Ranking Miami Dolphins' Top 5 Sleepers to Watch in Camp
With training camp quickly approaching for the Miami Dolphins, there are a number of sleepers that aren't getting talked about much but still are players that fans should be keeping a close eye on throughout the summer.
To qualify as a true sleeper, they must be entering camp either fighting for a spot on the roster—like undrafted rookies Orleans Darkwa and Tyler Larsen—or be under-the-radar players that are currently clear backups—like Derrick Shelby and Jimmy Wilson.
However, a lack of a guaranteed spot on the roster isn't enough on its own to qualify someone as a sleeper. There also has to be a level of talent and potential to breakout as well.
The rankings are based on a combination of ability, potential and possible impact each player might make for the team this season.
With that said, here are the top five sleepers to watch for the Dolphins in training camp.
5. Tyler Larsen
If Mike Pouncey was healthy, the chances of Tyler Larsen being anything more than a practice squad player would be somewhere between slim and none.
However, with Pouncey expected to be out for three months, there is a gaping hole at center that someone obviously needs to fill.
There are many names that are being thrown out there to replace Pouncey at center—Nate Garner, Sam Brenner and Shelley Smith seem to be the top three choices—but not many people have given much of a chance to Larsen.
But just because he's not being talked about, it doesn't mean that he won't get his chance to win the job once training camp gets underway.
After all, the 6'4", 313-pound Larsen has been one of the best centers in college football over the last few years, earning first-team all-conference accolades at Utah State in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
In his senior season, he became the first Utah State offensive lineman since 1977 to be named a second-team All-American by USA Today Sports and was also one of the six finalists for the Rimington Trophy, which is presented annually to the most outstanding center in college football.
Put simply, Larsen has talent and has proven to have what it takes to succeed as a starting center.
While he does need a bit of work, he still is capable of doing enough to not only win a spot on the roster but compete for the starting center role until Pouncey returns.
4. Orleans Darkwa
Based on his initial four-to-five week timetable to recover from the arthroscopic knee surgery he had at the end of June, Knowshon Moreno should only miss about a week of training camp.
While that isn't a ton of time, it may be just enough for Orleans Darkwa to offer the coaches a glimpse of what he can do.
The 6'0", 210-pound running back out of Tulane burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2010, rushing for 925 yards and 11 touchdowns in just six starts.
However, he soon was bit by the injury bug, which slowed him down for much of his collegiate career.
But after rushing for 863 yards and 12 touchdowns in his senior season, Darkwa turned heads at his pro day, where he ran a 4.44 40-yard dash, via Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post.
While he may not get many snaps in the backfield, another key to watch out for with Darkwa is the possibility of him winning a job on the roster as the new return man.
Marcus Thigpen was dreadful in that role last year and Darkwa has some experience returning kickoffs at Tulane.
There's little doubt that a strong, explosive runner like Darkwa can bring much more of a spark to the return team than Thigpen can and if he wins the job, he will be a player that will contribute all year long.
3. Armon Binns
At 6'3" and 211 pounds, Armon Binns may have the highest potential out of any Dolphins receiver.
The 24-year-old was playing very well during the early stages of training camp last season and appeared destined to not only make the roster but earn a significant role with the team as well.
However, those plans came to a crashing end when Binns tore his ACL and MCL in just the second week of camp, forcing him to spend his entire 2013 season on injured reserve.
Now that he is back and healthy, Binns is once again a player to look out for throughout the summer because if he can turn some of that potential into consistency, he could quickly rocket up the Miami depth-chart.
After all, the Dolphins already have a number of reliable options at receiver in Jarvis Landry, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson and have plenty of speed with Mike Wallace, but they don't have much size.
Yes, the surprisingly 6'2" Hartline is just an inch shorter than Binns, but he doesn't quite use his size to his advantage as well as Binns can.
If he can put up a similar training camp performance that he did last year prior to his injury, Binns is all but assured a spot on the roster and could be a major contributor throughout the season.
2. Derrick Shelby
Prior to the Dion Jordan suspension, Derrick Shelby was looked at as nothing more than good depth at defensive end, with three studs ahead of him on the depth chart.
He was expected to get on the field for a few snaps here and there, but his snap count wouldn't compare to the likes of Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and Jordan.
However, with Jordan going to miss the first four games, suddenly Shelby is a player that's going to be relied upon much more heavily, as he's now the first guy off the bench to relieve Wake and Vernon.
It will be interesting to see how Shelby responds to the increase in playing time, as the third-year player has never been in anything more than a part-time role.
Shelby played in 19 percent of the Dolphins' defensive snaps in his rookie season, a number that increased to 38 percent of the team's snaps last year. That number should increase once again this year, especially early on.
Unlike some of the other guys on the defensive line, Shelby isn't a fierce pass-rusher that is going to make a living getting to the quarterback on a consistent basis.
He recorded just three sacks last season but proved to be very stout against the run, with 16 of his 34 total tackles coming at or behind the line of scrimmage on run plays, via Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Shelby will certainly be a guy to look out for early on in training camp as another player that may be taking that next step in his game.
1. Jimmy Wilson
It's not much of a stretch to say that 2011 seventh-round pick Jimmy Wilson wasn't ever expected to be much more than a backup at the NFL level.
What is surprising is how much better he has gotten with each passing year since he was drafted.
In 2013, Wilson played in every game, doing most of his work as the nickel defensive back covering the slot receiver.
After struggling in the same role in 2012, Wilson took a big step forward last year.
When targeting Wilson, opposing quarterbacks completed 60 percent of their passes with one touchdown, two interceptions and just a 75.7 QB rating, via Pro Football Focus.
Wilson is clearly a player on the rise and as he approaches his fourth year, he is capable of taking a substantial leap forward in 2014.
This makes him a major player to look out for in training camp, because although he is currently slotted as the backup to Louis Delmas at safety, he has the ability to win that job outright if he can take that next step in his game.
His current role combined with his ability and potential to dominate if given the opportunity makes Wilson the top sleeper to look out for during the Dolphins training camp.
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