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The 2018 NFL Draft could finally land Miami its tight end

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The 2018 tight end class is stacked with talent beyond the first round.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Charles Clay was the answer to the Dolphins’ tight end problems during his time in Miami. His versatility, athleticism and ability to earn yards after the catch made him a vital part of Miami’s offense. Unfortunately, the Dolphins lost Clay to free agency, and haven’t quite recovered since.

Dion Sims as a decent replacement, but he could never stay healthy nor turn into a serious offensive threat.

Thus, Miami turned to washed up Julius Thomas in hopes of rejuvenating his career.

No dice. In fact, Thomas looked out of shape and incompetent to make the easy catch — or even effort — at times.

The Dolphins enter the 2018 free agency and draft with a desperate need of at least one, arguably two tight ends. While it’s too early to predict Miami’s free agency plans, the tight end draft class is stacked with the most talent in years.

Whether it’s the first round or seventh round, the Dolphins will have their choice of solving their ongoing tight end conflict. Let’s dive into these options.

16. DeAndre Goolsby

Florida

Senior

6-4, 239

Goolsby is one of the better athletes at the tight end position in the draft. He’s a tall, thin receiving threat who can use his top end speed to make a big play after the catch. He runs crisp routes and is highly effective if used correctly in an H-Back role. His hands are average but reliable, and he prefers to catch with the body and use space to earn extra yardage, rather than trucking defenders.

One area he must improve is blocking. Goolsby doesn't embrace contact nor fully commit to showing good technique when blocking. He’ll get bulldozed at next level if he tries to finesse his blocks.

For whatever reason, he was criminally misused at UF.

Prediction: 6th round

NCAA Football: Alabama-Birmingham at Florida
Florida Gators tight end DeAndre Goolsby (30) runs the ball in for a touchdown against the UAB Blazers during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

15. Marcus Baugh

Ohio State

Senior

6-5, 250

What stands out about Baugh is his huge frame. He's a wide, compact and well built target that can get a team short yardage. His big hands won’t drop easy passes, but don’t expect him to make many highlight catches. He isn’t very graceful or athletic, but mobile enough to make a play in space. Baugh won’t beat many defenders using his speed, and may have trouble separating at the next level, but he’s quick enough to be a receiving threat.

He’s not a technical blocker yet. He occasionally leans forward or is thrown off base, attempting to block with one shoulder. His wide frame will allow him to grow into a solid blocker but he must polish his technique. Baugh has a lot of Dion Sims in him, and could excel in a similar role.

Prediction: 6th round

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Ohio State vs Southern California
Ohio State Buckeyes tight end Marcus Baugh (85) runs after a reception against Southern California Trojans linebacker Cameron Smith (35) during the second quarter in the 2017 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

14. Cam Serigne

Wake Forest

Senior

6-3, 240

Serigne has a bulky frame, with a lower half built like a tree trunk. His big hands allow him to catch contested or inaccurate passes in traffic. He’s a decent athlete for a tight end and can make a play when in space. The senior should have success beating linebackers one-on-one at the next level, but lacks top end speed to beat faster athletes. His quickness makes up for his lack of speed, and Serigne will be able to make slower defenders miss in space.

He needs to develop definitive plan when blocking. The Wake Forest TE often runs into cluttered space and plants himself there as another body, rather than make an impact as a blocker.

He won’t be a main cog to an offense, but he can be a nice addition to a team.

Prediction: 6th round

NCAA Football: Belk Bowl-Wake Forest vs Texas A&M
Wake Forest Demon Deacons tight end Cam Serigne (85) runs after a catch against Texas A&M Aggies defensive back Debione Renfro (29) in the second quarter in the 2017 Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

13. Jordan Akins

Central Florida

Senior

6-3, 249

Akins has a tall, muscular frame that still has room for growth. His athleticism and versatility allows an offense to line him up all parts of the field. He’s a great natural catcher for a tight end, and his top speed allows him to burn defenders. His raw talent has a high ceiling at the next level if he’s polished.

Akins is a mediocre blocker and has a lot of room for improvement, but a team won’t draft him for blocking, they’ll draft him for his playmaking ability. He wasn’t used very often in his college career, but a team will select him based off what they think he’ll become. Right now it’s a guessing game, as most will formulate their opinions off one season. However, he could be one of the steals of the draft.

