Dolphins rated Fede ahead of Michael Sam

The Miami Dolphins drafted a defensive end in the seventh round, but chose to take a player from tiny Marist College instead of the SEC's co-Defensive Player of the Year.

Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey was asked on the final night of the draft why the team picked Terrence Fede at No. 234 overall over Michael Sam.

"Obviously, we had Fede rated higher [than Sam]," Hickey said.

Sam went 15 picks later to the St. Louis Rams, making him the NFL's first openly gay player.

The pre-draft scouting process with Sam was an interesting one. Sam was productive in the toughest conference in the nation. He led Missouri with 10.5 sacks. Initially, some scouting experts projected he was a third- or fourth-round pick. But a poor combine contributed to Sam being a seventh-round selection.

Fede went ahead of Sam and became the first player ever drafted from Marist. It continued the trend of the Dolphins passing over players from larger conferences in Hickey's first draft. Fede was the fifth small-school player in Miami's eight-player draft class.

"I saw that throughout the draft and I was pretty excited about that," Fede said. "It's giving us small-school guys a chance to show that they can play at a high level. You don't have to go to one of those big schools to be able to produce."

Whether Fede or Sam has a better NFL career remains to be seen. Both will have an uphill climb, as seventh-round picks usually have a slim chance of making the 53-man roster. However, the Dolphins have had some luck in the final round.

Receiver Rishard Matthews (2012) and defensive back Don Jones (2013) are back-to-back seventh-round picks who made the team as rookies. Fede will attempt to become the third consecutive seventh-rounder to make the Dolphins' roster out of training camp.

"One of the exciting things about scouting is discovery, going to a place where maybe a player has never been drafted before and finding a player you feel like can contribute and help your team," Hickey said. "Terrence was one of those players."

Fede and the rest of Miami’s 2014 draft class will hit the field on Friday for rookie minicamp.