I was just thinking about all of the speculation during the preseason this past year regarding how our WRs would pan out; trying to guess who would step up; and now that the season is over, how we are still talking about the need for a real #1 WR.
And while thinking about our WR corps, I realized how tough it is to develop a WR.
I mean, if you get a guy out of college that is a 1st round pick, you generally know pretty quickly (within a year or two) whether he is going to be able to produce at a starting level in the NFL.
Occasionally you get a high round guy like Ginn (usually not if you are a good personnel man, but that is another discussion) who is pretty raw - he does not have the body of work from college to accurately assess his NFL potential, so you give him an extra year leeway to get up to speed before making a decision about him. But because of the higher risk factor, these types of guys are more appropriately a mid round pick.
But what about the guys that are NOT the high round picks? The guys to which the term "develop" truly applies? It is not often that you can take a guy at WR late in the draft, or as an undrafted FA, and through teaching and practice "develop" him into a solid "go-to" guy. Why? I think because it takes more time than teams are willing to invest; because the odds are against it happening, and so keeping the guy around for 3-4 years cost you a roster spot and is to big a gamble.
A guy like Marques Colston is the rarity. A guy drafted late who produces quickly. More often, you have a guy like Welker who bounces around a bit, and finds a way to become a role player; thereby giving him value to a team and earning time to develop as a WR.
Three former Dolphins come to mind in thinking about the difficulty in trying to predict who has potential and would make sense to invest time to develop, and who is just a waste of a roster spot.
The first is Devin Aromashodu. Anyone remember him? Former 2006 7th round draft choice of the Miami Dolphins? Didn't make it out of training camp. The guy has good size (6'2", 201 lbs) and sub 4.4 speed. He was picked up by the Colts; kept on the practice squad for a couple of years, and finally cut. Chicago picked him up, and now in his second season with the Bears, 4th in NFL, he is starting to produce. Aromashodu got his chance during the last 4 games of the season, and really stepped up, producing 22 catches for 282 yds and 4 TDs. If that level of production were consistent over 16 games, you are looking at 88 catches for 1128 yds and 16 TDs. It will remain to be seen whether or not he can pick up next season where he left off this year and become a consistent producer.
The next guy, Anthony Armstrong, was a FA acquisition of the Dolphins last offseason, was cut, and now has signed with the Redskins. While the guy is fast (4.3 speed), and often impressed in training camp, it was not enough to keep him on the roster. He does not have ideal size (5'11", 183 lbs), but is very similar in size and speed to our own Ted Ginn. As a UDFA signing, he will probably need another year or two to develop. But considering the rapid development he displayed in the offseason, early indications seem to show that he has the ability to be at least as good as Ginn.
Finally, the biggest surprise of the bunch - Brandon London. At 6'4", 210 lbs, he has the best size of the bunch, and with speed in the 4.5 range, he looks to be pretty close to a prototypical starting WR. He also was an undrafted Free Agent, and spent some time on the Giant practice squad before coming to Miami. Of all three WRs, Brandon is the only one who actually got into a few regular season games for the Fins, and seemed to be developing well. Even when established WR Ernest Wilford couldn't get on the field, London did. And around here, almost everyone expected him to not only make the team, but to possibly step up this year into that "go-to" role. So when the Fins cut him before the regular season, it was widely assumed that it was only because we had something better in Patrick Turner - not because of a lack of talent or ability on Brandon London's part.
Well, today, Brandon is still unemployed. Maybe he got offers and decided to turn them down. Maybe he has decided not to play football and pursue his modeling career - I don't know. But one thing is for sure - out of all the WRs, he seemed to be the best bet to develop, but is the only guy who is now out of the league.
So, as the Dolphins look to solve the problem of finding a real #1 wideout, I think it is pretty safe to say that if they do not trade for an established WR, the only possibilities for solving the problem for the 2010 season are:
1) pick a guy very high up in the draft and hope that he can step right in and contribute at a starting level; or
2) find the "developmental guy" who has been around the league for 3 or 4 years already, and who is ready to step into a starting role but has not yet had the chance. That makes it very unlikely that the guy is already on the roster. Other than our "known quantities", like Camarillo, Hartline, or Ginn, only Julius Pruitt and Taurus Johnson seem to have the size to fill the role, but both came from small schools and have only been in the league for 1 season.
So what do you think? Do you think we are going to have a REAL #1 WR in the starting lineup next September? And if so, where do you think he will come from?