For a number of years, the Miami Dolphins searched for a true number one or ‘alpha’ wide receiver. They drafted several players, but few panned out. They traded for Brandon Marshall in the spring of 2010, and it looked like the search was finally over. Marshall produced 167 receptions and 2228 yards in his two seasons in Miami, but only managed to get 9 total touchdowns in that time. After two seasons with the Dolphins, Marshall was traded to Chicago and Miami’s #1 target search was back on.
I am probably one of the few fans that think the Dolphins have some good talent at the wide receiver. Davone Bess and Brian Hartline are good at what they do and should excel in a West Coast Offense. Edmond Gates is a developing receiver with excellent speed to stretch the field. He could become a bigger factor this season. The Dolphins also have some receivers with potential in Marlon Moore, Roberto Wallace, and Julius Pruitt. However, unless one of those players has a breakout season, then Miami still doesn’t have a true #1 target.
Head coach Joe Philbin has stated that his offense will not follow the #1, #2, #3 receiver pattern and plans to spread the wealth around. While that may be the case, it appears the team is still intent on acquiring a top target in the 2012 draft. Most fans are familiar with the big name guys like Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, and Kendall Wright. You can be sure the Dolphins have high interest in those players. But it isn’t likely that the Dolphins will draft any of them. Blackmon ‘should’ get drafted before the Dolphins pick at 8. Floyd and Wright will probably get selected later in the first round and wouldn’t necessarily be the best choice for the Dolphins unless they traded down. So unless things fall just right, the Dolphins will draft a receiver after the first round. The good news is that this draft appears to be very deep at the receiver position and you can get very good talent later in later rounds. It is almost a certainty that the Dolphins will draft two wide receivers this year. Word ‘round the campfire was that the team was looking to add a receiver BEFORE Marshall was traded. You can bet that they will look to add two now. The following receivers are players I think the Dolphins could and should target in the draft, if they don’t use one of their first two picks on a receiver.
Greg Childs, Arkansas
Childs has slowly become one of my favorite players in this draft. He has the prototypical size for a #1 receiver at 6’3" 219 pounds. He has excellent speed for a receiver of that size. He ran 4.52 at the combine; 4.41 and 4.39 at his pro day. He is a good route runner with good hands. He has the athleticism and toughness to make any catch in the NFL. He produced a 41 inch vertical at his pro day revealing that he can become a big time red zone target. He is a willing blocker and has the work ethic to become a great player. So why isn’t this guy a first round pick? In 2010, Childs suffered a torn patellar tendon in his right knee and required surgery. His recovery from that injury limited his play in 2011 and he only produced 21 receptions for 240 yards and zero touchdowns. But prior to the 2011 season, Childs produced 48 receptions, 897 yards, and 7 TDs in 2009. In 2010, he only played in 8 games and produced 46 receptions, 659 yards, and 6 TDs prior to the injury. Childs has worked hard to get back to form and his combine and pro day workouts should have shown teams that he is completely healthy. Childs is a first round caliber talent that should be available when the Dolphins are on the clock in the third round. They attended the Arkansas pro day and have shown interest in him. Miami fans should be very excited if and when the Dolphins draft Childs.
Marvin Jones, California
Jones is another favorite player of mine in this draft. He is an under-the-radar type prospect that would be a wonderful selection for the Dolphins. Jones is a 6’2" 199 lb. receiver with reliable hands. He ran a 4.46 at the combine and produced an impressive 22 reps on the bench press. Jones had a very good Senior Bowl where he showcased his skills. He is a solid route runner and can win at the line of scrimmage with his hands. He has good short area quickness which allows him to work both outside and in the slot. That would make him a great fit in the WCO. At Cal, he produced 156 receptions, 2261 yards, and 13 TDs over his career. He produced 62 receptions, 846 yards, and 3 TDs, even though he wasn’t the main target. That last statement is why Jones isn’t higher on most draft boards. He was the secondary target at Cal. Does that mean he cannot produce at the NFL level? Of course not. As mentioned earlier, Coach Philbin says he isn’t following the standard pattern. Jones offers versatility and production that fits into what the new head coach wants from his offense. Jones can be a 60-70 reception, 800-1000 yard, 6-8 TD player for the Dolphins and that is perfectly fine in our new offense.
(NOTE: I think it would be a GREAT idea to double up on WRs and draft Childs and Jones in the third round.)
Juron Criner, Arizona
Criner is a big target at 6’3" 224 pounds. He has great hands and quick feet. He plays physical and is a willing blocker. Criner has one glaring issue that has affected his stock though: his 4.6 forty time. Anytime a receiver runs over a 4.6 in the 40, that causes his draft stock to plummet. However, 40 times can be overrated and when you look at what Criner does on the field, you will see a guy who produced 209 receptions, 2859 yards, and 32 TDs during his collegiate career. Criner is not a speed merchant and will never be the deep threat that fans like to see. But as his scouting report says, he is a good fit as the ‘Z’ receiver in a WCO. So while Criner may not have the best straight line speed, he looks like the type of receiver that will do just what he did in college: catch a ton of passes, pick up a ton of yards, and score a bunch of touchdowns. The best part is that his forty time should allow him to be around in the third or even fourth round of the draft.
Nick Toon, Wisconsin
The son of former Jets receiver Al Toon, Nick is another big physical receiver at 6’2" 215 pounds. He doesn’t have elite speed, but did record a 4.43 at his pro day. He has good hands and is a decent route runner. Toon had a great senior year with 64 receptions, 926 yards, and 10 TDs. But his overall production at Wisconsin was limited to their run heavy offense. Toon has no off the field issues and seems like a hard worker. He would be a good value in the third or fourth round and would be a weapon in the WCO.
