Bess: From Undrafted To Unequaled

Oct 27, 2011 | by Alain Poupart,

When it comes to finding a hidden gem at wide receiver, the Dolphins have never done better than Davone Bess.

With his seven catches against Denver, Bess now has 233 for his career since joining the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2008. That total is the highest ever for a Dolphins wide receiver who was undrafted, as Bess beat out the total of 227 put together by Oronde Gadsden between 1998 and 2003.

No other undrafted Dolphins wide receiver ever had more than 113.

But here’s something else that makes Bess’ accomplishment even more impressive: Gadsden came to the Dolphins after stints with the Steelers and Cowboys as well as playing in the Arena League and the World League.

Bess began making catches for the Dolphins as a rookie in 2008.

In his very first training camp in Davie, it was clear to me that Bess was going to stick and become a good player. That first camp, there was no other receiver on the team who got open in practice the way he did.

It actually boggles the mind that no NFL team thought he was worthy of a draft pick in 2008.

I mean, it’s not like the guy didn’t produce in college. He played three years at the University of Hawaii, started all 39 games he played, and put together three 1,000-yard seasons.

Sure, he played in June Jones’ run-and-shoot offense, which produces big passing and receiving numbers, but that system also is sophisticated when it comes to route running and reading defenses.

Perhaps more than his college offense, what hurt Bess in the draft was his height (5-10) and his lack of great speed.

Those were valid concerns, but Bess makes up for those deficiencies with great football smarts and a great work ethic.

This is how productive Bess has been: Guess how many receivers — drafted or undrafted — had more catches in their first three seasons with the Dolphins than Bess.

The answer: nobody.

With his seven catches against Denver, Bess now has 233 for his career and he’s already tied Chris Chambers for the highest total in a Dolphins receiver’s first four seasons. And Bess still has 10 games to go in his fourth year.

Bess already has two of the top seven seasons in team history in terms of receptions, with his 79 catches last year and his 76 in 2010.

The Denver game was by far Bess’ most productive this season, but he’s still below his pace of the last two years with 24 catches in six games. On the flip side, his 11.7 average is clearly ahead of his career best of 10.4 in 2010.

In addition to his work on offense, Bess continues to produce as a punt returner. He’s averaging 11.8 yards this season, although his long is only 22 yards.

Because of that lack of big play, it’s easy to overlook his work, but just know that he’s currently tied for eighth in the NFL in punt return average among players with at least 10 returns. It was the same last year when he averaged 11.4 yards to rank eighth among players with at least 20 returns.

The bottom line is that because Bess isn’t flashy and doesn’t have the speed to produce many big plays, he’s easy to overlook. What Bess does, though, is keep producing.

It’s been that way since the Dolphins were smart enough after the 2008 draft to get him on their team.

Tags: Davone Bess , Miami Dolphins