2018 NFL Draft: Is Kyle Lauletta the Dolphins’ answer at quarterback?

Kyle Lauletta got a lot of attention despite playing at Richmond. (Getty Images)

Finding a quality quarterback in the upcoming NFL Draft will probably require the Miami Dolphins to do some digging. It’s unlikely an obvious talent will still be around when they pick at No. 11 overall, leaving them to scour the next tiers of prospects for a hidden gem.

Kyle Lauletta could be their guy.

He’s got the accuracy and mobility that every team covets. The asterisk that many have placed on him, however, is that he played in the FCS for Richmond. That’s not the best competition, obviously, which makes it more difficult for NFL teams to judge how well he’ll adapt to facing pro defensive lines and pass coverages.

Lauletta is used to people doubting him, though. He got minimal attention from major college programs when he was a high school player and he’s already proven them wrong with an impressive run at Richmond.

“Big chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I thought I was good enough to play at that level. I got recruited by a lot of those schools. They just, for whatever reason, didn’t pull the trigger on scholarship offers.

“I’ve always felt I played my best games in the biggest moments, so I don’t shy away from the big stage. That’s when I feel I’m at my best.”

There have been others who emerged from small programs to become NFL starters, including Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz and Jimmy Garoppolo of the 49ers. Wyoming product Josh Allen is among those being touted as a top-five pick this year.

Lauletta has propelled himself into the mix as a mid-round quarterback in this year’s draft. While Mason Rudolph and Lamar Jackson are still decidedly in the tier ahead of him, he’s often pointed to as an option for teams that get shut out of the top four guys.

The Dolphins are likely to find themselves in that market now that the four best quarterback prospects are expected to go in the first five picks.

It’s hard to project someone like Lauletta, but it seems like he won’t be selected in the first two rounds. That said, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper sees him as a second- or third-round talent.

Miami picks 42nd and 73rd in the second and third rounds, respectively. It also has two fourth-round picks. The team probably can’t wait longer than that if it wants Lauletta because it doesn’t have a selection in the fifth round.

The Dolphins are locked in to Ryan Tannehill as their starter this year and have David Fales and Brock Osweiler competing for the backup job. Adam Gase said he’s willing to keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster if the team drafts one this year.

Lauletta is in the draft’s bargain bin because of the diminished competition he faced in college, he’s on the smaller side at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and the he doesn’t have an overwhelmingly strong arm. He’s not afraid to admit that, either. He believes he can overcome any of his physical shortfalls with intelligence.

“You have to process information at a high level; all the great quarterbacks do that,” he said. “They understand the game. They have a great feel for situational football and just understanding defense and defensive structure.

“I’m a guy who takes notes diligently. I was elected captain two years in a row. You’ve got to be able to take charge and be comfortable in leadership positions. I’ve done that. This transition is going to be fairly easy. It’s an environment that I feel comfortable in.”

He did that at Richmond, where he completed 64.9 percent of his passes, threw for 3,737 yards and had 28 touchdowns against 12 interceptions in 11 games. He was right around those numbers the two previous seasons as well.

That performance is part of why Kiper likened him to Garoppolo, New England’s second-round pick out of Eastern Illinois in 2014, and recommended him as someone the Dolphins should explore.

“Watching him at Richmond and the way he played at the Senior Bowl, he just didn’t seem to be in awe of anything,” Kiper said. “He just fits in, goes out there and competes.”

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