Miami Dolphins

A small-school star could be a big solution to Dolphins’ tight end drama

Julius Thomas is not expected to be back in 2018 after an uninspiring first year with the Dolphins.
Julius Thomas is not expected to be back in 2018 after an uninspiring first year with the Dolphins. AP

The Dolphins have been playing football since 1966.

The number of Dolphins tight ends with 1,000 receiving yards in any of those many years:


Heck, no Dolphins tight end has even cracked 800 yards in a season.

The most receiving touchdowns by a Miami tight end in any one season? Seven.

So for the third time in as many seasons, the Dolphins will be looking to upgrade the position this spring. Julius Thomas is not expected back. Free agency and trades will be explored.

Perhaps they should try something novel and draft one high.

They have taken a tight end in the first three rounds of the draft just once (Michael Egnew, 2012) in the past three decades.

Even more remarkable: The next time they take one in the first round will be the first time.

That streak is likely to continue, based on this year’s draft class. The Dolphins pick 11th; this year’s best prospect, Oklahoma junior Mark Andrews, will likely go late in Round 1 or early in Round 2.

But there are other ways to seriously address the position, and the Dolphins will get a close look at a handful of options at next week’s Senior Bowl.

They are:

▪  Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State, 6-5, 255: This year’s small-school darling has an outside chance to sneak into the first round, but if not, he would be a viable option for the Dolphins when they pick early in the second

Goedert is a former walk-on who blossomed into a star for the Jackrabbits, catching 18 touchdown passes in his final two seasons. Fun fact: Goedert was named for the Dallas Cowboys but actually grew up a Green Bay Packers fan, according to an profile.

Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki (88) against Washington during the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game, Sat., Dec. 30, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. Rick Scuteri AP

▪  Mike Gesicki, Penn State, 6-6, 252: Gesicki is a Nittany Lion straight out of central casting. The highly touted New Jersey recruit appeared in 51 games at Penn State, breaking the school’s career receptions record for a tight end early in his senior year.

Gesicki, who caught 129 passes for 1,481 yards and 15 touchdowns in college, was one of three finalists for the Mackey Award, losing out to Andrews. He should be available when the Dolphins pick in Round 3.

Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli (81) catches a touchdown pass against Western Michigan defenders Darius Phillips (4) and Caleb Bailey (8) during the fourth quarter of the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football game Mon., Jan. 2, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. LM Otero AP

▪  Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin, 6-6, 248: Football, they say, is a game of inches. How many inches are in an index finger?

That missing digit on Fumagalli’s left hand — amputated the day after he was born because of a birth defect — might cost him a bundle of money.

Fumagalli is projected to be selected in the late fourth or early fifth rounds. Will he get pushed down the board because of his missing digit? The fifth-year senior otherwise has an NFL résumé, catching at least 46 passes in each of his last two seasons in Madison.

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Miami Hurricanes tight end Christopher Herndon IV (23) is carried off by teammates after the University of Miami Hurricanes defeat the Virginia Cavaliers at Hard Rock Stadium on Sat., Nov. 18, 2017. AL DIAZ

▪  Chris Herndon IV, Miami, 6-4, 252: One of three Miami Hurricanes to accept a Senior Bowl invitation, Herndon would benefit as much as anyone from a good week of work. projects him as a fifth-round pick.

That does not seem possible, however. Herndon, just weeks removed from MCL surgery that ended his senior season, is not expected to play in the all-star game, but there’s no reason he cannot participate in the team interviews.

Herndon emerged in his final season, piling up a career-best 477 receiving yards and catching four touchdowns.

▪  Others to watch: Adam Breneman, Massachusetts, 6-5, 255; Tyler Conklin, Central Michigan, 6-4, 240; Durham Smythe, Notre Dame 6-6, 257; Ian Thomas, Indiana, 6-6, 248.

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