Miami Dolphins: The Land of Gators

The Miami Dolphins quadrupled the amount of Florida Gators on their roster in a matter of just two rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft last weekend. With the addition of linebacker Jelani Jenkins, running back Mike Gillislee and kicker Caleb Sturgis, the Dolphins have four former Gators on their roster.

There is obviously a long way to go for all three to solidify a place on the team, but Dolphins center Mike Pouncey, who attended Florida, is thrilled to have them join the Miami locker room. He tweeted “I will be handing out gator shirts to all my teammates this coming up week lol” when he first heard of the news.

Miami general manager Jeff Ireland took Jenkins in the fourth round and Gillislee and Sturgis in the fifth.

But do the new Gators have a place on the Dolphins roster this fall?

Caleb Sturgis is probably the most likely Florida draftee to find a spot on the roster when the season kicks off, thanks to incumbent kicker Dan Carpenter’s struggles in crunch time last season. Carpenter missed three kicks last year in game-winning situations for the Dolphins.

Also, the fact that Miami took Sturgis in the fifth round speaks volumes of their intentions to keep him on long-term. The Dolphins hadn’t drafted a kicker that high since taking Karl Kremser in 1969.

Sturgis’ former coach, Will Muschamp, had high praise for the 23-year-old rookie.

“Caleb Sturgis is the best kicker I’ve ever been around,” he said. “When you hit the 37-, 38-yard line…you’re in range. He’s accurate, he’s got an extremely strong leg, and he’s a hard worker.”

Carpenter is in the last year of his deal with the Dolphins and if Sturgis can replicate his 80% field goal percentage from his college career, he probably has a good shot at challenging for the starting job. And unlike his Florida teammates, Sturgis only has one person to compete with for the job.

I’d put Sturgis’ chances at being the starter at about 60%.

Mike Gillislee, who became the eighth UF running back to go over 1,000 yards on the ground last season, is likely to be fighting for the running back job out of a crowded back field.

After the loss of Reggie Bush to the Detroit Lions this offseason, 2012 fourth-round draft pick Lamar Miller will probably be thrust into a prominent role. Miller ran for 250 yards on 51 carries last season.

Daniel Thomas also returns for Miami after 91 carries for 325 yards and four touchdowns last season. Gillislee will have to impress in training camp to overthrow the incumbents, but nonetheless, he is excited to have a chance to compete.

“The Dolphins were always my favorite team,” he said. “It was always a dream, and now my dream came true.”

Gillislee probably has a 20% chance to start for Miami on 2013.

Jelani Jenkins is an intriguing pick for Miami as a guy coming off a broken foot that ended his season with Florida. He suffered through several injuries during the year, missing four games during the season.

When he was on the field, Jenkins was one of Florida’s better cover linebackers. His stock fell because of his injuries, but Muschamp raves about him as a player.

“[He] has got a huge upside as a player,” Muschamp said. “He’s an every-down linebacker. He’s an immediate contributor in special teams. The guy can really run and play in space. He’s improved his physicality; he’s playing blocks in the core, but he can play on every down.”

The Dolphins will likely start Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler and Koa Misi in their 4-3 defensive scheme. Jenkins best chance to make the roster is probably as a special teams contributor.

There’s always a chance Jenkins could really amaze coaches in camp and overthrow one of those three as well. I’d say Jenkins has a 15% chance to start at linebacker, with a higher chance to start/play on special teams.

There is no doubt that Gator fans will have plenty to root for when Dolphins training camp kicks off this summer. What do you think the odds are that Sturgis, Gillislee and Jenkins make the team? Comment below and let me know!