Analysis of the Dolphins’ Likely Wide Receiver Rankings for 2013 Draft

Jonathan Ferrey

This morning, we have an article from guest author, and Phinsider contributor, Christian Brittle.

Despite signing or resigning three wide receivers this off-season, the Dolphins are likely going to draft one or two wide receivers in the 2013 NFL Draft. This article examines the Dolphins' stated criteria for ranking wide receivers and the likelihood of them selecting them in the draft. I've used Jeff Ireland's remarks to the media and fans, the consensus opinion of wide receivers among published scouting reports, and to develop a list of likely and unlikely wide receiver targets for the Dolphins in the first, second, and third rounds. These are not the rankings that I give the receivers, but rather my projection of how the Dolphins rank the top players in this receivers' class.

The Dolphins' criteria for wide receivers

"Well, number one, you are looking for guys that catch it. You laugh, but that's the number one critical factor of the wide receiver position in my opinion; guys that can catch the ball consistently and have a big range of catching radius. Speed is obviously a big aspect of that and in this business they pay the other guy covering them, so there is going to be some contact opportunities and you want guys that can catch in traffic and catch with contact. I think the fourth aspect, not in any order, would be run after the catch. We're looking for guys that can make plays...I think this is the year that you've got to do something. We're looking for playmakers on offense. That's what we need to do and the players have to be available for you to, you can't make that up. They've got to be available to you and they've got to be available in free agency and in trade situations and certainly the draft. All of those avenues are going to be available to us from a cap stand point and a draft pick stand point." Jeff Ireland on the wide receiver position, January 2013

So before we begin on the player summaries let's examine our facts and assumptions:

Facts - 1) Jeff Ireland is in the last year of his contract; 2) the team has finished with a losing record for the last four years; 3) the team finished 27th in offensive scoring (note: 10 of the top 12 scoring offenses were in the playoffs); 4) the team finished 7th in scoring allowed (note: 9 of the top 12 of such teams were in the playoffs)

Assumptions - 1) Jeff Ireland needs the team to win at least 10 games to keep his job; 2) Joe Philbin won't accept character risks if they are likely to undermine his authority or are unlikely to fully buy into his program; 3) Jeff Ireland is being honest when describing the general traits of players the Dolphins will be targeting in the off-season, either through free agency or the draft.

Possible Targets

Cordarrelle Patterson (6'2", 216 lbs, 4.42 40) Fairly productive as a receiver in his one year at Tennessee (46 catches, 778 yards, 5 TDs in junior year), very productive in all-purpose yards (1,858 yards, 10 TDs - 5 receiving, 3 rushing, 1 kick return, and 1 punt return); Consensus from scouting reports - Very good speed, fluid athlete, good strength, can make defenders miss, can make difficult catches through contact, can extend to catch off-target throws, but drops easily catchable balls and is still developing his route running skills. How does he fit into Ireland's model? Meets most of Ireland's criteria (catching in traffic, YAC, making defenders miss, speed, catching in a wide radius), but his tendency to drop catchable balls would likely be concerning. Additionally, having only one year experience in a Division I school as the number two receiver (scouting reports typically identify Justin Hunter as the receiver defenses were initially trying to stop) suggest that he will need an larger adjustment period to make the jump from college to the NFL. These factors would likely make him less attractive to the Dolphins, based on Ireland's short time frame and drafting history. Comparing his scouting reports and measureables to prior drafts, he is likely to be selected in the mid-late first round. Likelihood of being drafted by the Dolphins - Very unlikely, due to inexperience, lack of route running skills, and higher needs in the first round (OT, CB, DL)

Tavon Austin (5'8", 178 lbs, 4.34 40) Very productive as a receiver in his junior and senior years (213 catches, 2,475 yards, 20 TDs), extremely productive in all-purpose yards (2,970 yards, of which 1,932 came as a rusher and receiver); Consensus from scouting reports - Elite speed and quickness, excellent yards after the catch, very good hands, good catching radius, but largely limited to the slot, very small by NFL standards, occasionally drops balls when making move before securing. How does he fit into Ireland's model? Meets all of Ireland's criteria (speed, YAC, wide catching radius, making defenders miss), but is far from the typical "proto-type" player that Ireland looks to build a team around. Austin's limitations as an outside receiver will likely keep him in the slot next year, meaning that the Dolphins would have to use the #12 overall pick on a slot receiver. Likelihood of being drafted by the Dolphins - Very unlikely, due to small size, current limitations as a slot receiver, and higher needs in the first round (OT, CB, DL)

Keenan Allen (6'2", 206 lbs, didn't run at combine and ran between a 4.71-4.75 40 at Pro Day) - Productive in college (159 catches, 2,080 yards, 12 TDs in junior and injury-shortened senior year). Consensus from scouting reports - Excellent hands, catches away from his body, runs good routes, can make defenders miss, good athlete, but occasionally drops balls when attempting to make a move before ball is secured, doesn't have elite speed on tape, is still developing due to poor QB play at Cal. How does he fit into Ireland's model? Meets all of Ireland's criteria, minus elite speed, and fits the "proto-type player" mold. Assuming teams believe he can run a sub-4.6 40 when fully recovered from his knee injury, Allen will likely be a late first round pick or early second round pick. Likelihood of being drafted by the Dolphins - Unlikely, due to injury, lack of speed, and competing needs in the second round (OT, CB, S, DL, TE)...Likely to be drafted by the Dolphins in the third round, although it is highly improbable that Allen would fall so far.

