(Stats Perform) – The Miami Dolphins have gone five straight years and seven of the last eight without picking an FCS player in the NFL Draft.
The exception was in 2014, and did that draft class ever stand out. Five of their eight selections were FCS players.
In contrast, no other team selected more than two FCS players and 19 teams went without taking any. The Dolphins’ five FCS picks were the most by an NFL team during the decade.
Dennis Hickey, who had been the team’s general manager for less than four months, likely surprised people with the draft class. The pre-draft plan wasn’t necessarily FCS-centric.
“It just kind of happened that way,” Hickey said afterward. “Again it’s important for us, whether it is small school, big school, whatever, is to evaluate the player, scrutinize him, evaluate him fully from a medical standpoint, from a player evaluation standpoint, from a character standpoint and make a decision based on that player.”
The Dolphins got the FCS selections started with their third pick in the draft, North Dakota State offensive tackle Billy Turner in the third round at No. 67 overall. They went on to select Liberty’s cornerback Walt Aikens (fourth round, No. 125), Montana linebacker Jordan Tripp (fifth, No. 171), Coastal Carolina wide receiver Matt Hazel (sixth, 190) and Marist defensive end Terrence Fede (seventh, 234).
Said Hickey: “Our scouts do a great job of digging under every rock and going through every school and trying to find good players wherever we can find them.”
Aikens developed into a key special teams player, becoming Miami’s special teams captain in 2019 – his final season with the team. Fede, the only draft pick in Marist history, had some highlights in four seasons, notably in his rookie campaign against Minnesota when in the final minute he blocked a punt out of the end zone for a game-winning safety.
Turner did not have great success in three seasons with the Dolphins, but has elsewhere and is still playing in the NFL. Hazel (two seasons) and Tripp (one) spent the least amount of time in Miami and were mostly unproductive.