NFL Christmas, a.k.a. the Draft, is officially over. Since the labor situation isn’t resolved yet, we will probably spend the next month or so dissecting each of the draft picks until there is nothing left. But right now, I don’t want to talk about the guys we just drafted. I don’t want to talk about the possible veteran free agents we could go after either. I want to talk about the “acorns” out there in undrafted free agent land.
Say what you want about this particular front office, but they have been good at finding undrafted talent to put on this roster. Davone Bess is the penultimate example. He was told by the draft committee that he was a solid second round selection. He fell completely out of the draft. We all saw the emotion that Tom Brady showed when he talked about waiting until the sixth round to get drafted. Imagine how Bess felt not hearing his name called, not even being “good enough” to be Mr. Irrelevant. Fortunately for us, Ireland quickly called him up and invited him to camp. 209 catches, 2132 yards, 8 TDs later, we have arguably the best slot receiver in the NFL.
In that same post-draft time, Ireland called up some I-AA kicker in Missoula, Montana by the name of Dan Carpenter. By the end of his third season, he has a Pro-Bowl selection to his credit and was almost the key to our entire 2010 offense.
After three drafts with this regime, we have filled out our rosters with quality players that went undrafted. Rookie Marlon Moore scored the longest touchdown in 2010. Roberto Wallace is a 6’4”, 230 lbs. receiver with 4.4 speed that has untapped potential and was a major contributor on special teams. Jonathan Amaya was another key special teams player whose potential allowed Ireland and crew to feel comfortable with our safety position. Ryan Baker gave us some good depth on the defensive line.
We know that as soon as teams are allowed, they will start the madness of trying to bring in some undrafted free agents to fill out the camp rosters and hope they find the next Kurt Warner, Arian Foster, or Davone Bess.
Here are some 2011 undrafted prospects that the Dolphins might be interested in bringing in for a try out. Hopefully we might find a gem or two in there like we have over the past three seasons. I’m going to rank our FO’s interest level as stars, 1 being very low and 5 being very high.(These are in no particular order)
DeAndre Brown, WR, Southern Mississippi **
A massive WR (6’6”, 231 lbs.) who has some injury and work ethic concerns. He suffered a gruesome leg injury in 2008 and hasn’t played up to his potential since then. But as an undrafted player, he may play with a chip on his shoulder and play up to his talent level. Our FO has an affinity for big players and he fits the bill. He will probably get calls from teams who have bigger needs at WR than we do though.
Pat Devlin, QB, Delaware *****
Once touted as a potential second round prospect, Devlin’s stock has dropped precipitously since the draft process began. He has been compared to Flacco, but only because he was a big school transfer to Delaware. He doesn’t possess Flacco’s arm or height. But Devlin has put up good numbers at a top I-AA school, albeit from a spread attack. He has a good enough arm, decent accuracy, and plenty of upside. I can see our FO really taking an interest in him as a developmental prospect that, like Romo, could one day start.
Josh Portis, QB, California University of Pennsylvania (not making that up) *****
Portis, cousin of RB Clinton Portis, has a big arm and is accurate. At 6’3”, 211 lbs. he has decent size for the position. He has plenty of talent, but off the field concerns caused his stock to drop. He was on the Dolphins radar before the draft and I would think that he is still there. He was a dual-threat QB in college and might intrigue this FO as a Michael Vick-esque player who can create with his arm and his feet. And you know they would try and use him in a Wildcat formation or two. Portis is a sleeper undrafted free agent that wouldn’t cost too much if he didn’t pan out, but could be a real gem if he did.
Deunta Williams, S, UNC ***
A big, fast safety who likes to hit; sounds like the type of player our coaches would covet. However, injuries have plagued his career. He was once a potential first round prospect that just fell due to those injury concerns. He would be an immediate special teams contributor whose talent might allow him to see the field in sub-packages and may eventually push Jones or Clemons for a starting spot.
Weslye Saunders, TE, South Carolina ***
A talented, but somewhat underachieving TE who was kicked off his team in 2010. His off-the-field concerns and teams questioning his desire to play caused him to go undrafted. But he plays to his talent, he could easily push Epps, Mastrud, and Shuler off the roster.
