Miami Dolphins select small-school players in late rounds of NFL Draft
Miami selected four of its five picks in the NFL Draft on Saturday, the final day, from programs in the Football Championship Subdivision.
05/11/2014 12:01 AM
09/08/2014 7:18 PM
Six hours, five picks, and a lot of small-school players with big-time dreams.
That’s how the most unpredictable third and final day of the 2014 NFL Draft went for the Dolphins.
They added a tight end, a linebacker, a defensive end, a wide receiver and a cornerback. You’ve probably never heard of any of them.
In all, Miami took four players Saturday from the Football Championship Subdivision, including the first player drafted in Marist College history.
Dennis Hickey, in his first go-round as Dolphins general manager, said he and his staff evaluated the individual player, not the size of his school. And he didn’t set out to draft mostly non-Division I-A players; it just worked out that way.
Overall, just three of the Dolphins’ eight picks hailed from major conferences.
So who exactly are these guys?
Round 4 (Pick 125): Cornerback Walt Aikens, Liberty.
The Dolphins bolstered their secondary by taking this 6-1, 203-pound cover man who was named to the All-Big South Conference his senior year.
Aikens started out at Illinois, but was dismissed from the team after an arrest for theft in 2010.
Aikens explained the indiscretion thusly: He had bought a laptop from a teammate that turned out to be stolen, and was nabbed for possession of stolen property. Then-coach Ron Zook lobbied for him to stay on the team, Aikens said, but the school wanted him gone.
Aikens transferred to Liberty, an FCS school, so he wouldn’t have to sit out a season. There, he played both on the inside and as a slot corner. He also is an option at safety.
He will compete with Cortland Finnegan, Jamar Taylor and Will Davis for snaps in Miami’s secondary.
“I want to be a starter,” Aikens said. “I want to come in and be a dominant factor.”
Round 5 (Pick 155): Tight end Arthur Lynch, Georgia.
Lynch’s game isn’t pretty, but what he does — block and run intermediate routes — he does well.
The Georgia tight end — one of five team captains selected this week by Hickey — was first-team All-Southeastern Conference as a senior, with 30 catches, 459 yards and five touchdowns. Lynch is a big-body bruiser, standing 6-5 and 258 pounds.
“He’s not a deep threat; he’s more of an in-line blocker,” said NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, who did call him a “solid” football player.
Said Lynch: “I think I do a number of things fairly well. Tight ends don’t just catch or block, but understand the game of football all across the table.”
Round 5 (Pick 171): Linebacker Jordan Tripp, Montana.
The Dolphins finally addressed the weak link of their defense — their linebacking corps — with their second fifth-round pick.
Tripp, a two-time FCS All-American, can play inside and outside linebacker, and should be an immediate contributor on special teams.
“He’s a player that’s really fun to watch,” NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said. “I think he’s a very versatile guy.”
Tripp participated in the East-West Shrine Game and then got a last-second call to appear in the Senior Bowl. There, he flashed, and might have gotten himself drafted.
“They’re going to see somebody who resembles a team player and puts their heart out there for their team,” Tripp said. “I'm going to do everything I can to show that they can rely on me. They’re going to see a player who’s in love with that organization, and will do everything he can to get that win.”
Round 6 (Pick 190): Wide receiver Matt Hazel, Coastal Carolina.
Hazel, the second receiver picked by Miami in two days, set a Coastal Carolina record with 183 career receptions. He went for 147 yards and two touchdowns on nine catches in the Chanticleers’ 55-52 win over Aikens’ Liberty team last fall.
Hazel’s hadn’t spoken much with the Dolphins throughout the process, and he was a bit surprised that he fell to the sixth round. The Dolphins likely want him to add some muscle to his lean frame.
So why tiny Coastal Carolina?
“I fell in love with the program, the environment,” Hazel said. “And they told me I could play right away. I fell in love with that too.”
Round 7 (Pick 234): Defensive end Terrence Fede, Marist.
In a day of unknowns, this one was a true shocker. Fede was so under the radar, he didn’t even appear in many draft preview guides. He logged 25 1/2 sacks the past two years as one of the Pioneer League’s elite players.
“I set out a goal to be the first Marist player drafted and today I achieved that goal,” said Fede, who got his college career on track after being suspended for all of 2010 because of the violation of team rules.• As for the hundreds of prospects who went undrafted, the following have been linked to the Dolphins, via Twitter and Miami Herald reports:
S/CB Demetrius Wright Jr. (USC), QB Brock Jensen (North Dakota State), WR Ryan Lankford (Illinois), TE/FB Gator Hoskins (Marshall), OT David Hurd (Arkansas), DT Anthony Johnson (LSU), S Demetrius Wright (USC), WR Rantavious Wooten (Georgia), C Tyler Larsen (Utah State), G Devonte Wallace (New Mexico State), LB Tariq Edwards (Virginia Tech), CB Deion Belue (Alabama), DE Shayon Green (Miami), DT Garrison Smith (Georgia).
The Dolphins will announce their full list of rookie free-agent signings in the coming days.
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