Saturday, May 5, 2012

Dolphins sign 16 undrafted rookie free agents

Reports of undrafted free agents signed by the Miami Dolphins began trickling out shortly after the 2012 NFL Draft concluded on Saturday, with numerous reports coming from the players themselves via Twitter.

However, I decided to hold off on writing about such players because of the tendency for some of the reports to be inaccurate. Players offered contracts and players simply offered a chance to participate in the rookie minicamp on a tryout basis often get mixed together, so you're never quite sure who was actually signed and who is merely tying to get signed.

With the NFL expanding offseason rosters from 80 to 90 this year, the Dolphins were able to sign more undrafted rookies than usual. In all, they signed 16 such players, which gives the Dolphins 80 players under contract as well as the nine unsigned draft picks for a total of 89.

Below, I take a brief look at each of the Dolphins' 16 undrafted rookies, as well as their long-term outlooks for a potential pro career, in Miami or elsewhere.

Also, be sure to check out my projected depth chart, which is updated through today to include all draft picks, undrafted rookies, and newly-assigned jersey numbers.


DT Chas Alecxih, Pittsburgh

Originally a walk-on at Pitt in 2007, Alecxih earned a full scholarship in 2009 while working as a reserve defensive tackle. He went on to start 13 games as a junior in 2010, recording 57 tackles (nine for a loss) and 7.5 sacks. As a senior, Alecxih again totaled 57 tackles while adding a team-high 15.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks.

A mountain at 6-foot-4 and 296 pounds, Alecxih receives high marks for his high motor and intensity, as well as his bull-rushing ability from inside. He struggles in space and needs to refine his technique and get stronger, but the talent is there. While I don't see him cracking the Dolphins' active roster as a rookie, he's a prime candidate for the practice squad.


C Terence Brown, BYU

A Utah native, Brown was a reserve at BYU during the 2005 season before heading to Brazil on an LDS church mission from 2006 to 2008. He returned to the playing field in 2009, starting all 39 games over his final three seasons. Brown earned honorable mention All-Mountain West honors as a junior and was name to the Rimington Trophy Watch List as a senior.

Brown (6-3, 303) is your training camp center that offers little upside or versatility. He was solid at the collegiate level and gained plenty of experience at guard, but he's entirely limited to center in the pros due to lack of athleticism. My guess is that he's not going to make the roster or practice squad.


MLB Cameron Collins, Oregon State

Originally a safety for the Beavers, Collins moved to linebacker prior to the 2010 season. In 23 games at linebacker over his final two seasons, Collins made 13 starts and totaled 94 tackles (eight for a loss), one sack, two forced fumbles and four pass deflections. He was named to the conference's All-Academic Team each of his four seasons at OSU, becoming just the ninth person in Pac-10/Pac-12 history to do so.

Collins measures in at an athletic 6-foot-3 and 241 pounds—solid size for a middle linebacker in the Dolphins' new 4-3 scheme. However, his limited experience leaves him still developing as a defender and probably far from seeing a regular season NFL field any time soon. Like most linebackers, he'll have to make his mark on special teams before becoming a top backup.


OG Derek Dennis, Temple

A native of Queens, N.Y., Dennis started 10 games as a true freshman at right guard and started six more games as a sophomore in 2008, including some time at left tackle. Dennis was limited to just three games in 2008 and ended up redshirting with a knee injury before returning to the field in 2010. He started three games as guard and four games at tackle as a junior before starting all 13 games for the Owls at left guard as a senior in 2011.

The 6-foot-3, 315-pound Dennis is regarded as as fairly solid interior lineman prospect. While he has the versatility to play outside as he did in college, his lack of athleticism pretty much leaves him at guard at the pro level. His technique needs a lot of work, but there is upside here and reason to believe he could push for a roster or practice squad spot as a rookie, especially when you consider the lack of quality depth inside for the Dolphins.


WR Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M

After Fuller changed his commitment from Oklahoma to Texas A&M in 2008, he became an instant starter for the Aggies with 50 receptions for 630 yards and a school-record nine touchdowns. Despite missing four games in 2009, Fuller led the team in receiving touchdowns and ranked third in yards. It was 2010 that Fuller set school recorded for receptions (75), receiving yards (1,066) and receiving touchdowns (12). He turned in another strong season as a senior, totaling 70 catches for 828 yards and six touchdowns.

