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Miami Dolphins

The Rookies: Durham Smythe

Travis Wingfield

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Every January, twenty coaching staffs around the league hold end-of-the-year press conferences. Soon thereafter, they’ll be joined one-by-one by their fallen post-season comrades in addressing the media. While it’s refreshing to hit the reset button on a failed season (for all but one staff), these pressers serve as interchangeable regurgitation of tired clichés.

Among those clichés, coaches will preach adding quality players with exceptional character. The Miami Dolphins didn’t just spearhead their off-season approach with that slogan, they demonstrated it with tangible actions.

At various points of the last three months, we’ve detailed the conventional thinking around players like Dan Kilgore, Frank Gore, Albert Wilson, Akeem Spence, Minkah Fitzpatrick (the list is never-ending) on this blog.

So, while teams like the Cleveland Browns convey that message, then turn around and draft Antonio Callaway, Miami has never veered from the vision.

Notre Dame Tight End, Durham Smythe, exemplifies that vision.

Former teammate and fellow 2018 draftee, Mike McGlinchey, made no qualms about the importance of Smythe in Notre Dame’s decorated rushing attack – which ranked seventh in the country.

Functioning essentially as an extra lineman in Notre Dame’s ground-game-centric offense, Smythe didn’t garner many opportunities to make plays in the passing game.

While his production was a function of the role he played in the offense, the lack of development as a route runner is evident. He’s athletically gifted from a measurable stand-point, but he’s without much refinement in his attempts to create separation in the passing game.

There is plenty to work with as far as both in-line and detached crack-back blocking goes, but he’s at least a year away from presenting the Dolphins with a formidable option as a pass catcher. Perhaps Smythe can produce in 12-personnel in the red-zone, but anything more than that is wishful thinking.

In an offense that is going to be predicated on deception and ball-distribution, his targets figure to come via blown coverages or catching the defense napping. Again, the route-running tape is scarce. The one clip provided shows him rounding off a speed-out against a slot in off-coverage. This one clip isn’t meant to serve as a doomsday proclamation, but it’s evident where improvements can be made.

The Notre Dame rushing offense had as much variety as any program in the nation. Shotgun zone-read, jet-sweep and misdirection, traditional power, counter gap schemes, Smythe flourished in the throwback sense of the tight end position. Here are some clips of him owning the point-of-attack as a detached slot receiver.

Blocking 190-pound defensive backs seems like an easy order for a 250-pound tight end, but Smythe’s ground-game prowess didn’t stop there. He was an essential part of the short-yardage ground game. Closing down on defensive tackles and opening the primary backside cutback lane for the back provided a critical element of Coach Kelly’s offense.

Pass protecting is a key element for the number two tight end in Adam Gase’s offense. Anthony Fasano stayed in for max protection his fair share of reps in 2017 – Smythe will do the same.

A blocking tight end in the fourth round is considered a reach. Initially, pigeonholing Smythe might be a suitable practice, but the Dolphins used the 123rdpick in the draft on the Notre Dame alum for more than just his blocking.

If it all comes together for Smythe, he’s an astute asset in the running game and an athletic option in the play-action flat, and intermediate game, with red-zone rebounding ability. With the latter part of that statement requiring some development, the floor for this draft pick might just be the man he’s replacing – Anthony Fasano.

And in the fourth round, that’s more than acceptable.

@WingfieldNFL

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