Barry Jackson

Here’s what the Dolphins are doing with the draft’s top tight ends

Clemson's Jalen Williams (30) and Ben Boulware (10) tackle South Carolina's Hayden Hurst during the first half of a 56-7 Clemson win last November. Hurst, one of the top tight ends in the NFL Draft, is visiting Dolphins headquarters next week.
Clemson's Jalen Williams (30) and Ben Boulware (10) tackle South Carolina's Hayden Hurst during the first half of a 56-7 Clemson win last November. Hurst, one of the top tight ends in the NFL Draft, is visiting Dolphins headquarters next week. AP

It’s a good thing the Dolphins don’t begin their season today, because if they did their only tight ends under contract would be a player cut by Denver last November (A.J. Derby), a former seventh-round pick who has appeared in one NFL game (Thomas Duarte) and a journeyman (MarQueis Gray) who had one catch last season.

No wonder the Dolphins put in a waiver claim this week for Clive Walford, who instead was awarded to the Jets.

And no wonder the Dolphins are meticulously examining the top tight ends in this draft, knowing they probably need to select one of them.

The Dolphins have booked a visit at their headquarters with one of the draft’s top tight ends (South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst) and have had varying levels of contact with several others.

Hurst will meet with Dolphins executives and coaches on April 11 in Davie, according to a source.

Hurst has taken an unusual arc, as detailed in this interesting Bleacher Report piece this week.

The Pittsburgh Pirates selected him in the 17th round for the 2012 Major League Draft as a pitcher, and he spent two years at the rookie ball level before deciding he preferred football and walking on with the Gamecocks in 2015.

He caught 100 passes during the past three seasons, including 44 for 559 yards last season.

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein projects him for the first or second round and assessed him this way: “Hurst’s initial opportunity at athletic stardom came up short in baseball, but he has his second shot and plays like every down could be his last. His fearless play demeanor combined with size, strength and athleticism make him a well-rounded prospect with the versatility to line up all over the field. He’s sure-handed and could become a young quarterback’s safety blanket if he improves elements of his route running. He should see early snaps and has the ability to become a good combination tight end.”

Dolphins coach Adam Gase meets with reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Hurst, Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews and South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert are considered the draft’s top three tight ends, in no particular order.

According to a college football source, Dolphins coach Adam Gase got an up close look at Andrews when he went to Norman, Oklahoma, recently and watched quarterback Baker Mayfield throw to Andrews and others in a private workout.

Andrews had 62 catches for 958 yards and eight touchdowns last season.

Andrews has type 1 diabetes, which is controllable with proper diet and medication.

Zierlein’s assessment of him: “Andrews is a former wideout who plays with a receiver’s mentality in a tight end’s body. He is a pass-catcher with a deft feel for route adjustments and operating in space against zone coverage. Andrews is a big, reliable target who doesn’t need a spacious catch window to haul it in. Despite his size, he lacks the desire and fundamentals as a blocker, which will hurt his standing with some teams. He should be able to find early catches and production as a solid pass-catching tight end in the league.”

Meanwhile, the Dolphins have scheduled a private workout with Goedert in South Dakota, according to a source.

Goedert had 72 catches for 1,111 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

Zierlein’s take: “Goedert is a very talented pass-catching tight end with the ability to work all three levels of the field. His ball focus and ability to make the spectacular catch will make him the darling of fans and media throughout the draft process, but, he still has work to do. Goedert dominated a lower level of competition and will have to prove he can uncover and block against bigger, more explosive athletes as a pro. The size, speed and talent is there for him to succeed as a very good combo tight end if he works and plays with a little more urgency.”

Andrews and Goedert could potentially go in the second round.

The Dolphins would be pleased to emerge from the draft with one of those three. They also appreciate the skills of UM’s Chris Herndon, who met with Dolphins officials on March 23.

If they don’t draft one of those four, other options would include Indiana’s Ian Thomas, Penn State’s Mike Gesicki, Stanford’s Dalton Schultz, Wisconsin’s Troy Fumagali, Washington’s Will Disly, Notre Dame’s Durham Smythe, Central Michigan’s Tyler Conklin, FSU’s Ryan Izzo and Wake Forest’s Cam Serigne.

DOUGHTY RELEASED

The Dolphins released quarterback Brandon Doughty and signed offensive tackle Roubbens Joseph, who spent training camp with the Baltimore Ravens last season but has not appeared in an NFL game.

A seventh-round pick out of Western Kentucky in 2016, Doughty spent two seasons on the team’s practice squad. Doughty, who attended North Broward Prep in Coconut Creek, was bypassed multiple times the past two years when the team needed to add veteran depth because of injury.

The Dolphins have three quarterbacks under contract - Ryan Tannehill, Brock Osweiler and David Fales - and expect to add one or two in the draft process.

They have visits scheduled with Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Washington State’s Luke Falk and FIU’s Alex McGough and potentially others.

Joseph, who went undrafted out of the University of Buffalo, will compete with Jake Brendel, Eric Smith, Isaac Asiata and several players likely to be added through the draft process for one or two jobs on the 53 man roster behind seven established veterans.

Brendel signed his tender and is back with the team. He played well when Mike Pouncey missed the second half of the Falcons game.

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