Julius Thomas. Dion Sims. Jordan Cameron. Charles Clay. Michael Egnew. Anthony Fasano. Mickey Shuler. Joey Haynos. David Martin. Ernest Wilford. Justin Peelle. Aaron Halterman. Randy McMichael.
2006. Randy McMichael. That is what ends the sampling of tight ends that have played for the Dolphins in their continuing search for...well...another Randy McMichael. McMichael caught 62 passes for 640 yards with three touchdowns that season.
For some references of just how long ago that season was: Nick Saban was just starting to tell Dolphins fans how he was not going to be the next Alabama head coach; Wes Welker caught 67 passes for 687 yards with one touchdown for Miami; Daunte Culpepper, Joey Harrington, and Cleo Lemon split the starting duties at quarterback that season; Zach Thomas led the team with 165 tackles, followed by Channing Crowder with 103 and Renaldo Hill with 86; the late Wayne Huizenga owned the team; the 1-15 season was still a year away; Jake Long was still two Drafts away; and, the Dolphins played in Dolphin Stadium.
McMichael caught 283 passes for 3,096 yards with 18 touchdowns in five seasons in Miami. He is the last true pass-catching tight end the Dolphins have had. Sims was a solid all-around tight end. Clay was a pass-catcher for two seasons, but then left to go to Buffalo. Fasano has been a solid all-around tight end. Everyone else pretty much bombed with the Dolphins.
So, how can the Dolphins end this streak and get someone like McMichael back? There are a few possibilities in this year’s Draft, a deep year for the tight end position if not a year with stellar top-end talent:
- Hayden Hurst - Hurst is an older rookie this year, after trying to make a career in baseball. Coming back to football, he has a chance to be the only first-round tight end this year. He isn’t a great blocker, but he is not terrible at it either. Hurst seems like he will be a solid addition, though he does not feel like a dominating option at the position.
- Mark Andrews - Andrews should be among the first tight ends off the board, though that is not saying he is a first-round pick - he might be a second-round pick, but is probably a more realistic third-round target. He is clearly a red-zone weapon, where he had 22 touchdowns in three seasons at Oklahoma. He also can get up the seam, which is where Miami needs the most help. Andrews is a definite possibility in ending Miami’s tight end issues.
- Dallas Goedert - A small-school prospect, Goedert could be a surprise option at the NFL level. He could be a second- or third-round choice (leaning to second, possibly the second tight end off the board), and has had a ton of pass-catching opportunities. In the last two seasons, he caught 164 passes for 2,404 yards with 18 touchdowns. He may not get great separation, but he is able to high-point the ball well and he uses his body to shield defenders well.
- Mike Gesicki - A pass-catching tight end. That is the definition of what Gesicki is. The problem with that is, he does not block well. If the Dolphins are looking for a player who can block, along with threatening the seam, Gesicki is probably not the right pick. If they are just looking for the matchup possibilities, then Gesicki is back in the mix. Depending on how teams view his lack of blocking, Gesicki could end up just about anywhere on the draft board. Ultimately, his ability to play like a giant slot-receiver could get him picked fairly early.
- Dalton Schultz - Probably a third- or fourth-round pick, Schultz is the all-around tight end who could develop into a strong pass catcher. That is not to say he is not already a capable receiver, but he probably needs more time to develop that part of his game. He is going to come into the league and immediately have an impact as a blocker. The Schultz comparison for a Dolphins player may be Sims - a blocker who can develop into a pass catcher.
- Jordan Akins - Another older rookie, Akins is similar to Gesicki in he is a pass-catcher without much in terms of blocking. He was impressive at the Senior Bowl, able to consistently get open throughout the week of practices. The Dolphins could move Akins around the offense to create mismatches, but he is not going to be a true in-line tight end, and as a 26-year-old rookie, he is not going to be a developmental type of player. He is going to be a later round pick, so he could be an option as we reach the third day of the Draft.
- Christopher Herndon - Another late-round pick option, Herndon has the potential to become a pass-catching threat at the NFL level, but he is going to need time to continue to develop. In the shadow of David Njoku for his college career, Herndon has decent speed to get into the second level in the NFL, and he has run-after-the-catch abilities.