Hello Fellow Fish-Fans! I am writing to you from the (mostly) sunny beaches in Cancun, Mexico (except for a small hurricane that came through here last week).
With all of the excitement about Sir Ryan Tannehill and his rapidly developing game, as well as the tempered enthusiasm about the Miami Dolphins untested Wide Receiver corps, I looked up an old article I had written about Miami Dolphins WR Julius Pruitt. I have been a fan of his for a couple of years now and wrote this little "introduction" at the end of the Fins 2009 season (re-posted here with a couple of minor revisions to the original). Now, two and a half years later, with him starting to emerge in training camp and the first preseason game (and especially now with the release of Chad Johnson), I thought many of you would be interested in taking another look at the kid.
When I looked into the possibility of developing a WR, rather than trading for one, I realized there was already a guy on our roster that looks like he has potential.
The biggest reason that it takes a while to develop WRs – ESPECIALLY GUYS FROM SMALLER SCHOOLS – is that the level of competition increases exponentially when the make the jump to the NFL. So you have a guy blessed with natural gifts and talent – he’s big, strong, fast – and he runs over any opposing DB in college. If he is from a Div 1A school, he may occasionally play against a future NFL CB, but if he is from a smaller school he probably rarely challenged.
So even if you have a guy with all the measurables, a WR’s success in making the transition to the NFL is usually tied to his ability to improve technically. He needs to be able to being very technical in his route running, his use of hands to beat the jam off the line, his ability to box out a defender with his body, etc. And once he learns the technicalities, he then needs to develop the nuances that come with football savvy…. the head fake, the stutter step, the shoulder juke, the stiff arm of a smaller DB while you are running away from him. These are all things he did not need to work on in college because he was about to out power or out run most of the defenders he encountered. And all these new technicalities he has to learn are in addition to having to learn the bigger picture – the playbook, the audibles, motions etc.
And if a guy does not have all of the natural gifts – if he has speed but not size, or size but not speed, or if he lacks quickness off the line or out of his breaks, then he is facing an even bigger uphill battle.
So what is the best you can do when picking a WR? First, you look for production against competition in college. Second, you look for the measurables – Size and Speed. And third, you look for a guy who is smart enough and coach-able enough to learn quickly. You rarely get all three unless you get a top ten draft pick.
Enter Julius Pruitt. I admit, I did not know much about the kid until I did a little research, but I like what I see. First of all, it is important to note that Sparano and Co. kept this kid around two seasons on the practice squad - even as they were letting other folks go and shuffling players on and off. Second, there was quite a bit of interest in this kid before the draft, but he is from a very small school (Ouachita Baptist), so he was always considered a "project".
Pruitt is 6'2", 206 lbs, and ran a 4.42 40yd dash. I found several scouting reports on the kid, and they all said pretty much the same thing - good quickness, athleticism, and character.
Here are some quotes from 2009 NFL Draft scouting reports:
Pruitt worked out for the St. Louis Rams and Green Bay Packers on March 3 where he ran a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash, posted a 31 1/2-inch vertical and a 9-foot, 4-inch broad jump. The scouts where impressed with the performance so much that the Rams where back in the area on Wednesday for a second look.
Pruitt caught every pass thrown his way and made several acrobatic catches during receiving drills.
When watching the receiver on film, he absolutely jumped off the screen. Pruitt has good size, speed, explosion and subtle quickness. He’s very strong, squats over 600 pounds, and shows great leaping ability, body control and athleticism.
Pruitt is a pretty good route runner with solid hands and is a willing blocker. He’s a physical possession-receiver who loves to catch the ball over the middle and shows a strong desire to play the game. Pruitt is a high character guy and is great in the locker room. He was voted most valuable player by his teammates.
Now, of course, the knock on him was experience. The scouting reports noted that he needed to work on refining his route running and separation skills at the next level. But after more than two seasons on the team, he looks like he has possibly started to emerge as a legitimate target. He has drawn praise from coaches as an excellent Special Teams player, and the Dolphins first team defensive backs were raving about him in practice. Could this be the year that he puts it all together and is able to earn a sport on the active roster? Two years is about right for a raw college receiver to develop into a viable NFL player. And this is definitely the best opportunity he has had since he came into the league.
So what do you think of him so far, Phinsider Nation?