Timing is Everything! Is it time for an Elite #1 WR?

I would love to see Boldin here for many of the same reasons Matty expressed in his article "It's time...time for the Dolphins to get that number one receiver".  First, I think he would help Henne in his development.  Second, I think he would help the other WRs in their development.  Third, I think it would be a fairly short term solution to the #1 WR problem, but long enough to solve the rest of the rebuilding issues, like D, RB, and O-line.

(I know, I know "RB and O-line?!!  I thought we were good there!")

Read on, Macduff...

The way I see it (and with the use of 20-20 hindsight), we have been much farther in the hole than I had assumed 2-3 years ago.  Not because of one area, but because as we go through this rebuilding project, things continue to change and we have to account for the changes as well as the previous deficiencies.

So... we had no running game when Danny was here, but we had a good O-line and toward the end we built a pretty good defense.  

Then we had no QB (since Marino), but we had an O-line and went and mortgaged the immediate future to buy a running game (to go with our Defense and Punting game - courtesy of the Rick and Dave show).  

Now it looks like we finally have a QB and a running game, but the O-line fell apart a few years ago and had to be rebuilt, and is still in the process - meaning when we have the same 5 guys play in the same 5 positions for an entire year (barring a guy getting nicked up and missing a game), then we can call our O-line complete.  And our D now has major holes.

So by the time we solidify the D and O-lines, we will be looking for a RB again (next year?).

But what is different now, than in the past?  What is Bill and Crew doing that gives us hope?  Timing!

Timing is everything!

The timing of this thing seems to be coming together nicely!

Now, just follow me for a minute:

The hardest position to fill is QB, but it also tends to be one with unusual longevity if you get the right guy.  If Henne is the right guy, barring injury or something weird (like God tells him to quit football), we could be set there for 10 years.

O-line and D are a bunch of guys.  Because it is a "bunch of guys", it takes time to get the "right bunch of guys" assembled.  You get the right bunch of guys, with staggered contracts, and even if you lose a key piece, you can have his replacement waiting in the wings and not miss a beat as a team.  If you do it right, you could build units that last 6-10 years easy (longer if you are really good at staggering the contracts and drafting replacements).

Which brings us to RBs and WRs.  These guys tend to have the shortest shelf life - hence you do not go get them first because they will be old and stale before you finish fixing the other parts of the team.  Au contraire, you go get those guys the year before you expect for everything else to gel.  Too soon, you waste their talents without being playoff ready.  Too late, and you risk having to restart with QB, O-line, or D.  With me so far?

Okay, so, let's talk about the challenges with getting the right RB, and the right WR, and how that timing adds up.


RB happens to be one of the easiest positions to fill.  Before you jump to conclusions about talent levels, let me just state that you do not need a top 3, or even top 5 RB to compete and win IF YOU HAVE ALL OF THE OTHER PIECES IN PLACE.  If you have the O-line, and D, and a respectable passing game, you can easily get by with a couple of 3rd round backs with different skills sets.  One pound it out, grind it out tough inside runner, and one fast, scatback type.  You do NOT need an AP, or CJ, or CJ Jr.  They are nice to have, but not a need, so if you can get 'em, great, but add them last after everything else is in place, when you have a luxury pick. 

The other thing about RB, is it is one of those rare positions on Offense that you can take a guy right out of the draft and plug him in his rookie season and have him be effective.  And you need to, because of their short shelf life - you don't draft a RB expecting to groom him for a couple of years.

Or, you can do like New England and pick up guys on the downside of the careers with one or two useful seasons left (can you say LT or Westbrook?) to use along with a change-of-pace guy, and a mid-round rookie.  New England is one of the best teams around at recycling RBs.

BOTTOM LINE: Even with Ricky on the downside, Ronnie and PC coming back from injury, and Hilliard, we are good enough at RB for this year, and take a flier on a lower round draft pick or wait until next season to address.  If Hilliard doesn't show signs of being able to take over a role as a feature back, even with Ricky retiring next year and Ronnie becoming a Free Agent, we can pretty easily find a FA guy, or draft a guy with a higher draft pick to step right in and fill the role.



We talk about the WRs as a group, like the O-line, but they are only somewhat dependent upon the quality of their peers within the group, unlike Linemen.  One "Rock Star" caliber O-lineman cannot make a great O-line, no matter how good he is, if his peers are average.  But one "Rock Star" caliber WR can still make a significant positive impact during a game, even when surrounded by peers who are average.  All a true #1 WR needs from his team to be very successful, is an effective QB, an O-Line who can protect the QB and open running lanes, and a couple of complementary WRs who will keep the opposing Defense honest on the underneath and slot routes. 

