Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dolphins select versatile Tulsa fullback Charles Clay in sixth round

The Miami Dolphins stuck with the offensive side of the ball for the fourth consecutive pick in 2011, selecting former Tulsa fullback and tight end Charles Clay with the 174th overall pick in the sixth round of the draft.

To move up five spots from No. 179 and select Clay, the Dolphins gave up one of their two remaining seventh-round selections--the No. 218 pick. The Dolphins cannot trade the 235th pick because it is a compensatory selection.


Background

A Little Rock native and the son of a former Arkansas Razorback, Clay made an immediate impact at Tulsa as a true freshman with an 69 receptions for 1,024 yards and seven touchdowns while adding 304 yards on the ground.

After a Conference USA all-freshman season, Clay followed up with 38 passes for 464 yards and nine touchdown catches. He then hauled in 39 catches for 530 yards and five scores as a junior.

Clay earned the second All-Conference USA honorable mention of his collegiate career as a senior, averaging 6.6 yards as a rusher while racking up 526 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns as a receiver.

Measuring in at 6-foot-3 and 239 pounds, Clay excelled at the NFL Scouting Combine in February by posting a 4.73 forty time and ranking near the top of his position in the broad jump, 20-yard shuttle, and 60-yard shuttle.

Considered a bit of a 'tweener as a fullback, tight end, and H-back, Clay was ranked by CBSSports.com as the top fullback in the 2011 draft class.


Analysis

I can't say I'm thrilled with another trade up, as Clay strikes me as another guy that may not have been special enough to warrant surrendering a seventh-round pick to move up five spots in the sixth round. No team between No. 174 and No. 179 selected a fullback or tight end, and I'm not sure who the Dolphins thought was a threat to grab Clay ahead of him.

I also have to say I'm a bit surprised the team left Nevada tight end Virgil Green on the board in the sixth round, but the Dolphins' front office obviously liked the similarly-athletic and talented Clay a bit more for what they were looking for.

It's a bit concerning how much Clay's receiving number slipped after his freshman season, but that likely has more to do with the team around him and the offensive philosophy than any drop in talent on his part.

While he's certainly not a running back at the next level, he has the ball-carrying experience and power to be a short-yardage guy. Clay is also an excellent receiver out of the backfield and at the tight end spot as indicated by his collegiate career.

While he gives good effort in blocking, his technique needs a lot of work in this area, and that is one thing could prevent him from being a full-time tight end or fullback. A big knock on this guy entering the draft was that he was somewhat of a man without a position, but he's certainly versatile and has appealing receiving skills.

While the Dolphins really need a quality No. 2 tight end to play alongside Anthony Fasano, I don't really see Clay as a threat to any of the unproductive tight ends from last year's roster. He may line up there some times to create mismatches, but his primarily role should be that of an H-back that moves around and catches passes.

That being said, the guy that might need to start worrying about his job is fullback Lousaka Polite. A fan favorite who excelled as a blocker in 2009 before a down season last year, Polite offers little in the receiving game and might not fit the kind of offense new coordinator Brian Daboll is installing.

We all know and love Polite for his near-flawless success rate at converting short-yardage situations, but the reality is that the traditional fullback position in the NFL is dying rapidly. Clay, who has plenty of experience as a ball carrier, offers similar ability to Polite with added athleticism and receiving skills.

It's a bit too early to hand any sixth-rounder a significant role on the offense, but don't be totally surprised if Lousaka Polite is a surprise cut in September before he even sees the last year of his contract.

As always, check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting these transactions here.


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