Of any draft prospect in this year's class, Fuller was the most obvious undrafted free agent candidate for the Dolphins with the presence of former Aggies' head coach Mike Sherman as offensive coordinator and first-round quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Fuller (6-4, 228) was even considered a draftable prospect by some.

Despite his connections to the Dolphins, it's important not to get carried away with expectations for Fuller. His size is impressive, but despite his college production Fuller's concerns include the ability to get open and dropping too many passes. The reality is that the Dolphins took two receivers late in the draft and neither one was Fuller, which means he's far from making the roster as a backup. His experience with Sherman and Tannehill is a plus, but special teams is where he'll have to shine to stick around initially and he has a long way to go to be a pro receiver.


RB Jonas Gray, Notre Dame

A Parade All-American and participant in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl as a prep prospect, Gray spent three seasons as a backup running back before starting as a senior. Gray totaled 791 yards and led the Fighting Irish with 6.9 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns, but a torn ACL in November cost him the rest of his season and hurt his draft stock.

Gray was a highly-regarded running back coming out of high school and had an impressive season before his injury, so there's talent there. However, he's buried in the Dolphins' depth chart right now and isn't fully rehabbed from his knee injury roughly six months ago. He should be able to participate in training camp, but the practice squad is the most realistic possibility for him and he might be worth developing there.


CB Trenton Hughes, Maryland

Hughes was redshirted in 2007 and worked on special teams for the Terrapins until the 2010 season, when he started all 13 games at cornerback and led the team with nine pass deflections. After a coaching change, Hughes was relegated to a reserve role as a senior before starting the final three games of the season.

Hughes (5-10, 195) spent three seasons with current Dolphins' cornerback Nolan Caroll at Maryland and also played with former Terrapins tight end Will Yeatman. He has 4.4 speed but lacks ideal cover skills and I'm not sure there is much upside here. The best he can hope for is replacing one of the incumbents like Vince Agnew or Marcus Brown on the Dolphins' practice squad.


OLB Shelly Lyons, Arizona State

Lyons spent four seasons as a linebacker for the Sun Devils, starting 12 games over his final two seasons including eight as a senior. After working primarily on special teams the first three years, Lyons opened eight of 13 contest in 2011 and ranked sixth on the team with 51 tackles. He also added 5.5 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown against Matt Barkley and USC.

Lyons is a solid athlete at 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds, but he doesn't offer a whole lot of upside or experience. His only shot to make he team is on special teams and that will be a challenge.


SS Kelcie McCray, Arkansas State

A teammate of new Dolphins' safety Tyrell Johnson at ASU in 2007, McCray started every game at safet for the Red Wolves over his final three seasons. As a senior, he led the team with 70 tackles while adding four interceptions and four pass deflections on his way to first-team All-Sun Belt honors.

The 6-foot-2, 208-pound McCray was regarded by some as a potential mid-round draft pick. He has 4.5 speed and significant experience at safety, albeit at one of the FBS' lower conferences. He'll start on special teams, but he's got a shot to make the roster if the team decides for younger depth at safety in lieu of Tyrone Culver or Tyrell Johnson.


WR Derek Moye, Penn State

During his first two seasons at Penn State, Moye worked with current Dolphins' quarterback Pat Devlin, who eventually transferred to Delaware. Meanwhile, Moye stayed behind in Happy Valley and established himself as a starting receiver during his final three seasons, where he totaled 141 receptions, 2,324 yards and  17 touchdowns in that span.  Moye left the Penn State as the school's third leading receiver of all time.

Listed at 6-foot-5 in college, Moye actually measures in at 6-foo4 and about 209 pounds. Adding and maintaining bulk has actually been one of Moye's biggest problems and could hurt his potential at the next level. That being said, he did display good red-zone ability in college and adjusts well when the ball is in the air. Cracking the 53-man roster will be a stretch, but the practice squad is within reach.


DE Jarrell Root, Boise State

A rotational defender at Boise State, Root spent much of his time backing up eventual 2012 first-rounder Shea McClellin at defensive end. In his four-year career, Root totaled 55 tackles (13 for a loss), 7.5 sacks, and one pass breakup.