I am not going to try to define the qualities of a #1 WR, because that topic has been beat to death, and if you aren't sure what those qualities might be, you can search this site for many articles written on the subject.  Let's just say that Wes Welker is a fine example of a complementary WR, because even though he is not a deep threat, if the Defense decides to double cover Moss, Welker will get open all day for 5 and 10 yards per catch.

And again, let's not debate the question of "whether or not the Miami Dolphins need a #1WR... it is well established to most people, fans and pundits alike, that they DO.  The real question we should ask is "What are the options for obtaining a #1 WR, and what are the Pros and Cons of each option?".

In my opinion, the only two realistic options for obtaining a solid #1 caliber WR are through a trade or the draft. 

Free Agency is rarely a reasonable possibility because these players are rarely allowed to ever reach it.  Elite caliber WRs tend to have some measure of a diva quality to them, so it isn't uncommon for them to end up being a headache to the team they are on.  But a headache isn't enough to get them cut loose... if they get cut loose because of a personality problem, it is almost always a major problem... either involving legal issues, or severely undermining the authority of the team and coaching staff.  Occasionally, one of these guys can shut up and play for a new team, but usually they end up causing the same problems on their new team.  Otherwise, almost by definition, if a guy is a Free Agent, he is NOT an elite WR.

Also, just for the sake of taking a couple of talking point off the table, ALL elite WRs are going to be paid... regardless of how they are obtained.  So let's not even discuss the contract in the Pros or Cons.  And when talking about getting a WR through the draft - since the odds are better of hitting a lottery jackpot than uncovering a late round or undrafted F.A. gem, like Marques Colston, let's keep the discussion centered around the most likely, most predictable, place to find one - the 1st or 2nd rounds.

So let's talk about the draft:

If we draft an expected Elite WR, we will most likely use a 1st round draft pick.


- Young.

- Known price tag (one 1st round draft pick and contract slotted).

- Potential for a "Super Star".


- Development time (usually 2-3 seasons).

- Unknown Potential (Risk he may not develop into a #1 WR; bust possible).

- Failure results in further delay of team development.


And compared to acquiring an Elite WR via trade:

You can probably find an Elite, true #1 caliber WR, but you will probably not be able to get a "Franchise Player" (what I call "Super Star").  Teams aren't likely to ever trade Super Stars, and if they did, the trade compensation would crippling to the long term health of acquiring franchise.


- Known potential.  Low risk of failure.

- No development time.  Instant impact.

- Able to fit predictably into timeline for the development of a team.


- Generally older. Less shelf life.

- Higher cost.  Most likely more trade compensation due than just a 1st round draft pick.

- Limited development upside.  Good to Very Good, but seldom Great.  What you see is what you get.


So where does all of this lead?  Well, in sammory, the #1WR role is the most difficult and costly to fill.  If you try to draft the positions, it could easily take you several seasons to determine whether a draft pick will develop into the role, and it could take you several swings at bat before you hit one out of the park (Heavens to Murgatroyd!, He used a baseball analogy in a football article!).  Meaning.... if you expect your team to come together in 2-3 years, you can probably take a chance on drafting a developing a #1 WR.

BUT, if your team is expected to have all of the other pieces in place within a year, then you are better off trading draft picks for a proven guy that can step in and fill the role immediately. 

The worst thing you can do to a team is struggle to find that final piece to the puzzle that will make you a contender for the next 5 years; to waste the effort put into developing the other areas of the team, like QB, O-line, and Defense; and end up having to start rebuilding those other parts of the team as is inevitable after 5 yrs or so in today's NFL.

But the caveat here is: The timing must be right!     Trying to fill the position through the draft can easily take 3 or 4 years, if you get a bad pick.  So if you want to go that route, it should probably be done on the front end of a rebuilding project.   And if you are going to try to acquire an Elite WR via trade for top draft picks, DON'T do it UNTIL you have the rest of the team built and ready to go.  Otherwise you pay a heavy price to have this guy on your roster when you are not yet ready to challenge for a spot at the top. 

And the worst thing is, by trading those picks too early, you pay top dollar for a guy who is just going to depreciate as he ages, and at the same time you slow the development of the other areas of the team that would have benefited from using those pick in the draft.


So, as much as we would ALL like to see the Dolphins acquire a very talented #1 WR, either through the draft or trade, I ask you... are we ready?  Is it time to go after an Elite #1 WR?

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phinsider's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of The Phinsider writers or editors.

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