You might recall how the excitement level for the Miami Dolphins draft instantly rose when the team selected Abilene Christian wide receiver Edmond Gates to kick off day three of the NFL Draft. Not only does Gates represent the the infusion of speed that this Miami offense desperately needed. He also could prove to be one of the biggest steals of this draft class.
Most had Gates rated as a late second or early third round prospect. But the Dolphins landed him in the middle of round four at pick 111. And though it's only one man's opinion, Josh Buchanan of DraftCountdown.com wrote before the draft that Gates is a " top 75 prospect who can contribute as a #2 or #3 receiver as a rookie and become a solid starter in the NFL who might even become a Pro Bowler eventually."
With that said, I wanted to learn a little more about this speedy receiver from Abilene Christian. So I reached out to Joey Richards, who covers Abilene Christian football for the Abilene Reporter-News. Richards was gracious enough to answer a few questions I had about Miami's newest receiver.
Q: Johnny Knox is obviously the receiver you hear about most often when talking about players who have successfully made the jump from Abilene Christian to the NFL - nearly posting a 1,000 yard receiving season a year ago following up a very good rookie season. How would you compare Edmond Gates to Knox in terms of NFL readiness?
A: Knox had a lot more football experience, since he played high school ball at Channelview (near Houston), and he was well prepared coming out of ACU. But Gates is a fast learner, and he's had the chance to learn from Knox and his cousin, Bernard Scott, who is a good receiver too. It might take a little longer for him to make a splash, but I think he'll adjust and do just fine.
Q: We all know that Gates times very well during workouts. But does he bring that speed to the field when the pads are on? In other words, does he play as fast as he times? And does he possess elite quickness to go along with his long speed?
A: He definitely plays fast. That shouldn't be a problem.
Q: In large part because of the Ted Ginn epic failure here in Miami, many Dolphins fans are wary of receivers coming out of college who are labeled as "burners." So my question is simple - does Edmond possess the necessary toughness to play receiver at this level? Or should we be prepared for a letdown?
A: That's a good question, and he's had some trouble with little, nagging injuries. I think he has the mental toughness to play in the NFL, and I think he'll learn to get his body ready for the physical toll the long season and hard hits he'll face in the NFL. I think if the Dolphins are patient, he'll work out just fine.
Q: From watching highlights on Gates, it seems he primarily ran three patterns - flies, deep posts, and bubble screens. Is Gates raw as a route runner? Can he get in and out of his breaks quickly?
A: He's definitely still a raw talent. Remember, this is a kid who quit football after his freshman year of high school football. It's rare for a kid to play college football, must less become an all-American, after never playing varsity football. Again, he's a fast learner, and I think he'll catch on pretty fast. The lockout could slow his development, but I think he'll do just fine.
Q: What area of Edmond's game probably needs the most work to successfully transition from college to the pros?
A: He needs to refine his route running, and he needs to develop as a punt and kickoff returner. Special teams is where he could benefit the Dolphins his rookie season. He didn't do much of that at ACU, because he was too valuable as a receiver.
Q: Lastly, what kind of kid is Gates off the field? Any character concerns? Is he a hard worker? Tell us anything at all we should know about Edmond Gates the person - not the player.
A: Edmond is a great guy. He's not flashy or brash, but he loves talking to the media, and I think the fans will love him too. Yes, he'll work hard. This is a guy who literally grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Vernon, Texas, and he wants to make the most of the chances he'll get in the NFL. Keep in mind, football wasn't even on this guy's radar five years ago. He walked onto the ACU team in 2007 just because Scott and Knox convinced him to give a try. ACU's football coach even tried to talk him out of playing, because he didn't think a guy with his lack of experience could play at this level. Good thing he decided to let Edmond play, huh?
A big "thank you" goes out to Joey Richards for taking the time to answer some of my questions. And if you ever have a need to follow ACU football, head over to the Abilene Reporter-News.