Barry Jackson

Dolphins hoping they found a gem with one of college football’s most prolific rookie WRs

A six pack of Dolphins notes on a Thursday:

The Dolphins have found a receiver who ranked among the top five in college football in the three most-often-cited statistical categories last season. And they didn’t even need to use a draft pick to get him.

With Ricardo Louis going on season-ending injured reserve on Thursday with a knee issue, undrafted Colorado State receiver Preston Williams will have every opportunity to make the Dolphins as a sixth receiver.

Keep in mind this was a player who led the Mountain West with 96 catches for 1345 yards last season.

He was third in the country in receptions, tied for third in touchdowns caught and fourth in receiving yards.

The NCAA leader in receiving yards, coincidentally, was Massachusetts’ Andy Isabella, who was used by Arizona with the draft pick (62nd overall) sent by Miami to the Cardinals for Josh Rosen.

The Dolphins hope they’ve found an overlooked gem in Williams, who made a couple of nice catches in Tuesday’s OTA session, the only practice open to reporters this week.

“One of the few five-star recruits you’ll be able to get,” Dolphins assistant general manager Marvin Allen told the Dolphins’ web site. “Tremendously talented receiver. Uses his length, does a great job adjusting his body. He’s a playmaker.”

Even after transferring to Colorado State after two nondescript seasons at Tennessee, Williams had first-round talent, according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper. But his pro stock took a hit because of 2017 arrests.

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According to, Williams “was suspended for much of [the 2017] season following arrests for harassment, tampering and domestic violence after an altercation with a former girlfriend. Williams allegedly shoved her multiple times during an argument at an off-campus apartment the two shared, according to Fort Collins police reports. He was arrested again three weeks later by CSU police for violating a restraining order after the first arrest. Williams pleaded guilty to the harassment charge and received a deferred sentence. The other charges were dismissed by Larimer County Court Judge Mary Joan Berenato, according to court records.”

He said he was forthright with the Dolphins about those incidents.

“I just told them the honest truth,” Williams said this past week. “I kept it real with them. At the end of the day, that’s all you can do.”

And lessons learned?

“You have to be a professional on the field and off the field,” he said. “I just try to stay clean and do what I’m supposed to do.... Things happened in the past. I’m not complaining about it. I’m just moving forward. The past is behind me.”

Williams is a big fan of Randy Moss and watched him closely growing up. Both are the same size (6-4) and weight (210).

If Williams is even a fifth of the player Moss was, Miami will have uncovered a gem.

The Dolphins believe they’ve found two promising prospects in undrafted rookie linebackers Tre Watson (Maryland) and Terrill Hanks (New Mexico State).

Watson, a 6-2, 236-pound inside linebacker, had 108 tackles, was first-team All-Big 10, averaged more tackles per game than anyone else in the conference (9.6) and had a Big Ten-leading five interceptions last season but still didn’t get an invitation to the Combine.

In fact, Watson’s five interceptions were second-most in the country last season among non-defensive backs, behind only Charlotte’s Juwan Foggie. Among all players, he was tied for fifth nationally with the five picks.

“There was a point at the end September, he was leading the Big Ten in tackles and interceptions,” Dolphins senior national scout Ron Brockington told the team’s web site. “For him to go undrafted was more or less numbers than ability. His physicality and toughness are going to fit in well in our program. Very physical linebacker.”

Hanks had 101 tackles last season, including nine for loss. The 6-2, 242-pound Miami LaSalle High product certainly could fill the stat sheet. In four years in college, he had 391 tackles, including 43.5 for loss, 11 sacks, eight interceptions, 14 passes defended, three fumble recoveries and seven forced fumbles.

“He had a very impressive senior year,” Allen said. “Led the team in tackles, being a captain, you did your work and watched the tape and you know this guy is really really fast. We were able to get him here for the local pro day and he impressed us all. When we saw he was available, we jumped at the opportunity.”

If you polled NFL evaluators, it’s safe to assume that most or all would take Ja’Wuan James (who signed a four-year, $52 million with Denver) over Jordan Mills, who signed a one-year, $3 million deal to replace James at right tackle for the Dolphins this season.

But if both players’ stats for 2018 can be used as a gauge, then the move from James to Mills won’t be a step down in pass protection.

James allowed seven sacks on 491 pass blocking opportunities last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Conversely, Mills relinquished five sacks on 606 pass blocking snaps. Advantage Mills.

Mills allowed more pressures (35) than James (26). But James allowed more pressures-per-pass blocking snap than Mills. Again, advantage Mills.

Where James had the big edge over Mills last season was in run blocking. PFF ranked James the 14th best run blocker among 85 qualifying tackles with a 69.1 grade. Mills was 77th at 47.7. Dolphins starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil, incidentally, was 37th at 62.3.

Mills actually was considered a better run blocker than pass blocker during his first two NFL seasons with Chicago, according to PFF. But that changed during his four years as a starter in Buffalo.

Feedback on the two interior offensive linemen signed by the Dolphins on Thursday:

Though new Dolphins guard/center Kyle Fuller has played in 11 NFL games (nine with the Texans in 2017 and two with the Redskins last season), he has logged only 145 snaps on offense. He pass blocked on 61 of those 145 total snaps and allowed one sack and two hurries.

Washington used him extensively at left guard in the final two games of last season. Miami feels there’s something to work with there.

The other interior lineman signed, former North Carolina State starter Tony Adams, was worth a flier. Pro Football Focus rated him the fifth best guard in college football in 2017, and he permitted only 10 pressures in 460 pass blocking opportunities that season. The knock on him was he didn’t have ideal length, but his agility and footwork are above average.

Quick stuff: Nevada’s Wes Farnsworth has a decent chance to end John Denney’s 13-year Dolphins career.

“We felt he was the top long snapper in the draft,” Dolphins scout Matt Winston told the team’s web site. “We were excited to be able to get him after the draft. Very athletic for the position. He played some defensive back early in his career at Nevada. Played running back in high school.”….

I’m eager to see what the tight ends can do in this offense. Mike Gesicki, Nick O’Leary and Clive Walford all caught balls from Rosen on Tuesday. While one of Rosen’s sideline passes sailed badly Tuesday, he looks comfortable throwing in the middle of the field - as he often did at Arizona.

▪ The Dolphins have one child actor among their undrafted rookie additions: Stanford receiver Trenton Irwin, who made ads for Velveeta, a processed cheese product, as a youngster. WSVN-Fox 7’s Mike DePasquale had Irwin recreate those ads for a feature for the station’s Sports Xtra Sunday night show.

The sure-handed Irwin said he’s playing on the outside and the slot. He’s caught a few balls in the first two days of OTAs – which resumed Thursday – and don’t by any means discount him in the battle with Williams, Isaiah Ford and Reece Horn for a potential sixth receiver spot.

“Trenton is interesting guy,” Dolphins co-director player personnel Adam Engroff told the team’s web site. “Excellent route runner, great hands, gritty tough player who is our type of guy.”

Here was my story with all six Dophins roster moves on Thursday.

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