One of the most interesting and intriguing position battles to keep close watch on as we inch towards training camp will be the battle for the 5th WR spot. As it stands how, the most likely top 4 WRs will be Chris Chambers, Marty Booker, Derek Hagan, and Ted Ginn Jr.. This leaves, most likely, one receiver spot for 6 different players, 2 veterans, 1 developmental player currently playing in NFL Europa, and 3 undrafted free agents. Let's take a look at the candidates.
Campbell is one of the favorites to win this position battle...that is, if he can stay healthy. That's his biggest issue. In fact, he was in camp with the Dolphins last season but suffered a quadricep injury that prevented Campbell from making the team. Instead, he spent the year rehabbing. However, now he says he feels good. He's been working with a new doctor to help make his legs stronger and less injury-prone. He's also been eating healthier.
If Campbell can just keep himself healthy, he's got a fairly big upside. He's just 26 years old and has elite speed. In fact, coach Cam Cameron, who we know loves speed, had this to say about Campbell:
If you check out his career, you'd see that Campbell plays as fast as he times. In 37 career games, Campbell has 57 catches for 1,062 yards and 8 touchdowns. He's had 10 catches of 40 or more yards and have a career yards per reception average of 18.6 yards. Clearly, he has the potential to create a big play every time he steps on the field. He just needs to stay on the field and out of the trainer's room.
Az Hakim is a 10 year veteran who got his start as part of the "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams teams that got to 2 Super Bowls, winning one. Though he didn't miss all of last season, he only saw action in Detroit's first 6 games of the season. He was then cut on October 30, 2006. Head coach Rod Marinelli said it was "a football move." He had just 17 catches for 147 yards and no touchdowns prior to being cut.
For his career, though, Hakim has remained relatively healthy. Like Campbell, Hakim possesses game-changing speed and quickness. He is also the most experienced out of the 6 WRs going for that final spot. He has played in 110 games, accumulating 316 catches for 4,191 yards and 28 touchdowns. However, he only has 12 career receptions for 40 or more yards and have an average yards per reception of just 13.3, which doesn't exactly scream play-maker. His experience, of course, could be valuable, especially with the Dolphins having a rookie WR and a second year WR as their 3rd and 4th receivers.
P.K. Sam is an intriguing prospect. He was drafted in the 5th round by New England out of Florida State in 2004. That season, Sam saw action in 2 games but didn't make any receptions. He then suffered a groin injury and was placed on Injured Reserve for the remainder of the season. Then in 2005, Sam battled through "undisclosed" injuries in training camp and was released by the Patriots. He tried out for the Texans but didn't sign and was added to the Patriots' practice squad, which is where he spent all of 2005. In 2006, Sam signed a deal with the Bengals. In the final preseason game, Sam caught 2 passes for 23 yards. He was waived a few days later. Then in October of the same year, following a work out with St. Louis, it was Miami who signed him and placed him on the team's practice squad.
In 2007, the Dolphins re-signed him and allocated him to NFL Europa, where he could get some experience and work on his game. And boy, has he gotten experience. After 6 games, Sam is 4th in NFLE in receptions with 24, 2nd in yards with 388, and 3rd in receiving TDs with 3. And he's done that despite having the league's 2nd worst starting QB in Cody Pickett, who has a QB rating of 74.1.
Now, I'm aware that these numbers are against sub-par defensive players, but I think it shows that if Sam can just stay healthy, he could very well blossom into a legit 4th or 5th WR in the NFL. The key for him, like Campbell, will be staying healthy. At 6'3, 210 lbs, Sam is the type of WR that the Dolphins are missing.
The Undrafted Free Agents
The Dolphins also welcome 3 undrafted free agents into camp this year. They are David Sutton, Kerry Reed, and Michael Malone.
Sutton is 6'6, 223 and out of UTEP. In two years at UTEP, Sutton had just 6 receptions for 30 yards and a touchdown. Not very big numbers. But he's a guy they are bringing into camp as a project. He spent his first 2 college years Lincoln University and then Compton Community College. He never played football until he arrived at Lincoln. So he's only played this sport for just 4 years. But with his size, he seems a likely candidate to head to the practice squad so he can work with the coaches and develop into a potentially huge target for John Beck at some point down the road.
Kerry Reed is a local boy, attending high school in Homestead, Florida. He's 6'1, 201 and doesn't possess great speed. He spent his last 2 years at Michigan State after transferring from a community college. In those 2 years at MSU, he had 95 catches for 1,213 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, he's very unlikely to make the team.
Michael Malone is the son of former NBA star center Moses Malone. Michael Malone played his college ball at Sam Houston State. He's 6'3, 210 pounds, and has good speed for his size. In two seasons with them, he totaled 38 catches for 446 yards and 5 touchdowns. Again, I think it's unlikely Malone makes this squad.
You'd have to think it will come down to Campbell, Hakim, or Sam. At this point, I would say that Campbell has a leg up on the field if he can stay healthy. Some people feel that Hakim may have the upper hand because of his return ability, but Campbell is just as experienced and as accomplished a return man as Hakim. Hakim specializes in punt returns and Campbell in kickoff returns. However, I don't think this will play into Cam's final decision because I fully expect Ginn to be ready to go by the 2nd week of camp at the latest and to win the kick and punt return jobs.
Who makes it: Kelly Campbell (if he stays healthy)