Of the three defensive ends signed by the Dolphins this week, I'd say Root has the least upside of all three. He's more of a run stuffer than a pass rusher and doesn't really have the bulk to play inside or the athleticism to get to the passer often. My guess is he doesn't make the cut.


OG Josh Samuda, Massachusetts

After redshirting during the 2007 season, Samuda started 11 games as a freshman in 2008 and never looked back, opening all 11 games at left guard again in 2009 and the next two seasons at right guard. He earned third-team All-CAA honors as a senior.

There isn't much scouting report on Samuda, but being a third-team all-conference pick in the FCS doesn't exactly translate to great prospects in the pros. He has a ton of experience at guard but may very well have limited upside. I'd expect him to not make the final roster.


CB Kevyn Scott, Syracuse

A Plantation, Fla. native, Scott spent five seasons at Syracuse and was an on-and-off starter at safety and then cornerback, starting nine games his final season. In his career, he notched 87 tackles, half a sack and five interceptions.

A team captain as a senior, Scott battled injuries in college and doesn't have any tools that stand out from an NFL perspective. He'll serve as a camp body at cornerback, but the best he can hope to earn is probably a practice squad gig.


DE Derrick Shelby, Utah

A four-year starter for the Utes, Shelby earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors as a senior in 2011 with 55 tackles (10 for a loss) and five sacks. He finished his collegiate career with 47 games played (40 starts), 169 tackles (28 for a loss) and 11 sacks. Additionally, Shelby was an all-conference academic pick every season at Utah.

The 6-foot-3, 266-pound Shelby certainly looks the part of an NFL defensive end has has a nice body of experience at the college level. He's not an elite pass rusher by any means, but he's a smart, hard-working that does a lot of things fairly well. I might consider him the most likely player in this group to make the Dolphins' active roster when you consider his college production, pro potential (at least as a backup) and the lack of depth at the position.


DE Jacquies Smith, Missouri

Smith saw extensive action all four seasons at Mizzou, including the final 2.5 as a starter. He was a second-team All-Big 12 selection each of his final two seasons, finishing his career with 159 tackles (26 for a loss) and 13 sacks.

You aren't going to confuse him with former Tigers' first-round pick Aldon Smith, as Jacquies Smith doesn't have ideal height or length for the pro level. That being said, he's a solid pass rusher and has a ton of experience at the highest level of college football, so there is some potential here as a rotational lineman. Like  Shelby (above) there is a solid chance Smith makes the active roster considering the Dolphins' lack of depth at defensive end.


OT Dustin Waldron, Portland State

Waldron became the Vikings' starting left tackle late in his freshman season in 2008 and never looked back, holding down the position until his collegiate career was completed. An honorable mention All-Big Sky in 2009 and 2010, Waldron earned second-team all-conference honors as a senior.

The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Waldron's biggest problem is his size, as he played most of college around the 280 mark. He's been working to get bigger and seems to have accomplished that, though we'll see how that affects his ability. A small-school prospect, Waldron is a bit of a project but has the experience, technique and smarts to make himself worthwhile. While I don't see the 53-man roster in his near future, the practice squad is a possibility.


Conclusion

As usual with undrafted free agent signings, you have the guys that have practically no chance of making the team and are merely around to serve as training camp bodies. Then there are the guys that do have the potential to develop into contributors at the pro level, and obviously those are the ones we are interested in.

Of this year's class of Dolphins' undrafted free agents, I'd highlight wide receivers Jeff Fuller and Derek Moye, safety Kelcie McCray and defensive ends Derrick Shelby and Jacquies Smith as the ones I think could crack the active roster in 2011. I'd also single out defensive tackle Chas Alecxih, guard Derek Dennis and running back Jonas Gray (recovering from a torn ACL) as potential practice squad candidates.

Fuller and Moye aren't perfect, but each carries certain intriguing aspects (namely size and experience) and they certainly have the ability to push Roberto Wallace, Marlon Moore and 2012 draft picks B. J. Cunningham and Rishard Matthews for a roster spot.

Meanwhile, Shelby and Smith both have the physical tools to develop as pro defensive ends, and this position remains pretty barren for the Dolphins. Aside from Cameron Wake and third-round rookie Olivier Vernon, the Dolphins only have backup types (Jamaal Westerman, Jason Trusnik, Jonathan Freeny) around as depth. Thus, it wouldn't surprise me to see one or both of Shelby and Smith crack the 53-man roster in September.