DeAndre Hopkins (6'1", 214 lbs., 4.57 40) Very productive in college (154 catches, 2,383 yards, 23 TDs in sophomore and junior years); Consensus from scouting reports - Excellent hands, catches the ball away from the body, very quick and can create separation, good route runner, fights for the ball, can run through arm tackles, but does not possess elite speed or size. How does he fit into Ireland's model? Meets almost all of Ireland's criteria (consistent catching, catching in wide radius, catching in traffic, speed, YAC, making defenders miss) excepting speed, which is average for the position. Likely a couple of inches shorter and slightly slower than the ideal, but otherwise fits Ireland's stated wants perfectly. Production, skills, and experience suggest he'll be able to contribute sooner than later, which would make him attractive based on Ireland's short time frame. Comparing his scouting reports and measureables to prior drafts, he is likely to be selected in the late first/early second round. Likelihood of being drafted by the Dolphins - Likely to be drafted with their second pick in the second round, especially if needs at OT and CB have been met with the 12th and 42th overall picks, but it is unlikely he will fall that far.

Robert Woods (6'0", 201 lbs, 4.51 40) - Very productive in college (186 catches, 2,138 yards, 26 TDs in junior and senior years). Consensus from scouting reports - Very good route runner, knows the full route tree, excellent catching radius, catches contested balls, very quick, but drops balls, doesn't possess elite top end speed, and can get muscled off of routes by defenders. How does he fit into Ireland's model? Woods fits most of Ireland's criteria (catching with a wide radius, catching in traffic, playmaking), but his "inexplicable stretch of drops" and lack of top end speed do not fit Ireland's stated wants. His production and skills suggest that he'll be able to contribute quickly, which makes him attractive based on the need to win in 2013. Comparing his scouting reports and measureables to prior drafts, he is likely to be selected in the late first or early second round. Likelihood of being drafting by the Dolphins - Unlikely to be drafted by the Dolphins in the first or second round, but possible target in the third round if OL and secondary positions are addressed with the first 3-4 draft picks.

Quinton Patton (6'0", 204 lbs, 4.52 40) - Very productive in his one year in Division I (103 catches, 1,392 yards, 13 TDs). Consensus from scouting reports - Very good hands, catches away from the body, very quick off the release, runs good routes, can make defenders miss, can overpower smaller defenders, sells routes even when he's not the target, good blocker, but possesses average speed and will drop balls when being contested by the defender. How does he fit into Ireland's model? Meets most of Ireland's criteria (YAC, reliable hands, making defenders miss, catching in a wide radius), but might not fit the speed criteria and dropping contested passes will be a concern. An experienced receiver with an all-around game, Patton will likely be able to contribute early. Comparing his scouting reports and measureables to prior drafts, Patton is likely to be drafted in the mid-late second round. Likelihood of being drafted by the Dolphins - Unlikely to be drafted by the Dolphins in the 1st round or 2nd round, but possible target with in the third round, if he falls that far.

Justin Hunter (6'4", 196 lbs, 4.44 40) - Productive in his senior and injury-shortened junior year (90 catches, 1,397 yards, 11 TDs). Consensus from scouting reports - Prototypical size and speed, good acceleration out of breaks, but majority of reports noted his tendency to drop the ball, have "alligator arms," and minimal blocking skills. How does he fit into Ireland's model? Other than his size and speed, Hunter does not fit into Ireland's model. His drops and lack of production against top SEC competition are major red flags. Comparing his scouting reports and measurables, Hunter is likely to be selected in the late second or third round. Likelihood of being selected by the Dolphins - Extremely unlikely to be selected by the Dolphins in the first three rounds, if at all.

Markus Wheaton (5'11", 189 lbs, 4.45 40 time) Very productive in college (164 catches, 2,230 yards, 12 TDs in junior and senior years); Consensus from scouting reports - runs routes well, very quick off the snap, talented pass catcher, but occasionally suffers from drops when making a move before ball is secured, questions on effectiveness at blocking; Reports differed as to whether he was good making catches in traffic or had "alligator arms" when going over the middle; Comparisons - Antonio Brown (NFL.com), Brandon Lloyd (Yahoo.com), Bernard Berrian (CBS Sports.com); How does he fit into Ireland's model? Meets all of Ireland's criteria (consistent catching, catching in wide radius, catching in traffic, speed, YAC, making defenders miss), but doesn't fit Ireland's "prototype player" model as he isn't over six feet tall or running under a 4.4 40. Production, skills, and experience suggest he'll be able to contribute sooner than later, which would make him attractive based on Ireland's short time frame. Comparing his scouting reports and measurables to prior drafts, he is likely to be selected in the second round. Likelihood of being drafted by the Dolphins? Likely to be drafted by the Dolphins with their second pick in the 2nd round, if OT and CB needs are filled and no comparably-rated DL is available, and Highly Likely to be drafted in the 3rd round if available.

