- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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There were many criticisms of former Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland from fans in South Florida. Many point to his spotty record signing free agents, questionable trades and personality fallouts behind the scenes with two head coaches (Tony Sparano, Joe Philbin). All points are valid.
But one thing Ireland probably did not get enough credit for during his tenure in Miami was his ability to find talent in the later rounds of the NFL draft. Players such as tight end Charles Clay (sixth round), safety Reshad Jones (fifth round) and receiver Brian Hartline (fourth round) are terrific examples of hidden gems Ireland found in the later rounds and became part of the Dolphins' foundation.
With that in mind, here is a little known fact: Miami's seventh-round picks have made the 53-man roster four straight years. Linebacker Austin Spitler (2010), safety Jimmy Wilson (2011), receiver Rishard Matthews (2012) and safety Don Jones (2013) all made the team as rookies. Wilson, Matthews and Jones are still part of the team and have roles as backups or on special teams.
Can rookie defensive end Terrence Fede keep the streak alive? The rookie from Marist is the first seventh-round pick for new Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey.
Fede is raw, but he has good size and athleticism. I have been particularly impressed with how well Fede moves for a player his size. However, it is too premature to accurately gauge his chances to make Miami’s 53-man roster until the pads come on in training camp.
Going against Fede is the fact that he’s trying to make the Dolphins in arguably the deepest area of their roster. Miami already has stalwarts at defensive end, such as Pro Bowler Cameron Wake, 2013 sack leader Olivier Vernon, former No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan and valuable backup Derrick Shelby. The Dolphins are already four deep at defensive end. At the very least, Fede would be fifth on the depth chart.
Time will tell if Fede can extend Miami’s seventh-round streak to five years. The practice squad also is an option for Fede if he cannot make the 53-man roster later this summer.