Tight end is no longer an afterthought in the Dolphins' passing offense.
That became evident Sunday when the Dolphins selected the University of Georgia's Randy McMichael in the fourth round of the NFL Draft.
In the system being installed by new coordinator Norv Turner, tight ends will be used more as receivers instead of blockers.
"With this type of attack, we've changed the role for these guys," Dolphins tight ends coach Pat Jones said. "The past couple of years, we've been using sluggers, guys that line up and played the defensive end most of the time and were very limited in the route part of it ... We are now looking for a guy with playmaking skills."
McMichael flashed that ability with the Bulldogs, catching 90 passes for 1,213 yards and five touchdowns in a three-year college career.
"Coach Jones said they liked my pass-catching ability and the fact I can stretch the middle of the field," said McMichael, who was the 114th overall selection. "I feel the same way. I just can't wait to get down there."
The Dolphins addressed other need positions in the fifth round Sunday by selecting Washington defensive back Omare Lowe and Northwestern wide receiver/returner Sam Simmons. East Carolina tailback Leonard Henry was selected in the seventh round.
The Dolphins used their first overall pick in the third round Saturday on Texas A&M center Seth McKinney, but tight end was a pressing priority. The Dolphins released Hunter Goodwin, a starter the past two seasons, in February and didn't address the position in free agency.
Alonzo Mayes, who was being counted on to compete with Jed Weaver for a starting spot, also reported significantly overweight to the team's offseason workout program earlier this month. That forced the Dolphins to take a longer look at drafting a tight end.
"We haven't given up on Alonzo," said Jones, who recruited Mayes while head coach at Oklahoma State. "But Alonzo knows the clock is running out on him."
In eight of the past 11 seasons, a tight end has caught at least 35 passes in Turner's offense. Goodwin and Weaver had 38 catches combined the past two seasons playing under offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who left in the offseason to become head coach at Georgia Tech.
The Dolphins hadn't selected a tight end so high in the draft since using a third-round pick on Ferrell Edmunds in 1988. The past two tight ends the Dolphins drafted remain on the roster, but Ed Perry (1997 sixth round) plays almost exclusively as a long snapper and Shawn Draper (2000 fifth round) didn't take a snap as a rookie.
McMichael, who was the third-rated tight end on the Dolphins' draft board, didn't have eye-popping predraft workouts. But the Dolphins became sold on McMichael from his game film.
McMichael was particularly dominating last season in Georgia's 26-24 upset at Tennessee with six catches for 108 yards, including two receptions for 40 yards in the final minute that set up the game-winning touchdown.
"The bigger the game, the more excited he gets," Georgia coach Mark Richt said Sunday. "He knows when it counts. He made some catches in the Tennessee game he shouldn't have made. We don't win the game without McMichael."
Said Jones: "That was probably as dominating a performance of a guy at the position in a big game that any of us have ever seen."
Two predraft knocks on McMichael were his blocking skills and size, as his weight dipped to less than 230 pounds last season at Georgia. McMichael had bulked up to 247 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, but the Dolphins were concerned enough to call the Bulldogs' strength coach Saturday to make sure McMichael had kept on the weight.
Richt said McMichael's attitude will help him improve his blocking at the pro level.
"He needs to get stronger," Richt said. "He's not going to [flatten] a whole lot of guys, but he can sustain a block because he's willing to work at it and move his feet once he's locked up on a guy. He's athletic enough to make it happen."
McMichael comes to South Florida with a chip on his shoulder from not getting selected Saturday in the first three rounds.
"I was very upset," said McMichael, who turned pro after his junior season. "I'm not going to lie and say I wasn't. I thought that every tight end that got picked in front of me I was better than. I can't wait to get on the field and show that."
Jones said Weaver would be the starter if the regular season began today but that McMichael has a legitimate chance to immediately compete for playing time.
"This type of attack does more clearly define what we're looking for [at tight end]," Jones said. "Quite honestly, sometimes [the coaches] haven't known ... We're not asking the guy to do some of the things we have in the past."Copyright © 2015, CT Now