As we trek further into the building of a young roster and churning it into a perennial Playoff contender, one question seems to surface among Dolphins fans: what was with the trade for Leonte Carroo? I’ll admit this is a cluster**** to disentangle, so let’s get to it! I’m going to do my best to represent each side fairly.
The Miami Dolphins traded up to the 86th pick in the 3rd round to select Leonte Carroo, giving up our 6th round pick in 2016 as well as our 3rd and 4th round selections in 2017 to the Minnesota Vikings.
To make the whole thing even more convoluted than it already is, the 4th round pick promised to Minnesota, because compensatory picks can now be traded, had a clause in the deal that gave the Minnesota Vikings the lesser of any potential 4th round picks. In other words, if the Dolphins had 2 picks in the 4th round, the Dolphins would’ve been required to give the lower of the 2 picks, compensatory pick included.
The Miami Dolphins have one of the more confusing compensatory pick projections of the 32 NFL teams, and based on Lamar Miller’s influence on the compensatory pick formula, the Dolphins have a slight chance of sacrificing the lesser of 2 4th round picks. As of now, it’s expected the Dolphins lose the 4th rounder (the “default” pick) entirely.
Why It Was a Good Trade
At the time of the selection of Carroo, we were looking at Kenny Stills in a contract year (who had underperformed to that point), a 1st round pick who had a surgically-repaired foot and then see the injury resurface early in the year, and a slot WR in line to make 8 figures (or close to it) a year. Insurance policies aren’t just for the elderly. Injuries happen, and the potential for having only 2 of the aforementioned 3 WR’s had the Dolphins wondering about depth.
Coming in, I believed the 2016 draft would cater to the offensive side, smoothing the transition for Adam Gase from offensive coordinator to head coach, so it’s no wonder we were aggressive trying to get pieces in place on that side of the ball. Carroo was one of those pieces.
Has desired NFL size. Targeted by his quarterbacks at a high rate over last three seasons and was up to the challenge. Consistently productive. Averaged over 20 yards per catch over last two seasons and 31 of his 122 catches went for 25-plus yards. Finished with 29 touchdowns over three seasons. Strong ball tracker who can adjust to off-target deep balls and run under them. Can sell cornerback on the vertical route and then break it off suddenly while working back to the throw. Natural, reliable hands catcher who snatches the ball away from his body. Able to make contested catches. Uses plus balance and footwork to accelerate out of his breaks and create separation. Improved his release against press coverage by varying approaches and improving initial footwork. Gets upfield immediately after the catch and has size to finish with an extra yard or two tacked on. Played in scheme that required him to be a willing and competitive run blocker. Team captain. Willing to play with pain. Missed two games due to high ankle sprain, but came back early and played hurt over final three games of the season.
25% of his catches were for 25 yards or more, and he averaged almost 10 TD’s a year in the final 3 years of his collegiate career, playing in one of the few conferences in college football that actually give a crap about defense. A tenacious competitor with sticky hands. And rumor had it that the New England Patriots were looking to select Carroo. Get a player we like and F a division rival in the A in the process...cheers!
PFF gave the grade of selecting Carroo an “A”, a limited honor bestowed upon draft picks by the website:
Miami takes one of our favorite receivers in Carroo. Late in 2015 Carroo took over games, ultimately posting a huge +17.8 grade on only 363 snaps. He separates well on vertical routes and he's sure-handed, dropping only two passes all season.
The Miami Dolphins intentionally played the compensatory pick route in 2016, and given the departure of Olivier Vernon, Lamar Miller, and Rishard Matthews, the front office likely viewed the trade for Carroo and what we’d reap from the compensatory picks as roughly equal, if not the needle pointing in the organization’s favor.
We get a player we want RIGHT NOW to grow under Adam Gase and only mildly hedge the typical haul of 2017 draft picks. WR’s take time to develop the nuances of the position, and the Dolphins saw an opportunity to draft a talented guy who wouldn’t be depended on to start right away. This was a long-term vs. short-term decision, but it would pay short-term dividends if one of the top 3 went down.
Why It Was a Bad Trade
The Dolphins finished the 2015 season 6-10, and teams don’t build a nucleus by throwing away future draft capital on a position that the Dolphins already had under wraps. 3rd and 4th round picks are not chopped liver, and banking on the volatility of compensatory picks was short-sighted. Who was Carroo going to replace? It seemed like damage control for a recently-made poor decision at its best.
In 2014, we draft Jarvis Landry. The following off-season we trade a 3rd rounder to the New Orleans for Kenny Stills and spent a 1st rounder on DeVante Parker. Then we trade 3 picks for Leonte Carroo. How wise is it to spend that much draft capital on one position in an interdependent team game like football? That’s six picks invested in four WR’s in three years. (And this is before we’d eventually select Jakeem Grant, too. And not including Matt Hazel, selected in the 6th round of the 2014 NFL Draft).
We played the compensatory picks, but relinquished all the benefits thereof by gambling on a WR that will have a tough proposition stealing snaps from any of the 3 WR’s in front of him. We had many positions and depth issues to solve, WR not being one of them.
Regarding Carroo specifically, here’s more from NFL.com’s draft profile:
His gaudy yards per catch numbers are a function of Rutgers play-action passing attack more than his speed deep. Rarely outruns cornerbacks and struggles to get over the top and stack them. Is a little too upright into his routes and hip stiffness limits ability to run sharp out-breaking and in-breaking routes. Has had his struggles against physical, press-man cover men with length. Was completely ineffective and nearly shut out in 2014 against Michigan States Trae Waynes. Scouts have concerns regarding Carroo's personal character and reliability. Suspended two games for his role in a simple assault charge involving a domestic dispute and missed the first half of the first game after being suspended for missing curfew.
Carroo doesn’t have the quick-twitch like Landry, the deep speed like Stills, or the jump ball ability of Parker. What exactly would his role be in the offense? He had 3 catches last year. THREE. 120 snaps all year (46 of those coming in the Week 1 game at Seattle when DeVante Parker didn’t play, and 33 when Kenny Stills was injured during the Week 9 contest vs. the Jets). Carroo had 11 games where he had 4 or fewer snaps; 6 games of zero snaps. We were depleted at the TE position last year, and yet we rarely went to a 4 WR set, with the theory being that you get your four best pass catchers on the field at the same time in passing situations. Carroo didn’t appear to be one of them.
This is revisionist history (considering we’re taking the viewpoint of entering the 2016 Draft and not basing our decision off of the 2016 season), but Kenny Stills played well and the Miami Dolphins have made every indication they want to re-sign him. Where is Carroo’s niche going forward if Stills is re-signed?
It’s still too early to tell, but hey, it’s the offseason.
Needless to say, the case of Leonte Carroo is a prevalent scenario in the minds of many o’ Phinsider and Dolphin fan around the world. What do we have in him? And was it worth it to give up what we did to acquire him?
What are your thoughts?