as he can stay healthy – and out of trouble.
Draft evaluation season is the time all warts come to the surface, and even the Huskies’ career leader in catches (146), receiving yards (1,840) and touchdowns (20) by a tight end has them.
Seferian-Jenkins, a 21-year-old native of the Pacific Northwest, saw his numbers dip during his junior year. Up in Indianapolis, he chalked it up to being asked to block more.
That’s part of it. But he also saw a decline in production due to suspension and injury.
Seferian-Jenkins was held out of the 2013 Huskies opener after pleading guilty to DUI stemming from an incident earlier in the year.
He was involved in a late-night car crash not far from the UW campus. His blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit. He served a day in jail.
“People might say I have character issues,” he said. “It was one incident and you can look through my history. I’m not perfect. Last time I checked no one is perfect.”
Seferian-Jenkins added: “It was one incident and that doesn’t change who I am and I think people in Seattle and Tacoma know who I am as a person and character and I don’t think I’m a character risk or a character issue at all.”
Complicating matters further, Seferian-Jenkins played much of his junior year with pain in his left foot. At the Combine, doctors discovered a stress fracture. He not only couldn’t run there, but the ensuing surgery prevented him from participating in his pro day.
But all that should be a distant memory come draft weekend. Despite the red flags, Seferian-Jenkins is vaulting up the boards.
In retrospect, he made the right decision to focus on football over basketball three years ago.
“My basketball background definitely helps me out in the fact of going up for jump balls and being able to move my hips in and out of routes,” he said. “It just translates very well to the tight end position.”
We’ll soon see if Dennis Hickey feels the same way.