Report Card Grades for Miami Dolphins' Undrafted Free-Agent Signings
Jeff Ireland entered the offseason with his metaphorical seat practically on fire. He responded by putting together an impressive free-agent cast and arguably his best draft in his short stint as Miami's general manager. From all accounts, he's built a team that has a good chance to compete in 2013.
Now it's time to sift through the remaining dirt in hopes of finding one or two more golden nuggets. The Dolphins have been busy in the days following last week's draft, acquiring over a dozen undrafted free agents. Only a handful will make the team, and most who do will likely be relegated to practice squad duties or special teams work.
Some guys were added to provide depth at thin positions, while others have legitimate shots at becoming the next big surprise. To provide some insight into Miami's signings, here's our report card grades for the Dolphins' undrafted free-agent pickups.
Clay Belton, QB, Findlay
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With great size for a quarterback, Clay Belton (6'6", 230 lbs) looks to compete with Pat Devlin for Miami's third option at the position.
Belton was a bit of a journeyman in college. He started out at the Miami (OH) University before transferring to the University of Maryland. From there he transferred again to Findlay, where he threw for 2,339 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior.
His prototypical size makes him a viable candidate to earn a roster spot, but it'll depend on his ability to learn the Dolphins offense and adjust to the pro game.
Eric Bergman, OL, Southern Illinois
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The Dolphins signed Eric Bergman in an effort to further beef up their offensive line. Bergman (6'2", 275 lbs) has the size of a guard, which is what he mostly played at Southern Illinois.
With some added weight, Bergman could potentially switch out to tackle. However, his slide out of the starting roster in college troubles me. He started 10 games at guard in 2010. In 2011 and 2012 combined, he only started in one game. While he still played in every game, the fact that he wasn't an automatic starter calls into question his abilities.
Bergman could provide depth to Miami's line, depending on where the Fins choose to line him up.
Chad Bumphis, WR, Mississippi State
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Chad Bumphis is one of the Dolphins' most intriguing signings. He may also be one of the most important. After trading Davone Bess to the Cleveland Browns on Day 2 of the draft, the Dolphins were left without a true slot receiver.
Bumphis has the size (5'10", 196 lbs) of an inside threat with a bit of additional bulk to shield him from big hits. And while he doesn't have elite speed (he ran a 4.58 40-yard dash at Mississippi State's pro day), he's fast enough to do damage over the middle.
Bumphis was the Bulldogs' leading receiver in 2012, rattling off 922 yards and 12 touchdowns on 58 receptions. With strong hands and quick feet, Bumphis could be just the guy Miami needs to fill Bess' shoes.
Chris Burnette, DL, Old Dominion
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Chris Burnette is another exciting acquisition. You may not be familiar with his name, but if you followed NCAA Division I football, you'd know exactly who he is.
He led all linemen in the Colonial Athletic Association with 73 tackles and was a first-team All-CAA selection. Burnette has big-game capabilities, as evidenced by his 13 tackles against Villanova and eight tackles against Richmond. He also posted two seven-tackle games in his senior season.
Burnette will need to beef up a bit, but his stellar senior season indicates he could be a surprise gem for the Dolphins at defensive tackle. At the very least, they've added a nice rotational player since releasing Tony McDaniel earlier this year.
Michael Clay, LB, Oregon
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Michael Clay joins his former Oregon teammate Dion Jordan in Miami. Clay's immediate future may not be as bright as Jordan's, but he does have a good chance at being a reserve linebacker for the Fins.
His pro day wasn't overly impressive, as he ran only a 4.77 40-yard dash and recorded a 31-inch vertical. However, that doesn't tell his whole story. Clay is athletic and quick enough to flow to the ball and be effective in zone coverage.
Clay's positive attitude and dynamism are likely what attracted the Dolphins. It's now up to him to earn a spot behind Miami's starting linebackers.
Jasper Collins, WR, Mount Union
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Jasper Collins turned in an exceptional season in 2012. He caught 92 passes for 1,694 yards and 22 touchdowns, all team highs, en route to Mount Union's National Championship run. His efforts were central to the team's success, including his record-breaking run in the playoffs (43 receptions, 795 yards, 11 touchdowns).
Collins joins Chad Bumphis in the race to be Miami's Davone Bess replacement. Collins is faster, clocking a 4.47 40-yard dash time at Mount Union's pro day. He can also make big plays after the catch, another trait the Dolphins appreciate.
Miami has certainly done a lot to improve its wide receivers this offseason. Collins appears like he could be the next piece of that plan, even if he only sticks around as a rotational player.
