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Sleeper Spotlight: Miami Dolphins

As part of the premium content package, we’re not only releasing exclusive team capsules (complete with commentary), but also focusing on one sleeper from all 32 teams in the NFL.

These sleepers all have varying levels of “sleeperness,” but all merit a little more talking about than we had room for in the dynasty capsules for each team. Some of these players are deep dynasty sleepers who could merit a spot on your bench in a deep league, while others are players who may contribute a little faster than the deep prospects, but deserve more attention than they may be getting. By definition, a sleeper could mean something a little different to everyone, but we’re simply doing the best job we can to unearth one player from each team who fits the category in some way, shape or form.

We’ll just never insult you with a comprehensive list of “sleepers” that includes such names as Demaryius Thomas, Ryan Mathews or even someone like Stevan Ridley. You’re all too good for that.

While many of these players will undoubtedly fizzle, we figure there’s value in looking more closely at these deeper prospects and players. We invite you to keep an open mind and even re-assess your value on those who may be rostered in your league. You may even consider adding a few of these deeper prospects we focus on this summer who are free agents in your league – after all, some are destined to pan out, too.

Charles Clay, TE MIA

One of the big storylines of 2011 was centered around the continued emergence of the hybrid or “joker” tight end. Teams have split their tight ends out wide in the past (i.e., Antonio Gates), but Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, and Aaron Hernandez highlighted a season of unprecedented fantasy dominance of multiple tight ends. These guys performed at a level comparable with a number one receiver and Gronkowski and Graham are now being drafted in the first round of dynasty start-up drafts.

With the success of the joker tight end in Green Bay (Jermichael Finley), New England (Gronkowski / Hernandez), and, New Orleans (Graham), we are going to see an increased usage of these type of players going forward. The NFL is a copycat league after all. Given his natural talent and college success as a mistmatch, second year tight end Charles Clay is a good bet to fit that role for the Dolphins beginning in 2012.

Clay was drafted by the Dolphins in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. The 6’3, 239 pound H-back is known for his versatility lining up at wide receiver, running back, fullback, tight end, and wildcat quarterback at Tulsa. In his college career, he rushed for over 900 yards and ten touchdowns and caught 189 passes for 2,544 yards and 28 scores. In addition to his sub-par blocking ability, being known as a tweener was one of the main causes for him falling to the sixth round. With the NFL’s increased usage of the joker tight end, however, Clay finds himself in a perfect situation.

In 2011, Clay was listed as a fullback and saw most of his snaps from the fullback position primarily finding success with the circle route. That was the case with his four receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown performance against the Bills in week 11. Now, with the change to Coach Joe Philbin and the installment of an offensive similar to Green Bay’s, Clay has been lining up all over the field at receiver and tight end this off-season much like he did at Tulsa. That has caused a recent MFL position change for Clay from running back to tight end.

Coach Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman are known as creative offensive minds. Philbin split Finley out wide in Green Bay, often sending him up the seam to take advantage of mismatches. From early reports, it sounds like he’s going to do the same thing with Clay and his 4.76 speed. Even more impressive was his shuttle performance at the NFL combine, which highlighted how athletic Clay really is. With his unique size and speed combination, Clay could be a valuable offensive weapon and a key part of the Dolphins’ offense in 2012.

It’s likely that most people didn’t catch linebacker Kevin Burnett’s comments on Clay in November of 2011, but he raved about the rookie H-back. He told reporters, “Once he learns the game, once he figures out to use all his tools, he’ll go from being a good to a great player. Right now he’s just dangerous because he doesn’t know how good he can be.” Burnett apparently spent most of the Dolphins’ 2011 practices covering Clay, so that’s quite the compliment from the seven-year NFL veteran.

The Dolphins receiving corps is missing a playmaker. Given the recent reports, new offense, his versatility, and his raw ability, we are looking at a prime breakout candidate at the tight end position. Many are starting to catch on and are picking him up across several leagues given recent reports, so if he hasn’t been snatched up yet, go grab him and stick him on your bench before it’s too late.

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Adam Franssen
10 years ago

Uhg. One of the few benefits of being a Miami fan was knowing about Clay. Nice article, even if it did let the cat out.

Daniel Malone
Reply to  Adam Franssen
10 years ago

100% agree with you, Adam. I felt like Clay my was my personal, pet project!

Daniel Malone
10 years ago

Also, I’m not sure how it is on other sites, but on Yahoo, Clay is buried in the pre-ranks as a RB.

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