Prediction: 5th round. He’ll have a chance to rise into the 3rd/4th round mix with a good combine.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Southern Methodist
UCF Knights tight end Jordan Akins (88) is tackled by Southern Methodist Mustangs safety Mikial Onu (4) in the third quarter at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

12. Jaylen Samuels

NC State

Senior

5-11, 223

Samules is undersized, fast and a mismatch for defenders to cover. Who does this remind us of? Charles Clay, the one Dolphins player that hasn’t been replaced since 2015. Samuels is a Swiss Army knife who can do just about anything an offense asks of him. He’s not going to bulldoze large defenders, but he can burn defenses in the slot, at the boundary or out of the backfield. His speed, quickness, athleticism and versatility make him an intriguing match for Miami later in the draft. Samuels should be an absolute terror in the red zone, something the Dolphins have struggled with since before he was born. He gives an effort blocking, but he’ll have to stay low and use his strong base to drive defenders back, rather than trying to take them head on, straight up.

Prediction: 5th round

NCAA Football: North Carolina at North Carolina State
North Carolina State Wolfpack back Jaylen Samuels (1) runs the ball during the second half against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

11. Tyler Conklin

Central Michigan

Senior

6-4, 240

Conklin’s wide catch radius and good hands will impress teams who need playmaking tight ends. He’s athletic enough to gain yards after the catch and turn a small play into a big one. His route running is decent but he must sell his cuts more. Smaller, quicker corners are able to match him step for step when he runs lazy routes or fails to explode off the line of scrimmage. Conklin uses body to contort body and shield defenders as a big red zone target.

Conklin is an average blocker who lacks technique. Additionally, he’ll have to add mass if he’s to hold off NFL edge rushers.

Teams will fall in love with his size and smooth athleticism in space.

Prediction: 5th round

NCAA Football: UNLV at Central Michigan
Central Michigan Chippewas tight end Tyler Conklin (83) makes a catch during the second quarter against the UNLV Rebels at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

10. Durham Smythe

Notre Dame

Senior

6-5, 257

Smythe has a tall, well-rounded build that looks the part for an NFL tight end. He’s an exceptional blocker whose effort is always there. He was a bit under appreciated in college for his good hands and above average athleticism; Notre Dame failed to consistently incorporate him into their passing attack. If a team polishes his route running, separation and playmaking ability, he can become a real receiving threat and safety net for an offense. His pass blocking is very good, but his run blocking is special. He took LSU defensive lineman out of the play a handful of times during the Citrus Bowl.

He’ll be a better pro than college player.

Prediction: 5th round

NCAA Football: Notre Dame vs Navy
Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Durham Smythe (80) dives over Navy Midshipmen safety Alohi Gilman (1) for a touchdown in the second quarter at EverBank Field.
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

9. Ryan Izzo

Florida State

Junior

6-5, 245

Izzo is a big, strong, physical tight end who isn’t afraid to throw his body into any block. As one of the best blockers in the class, he’ll set the tone for your offense by doing all the dirty work. He isn’t going to make any spectacular catches, but he has strong hands that make heavily contested catches. While the junior lacks top end speed, he is quick enough to create separation for short-to-medium yard gains.

For someone who is limited athletically and won’t make many highlight plays, he actually runs nimble routes for someone his size. His footwork isn’t consistent yet, but he does show the ability to hang with the better athletes on the field. He’ll end up as a quarterback’s best friend, while earning the respect of his teammates on the offensive line.

Prediction: 4th round

NCAA Football: Independence Bowl-Southern Mississippi vs Florida State
Florida State Seminoles tight end Ryan Izzo (81) catches a pass against Southern Miss Golden Eagles linebacker Racheem Boothe (41) during the first half in the 2017 Independence Bowl at Independence Stadium.
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

8. Ian Thomas

Indiana

Senior

6-5, 248

Thomas is a freak athlete who catches the ball easily and uses sideline boundaries like a receiver. His excellent breakaway speed will give an offense a home run weapon that not many tight ends bring. His production lacked at Indiana, where he never quite put it all together on the field. He’s a decent blocker, but he’ll have to be more physical at the point of attack; defensive ends won’t allow him to stay stationary and catch blocks. Thomas has all the potential in the world, but he’s unproven and raw on offense — especially when creating space. While he lacks consistency and looks the part, a team has to bring the best out of him to reach the next level. If he has good workouts leading up to the draft and posts an impressive 40-time, he may drastically rise up the draft boards on day two.

