Of all the picks the Dolphins made in the draft, using a fourth rounder on Ohio State receiver Brian Hartline is the one that I'm still left wondering about more than ten days later. Call me crazy, but I just don't see Hartline as an upgrade to Miami's receivers. Yes - he has the makings of a very good special teams player. And we know he likes to play special teams - which is certainly a plus. But I can't say that I sit here and see what the Dolphins see in this kid.
But I guess we should look at both sides - the strengths and weaknesses - of Hartline and attempt to figure out why the Dolphins are so high on this kid.
The first thing that jumps out to me is Hartline's lack of production on the field in 2008. His 2007 season saw Hartline do a good job of playing the #2 receiver role opposite of Brian Robiskie. He caught 52 balls for 694 yards and 6 touchdowns. But his senior season production just wasn't there - catching 21 balls for 479 yards and 4 touchdowns. His 22.8 yards-per-catch average is terrific, though. And you can't put all the blame on Brian for his lack of production in 2008. He had a new quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, throwing to him. And Pryor isn't exactly a "pass-first quarterback."
When I look at Brian's numbers from the Combine, I notice that he's actually pretty quick for a 6'2 receiver. He lacks long speed (4.58 seconds in the 40) but was among the best receivers at the Combine in the drills that test quickness. His 4.12 second 20-yard shuttle was 4th best at the Combine - faster than speedsters Darrius Heyward-Bey, Mike Wallace, and Johnny Knox. Brian also turned in a 6.65 second 3-cone drill - which was the 2nd fastest time.
What this tells me is that Hartline seems like a potential slot receiver - perhaps a bigger, more physical version of Davone Bess.
For an Ohio State fan's perspective on Hartline, I've enlisted the help of Sam from We Will Always Have Tempe - SBN's Ohio State blog. Here is what he says about the Dolphins' fourth round pick:
Hartline, when he's good, can be a very good possession receiver. He has a knack for getting the first downs when you need them, and is very consistent in making almost any type of catch asked of him. He lacks a bit in toughness, sometimes shying away from hits by stepping out of bounds or avoiding defenders altogether - even if it means far shorter yardage gained on a play.
Unfortunately, his play is all conditional on his mental state heading into the game. Simply put, Hartline is a bit of a headcase. At Ohio State, he was known for taking plays off, calling his teammates out - not necessarily by name, but in other ways - and just generally having a sour attitude a lot of the time, regardless of how games went. He doesn't have great speed and is a little lean for his height, but if he gets his mind right, he can develop into a consistent Joe Jurevicius-type of receiver. I have a feeling Bill Parcells will see to it that he gets his attitude problem sorted out. If so, he could be a great fourth guy in the Dolphins WR rotation.
It's interesting to me that Sam talks about Hartline being a little bit of a headcase. That's something I hadn't heard before and will certainly be worth monitoring as his career as a Dolphin progresses.
So what's your take on Brian Hartline? Am I crazy for seriously questioning his selection in the fourth round?