Sunday, May 18, 2014

Dolphins' small-school activity raising some eyebrows


Miami Dolphins first-year general manager Dennis Hickey went a little off the beaten path during his inaugural draft with the team.

His first two draft picks came from familiar SEC powers, but five of his following six selections came from the Football Championship Subdivision.

The Dolphins will be soon relying on contributions from players hailing from football programs such as Liberty, North Dakota State and Montana, and some experienced NFL people think mining so many prospects from such small schools may not be a good strategy.

“It’s risky,” one longtime former general manager said, according to The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson. “There are enough really good players from other schools to not have to do that. Some of them are not ready for the jump in competition.”

Quality players can be found outside major FBS programs -- Dolphins' Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes played at Division II Shippensburg University -- but many small school players struggle when once they go up against NFL-level competition.

“These kids have not faced the intensity, pressure and competition that kids at major schools do," one league scout said. "It’s not a talent issue but the psychological and mental preparation to step up every day.

". . . Florida State and Southern California kids practice every day against guys going to the NFL. These FCS kids may never see another NFL-type player at a practice or game. It often takes them extra time to adjust to the NFL. That would concern me if I’m Miami.”

Hickey is certainly betting that at least some of these players will adapt to the league. All eight Dolphins draft picks will participate in their first NFL practices when the team's rookie camp opens May 23.

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