Rookies enter the league among a lot of hype and expectations. From a team's first selection to the undrafted free agents they sign, every player excites the fan base, whether its picking up the best available player for finding a steal who should have been selected earlier. The Miami Dolphins currently have 23 rookies on their 90-man roster. Not all of them will make it to the 53-man, regular-season roster, but many will, and some will find themselves with key roles this year.
Rookie of the Year Candidates (1)
DeVante Parker, wide receiver
The Dolphins completely rebuilt their wide receiving corps this offseason, and picking Parker with the 14th overall selection was the cherry on top of the sundae. Parker joins a group that will likely see Greg Jennings, Jarvis Landry, and Kenny Stills slotted as the three starters at the beginning of the year, but Parker should see plenty of playing time. Will it be enough to push him into the ROY crowd?
Potential Starters (3)
Jay Ajayi, running back
Jamil Douglas, guard
Jordan Phillips, defensive tackle
How the Dolphins will use Ajayi is yet to be seen. Lamar Miller is installed as the starting running back, coming off a 1,000 yard season, but Ajayi has the potential to unseat Miller eventually. Last season, Miami began the year with Miller as the starter, but clearly fed the ball to Knowshon Moreno more than Miller in the first week of the season. Ajayi could see that same type of time-share this year, taking carries from Miller.
The Dolphins have Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas currently slotted as the starting guards. Douglas is raw and could need time to develop, but he also has the talent to at least challenge for playing time.
Phillips has to come in and compete for the starting job, and it is a deep roster for the position next to Ndamukong Suh. Earl Mitchell, A.J. Francis, Kamal Johnson, and Anthony Johnson will all be trying to prove themselves worthy of the spot, with Mitchell the most likely to land it. Phillips has to prove he is willing to work hard on every single snap, something he recognizes about himself, but he is the double-team eating, nose tackle type the Dolphins defense could need next to Suh.
Key Reserves (6)
Mickey Baucus, offensive line
Mike Hull, linebacker
Tony Lippett, cornerback
Jeff Luc, linebacker
Bobby McCain, cornerback
Cedric Thompson, safety
Baucus was an undrafted free agent, but he could be the additional offensive tackle depth the team needs. He might end up on the practice squad, but if he makes the roster, he could be the critical depth Miami will need behind Ja'Wuan James.
The Dolphins brought in several undrafted free agent linebackers this year, and Hull appears to be the top of the group early in the offseason program. He's athletic and seems to be always near the ball. Miami needs depth at linebacker and special teams contributors. If Hull keeps it up into training camp and the preseason, he could become a key reserve for Miami during the season.
Lippett is a hard player to peg for a role on the Dolphins this year. He played primarily wide receiver for Michigan State, but did show up on defense for them as well occasionally. The Dolphins will look to make him a full time cornerback, so there may be some development time required before he can become a full contributor, but he might be a good depth option in the secondary, a unit that was crushed by injuries last year.
I almost put Luc on the practice squad list below, but there is just something about him that I really like. I would not be surprised if he landed on the practice squad, but he could provide raw depth behind Koa Misi at middle linebacker, and that may be something the Dolphins need. Plus, he grew up a Dolphins fan - so why not give him the benefit of the doubt of being able to get on the field wearing aqua.
McCain could find himself starting this year if he is able to beat out Jamar Taylor and Will Davis for the spot opposite Brent Grimes. Most likely, he will stay behind them on the depth chart, but he should be have a spot on the roster and be able to find playing time during the year.
Thompson gives the Dolphins more secondary depth, a weakness last year. He's not going to surpass Reshad Jones or Louis Delmas this year, but he will be an option if either of those two get hurt.
Practice Squad Candidates (6)
Ray Drew, defensive end
Christion Jones, wide receiver
Michael Liedtke, offensive line
Dionte Savage, offensive line
Tim Semisch, tight end
Zach Vigil, linebacker
Drew has potential, but just is looking to make the squad at an extremely deep position. Jones could make the roster if the team wants to use him as a return option, but wide receiver is deep right now, so stashing him on the practice squad would seem more likely. Liedtke and Savage end up on the practice squad candidates list, just because Baucus and Douglas are in the groups above. I would not be surprised if either one of them makes the roster. Semisch came into the rookie minicamp on a tryout invitation and did enough to land a contract, so the coaches see something in him and it may be enough for him to hang around this year. Vigil is another member of the undrafted free agent linebacker group, and he will have a shot at making the roster. I slot him down at the practice squad candidate groups, simply because I have Hull and Luc above.
Matt Darr, punter
Andrew Franks, kicker
Neville Hewitt, linebacker
Nigel King, wide receiver
Ellis McCarthy, defensive tackle
Kendlal Montgomery, defensive end
Audrey Walker, offensive line
Darr and Franks are likely camp bodies, making it so Brandon Fields and Caleb Sturgis do not have to take every kick. The rest of the group needs to make an impact during training camp to elevate them into the practice squad/roster fight.