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Dolphins News: Nine Rookie FAs Signed
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Dolphins News: Nine Rookie FAs Signed
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Apr 21, 1998: -- Nine Rookie FAs Signed --

In the aftermath of the draft this weekend, the Dolphins have agreed to terms with nine undrafted college free agents: guard Ken Celaj from Georgia Tech, defensive tackles Kelton Davis from Grand Valley State, Eric Dotson from Mississippi State and Derrick Shepard from Georgia Tech, tight end Chris Fontenot from McNeese State, South Carolina linebacker Selvesta Miller, Cincinnati fullback Landon Smith and wide receivers Derrick Steagall from Georgia Tech and Colorado State's Geoff Turner.

Ken Celaj from Georgia Tech is listed at 6'4" and 317 pounds. He played at both guard and tackle for Georgia Tech last year, according to a variety of sources. He grew up initially in Manhattan and learned to be tough when he was very young. He carried that through to college, where he has started since 1995 at various positions along the offensive line.

In 1995, in a game against Duke, Celaj broke his hand in the middle of the game, but continued playing. He is a tough, overachieving offensive lineman that JJ has brought in to try and help the running game. He is connected to the Dolphins through Bill Lewis, who as initially his coach at Georgia Tech, but is now the Dolphins' defensive nickel backs coach. Kelton Davis from Grand Valley State is a medium sized defensive tackle at 6'1" and 287 pounds, but is supposed to be very fast for a tackle, running a 4.88 in the 40 and very strong, capable of bench pressing 500 pounds. He anchored the Grand Valley State defensive line for the last 2 years and in 1996, he had 54 tackles and 9 sacks. I wasn't able to locate his numbers for 1997.

Eric Dotson from Mississippi State is a huge running-stuffing defensive lineman who played at 345 pounds last year, but managed to trim his weight down to 315 for the senior bowl. He is only 6'2", but with his size and strength, is capable of becoming an immovable force in the middle of the defensive line. However, there are questions about his work ethic, dedication and quickness in rushing the passer.

Derrick Shepard is a 6'2", 295 pound defensive tackle from Georgia Tech who's another fast player, clocked at 4.88 in private workouts. He has improved a lot in the last year and gotten stronger, but there are still questions about his technique in the line. If he is to make it on the team, he will have to learn quickly.

Chris Fontenot from McNeese State stands 6'3" and weighs in at 236 pounds. He is a fine athlete and jumps exceptionally well, having cleared 10 feet in the broad jump and 36 inches in the vertical leap. He is an excellent athlete, but is not big or strong enough to be a blocking tight end on the next level. He has some past experience at fullback, also, so he may be asked to play in the backfield at fullback or H-Back.

Selvesta Miller is listed as a linebacker in the Herald, but played defensive end at South Carolina. However, at 6'2" and 250 pounds, he may be better suited to a pass-rushing linebacker in the NFL. While at South Carolina, he was one of their better players, and in 1997, made the Sports Illustrated "All Walk-On" college team at right defensive end. This was a team made up strictly of walk-on players who weren't recruited from high school. SI named Andre Wadsworth the other defensive end on that team, so Miller had some good company.

Landon Smith is a 5'11", 245 pound fullback from Cincinnati. In 1997, Smith carried the ball 73 times for 285 yards, which works out to a 3.9 ypc average. He also caught 12 passes for 172 yards and lead the team in total touchdowns with 7 - 6 rushing and 1 receiving. The Dolphins don't have a lot of depth at fullback, so they could use another fullback.

Derrick Steagall from Georgia Tech was a potential star in college until he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in 1996. He had major surgery and missed all of 1996. He came back in 1997 and reinjured his knee during the spring, requiring more surgery. He did manage to play some in 1997, but looked tentative and unsure of himself at first. However, he finally began to regain some of his form at end of the season, catching 18 passes for 475 yards and 4 touchdowns in the last 4 games. At 6'0" and 205 pounds, he is a good sized player, but it remains to be seen whether he will regain his speed.

Colorado State's Geoff Turner doesn't sound like a wide receiver when you look at his size of 5'8" and 194 pounds. He looks more like a small running back with his squat shape. He is not a particularly gifted receiver, without great hands or great speed to compensate for his size, but he is an excellent punt returner, having returned 20 punts for 304 yards and 1 touchdown in 1997, despite having strained his anterior cruciate ligament.

My Comments:

These guys are the longshots to make the team and most probably won't last until September. However, every year a few sneak through and this year should be no exception.

Of the guys listed above, there is a lot of potential, but not a lot of production so far, except perhaps for Miller. However, Miller is something of a 'tweener and he'll need to be able to either put on some weight or learn to cover.

Anyway, here they are.

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Curt Fennell, curt@phins.com, DOLFAN in New Rochelle (almost)

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Curt Fennell
DOLFAN in New England