A.J. Jenkins, Illinois
Jenkins is not your prototypical #1 WR at 6’0" 190 pounds. Then again, neither is Greg Jennings who is 5’11" 199 pounds. The typical WCO utilizes smaller, quicker receivers that work the underneath routes and that can create after the catch. Jenkins can fill that role very well. He has elite speed highlighted by his 4.39 forty at the combine. His size could limit him to a degree, but he can flourish in the right system. He has good hands and runs good routes. He was productive in college with career totals of 167 receptions, 2432 yards, and 19 TDs. He would be a great addition to the Dolphins because he has speed, which the team covets. He has the versatility to line up outside or in the slot, which makes him a good fit for the WCO. If the Dolphins decide to go for bigger target like Childs or Criner in the third, they might double down with a smaller, faster guy like Jenkins with the other third round pick.
T.Y. Hilton, Florida International
Hilton is another smaller, speed receiver that would be a versatile weapon in the WCO. Hilton has elite speed and is one of the fastest receivers in this draft. He is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, which includes the return game as well. He runs good routes and has great hands. He has great production with 229 receptions, 3531 yards, and 24 TDs for his career. He contributed in the return game with 79 punt returns for 614 yards and 2 TDs. He had 105 kickoff returns for 2855 yards (27.2 yards per return average) and 4 TDs. Hilton played in a smaller conference and will have to adjust to the level of competition. His size could be an issue as he is only 5’10" and 183 pounds. However, he plays tough at that size and that will catch the eyes of the coaches. He should be available in the fourth or fifth round.
Tommy Streeter, Miami
Fans of ‘The U’ will appreciate this pick for the Dolphins. Streeter has the physical tools to be a dominant #1 receiver at the NFL level. He stands at 6’5" 219 pounds and has great speed for a player of that size. He ran a 4.40 forty at the combine, which caused his stock to rise somewhat. He had a productive junior year, with 46 receptions, 811 yards, and 8 TDs. But he only had a grand total of 6 receptions in his previous two seasons combined. Streeter is very raw and will need development before he can contribute on a regular basis. He needs work on his route running and getting in and out of his breaks better. His size, speed, and potential will push his stock up the boards. His overall lack of production and need for development will limit the ceiling for his draft stock. Projections for Streeter are all over the board right now. Some have him as high as a third rounder and some as low as a sixth rounder. He is probably somewhere in the middle, possibly a late fourth or early fifth round pick. The Dolphins have shown serious interest in Streeter and he would make a good developmental target for the team.
Devon Wylie, Fresno State
Wylie, or ‘Wiggles’ is a 5’9" 187 pound dynamo from Fresno State. He ran a 4.39 forty at the combine. He is projected as more of a slot receiver at the NFL level. Wylie has had moderate production in college. He has 98 receptions, 1327 yards, and 8 TDs over his career. He has had some injuries over his career which is a concern. He has decent hands and plays tougher than his size. Wylie would be a strong addition to the Dolphins team for a couple of reasons. One, he has return experience which is an area the Dolphins must improve. Secondly, the new offense will feature more underneath patterns and this is where Wylie could excel; think Wes Welker with more speed. His short area burst and ability to create after the catch means he could be a force in the new offense. He is projected as a fifth round pick at this point. Miami could go for a bigger receiver earlier in the draft, like Greg Childs and wait until the fifth or so to take a guy like Wiggles.
Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M
The Dolphins are already poised to draft one Aggie and could be in the market for another one. The ties to Mike Sherman could influence this pick, and the Dolphins may want to pair their new QB-of-the future with a receiver he is comfortable with. Fuller is a big target at 6’4" 223. He doesn’t have great straight line speed as he ran a 4.6 at the combine. He has inconsistent hands and struggled with drops. Even with drop issues, he was very productive over the course of his career. He finished with 233 receptions, 3092 yards, and 34 TDs. The lack of deep speed and his inconsistency has caused his draft stock to plummet and he looks to be a fifth round pick at this point. The benefit to the Dolphins is that Fuller has already played under Mike Sherman and knows the system which shortens his learning curve. If Tannehill truly is the pick, he will already have some chemistry with Fuller. There is some upside here, and that should be intriguing to the team.
Chris Owusu, Stanford
Owusu was the primary deep threat to Andrew Luck last season at Stanford. He has the average size for a WCO at 6’0" 198. He has great speed, showcased by his 4.36 forty time at the combine. He has been an inconsistent receiver over his career, with moderate success. He has 102 receptions, 1534 yards, and 10 TDs. While those numbers don’t look that spectacular, he has missed significant time over his career with various injuries. He also played in an offense that was more run oriented and spread the ball around to other targets. Regardless, the lack of production and injury history are major red flags and has caused his draft stock to fall to the sixth or seventh round. It’s possible that he could go undrafted. Why is he on the list? Because this is a low risk, high reward type player. You can get a receiver with great speed and versatility late in the draft. If he makes it, you found a gem late in the draft. If not, he was a late round pick; no harm, no foul.
And there you have it. I am sure there are a few receivers out there that could be added to this list. Brian Quick, who I left out intentionally, will have his own post later. Out of this group listed, Childs is my favorite receiver. I think he has the most potential to be a #1 receiver. I like Hilton and Jones as complementary receivers and would be ecstatic to see a Childs/Jones or Childs/Hilton combo in the Dolphins draft.