[EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to the news about Art Modell's passing, this post got pushed down the Front Page faster than expected. For that reason, I am bumping in back up to the top of the thread]
Some general thoughts before we delve into the first Dolphins-friendly Wide Receiver Big Board of the 2012 NFL Season:
-I see Miami's current receiver group as having some strong supporting pieces (Davone Bess, Brian Hartline) and some guys who could become strong supporting pieces (Rishard Matthews, possibly Legedu Naanee).
-The Dolphins' receiver corps lacks the guns necessary to validate the presence of said supporting pieces (think about how receivers like Jerry Rice and Greg Jennings were/are able to open up the possibilities and effectiveness of the West Coast offense).
-The first three rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft should feature a considerable number of wide receiver prospects who fit what Joe Philbin and Co. want to do on offense (hands, precise route-running, ability to generate YAC).
1) Robert Woods, USC (6'1", 190)
Woods' inclusion on this list is essentially a no-brainer, as he's a prospect who does everything the Dolphins are looking for at receiver. Legit 4.4 speed and diamond-precise route-running will likely get him into the first round, but his average height and build might drop him to the No. 2 or 3 wideout prospect in this class. That would be great news for Dolphins fans.
2) Keenan Allen, California (6'3", 205)
Not an obvious fit in the West Coast offense, but Allen's ability to get off the line of scrimmage, make tough grabs and hurt defenses after the catch is right in line with current Packer Jordy Nelson's skill set. Allen's athleticism is superior to Nelson's, though, and he's a load to bring down in the open field.
3) Tavon Austin, West Virginia (5'8", 175)
Arguably the best route-runner in this class after Robert Woods, Tavon Austin possesses a strong skill set built on blitzkrieg speed, solid hands and an understanding of how defenses are trying to attack him. He's also a flat-out murderer in the YAC department. Austin's size will hurt him when compared to other receivers in this class, but if the Dolphins want to get fancy with a slasher playmaker who fits the WCO to a tee, this Mountaineer makes an absurd amount of sense.
4) Aaron Mellette, Elon (6'2", 210)
Mellette's one of the more unsung receivers in this class, yet he's a prospect who boasts a complete skill set that is similar to Colts wideout Reggie Wayne. Mellette displays great feel and instincts while navigating coverages, and he has the ability and balance to consistently dice the route tree. Speed is just good enough, but that was the knock on Greg Jennings, too.
5) Stedman Bailey, West Virginia (5'11", 195)
Speaking of Jennings, Stedman Bailey's abilities to run seamless routes, catch everything thrown his way and fearlessly trek over the middle of the field remind me of Jennings during his time at Western Michigan University. Bailey doesn't have the lethal speed of WVU teammate Tavon Austin, but he does have more natural hands and better size than his counterpart. Bailey might be my favorite receiver prospect by the end of this season, and in a class loaded with WCO-friendly talent, that's saying a lot.
6) Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (6'0", 192)
Stills, like Mellette, brings a complete, natural receiver skill set to the table and boasts great hands and advanced smarts for the position. Despite possessing above-average wheels, Stills projects best in a horizontal-based passing attack.
7) Terrance Williams, Baylor (6'2", 200)
Williams actually fits best in the James Jones mold of a big-bodied, agile receiver. But while his route-running still needs some polish, he flashes the ability to slice through routes with startling precision. Williams is no longer my click to pick for receivers in this class (that honor is up for grabs among Woods, Austin and Bailey), but he's a receiver to keep your eye on throughout the 2012 season.