Every spring the NFL draft brings new excitement to the football world.
Day one will be full of household names and All-Americans. As the picks and rounds go by, the names being called will become less and less familiar until "Mr. Irrelevant" is finally picked. Each team is hoping to find the next Tom Brady, a late-round diamond in the rough.
The Miami Dolphins will be no different. The Dolphins will enter the draft with clear goals of improving the offensive line and most likely the defensive line as well. They wont be gambling with their early-round picks; they can't afford to.
Miami, like every team, can afford to take some late-round chances on a "project" player. Here are five project or sleeper picks that the Dolphins could take a chance on in the later rounds.
Players are ranked from earliest-round projection to the latest.
Projection: Third/Fourth Round
Seastrunk played two seasons for the Baylor Bears after transferring from Oregon. During that time he carried the ball 289 times for 2,189 yards and 18 touchdowns. Seastrunk finished his career with an impressive 7.5 yards per carry and back-to-back seasons of over 1,000 yards rushing.
Transferring to Baylor proved to be a wise decision on his part.
Seastrunk has incredible agility with a scary stutter step. The most glaring weakness in his game is that he often spends to much time running east and west. His 5'10" and 210-pound frame give him a low center of gravity with enough bulk to break through tackles.
For a Dolphins team that ranked near the bottom in rushing offense, Seastrunk would be a no-brainer if he falls to the fourth round. Miami may even want to consider grabbing him if he is available in the third round.
Stats courtesy of ESPN.com
Projected: Fourth Round
At 6'7" and 348 pounds, McCullers is a massive nose guard from the University of Tennessee. He is a phenomenally well conditioned for his size, and as Chase Goodbread of NFL.com reported, McCullers has impressed at the Senior Bowl .
McCullers has proven to be a run-stopping machine. His size and strength made him nearly immovable at times which resulted in numerous double- and even triple-teams. He played primarily in a 3-4 defense and showed surprising leverage for such a tall interior player.
One of the biggest knocks on McCullers has been his inability to generate an effective pass rush. The big man from Tennessee is without a doubt a run-stopping specialist. At Tennessee, McCullers would draw double-teams that allowed Tennessee defensive ends easier matchups to get to the quarterback.
He is projected by many as a fourth-round pick, though some have him going in the third round. The Dolphins are unlikely to re-sign both Randy Starks and Paul Soliai and could use help stopping the run.
McCullers could certainly make an impact in the middle.
Projection: Fifth Round
Gillmore is a 6'6" 253 pound tight end out of Colorado State University. In three seasons with the Rams, Gillmore pulled in 111 receptions for 1308 yards and eight touchdowns. He is great in picking up yards after the catch, as evident by the above video.
Gillmore had a strong showing in the Senior Bowl, pulling in six catches for 61 yards and a touchdown.
NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks described Gillmore's Senior Bowl performance:
He complemented his impressive performance as a pass catcher, with a strong showing as a blocker on the edge. He repeatedly sealed the corner on perimeter runs and effectively neutralized his assigned defender on power plays between the tackles. Of course, scouts expected Gillmore to be a stout blocker at the point of attack based on his solid performance during the regular season, but doing it against the top players in the country will enhance his value in the minds of coaches searching for a traditional tight end in the draft.
Many Dolphins fans, including myself, covet tight end Eric Ebron from North Carolina. The reality is, Miami has bigger needs to address in the first two rounds, and Ebron is not likely to be available when the Dolphins finally pick.
Gillmore is a definite sleeper—not just for the Dolphins but for any team looking to pick up a solid tight end at a bargain.
Projection: Sixth Round
At 6'3" and 255 pounds, Kennard could provide the Dolphins with another solid linebacker who loves to pressure the quarterback.
As a senior, Kennard led the Trojans in sacks (eight), he also recorded 48 tackles, four pass deflections and a fumble recovery. He was also a finalist for the 2013 Lott Impact Trophy and was a three-time PAC-12 Academic All-American.
The pedigree is there for Kennard. His father, Derek, played 11 seasons in the NFL, and his brother played for the University of Nevada. He earned both a Bachelor's and Master's degree while attending USC.
Kennard spent five days in Haiti during the summer of 2012 building homes and assisting the less fortunate. He also represented USC at the 2011 Athletic Prevention Programming and Leadership Education Conference, which promotes student-athlete health and wellness.
Whoever selects Kennard in this year's draft will get more than a solid linebacker; they'll get by all appearances an extremely bright young man and an even better person.
Stats and information courtesy of NFLDraftScout.com (via CBSSports.com)
Projection: Seventh Round/FA
Admittedly, this is a heart pick for me, as I am a Louisville alumni and season-ticket holder.
Copeland is a deceptively fast receiver who proved to be one of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's most reliable targets. The fifth-year senior started 27 game for the Cardinals. In that time he totaled 116 catches, 1,521 yards and seven touchdowns.
He made several big-time plays for Louisville during his time there. The video above demonstrates his sideline awareness, as he hauls in a touchdown catch that would also have been a score in the NFL.
It would come as a bit of a surprise if Copeland hears his name called during the draft. However, this is a receiver who played his college career in a pro-style offense, catching passes from Bridgewater (who may be the first overall pick). Drafting Copeland is a long shot, but after watching his entire career at Louisville, I believe he is at least worth a look.
After all, Louisville did produce former Super Bowl MVP receiver Deion Branch as well as Atlanta Falcons receiver Harry Douglas.
Some of these names may come as a surprise to some; others may think the idea of drafting some of these players is complete ignorance.
Just remember, at one point in time, nobody wanted Tom Brady either.
Stats courtesy of ESPN.com