Thomas Duarte was taken in the final round of the 2016 NFL draft. Taking Duarte was a great steal for the Dolphins. During his junior season at UCLA he recorded 53 catches for 872 and a team-high ten touchdowns. He’s got great hands and makes plays in the end-zone, but what is important is that he was working with a talented rookie quarterback Josh Rosen last year at UCLA. Having a connection with a quarterback is obviously important, but it seems Duarte can connect quicker than others like he did with Rosen being an inexperienced rookie QB. This will be helpful for Ryan Tannehill, and it would not be a surprise if Duarte and Tannehill connect in the end-zone a few times this coming season.
However, the Dolphins want to play Duarte at tight end and not receiver which is the position he is used to. The only problem is that Duarte is undersized and inexperienced which is a problem when it comes to blocking. Coming out of UCLA he was listed at 6’3 and 225 pounds. The Dolphins wanted him to get up to 245 pounds, and ever since being drafted Duarte has been working up to that number. Duarte arrived at Dolphins mini camp late because he had to finish some classes at UCLA, but he has been learning the position of tight end and studying the play book accordingly. He has been dependent on tight end coach Shane Day and has learned that playing tight end is more technical than he thought.
The Dolphins will most likely keep three tight ends on the roster so Duarte is going to have to impress Day and head coach Adam Gase to earn a spot on the roster. He will also have to beat out Jake Stoneburner to make the team. Duarte is a rookie and is getting used to the technicalities and speed of the game in the NFL. If Duarte makes the team don’t expect him to make any headlines, but the coming years look promising for the young man out of UCLA.