With the draft behind us, no real training camp action to look forward to, and a dearth of football news, it’s time to talk about the least most important thing available to Dolphin fans today: the Dolphins UDFA (undrafted free agents) class.
Let’s be perfectly clear; the successes Miami found with Nik Needham and Preston Williams are unlikely to be repeated. UDFAs are usually flyer propositions with limited capabilities. These are typically prospects who the coaching and management staff saw some glimmer of potential in. The hope is that some hands-on work might unearth something valuable. In reality, they often wind up off the team or if they’re lucky, stashed on a practice squad.
And so, lets go ahead and take a look at each Dolphins UDFA acquisition, grouped together by how likely they are to make the team and become contributors.
Surviving roster cuts as a UDFA is a challenging thing to do in a good year. The interruptions to the NFL offseason caused by Covid-19 are going to push the fringe players like these into incredibly tough positions. It’s likely that they’ll have limited time to showcase their capabilities with changes to the training camp cycle. But, some players bring enough to the table that we can guess they’ll find a home somewhere on the roster.
Benito Jones, Nose Tackle
Benito Jones recieved a fifth round grade from NFL Analyst Lance Zurlein, one of the few UDFA’s here to do so. He spent four years at Mississippi primarily as a nose tackle, garnering second-team All-SEC honors in 2019. Jones was one of the first players Miami grabbed after the draft ended, and, while limited as a pass rusher, has shown immense production and capability as a run-stopper. This fits with the defensive identity Miami has been constructing up front, where role-players are constantly rotating in and out while the beefy secondary holds down the fort.
Matt Cole, Wide Receiver
Sports Illustrated covered Matt Cole as their Prospect X, an underrated rookie who’s covered over the course of the draft. As a wide reciever, he led his team, McKendree University, in receptions, yards, and TD’s, and was a special teams stud as well. While WR is a position of depth for Miami at this time, his special teams capabilities give him a good chance to make the roster. Last year, Miami started a rotation of players at punt/kick return due to injury, and Cole has the potential to be an excellent depth asset there.
Kirk Merrit, Wide Reciever
The team added a second wide receiver in Kirk Merrit, a two year starter from Arkansas State. Previously, he played at Oregon and East Mississippi Community college, and had 70 receptions for 806 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. Interestingly, some of you may know East Mississippi from “Last Chance U” fame. As with Cole, the WR depth puts him at risk here, but he demonstrated draftable skills and production in school. His off-field issues caused his drop out of the draft, but if his behaviour is in check, he might wind up a steal.
On the Fringe
Fringe players are the guys who have shown promise or production in college, but lack of polish or pro style experience pushes them out of consideration. There are some gems here, but they’ll have to compete fiercely in training camp to make the team.
Tyshun Render, Defensive End
Tyshun Render played defensive end for Middle Tennessee State. Patriots head coach Bill Belicheck brought him national attention by giving him a private workout. The Patriots head coach skipped the combine to work the small school player, who was a leader on his team. Grabbing Render is on trend for Miami, as recent acquisitions have shown how Brian Flores values leaders.
Kylan Johnson, Linebacker
Another Dolphins UDFA addition is linebacker Kylan Johnson. Miami added the player from Pittsburgh who was a decent producer and earned an All-ACC honorable mention. While Miami has good depth at linebacker, his productivity at Pitt shows ability that might help him push for a spot on the team behind the starters.
Donell Stanley, Interior Offensive Lineman
Donell Stanley spent five years at South Carolina, starting for three. He rotated throughout the interior, playing both guard positions and center. South Carolina named him a team captain for 2019. He has demonstrated all the intangible, character skills that this team covets, but depth in Miami threatens his spot. With so many offensive linemen on the roster, there will be immense competition to fill the depth positions before roster cuts.
Ray Lima, Interior Defensive Lineman
Ray Lima started for three years at Iowa State as an interior defensive lineman, making second-team All-Big 12 honors last year. He also earned first-team the year prior. He was a productive run-defender and will push for a spot on the roster.
See what other flyer prospects Miami took in the draft here!
Bryce Sterk, Transitioning to Tight End
Interestingly, Bryce Sterk (pictured above) was actually a defensive end at Montana State, but Miami brought him in as a tight end. Miami currently has four tight ends already on the roster, burying Sterk deep at five on the depth chart. It’s hard to see him making the team unless he can demonstrate some serious special teams skill.
Nick Kaltmeyer, Offensive Tackle
Nick Kaltmeyer, a tackle from Kansas State, earned an All-Big 12 honorable mention in 2019. He started all 13 games his senior year and helped lead his team to a conference 4th highest 178 rushing yards per game. While productive, the current depth for offensive lineman puts him at risk. Miami currently has three-four players on the depth chart for each O-line position. Clearly the plan is to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.
Jonathan Hubbard, Offensive Tackle
Finally, Miami grabbed Jonathan Hubbard, a Northwestern State player, to add depth on the offensive line. He started at tackle for three of his four years. Like the other two undrafted lineman prospects, the threat of depth lingers overhead.
I find it unlikely that any of them will manage to beat out the drafted players for a roster spot, but knowing Brian Flores, they’ll have the opportunity to compete and earn a roster spot.