Unlike some fans, I really like the group of wide receivers that the Miami Dolphins have put together. Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess, and Brian Hartline make up a very diverse trio. But there's no doubt there's one critical piece missing - a speed receiver who can stretch the field.
It might be more than a luxury than a need. But if the right guy is available in next week's NFL Draft, you have to assume that GM Jeff Ireland and head coach Tony Sparano would not shy away from making the pick.
Please keep in mind, though, that my rankings below reflect a specific need, meaning a player's speed has a big impact on each player's grade.
2011 NFL DRAFT RANKINGS: WIDE RECEIVERS
1. A.J. Green, Georgia - An elite receiver with great size, good speed, and outstanding hands. He's probably the best receiver to come out of the draft since Calvin Johnson and should be a top five pick.
2. Julio Jones, Alabama - Impressed at the Combine by displaying outstanding timed speed - on a broken foot, no less. But on film, he doesn't appear to play as fast. Still a potentially dominant force at the next level and a likely top ten pick.
3. Leonard Hankerson, Miami - After the top two, experts are debating who the next best receiver is. Hankerson is probably the best all-around receiver of the second-tier, with a good combination of size, speed, strength, and route running ability.
4. Titus Young, Boise St. - I was a little disappointed with Young's timed speed at the Combine. But some in attendance did have him clocked in the low 4.4s. And when you put on the tape, he plays fast on film. Has good hands and extends to make catches away from his body. He tends to run routes a little out of control at times, though. I like the kid's potential, however.
5. Torrey Smith, Maryland - Great combination of size (6'0) and speed (4.4). But he seems to have inconsistent hands on short and intermediate routes and some question his ability to run anything more than deep routes at the next level. But that's exactly what the Dolphins need, meaning he could be a good fit in Miami.
6. Randall Cobb, Kentucky - I love the all-around versatility of this kid. He can be a factor in so many ways. As a receiver, he catches the football very well. He's explosive off the line and quick with the ball in his hands. Cobb is a kid who is going to get drafted earlier than many might think.
7. Edmond Gates, Abilene Christian - A legit deep threat with outstanding top-end speed. He's a sub 4.4 guy who measures in at a shade under 6 feet tall. But he's raw, doesn't run crisp routes, and is inexperienced. He has displayed good hands, though, throughout the offseason and will likely get drafted earlier than originally thought because of his upside.
8. Jon Baldwin, Pitt - Baldwin is a kid with a ton of talent but who has those dreaded "character concerns" you so often hear about this time of the year. His outstanding size (6'4) and speed (mid 4.4s) make him enticing to NFL teams who are willing to take a little risk. But hey, the risk paid off last year for the Bucs when they selected Mike Williams.
9. Denarius Moore, Tennessee - I probably like this kid more than most. But when I watch him play, he always seems to stand out to me. He's just under 6 feet tall, runs a mid 4.4 40, and is explosive off the line. He's got good hands and can make defenders miss once the ball is in his hands. Not an ultra productive college receiver, though, and will likely get overlooked until the mid to late rounds.
10. Jerrel Jernigan, Troy - If only this kid was taller, he'd be a first round pick. But standing at only 5'9, Jernigan's upside is limited. But his low 4.4 speed, elite quickness, explosive acceleration, and outstanding hands make him a receiver that will have a very solid career in this league. But if he's a guy limited as a "slot only" kind of receiver, he may not be a fit with the Dolphins.