Prediction: 4th round

NCAA Football: Indiana at Illinois
Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Patrick Nelson (21) tackles Indiana Hoosiers tight end Ian Thomas (80) during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium.
Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

7. Adam Breneman

Massachusetts

Senior

6-5, 255

Breneman is a tall, slender tight end who is a great athlete, but needs to fill out his frame and add bulk. While he has excellent hands for a tight end, he doesn’t really know what to do with the ball in space other than run/fall forward. On tape he rarely made defenders miss, or had a strategy once he caught the ball. This raises questions about how high his ceiling is as a football player. He must improve his technique when blocking or he’ll get ran over in the NFL. Breneman is quick and agile, but lacks overall speed that can outrun defenses. Additionally, he lacks explosion in cuts or redirections, but has shown capability in running extensive routes.

One reason to believe Breneman can blossom into a playmaker for a team: He lead the country in receptions for tight end. He tallied 64 receptions for 764 yards and 4 touchdowns. Despite his college deficiencies, Breneman has plenty of upside to convince teams he’s just scratching the surface as a prospect.

Prediction: Late 3rd round

NCAA Football: Massachusetts at Florida
Massachusetts Minutemen tight end Adam Breneman (81 catches a pass in front of Florida Gators defensive back Joseph Putu (35) during the second half of a football game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

6. Christopher Herndon

Miami

Senior

6-4, 252

Herndon has great hands combined with a second gear that shows impressive top end speed. Despite being a smooth route runner, he needs to cut sharper and sell comeback/slant routes more. Herndon is a good blocker who uses his frame and lower body strength to form a nearly unmovable base. However, he needs to bring consistent technique and not rely on his body to win battles by only using his upper body strength.

He suffered a season-ending MCL injury that later lead to surgery for the senior. If he comes back stronger than ever, he’ll be a matchup nightmare at the next level, and offers a similar skillset to David N’Joku. Herndon may be a tad less athletic than N’Joku, but not by much, and is still a threat to take it to the house when given space.

He’s a second-round talent that will reward a team who picks him. If he were to hold workouts before the draft, he could very well end up being a second round selection. Herndon is being under hyped by the media and could be one of the steals of the draft. It would take a virtual no-show workout for him to last past the third round.

Prediction: Early 3rd round

NCAA Football: Russell Athletic Bowl-West Virginia vs Miami
West Virginia Mountaineers safety Jarrod Harper (22) tackles Miami Hurricanes tight end Christopher Herndon IV (23) during the first half at Camping World Stadium.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

5. Troy Fumagalli

Wisconsin

Senior

6-6, 248

Fumagalli is tough as nails and not afraid of contact. You’ll struggle to find someone who will leave it all on the field like Fumagalli does, lowering his shoulder and throwing his upper body into defenders. He’s a great blocker who needs very little polishing in this area of his game.

He doesn’t have blazing speed, but he knows what to do after the catch and can get an offense extra gritty yardage by using his size and nimble footwork to avoid tackles. The senior has big hands that web balls out of the air; his catch against Western Michigan last year was impressive. Fumagalli has the ability to contort his body and make spectacular catches off inaccurate throws.

Prediction: Late 2nd round

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Ohio State vs Wisconsin
Wisconsin Badgers tight end Troy Fumagalli (81) stiff arms Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Jerome Baker (17) during the second quarter in the Big Ten championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

4. Hayden Hurst

South Carolina

Junior

6-5, 250

Hurst brings an elite combination of speed, agility, strength and catching to an offense. He’s gifted athletically for a tight end, and has impressive breakaway speed that can gash defenses. Hurst shows off his physicality by breaking multiple tackles in space with an old school mentality that Jeremy Shockey would be proud of. Hurst is a good route runner, but at times struggles to get separation against speedy slot corners. He’ll need to sell his routes more rather than rely on his athleticism at the next level, and must improve his strategy against smaller, quicker athletes. He showed a lot of versatility at South Carolina by being used out of the backfield as an H- back role, similar to the way Charles Clay was used when he played for the Dolphins. However, Hurst is a different athlete who uses different strengths than Clay does, so the results may not be the same.

As a devoted blocker, Hurst shows the will to protect his teammates, but needs to bend and stay stationary. He was caught leaning off balanced especially against defensive ends too many times on tape. Hurst must also pick up blitzes and recognize assignment when defenses are in disguise.

