Three Dolphins Rookie Free Agents to Watch

Three Dolphins Rookie Free Agents to Watch

After the 2022 NFL Draft came to an end, the Miami Dolphins began looking for undrafted free agents to round out their roster.

They are hoping they will complement their selections of Georgia linebacker Channing Tindall (drafted at pick 102), Texas Tech wide receiver Erik Ezukanma (drafted at pick 125), California outside linebacker Cameron Goode (drafted at pick 225), and Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson (drafted at pick 248).

As of early Sunday evening, the Dolphins had agreed to terms with 14 UDFAs who will have an opportunity to compete for a 53-man roster spot this summer. Miami has had some success with UDFAs in recent years, including cornerback Nik Needham, wide receiver Preston Williams and offensive lineman Robert Jones.

We’ve decided to forecast which of Miami’s UDFAs has the best chance to make the active roster this upcoming season.

Kellen Diesch, offensive tackle, Arizona State

Diesch transferred to the Sun Devils after spending four seasons at Texas A&M. When he arrived on campus, he immediately locked down the Sun Devils’ starting left tackle position. He had an impressive NFL combine, recording a 4.89 40-yard dash, a 32-inch vertical jump, and a 4.43 20-yard shuttle.

Diesch is listed at 6-7 and 301 pounds and is an above-average athlete, which makes him perfect for new head coach Mike McDaniel’s offense. He’s experienced working zone concepts and is capable of beating defensive linemen to their spots to seal off rushing lanes.

Miami has the left tackle spot locked down by free agent acquisition Terron Armstead, but the right tackle position is less certain. Players like Austin Jackson, Liam Eichenberg, Greg Little, and Larnell Coleman sit above Diesch in the pecking order.

While it’s unlikely Diesch will compete for the starting right tackle spot, he’ll get an opportunity to beat out players like Coleman, Adam Pankey and Kion Smith for a backup tackle spot. His athletic profile and familiarity with zone running concepts could give him a leg up in that battle.

Verone McKinley III, defensive back, Oregon

McKinley III was a starter in the Ducks’ secondary for two seasons and had his best season in 2021 when he finished tied for the FBS lead in interceptions with six. He also was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award.

The Dolphins love versatile defensive backs, and McKinley fits the bill. He played in deep zones while at Oregon — primarily in two-high alignments — where he showed a nose for the football and quick mental processing.

McKinley III, who is listed at 5-10 and 198 pounds, also played as a slot cornerback. There, he showed adequate man-to-man coverage ability combined with a scrappy mentality, allowing him to compete with bigger receivers.

The Dolphins have Needham as their returning slot cornerback, and their safety room doesn’t have a lot of reps up for grabs. With that said, McKinley’s ability to play both spots makes him a valuable backup option for a team that has had a lot of success developing defensive backs in recent seasons.

McKinley also could be a quality special teams player given his pedigree as a productive tackler while at Oregon.

Ty Clary, offensive lineman, Arkansas

While Diesch has a lot of names to jump on the offensive line depth chart, Clary likely will compete at one of Miami’s thinnest positions: center. The only other player on Miami’s roster listed as a center is Michael Deiter.

Clary was a multi-year starter for the Razorbacks with all of his starts coming at either center or guard. He’s a smart lineman who understands how to use leverage to uproot defensive linemen and create running lanes for his running backs.

Clary doesn’t have a ton of athletic upside, and it’s highly unlikely he’ll beat out Dieter for the starting center spot. However, Dieter does have an injury history and having a player who can back up both the center and guard positions is incredibly valuable.

If the 6-4, 315-pound offensive lineman proves he can be a serviceable backup for all three interior offensive line spots, that might be his ticket to the roster.

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