Derrick Locke, RB, Kentucky *****
We drafted a big, bruising back in Daniel Thomas. But we still need a scatback who can give us speed in the backfield. There are a number of veterans we could pursue, but we can’t be guaranteed that we can sign any of them. So Locke should be firmly in our sights as a player to fit that role. He has 4.3 speed and can be used in a variety of ways, as a receiver in the slot, out of the backfield, and as a return specialist. We poached Kory Sheets from the 49ers practice squad a couple of seasons ago for that role. Like Locke, he had speed to burn. But after an Achilles tendon injury, we don’t know what to expect from him. Locke could become Sheets' replacement and would be a steal as an undrafted free agent. He can give us more speed that we so desperately need.
Brandon Bair, DE/DT, Oregon **
Defensive line is not a concern at this point. But we said the same thing about our 2010 offensive line and we saw how that turned out. Bair would likely be a 5-tech in the 3-4 and could give some depth at a better price than McDaniel or even Merling. If Frank Kearse doesn’t make the team, then we have no depth at NT. If Soliai were to be injured, then we’d likely move Starks back to NT and have Langford and Odrick as starters. Bair could provide good depth in a case like that.
Justin Boren, OG, Ohio State ****
We addressed the starting offensive line in the draft, but we didn’t address any depth. Garner is the wildcard in the bunch. He could beat out anyone except Long for a starting spot, or he could just be depth. But with his injury history, we can’t rely on him to be there for all 16 games. That leaves Berger, McQuistan, Proctor, Murtha, Feinga, and a couple of others…. yeah. Boren seems like a prefect Sparano prospect at 6’3”, 320 lbs. and hailing from the Big Ten. Boren could provide depth at the guard spot and allow us to be rid of the guys I mentioned earlier.
Tim Barnes, C, Missouri ****
Another offensive linemen to potentially add depth. We all remember the Chicago debacle when Sparano was recruiting fans in the stands to come play offensive line. Barnes is a strong 6’4”, 300 lbs center with good feet and pulling ability. He’s a work in progress with technique, but it’s coachable stuff that can be addressed in camp. Offensive line depth is always a good thing and Barnes could mean the end of Berger’s time with the Dolphins.
Terrence Toliver, WR, LSU **
Again, WR is not really an issue with us anymore. We have 4 guys who will likely be on the game day roster (Marshall, Bess, Hartline, and Gates). The coaches are intrigued with developing Wallace, Moore, and even Pruitt. So I don’t think we’ll even target a undrafted WR. However, they may want to bring in a big guy like Toliver (6’ 3”, 203 lbs) to kick the tires and see if he can unseat one of the other WRs. He’s a big target, but has questionable hands.
David Mims, OT, Virginia Union ***
A massive tackle with potential to be a good RT in the NFL. Has some technique issues that may be coached up. But his biggest asset is his size; 6’8”, 336 lbs. Our FO loves to pick up linemen and this could be a prospect to push Murtha off the roster and give us some depth at OT.
Ugo Chinasa, OLB/DE, Oklahoma State *****
We all talk about the fact we didn’t address the QB position in the draft. But the other position we failed to address is pass rusher. We have Wake and Misi as the starters. We have IAF as a reserve. Then we have…… that’s right; no one. Quentin Moses is a FA and he’s done nothing to warrant a new contract. The veteran FA market is thin at pass rusher, so we’ll have to look at undrafted players. Chinasa is a DE/OLB hybrid with the size that our team covets (6’5”, 264 lbs). He’ll likely have to adapt to the OLB position, but could offer us a nickel pass rusher to team with Wake on passing downs. He was considered a mid round prospect by some. My bet is that Chinasa is a priority FA target by Ireland.
And I’m saving my favorite for last…
Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College **********
Herzlich was a great LB prospect until he went up against the greatest opponent he’d ever faced: cancer. Cancer is a curse that has affected just about everyone, either by them having cancer themselves, or having a loved one with cancer. So, here’s a young man about to enter the prime of his young life, and he gets blindsided by this awful disease. Well, like a champion, he beat it and is now cancer free. But not only did he beat the disease, but came back and played more college football.
Whether or not he ever plays a down in the NFL, he’ll still be considered a winner in my book. Oh, and considering he’s 6’4”, 264 lbs, we can find a place for him on the team; this is the kind of guy you want on your team. He could be a good pick up as he could provide depth at the ILB position and maybe even find a starting spot in the future. I don’t know if Ireland will go after him or not, but he’s a winner and you can’t ever have enough winners on your team.
So there are a few prospects that I think Ireland might target in the post draft free agency market. Hopefully we can find a few “acorns” that not only make the team, but make significant contributions as well.
P.S. The post is by no means exhaustive. I’m sure I left some potential prospects off of this list. So feel free to add any others you think we might target in the comments. If you do, tell what position, what school, and why you think Ireland would be inclined to take that player.