The first was an undrafted defensive end from Penn State, who got cut immediately from the New York Giants before blowing up in Canada as a member of the BC Lions, earning him the award for Most Outstanding Rookie in 2007. Of course, the rest is history.. Miami outbid a few other teams who drew interest, signed him to a low-risk deal, and "Wakezilla" became a household name as soon as he hit the field and became one of the league's best pass-rushers.
The second guy was a cornerback who played college ball at Shippensburg State. Don't be surprised if you don't know where that is, because neither did a handful of NFL scouts. This guy ALSO went undrafted. After college, he played for the Hamburg Sea Devils (yes, in Germany) before signing as an undrafted free agent with the Atlanta Falcons. Two years later he was making a name for himself as a full time starter and by 2010 he had earned his first pro-bowl birth. Last year, he earned his second trip to Hawaii, this time being a member of the Miami Dolphins. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the second best cornerback in the league, and he helped us to remember what a lockdown corner looked like since the days when Madison and Surtain were on the field.
The funny thing is... the third Dolphin member of the NFL Top 100, is a sixth round pick from Tulsa, a guy who came in the league with no known position and by most accounts was downright lucky to not get cut during his first two years. That guy is Miami's starting tight end, Charles Clay, and in my mind he is even a bigger enigma than Cameron Wake or Brent Grimes, the guys listed above who went against all odds to become all-pros and two of the Dolphins best players.
I know what you're thinking... "Man, for all the crap the front office has gotten over the last [insert insanely large number here] years, they sure have done a decent job developing some diamonds in the rough!". Is Charles Clay a diamond in the rough? Actually, I don't know what Charles Clay is.... I don't think anybody does. And THAT is the very reason why he could be one of our best players for years to come.
Charles Clay was drafted in the sixth round (174th overall) by Miami Dolphins after trading with Green Bay to move up and get him. Even then, Phinsider fans didn't know what to think of the new Dolphin, who was labeled as a pass catching FB/TE hybrid. He took a backseat to Anthony Fasano year one and drew mixed reviews in training camp. He finished his rookie year with just 16 catches, but with 3 touchdowns. This 46 yard bomb against Buffalo was his longest catch that year and plays like this gave us a glimpse of the future at how special of a player this guy can be.
His second year, however failed to propel his status by any means. Clay struggled to secure much playing time and really didn't have many opportunities in Miami's poorly executed Mike Sherman offense. He finished with 18 catches and two touchdowns before tearing a ligament in his knee versus Miami's 24-3 win against Jacksonville, which ended his season.
When the 2013 season started, Charles Clay was just one of the 53 players trying to keep a roster spot. At times he seemed to be on the outside looking in. In the Week 1 preseason game versus Tampa Bay, Clay finished with six targets and one catch for five yards. His outlook looked bleak. Though, like us fans, quarterback Ryan Tannehill stuck up for him. He knew what he knew.. "If this guy can put it all together, he could be unstoppable".
Then something happened that had never happened in Clay's pro career. He got a chance. A freak knee injury took out Ryan Tannehill's top target in Dustin Keller during a preseason battle against Houston. When it was confirmed that he was out for the year, the future looked bleak for the tight end position. We were asking alot for players to step up and attempt to mimic Keller's production. But, Charles Clay took that challenge and ran with it, literally.
It didn't take long. Clay was a critical part of our receiving core from Week 1 versus Cleveland, he surpassed 100 yards Week 2 versus Indianapolis, and scored in three consecutive weeks versus the Saints, Ravens and Bills. For the first time in forever, a Miami Tight End began popping up on fantasy football radars. Defensive coordinators started to take note, because they had one small problem... they couldn't figure out how to cover him. He was too fast for linemen and too big for corners. He seemed to be one of the few players that Bill Belicheck couldn't figure out. He lined up everywhere. When the secondary started keying on him, other receivers started to get open. Not only could he suddenly catch everything. He could hit. Clay finished the season with 69 catches for 759 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Miami's most improved player was recognized this offseason by being named the NFL's 89th best player. ESPN's Field Yates recently reported that Clay made the list of NFL sources for "biggest matchup nightmares", a list shared by Rob Gronkowski, Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson. The league knows who Charles Clay is now? But do we? What else does the future hold for Miami's offensive weapon?
Clay remains at the depth chart as Miami's top tight end. Newly appointed offensive coordinator, Bill Lazor, was infamous for creating a unique high paced up-tempo offense in Philly. He would be wise to use Clay in a variety of ways to keep the defense on their toes and keep the offensive rhythm firing at all cylinders. Clay may not have the size of Rob Gronkowski, but he can use his variety of skills to be a similar "swiss army knife" of a threat for the Dolphins this year. Like his hands, his blocking has incredibly improved and can also help Miami rejuvenate their rushing attack after an off year. The best part about Charles Clay is no matter the down or the secnario, the offense can always use him.
Charles Clay may be one the most unique players in the NFL. Now that the expectations are high, we are all counting on Big Play Clay to be the force that Miami needs him to be.