Hurst has the chance to be a top-10 tight end who can be a focal point of an offensive attack.

Prediction: 2nd round

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Michigan vs South Carolina
South Carolina Gamecocks tight end Hayden Hurst (81) runs with the ball as Michigan Wolverines defensive back Brandon Watson (28) during the second half of the 2018 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

3. Mike Gesicki

Penn State

Senior

6-6, 250

Immediately, Gesicki’s elite size and frame stand out on tape, and he has room for even more growth. He’s not the most athletic guy on the field, but he’s a balanced football player who uses his size effectively. His elite one handed catch against Maryland shows he can snatch the ball out of the air like a receiver. Gesicki also has a terrific leaping ability, and will win most 50-50 balls. For someone his size, he has an exceptional ability to contort body and win one-on-one battles without losing balance. Drops was a concern for him early on in his career, but he overcame it the past two seasons, becoming a very reliable target for Penn State.

Much like many other tight ends in this draft, Gesicki needs work on his blocking. He leans too much and is a bit uncoordinated when blocking, losing a lot of power when off balanced. Another aspect of Gesicki’s game that warrants improvement is his lack of explosion off the snap. At times, he lacked acceleration in route running, and occasionally rounded his routes too predictably for defenders.

Despite being a great athlete for his size, he’s a bit stiff. It’ll be interesting to see his 40-time. If he shows off his speed and athleticism in his workouts leading up to the draft, he could sneak into the first round. Even though he’s not an elite athlete, he’s an elite talent if polished correctly.

Prediction: Early 2nd round

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Penn State vs Washington
Penn State Nittany Lions tight end Mike Gesicki (88) makes a catch against the Washington Huskies during the first half in the 2017 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

2. Mark Andrews

Oklahoma

Junior

6-5, 254

Andrews has the best breakaway speed out of any tight end in the draft, thus deeming him the biggest home run threat. He also is one of the strongest tight ends in the draft, making defenders bounce off him after the catch. Andrews is very tough to bring down, and it usually takes more than one defender to do so. The junior has strong, reliable hands that catch everything within his radius. However, he’s not going to make many highlight reel receptions; he’s more of a possession receiver who wants to run as soon as the catch is made. Andrews was a matchup nightmare, especially in the slot. He burned some of the highest level competition all year, for huge chunks of yardage.

The junior has exceptional blocking skills that uses consistent technique to help keep defenders off balance.

Andrews’ game is comparable to Jason Witten. Like Witten, Andrews does all the little things right and is a polished offensive threat who can be a QB’s blanket for years to come. Witten ran a 4.65 40-time; I think Andrews runs around a 4.62. Will be better than Jason Witten as a pro? Unknown, but possible. However, I could see him being a tad quicker. He’d be a fantastic addition to the Dallas Cowboys as Witten’s eventual replacement.

Prediction: 1st round

NCAA Football: Big 12 Championship-Texas Christian vs Oklahoma
Oklahoma Sooners tight end Mark Andrews (81) catches a touchdown pass in the second quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs in the Big 12 Championship game at AT&T Stadium.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

1. Dallas Goedert

South Dakota State

Senior

6-4, 260

Like Andrews, Goedart’s huge frame is going to be extremely difficult to deal with for NFL defenders. Goedart’s an elite athlete who will make fantasy football owners drool. We get carried away with comparisons, but Goedert is very comparable to Zach Ertz with an outrageous catch radius and terrific hands. If a QB throws it Goedart’s way, he’ll come down with it. Another reason Goedart reminds me of Ertz is his ability to earn yards after the catch; it’s like watching a horse gallop away from defenders or maul whatever is in his way. He doesn’t solely rely on physicality or size either, he’ll gracefully deke defenses until he gets to his destination.

The senior’s blocking ability remains questionable, as he faced inferior competition all year. While this shouldn’t stop teams from drafting Goedart highly in the draft, it’s worth noting he isn’t much of a route salesman — and this was against lesser competition — however, he still dominated.

If Goedart smoothes out his route running and blocking, he has the potential to be top-5 TE in the NFL based off his college playmaking ability.

Prediction: 1st round

NCAA Football: South Dakota State at Texas Christian
South Dakota State Jackrabbits tight end Dallas Goedert (86) scores a touchdown over TCU Horned Frogs safety Niko Small (2) during the second half on an NCAA football game at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports