DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins and first-year general manager Dennis Hickey are putting on an interesting experiment with their 2014 draft class. Five of their eight rookies were selected from small, non-Division I schools.
Miami clearly turned over every rock during this pre-draft process and picked players from North Dakota State, Liberty, Coastal Carolina, Montana and Marist. Drafted rookies Billy Turner (third round), Walt Aikens (fourth round), Jordan Tripp (fifth round), Matt Hazel (sixth round) and Terrence Fede (seventh) all played for small colleges. These draft picks must simultaneously make the large jump from FCS schools to the NFL in a matter of months in order to make Miami's 53-man roster.
Should this be a concern for the Dolphins? According to Miami first-year general manager Dennis Hickey, the answer is no.
"What it all comes down to is evaluating the traits that a player has, because those things you can translate," Hickey said of small-school players. "The level of competition varies, depending from week-to-week and game-to-game and opponent-to-opponent. So you focus on the traits and whether those traits translate to the next level. The players we saw, we feel like they will translate to the next level."
The Dolphins need their eight-player draft class to make an immediate impact in order to get over the playoff hump. Miami got little from their 2013 draft class last season, which is partially why the Dolphins missed the playoffs for the fifth straight year.
Hickey has pressure to hit on his first group of draft picks. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin is 15-17 in two seasons and enters an important Year 3 to prove whether he's the long-term solution. Hickey getting Philbin some rookie contributors -- regardless of where they are from -- is an important part of the process.
"We were judging the individual players and it just kind of happened that way," Hickey said. "It's important for us, whether it's small school, big school, to evaluate the player."