NFL Scouting Combine: The Dolphins' need for WR speed

As we've talked about for weeks now, Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland made it clear that one of his top priorities this offseason is upgrading his team's speed. There's no question that one of the positions that needs the infusion of speed is wide receiver.

I get the feeling that many fans overlook the talent that Miami's receiving corps actually does have. We all know Brandon Marshall is a beast - he just needs to be used properly. I expect new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to do a better job than Dan Henning did at actually putting Marshall in a position to be as successful as he should be. Davone Bess is an elite slot/possession receiver and should continue to excel in that role. Brian Hartline, meanwhile, is the under-appreciated guy in this group. He was on pace to catch 58 passes for over 800 yards before suffering a season-ending injury back in week 13.

But we all know that in order for the Dolphins to have a complete receiving unit, they need that speed receiver - that deep threat that can blow the top off of a defense, forcing the opposition to respect the long ball.

So let's discuss some of the players who could fill that role and how they performed at the Scouting Combine on Sunday.

Could Julio Jones fall to pick 15?

This is the question most Dolphin fans have been contemplating since his electric showing at the Combine - running an "official" 4.39 40 - the 7th fastest time among all participants at the Combine and the 3rd fastest among receivers. Making this more impressive is the fact that Jones announced he participated in the events on Sunday with a fracture in his foot that will require surgery this week to have a screw inserted.

I wonder how fast Jones would have timed had he no had a crack in his foot.

I also now wonder exactly how this news will affect his draft stock on draft night. The recovery time for an injury like this is eight weeks - meaning we will not see Jones on a field working out until after the NFL Draft. If recent history is any indication, this could move Jones slightly down on some boards.

Michael Crabtree had this same situation while he was preparing for the draft and it caused the talented receiver to fall to pick ten. Crabtree also didn't see any game action until week seven of his rookie season because of complications stemming from the foot injury.

Just last year, Demaryius Thomas was taken 22nd overall by Denver. Despite showing promise, Thomas only played in ten games due to foot issues that could have been a result of an injury similar to the one Jones has.

Considering receivers have fallen out of the top fifteen frequently recently, Julio could actually slip to Miami's lap in the middle of round one. Of course, that's no guarantee that they pull the trigger.

It's been said Jones lacks elite burst (despite what his insane 11'3 broad jump leads me to believe) and that he doesn't play as fast as he times. That's fine - scouts will look for everyone's weakness. And while I'm no scout, I don't know how the Dolphins could pass on a 6'2, 220 pound sub 4.40 receiver who caught 78 balls for over 1,100 yards and 7 touchdowns in the tough SEC last year.

Some quick thoughts on speed receivers

Here are some other impressions from the Combine regarding potential speed receivers:

  • I was disappointed with Torrey Smith's 4.43 40. I thought he'd run faster. But I've heard many scouts clocked Smith in the mid 4.3s, which is more like it. At over 6'0 and 200 pounds, that's impressive. And don't listen to the Darrius Heyward-Bey comparisons. Smith can actually catch the football with his hands. DHB was a track star playing football. Smith is a football player.
  • One guy I was indeed very disappointed in was Titus Young, who clocked an "official" 4.53 at 174 pounds. Even if  chalk up that figure as an anomaly (because it looks like he plays faster), I'm worried about his slight frame and his inability to stay on his feet. The kid was on the ground far too much for non-contact drills. That shows poor body control, something that isn't easily corrected.
  • I was quite surprised by Leonard Hankerson's 4.43 40 time - a great time for a 6'1 receiver. But does he play that fast? You all know better than I do, I'm sure, because you've all probably watched more UM games than me. So let me know. If this is real speed, you have to figure the Dolphins will be looking at the kid.
  • Fort Valley State's Ricardo Lockette is opening up some eyes. He ran an "official" 4.37, which tied for the fastest among receivers. But I read that a few scouts did have Lockette in the sub 4.3 area. More noteworthy, though, since it was expected he'd run well was the kid's display in the drills. He showed he can catch the deep ball. He showed he uses his hands to pluck the ball rather than waiting for the ball to come to him. I like his fundamentals, something I didn't expect considering the kid caught just 23 passes in 2010. But at 6'2 and with that speed, Lockette is going to rise up draft boards as the draft nears.
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