Dolphins Cast Wide Net In Draft

Posted May 11, 2014

Team wanted to acquire good football players regardless of school or position.

As he was eagerly waiting to see whether he’d become the first player in the history of Marist College football to get drafted, Terrence Fede was keeping tabs throughout the proceedings on the Miami Dolphins.

More specifically, Fede noticed that the Dolphins weren’t afraid of selecting prospects from smaller schools.

“I saw that throughout the draft and I was pretty excited about that,” Fede said after the Dolphins selected him with their seventh-round pick. “It’s giving us small-school guys a chance to show that they can play at a high level. You don’t have to go to one of those big schools to be able to produce. What they’re looking at is if you’re a good player and you dominate, that’s what they want.”

That was precisely the message delivered by General Manager Dennis Hickey at the conclusion of the draft.

It didn’t really matter what school a prospect attended, and what position he played also wasn’t a determining factor. The Dolphins just wanted to acquire good football players.

It just so happened that five of the eight players the Dolphins selected competed below the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A).

“We were judging the individual players,” Hickey said. “It just kind of happened that way. It’s important for us, whether it is small school, big school, whatever, to evaluate the player, scrutinize him, evaluate him fully from a medical standpoint, from a player evaluation standpoint, from a character standpoint and make a decision based on that player.”

The first small-school prospect drafted by the Dolphins was offensive lineman Billy Turner from North Dakota State, a player Dolphins scouts thought enough of that Miami traded up in the third round to make sure they would get him.

Turner was followed by Liberty cornerback Walt Aikens, Coastal Carolina wide receiver Matt Hazel, Montana linebacker Jordan Tripp and Fede, a defensive end who had 13 sacks last season.

The other three Dolphins selections came not only from FBS schools, but from the best conference in college football. Coming to Miami from the SEC were first-round pick Ja’Wuan James from Tennessee, second-round pick Jarvis Landry from LSU, and fifth-round pick Arthur Lynch from Georgia.

The Dolphins’ 2014 draft class also was heavy with leaders. Five of the team’s first six picks — James, Landry, Turner, Lynch and Tripp — were captains in college.

Lynch addressed the importance of leadership after he was selected by the Dolphins.

“I think it means everything,” Lynch said. “The game of football, for me especially, has been monumental in my growth as a person and obviously my growth as a leader. To be a good football player, I think you have to attain and have many leadership qualities that you might not have or be able to acquire if you didn’t play the game of football. It teaches you a lot of things about life and because of that I’ve been able to do some things well on and off the field.

“I think you need to be a good leader on the football field in order to have success. I think that’s why my teammates elected me captain at the University of Georgia and they did in high school as well. I think that I have those qualities and I’ll continue to display those qualities as a Miami Dolphin.”

Hickey, for his part, said leadership was just part of the evaluation process.

“We want to bring leaders onto the team,” Hickey said. “I was that way when we were in Tampa, and we put a lot of stock in that. Just because a guy wasn’t a captain in college doesn’t mean he can’t be a leader in the NFL, but it is something that we look at and it’s part of the evaluation of the player.”

At the conclusion of his first draft in the capacity of Dolphins GM, Hickey was asked to sum up the crop of players the team had just added.

“Exciting,” he quickly replied. “There’s a lot of talent. There’s a lot of things that these players are going to add. Again, it’s all about bringing the competitive environment and continuing to add that to what we feel is a strong nucleus of players.

“For a personnel man and a guy that scouts and enjoys that part of it, this was a culmination of so much work. It’s been really exciting over these last few days to bring in quality players that we feel like are going to contribute to help the Miami Dolphins being a winning football team to win championships.”

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