Tryout players

In addition the the signed players above, the Dolphins are also trying out a number of other undrafted players at this weekend's rookie minicamp. They are:
  • G Kyle Bogumil, Rhode Island — Originally a tackle, Bogumil eventually landed at guard and that's where he'd project (if at all) in the pros. He was a third-team All-CAA pick his final two seasons.
  • LB Cort Dennison, Washington — A two-year starter at middle linebacker for the Huskies, Dennison was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection as a senior after leading the team with 128 tackles. His lack of size and athleticism would limit him to special teams in the NFL.
  • S Albert Evans, Purdue — Evans moved from safety to linebacker then back to safety at Purdue, starting every game in the secondary over his final two seasons. He doesn't have the speed to be an NFL defensive back, however, and his presence isn't much more than a favor from former Boilermakers' defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo, who now holds that title in Miami.
  • G Joel Figueroa, Miami (Fla.) — Figueroa actually spent six years at UM and was a starter at right guard for most of 2009, but he spent most of his career as a backup with starts coming against the cupcake teams on the schedule. He's not a pro prospect.
  • S Elton Ford, Arkansas — One of the more accomplished tryout players, Ford was a starter early in his career with the Razorbacks and finished his career with 185 tackles (six for a loss), one interception, eight pass breakups, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery
  • WR A. J. Guyton, Central Florida — Appearing in 51 career games, Guyton totaled 122 receptions, 1,582 yards and seven touchdowns. He missed the 2008 season with a torn ACL.
  •  QB Jacory Harris, Miami (Fla.) — Easily the most high-profile tryout player in Miami but not a great pro prospect, Harris finished his career at UM with 8,826 passing yards (second all-time) and 70 touchdowns against 48 interceptions. 
  • CB Justin Haulcy-Bateman, Cal Lutheran — A Division III prospect, Haulcy-Bateman starred at  corner, on special teams and as a returner but has a long way to go to make it in the pros.
  • C Kreg Hunter, Ball State — A team captain, Hunter started 33 games at Ball State. He was arrested for punching a man at a restaurant in 2010.
  • OT Addison Lawrence, Mississippi State — Started his final 37 games at right tackle for the Bulldogs, although he lacks ideal size for an NFL tackle and bulk for a guard.
  • LB Ryan Lewis, Bethune-Cookman — A Pompano Beach native, Lewis started three seasons at linebacker and was named one of the top 10 linebackers in FCS by The Sports Network in 2011.
  • TE Nick Mandich, Southern Connecticut State — The son of late former Dolphins tight end Jim "Mad Dog" Mandich, Nick Mandich totaled 37 receptions, 363 yards and four touchdowns in his career. It's a feel-good story, but Mandich isn't a pro prospect.
  • OT Andrew McDonald, Indiana — McDonald served as the Hoosiers' starting left tackle each of his final two seasons. Of the tryout players, he's probably one of the better ones but he still has to earn a contract first.
  • DT Justin Smith, Mississippi — Smith spent three seasons as a reserve for the rebels before starting as as senior, notching 44 tackles and 3.5 tackles for a loss. He's not a pro prospect.
  • S Rick Volcin, Norfolk State — An HBCU All-Star, the Miami native totaled 30 tackles and two interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown) as a senior in 2011.
  • LB Chaz Walker, Utah — The Utes' starting middle linebacker the past two seasons, Walker was a second-team All-Mountain West choice in 2010 and an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection as a senior, ranking second in the conference in tackles with 118.
  • CB Mike Williams, Miami (Fla.) — Redshirted at Wake Forest in 2007 and played two seasons before sitting out the 2010 season to transfer to UM. In his lone season with the Hurricanes, Williams started 12 games at corner and recorded 29 tackles, three pass deflections and a fumble recovery.
With the Dolphins having an open roster spot (if you count the 80 under contract and nine draft picks to be signed) then it's possible the Dolphins will sign one of these tryout players if one of them warrants it. In that event, I'd expect... However, the reality is most of these guys are not NFL prospects and are simply being used to fill the practice field, which is obvious when you realize many have ties to the area.


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