Da'Rick Rogers (6'2", 217 lbs., 4.52 40 time) Productive in college (78 catches, 1,207 yards, 11 TDs in short junior and full senior years); Consensus from scouting reports - Prototype big receiver, very strong hands, very physical, hard to press, hard to bring down after the catch, excellent at making a catch despite contact, very good red zone target, but does not possess elite top end speed and has major character red flags, as he was dismissed from Tennessee after his junior year; How does he fit into Ireland's model? Rogers almost all the criteria, excepting elite speed, but his character issues would present issues for the Dolphins. Comparing his scouting reports and measureables to prior drafts, he's a first round talent that will likely be selected no earlier than the third round. Likelihood of being drafted by the Dolphins? Very unlikely, despite his considerable talent Rogers character risks are probably deemed as too much to invest a first or second day pick.

Ryan Swope (6'0", 205 lbs, 4.34 40) Very productive in college (161 catches, 2,120 yards, 19 TDs in junior and senior years); Consensus from scouting reports - Quick feet, reliable hands, can catch away from the body, very good finding the soft part of a zone, good route runner, excellent blocker, but doesn't play up to timed speed and didn't display huge catching radius. How does he fit Ireland's model? While Swope meets most of Ireland's criteria (consistent catching, YAC, can make defenders miss, speed), the scouting reports didn't comment on his ability or inability to catch through contact or in traffic. He's also a bit smaller than the prototype receiver, but some reports suggest that he can be more than a slot receiver. Comparing his scouting reports and measureables to prior drafts, Swope is likely to be selected in the late second to early fourth round. Likelihood of being drafted by the Dolphins? Likely to be drafted in either the third or fourth rounds, due to his playing style, knowledge of the offense, and established chemistry with Ryan Tannehill.

Stedman Bailey (5'10", 190 lbs, 4.52 40) Extremely productive in college (186 catches, 2,901 yards, 37 TDs in junior and senior years); Consensus from scouting reports - Very good hands, runs good routes, catches through contact, catches away from his body, tracks the deep ball well, but is small and does not have elite speed or quickness. How does he fit Ireland's model? While Bailey meets most of the criteria (reliable hands, catches through contact, good YAC), his lack of elite speed and height suggest he will not be highly regarded by Ireland as worth a draft pick until the later rounds (5th and on). Comparing the scouting reports and measureables to prior drafts, Bailey is likely to be selected in the fourth to sixth round. Likelihood of being drafted by the Dolphins? Unlikely to be drafted in the first four rounds by the Dolphins, due to his size and speed measureables, particularly if the Dolphins select a receiver in either the second or third round.

Aaron Dobson (6'3, 210 lbs, Didn't run at combine, but ran 4.43 40 at pro day) Very productive in college (94 catches, 1,965 yards, 29 TDs in junior and senior years); Consensus from scouting reports - Excellent hands, catches the very difficult balls thrown off-target, can make catches with defenders on him, can use his hands to beat press coverage, but lacks quickness, is a long strider, does not possess top end speed, and has trouble creating separation. How does he fit Ireland's model? Meets all of Ireland's criteria (consistent catching, catching in a wide radius, catching in traffic, YAC, making defenders miss/running over defenders) except elite speed, which is likely average to average to above average for the position. Meets Ireland's stated desire for "proto-type players" in terms of his size, but his lack of experience going against top tier competition suggests he will not be an immediate contributor. Comparing his scouting reports and measurables, Dobson is likely to be selected in the mid-second to late-third round. Likelihood of being drafted by the Dolphins? Highly likely to be drafted by the Dolphins with a 3rd round pick or 4th round pick if available, especially if no other receiver is picked by the Dolphins in the 2nd or 3rd rounds. Aaron Dobson is a Jeff Ireland-type receiver.

Conclusion

Likely first round targets - none

Likely second round targets - DeAndre Hopkins, Markus Wheaton (note: neither likely unless offensive line and secondary needs are addressed with 12th and 42nd overall picks)

Likely third round targets - Aaron Dobson, Ryan Swope

Swope and Dobson are the most likely to be drafted by the Dolphins as they represent excellent value in either the third or fourth round and the need to upgrade the offensive line and secondary in the first three rounds will be much higher. The Dolphins current top four wide receivers (Wallace, Hartline, Gibson, and Bess) will get the majority of playing time in 2013, while the 1-2 drafted wide receivers will provide depth and likely attempt to fill Bess' spot for the 2014 team.

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