A.J. Francis, DT, Maryland
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A.J. Francis has a pretty great story to tell his future children. The day he was signed to a free-agent contract with Miami, he also proposed to his girlfriend (she said yes). Francis was understandably glowing.
The Dolphins may be glowing in a few years, as well. Francis' stats as a senior at Maryland aren't mind-blowing, but they indicate Francis' status as a reliable inside tackle. He'll likely be another depth player to ensure Miami has a solid rotation at defensive tackle, but with enough work he could find himself with a starting role.
Alonzo Highsmith, LB, Arkansas
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Alonzo Highsmith was practically destined to be a football player. His father of the same name played running back in the NFL for three different teams, while his brother A.J. currently plays safety for the University of Miami.
Alonzo Jr., unfortunately, is short on experience. He played for only two years at Arkansas. After a strong junior season in which the linebacker notched 80 total tackles, he suffered a foot injury last October that sidelined him for the remainder of 2012.
Highsmith's ability to recover from his injury will go a long way in determining his role in Miami. As of right now, he appears to be best suited for special teams work.
Keelan Johnson, S, Arizona State
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The Dolphins may not have an immediate need at safety, but Keelan Johnson could gain a lot of value next season.
Johnson had a strong redshirt senior season at Arizona State. He was second on the team with 88 tackles and led the team with five interceptions and 13 passes defended. The hard-working safety was an All-Pac 12 honorable mention.
Reshad Jones has the strong safety position locked down, but Chris Clemons was only signed to a one-year deal this offseason. His future could be cloudy, despite coming off his strongest season as a pro. If Johnson performs well as a rookie and shows strides, he could make Clemons seem expendable to the Dolphins in 2014.
Jordan Kovacs, S, Michigan
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Jordan Kovacs is another player who could find his way into a starting role at safety, but he's likely behind Keelan Johnson in that regard.
Kovacs is a great leader and a high-effort player who left Michigan as the school's 12th all-time tackler. But his athleticism is what will hold him back on the professional level. He isn't quick to turn his hips and can have a hard time recovering, especially on vertical routes. Past knee injuries also hinder his quickness.
Kovacs' attitude could earn him a spot on special teams, but he'll need a lot of improvement if he wants to compete for a starting role at safety.
Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
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The Dolphins allowed Reggie Bush to walk because they felt like they had a great replacement in Lamar Miller. The Fins still believe Miller is ready to become a feature back in 2013, but that doesn't mean they aren't adding competition.
As part of the Dolphins' run on University of Florida players on the draft's third day, Jeff Ireland took running back Mike Gillislee, a quick back with enough size to run between the tackles. Ireland also added Arizona State's Cameron Marshall as an undrafted free agent.
Marshall experienced a remarkable junior season in 2011. He was poised to be one of the nation's top runners in 2012, but a combination of injuries and a crowded depth chart sunk his senior season. His numbers slipped from 1,050 yards to 583 and 18 touchdowns to just nine.
Still, Marshall's abilities could earn him a spot as a practice squad player. He'll need to recapture some of his former glory to challenge for a spot as one of Miami's top three running backs.
Rob McCabe, LB, Georgetown
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Rob McCabe was a captain for Georgetown in 2012, and he responded as such. He was named the 2012 Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year after he finished the season with 159 tackles.
His size (6'2" 230 lbs) may hinder him as a linebacker in the NFL, but he could find time on special teams. I don't really see McCabe reaching the field on defense.
Brandon Ogletree, LB, BYU
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Linebacker has apparently become a hugely important position for the Dolphins. Yet another player was added at the position, BYU's Brandon Ogletree.
Ogletree is riding off a spectacular senior season in which he had 102 total tackles and 13.5 for a loss. He also had a strong pro day, where he ran a 4.63 40-yard dash. His ability to make plays all over the field should add even more reliable depth at the position for Miami.
Taylor Stockemer, WR, Arkansas State
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Taylor Stockemer is an interesting signing. He has a tall frame (6'5", 210 lbs) and solid speed (4.50 40-yard dash). He was a 2012 All-Sun Belt Honorable Mention and leaves Arkansas State as the school's all-time leader in touchdown receptions.
Still, he wasn't an eye-popping talent in college. He averaged about 537 yards per season during his four years at ASU. Numbers aside, his size and speed should allow Stockemer to get some work as a reserve for the Dolphins.
Chris Barker, G, Nevada
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Nevada's Chris Barker isn't a dominant force on the offensive line, but he appears to be a nice fit for Miami's zone-blocking scheme.
Barker (6'3", 305 lbs) is quick and effective pulling in space and has a nice burst off the line. He can play either right or left guard, which is a plus. If Barker can add some strength to his game, he could make a push for John Jerry's job at right guard. At the very least, he provides more depth on the front line.