The wide receiver position is arguably one of our biggest needs on offense. This minor need was turned into a major need by trading Brandon Marshall. But really, is the number one wide receiver spot that much of a need. We may have a player already on our roster that is poised for a breakout year and could become our number one WR. Who is this player? That player is Brian Hartline. Hartline is a very polar topic among Dolphins fans. There are fans, like myself, who believe he is a good player that will improve now that Marshall is gone. On the other hand, there are fans who, in the words of TexasCowPunk, that will not be swayed unless Hartline has a 200 catch, 2,500 yd season. I think Hartline has the capability to put up an 80 catch, 1,000 yd year under the right system, which are great numbers for a number 2 WR, and decent for a number 1 WR. So, with no further ado, let's begin.
Hartline was drafted in the 4th round of the 2009 NFL draft. The Phins had double-dipped on WRs that year, selecting Patrick Turner in the 3rd and Hartline in the 4th. We all know how the Turner experiment turned out, but Hartline had a powerful motor and worked hard. Hartline had a solid rookie season playing in limited time, and went into the offseason with competition on his mind. In the offseason of 2010, Hartline and Greg Camarillo battled it out for a starting spot. Hartline won the battle, and Cam was traded to the Vikings for nickelback Benny Sapp. Hartline put up great stats that year across from Brandon Marshall, but was injured in game 12. This past year, he played very well in the first few games of the season, earning the nickname "The magician" for his amazing circus catches. His stats took a nose dive after the injury of Chad Henne. A major part in this is that Matt Moore wasn't as comfortable with Hartline as Henne was, since Henne and Hartline had played together for three years. Hartline still continued making his circus catches though. Now, he goes into the next season as the default no. 1 WR.
Hartline - The Numbers
Height - 6 foot 2 inches
Weight - 199 lbs.
Age - 25
40 time (combine) - 4.52
Those are his physical specs. What can we learn from these. Well, his height is very good, he is well over 6 foot and should be able to get the jump ball. His height is very similar to that of Jordy Nelson(just using Packers' WRs as a frame of reference due to the fact that we are running the same system), who exploded last year. On the other hand, his weight is a bit low. Nelson weighs in at 217 lbs, so Hartline is about 20 lbs under what he would need to match up with Jordy Nelson, but that wouldn't be as much of an issue, as he has the height and he has proven durable enough up until now. What can we learn from his age then? Well, first off, he is very young and his best years are ahead of him.He is old enough to have experience in route trees, coverage and other mental aspects of the game, and young enough to improve even further. In addition, he is one year younger that Nelson, meaning he is the sam age Nelson was when Nelson broke out. What about his 40 time? Well, the fact that he was so close to being sub-4.5 shows that he has the speed needed to go deep. He won't be a constant deep threat, but he has enough speed that defensive backs will have to respect it. After doing some digging, I found that Nelson's 40 time was 4.51, almost EXACTLY the same as Hartline's. This further exemplifies the similarities between Hartline and Nelson.Because of this, I see Brian Hartline being similar to Nelson in this system and Philbin being able to get that kind of production out of him.
Hartline - The Stats
Here are Hartline's stats through out his career. He had his best year in 2010, but it was cut short due to injury. If you annualize the stats for that year, he ends up with 58 receptions, 818 yds with 2 TDs and 2 fumbles. While he would still have had a low TD count, he would have put up very good numbers for a number 2 WR, with over 50 receptions and 800 yds. He slumped last season, but was actually playing very well in the beginning of the season with Henne as QB. In the first 3 games of the season, he put up 10 receptions for 170 yds. If you annualized these stats for the remainder of the year, he ends up with fifty four receptions for nine hundred six yards, a huge jumprom what he had with Moore. With an extra offseason, Hartline's chemistry with Moore will obviously improve, giving him a cosiderable stat boost.
Hartline - The Issues
Now, I do have to agree that Hartline does have some issues he needs to work out. First and foremost, he needs to rapidly increase bulk and weight if he is to fit the Jordy Nelson mold. At 199 lbs, he is very thin for a WR with his height.This height will severely limit him from being a number 1 guy. But, this issue shouldn't be too hard to fix. Hartline will easily be able to add an extra 10-15 lbs without losing much speed. Another issue Hartline has is his lack of ability to get yards after the catch. He is often taken down by the first defender to hit him. A number one west coast WR should excel in yards after the catch. But, I think this issue is directly correlated to his weight issue. If he increases bulk, it will be harder for defenders to take him down and his yards after catch will rise as well.
Hartline is a very polar player among Dolphins fans, some love him, some hate him. I think he is poised for a breakout year, and will benefit from a system that suits his strengths. His stats show that he can produce, and he has the measurables to go with it. I think Philbin will unlock his full potential, and he will explode into the picture. He does, however have his weaknesses. These include his lack of weight and yards after the catch. These issues go hand in hand however, and increasing his weight will help solve both. No matter what, Hartline is going to be a wild card player this year, and will either use this season to boost himself into the ranks of the number 1 WRs, or will doom himself into the position of a mediocre no. 2 for the rest of his career. I think he is also further motivated by this being a contract year, so I would expect big things from him.