The Miami Dolphins spent much of the 2016 NFL Draft moving around the draft order in order to target specific players that they felt would best fit the new offensive and defensive systems being installed for this season. The Drafted started with the team adding offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, then moved to the defense with the selection of cornerback Xavien Howard in the second round. The third round featured two picks for Miami, running back Kenyan Drake and wide receiver Leonte Carroo, followed next by two sixth round picks, wide receiver Jakeem Grant and defensive back Jordan Lucas. The seventh round also featured two picks, starting with quarterback Bradon Doughty and completed with tight end Thomas Duarte.
We have already taken insider looks at the first seven picks for the Dolphins, getting the impressions of the bloggers who covered the draft picks when they were in college. This morning, we finish the series with a look at Duarte from the UCLA bloggers at Bruins Nation.
Joe Piechowski, managing editor at Bruins Nation, writes in the site's pre-Draft profile of Duarte:
Thomas Duarte made an immediate impact when he arrived at UCLA, playing in all 13 games and starting four of them. That year, he caught 16 passes for 214 yards en route to tying UCLA's true freshman record with three touchdown passes.
He built on his freshman year success and had an even better year in 2014. Duarte had 28 receptions for 540 yards and 4 TDs. He led the Bruins and the Pac-12 with an average of 19.29 yards per catch. That ranked 15th best in the country. For his efforts, he was received an All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection.
Duarte had a breakout year in 2015. He led UCLA with 10 touchdowns and ranked 17th in the nation. He had three 100-yard receiving games while catching 53 passes for 872 yards. That was good enough to earn Duarte a second team All-Pac-12 selection.
Piechowski goes on to break down the strengths and weaknesses of Duarte:
One of Duarte's biggest strengths is his size which creates problems for opponents. His size also allows him to work the middle of the field without being concerned about defenders. He is good at faking out opponents off the ball. He uses his size and his arms to pull in balls that might not be catchable by smaller receivers.
Duarte lacks the ability to make defenders miss after he catches the ball as he tends to rely on beating them before making the catch. He can be disrupted by contact before the ball arrives. He hasn't really done much blocking due to former UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone's offensive scheme.
Duarte seems to be molded to be a tight end in the new sense of the position, where he will be split out wide or in the slot, as much as he is in tight on the offensive line. The issue may come down to his size, where his big for a receiver, but small for a right end (6-foot-2, 231 pounds). As Piechowski wrote, he has the tendency to be disrupted by contact, something he needs to outgrow at the NFL level, and he has to become a better blocker if he is going to make it as an NFL tight end.
For a seventh round pick, being a developmental type of player is fine and Duarte needs to develop himself into a true tight end. It is just a matter of whether or not the Dolphins see Duarte as a developmental player for the roster, or one for the practice squad.