As the NFL Draft came to a close Saturday evening, the Dolphins had six tight ends on their roster.
Those six players combined to catch 22 NFL passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns a year ago.
And yet, the team feels better about the position than at any point in years.
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The Dolphins drafted Penn State's Mike Gesicki in the second round and Notre Dame's Durham Smythe in the fourth, injecting a double shot of talent into a group that was already better than many gave it credit for.
"If you go back to last year, we added [A.J.] Derby during the season from Denver and [Gavin] Escobar last week," Dolphins vice president Mike Tannenbaum said late Saturday. "So, that was a position that we really wanted to add a lot of .... [not just] competition, but depth. We feel really good about that position now and that’s taken a couple of years that we’re now comfortable.
"Those are really hard players to acquire and they do fall into two different groups," Tannenbaum continued. "It wasn’t just over the last 48 hours. It’s been several months in the making and trying to get that group to look like the way it does today."
So how does it look? We will not know for certain until final cuts, but let's give it our best guess:
▪ Assuming he shows an appetite to block, Gesicki will likely be a starter Week 1. He will not be a part of every package — that's why the Dolphins drafted Smythe — but expect him on the field in every obvious passing down.
Gesicki has the size, speed and range to bust the seam in a way that's been missing in Miami since Charles Clay signed with Buffalo. If Gesicki is not a significant contributor Year 1, something went wrong.
▪ In photography terms, Smythe is the negative image of Gesicki. While there will be times when both are on the field at the same time, Smythe's primary job will be to pass protect and run block. Think of him as Anthony Fasano 2.0.
▪ Although the two rookie tight ends are almost certainly going to make the team, even if the Dolphins are forced to redshirt them, the four veterans — Derby, Escobar, Thomas Duarte and MarQueis Gray — will need to earn their spots on the roster.
The Dolphins will probably keep no more than four tight ends, unless two are absolute beasts on special teams.
Derby's name has been brought up unsolicited by Dolphins brass a number of times since the end of last season. Coaches telegraphed their preference for him by playing Derby over Gray and Duarte after Julius Thomas went on injured reserve.
Gray was none too pleased with this development, telling the Miami Herald that "we'll see how things go from here," when asked if wanted to be back in 2018. Things have only gotten worse for Gray, as the Dolphins have since signed Escobar and drafted Gesicki and Smythe.
So yeah, expect tight end to have the team's best position battle in training camp.
"We wanted to create competition at that spot," Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said. "The big thing for us is we spent a lot of time with all of these guys. With Durham, we had a really good interview with him. We liked what we saw on film. We saw him play down here versus Miami.
"For us, adding another guy who can block, another body to the roster to compete with those guys. Having variety and being able to have Adam [Gase] have different chess pieces — whether 12, 21, whatever, 13 personnel — so it just gives you more opportunities and creates competition, which will make all those guys better."