The NFL Draft Season is in full swing and that is clear with it being Reese’s Senior Bowl Week in Mobile, Alabama. This is when the football universe of general managers, scouts, reporters, and bloggers flock to Alabama to coach, interview, measure and analyze college Seniors in their first step to the ultimate interview process; the NFL Draft.
Sure, there have been many a Mock Draft produced already, and while names have been tossed around we all must realize that there are still weeks and weeks of work to be done until any name is chiseled in the stone of what is that NFL Draft ticket. From the Senior Bowl to Pro Days to the Combine, things will happen and players will plummet and spike for various reasons.
While still in January, and still looking to conclude the 2019 season when the Kansas City Chiefs battle the San Francisco 49ers in February 2nd in Miami for Super Bowl 54, let us not focus on prospects right now. What I want to focus on are the positional groups that may not be a priority for the Miami Dolphins on April 23rd specifically, which is Day 1 of the NFL Draft.
Holding three first round picks is a rarity seen only a few times in the last 25 years, most recently teams like the Raiders and Browns doing so in this new era of in-season trades for future draft picks. Miami is in the unique position to hit on three top 30 players, and to do so in a major way, I believe they are going to look at what they already have, and work in the areas they are most desperate to fill.
Of course there are prospects in this year’s class that may be generational at their position, but Miami does have a few solid rooms they enter 2020 with, and for maximum draft value and team betterment, it would be wise to “pass” on certain areas of the field and improve where there are heavier and more pressing needs.
Having said all this, we will focus on the Miami position groups working backwards. While there is a top-heavy group of outstanding first round wide receiver blue-chippers, Miami has a room that should not be messed with up top. Depth is another story when Day 3 arrives, but if you look at Miami’s current one through six on the roster, it is rather enticing if you can imagine a full season of a healthy sophomore as well as an improved offensive line. Let’s face it, there is only one way to go on the offensive line after the last few seasons and that is up. It can’t get any worse.
This piece focuses on a group in which is clearly the strength of the team, the receivers.
Before diving into each player currently in the Miami wide-out room, we all must remember how many receivers come out of nowhere to find success in this league. Whether it is later drafted gems, or simply undrafted free agents who get an opportunity, this is a position that can be covered another day as opposed to say, Thursday April 23rd.
Preston Williams was that undrafted rookie free agent who burst onto the scene in what proved to be an absolutely loaded wide receiver rookie class from 2019. Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury in the middle of the season but was tracking to actually be among the NFL rookie leaders in receptions, receiving yards, as well as scores.
Through 8 games including the one he left early due to injury, Williams amassed 32 catches, 428 yards and three schools. Mind you these numbers seems pedestrian at first glance, but factor in he was undrafted, had QB turmoil early in the season, as well as offensive line issues which didn’t help those quarterbacks. Drops were an issue, but expect improvement in that area.
The point is, Williams is the team’s viable number two option when he returns from his off-season repair and rehab. I can say that the rumor is that he is ahead of schedule and catching the eye of numerous NFL players both past and present. They recognize that Miami found a gem, and they are investing in him.
More on that another time. I promise.
If you do the math, Miami’s rookie was pacing league-high rookie recognition, and they Dolphins didn’t spend a pick on him. Imagine having a viable number one to match with that.
Wait a tick…
They say it is better late than never. Well, like the habitually late Uncle in your family, DeVante Parker finally showed up to the party. Although a slow, and painful start to his NFL career, Parker broke out in 2019 and believe it or not was the AFC’s top wide receiver in terms of yardage. Just three NFC pass catchers as well as Travis Kelce out gained Parker. His 1,202 yards came on 72 receptions and lead to 9 touchdowns, which were all career-highs by a nautical mile.
A full season of these healthy bookend wide-outs, mixed with that hopefully improved offensive line and consistency at Quarterback with a likely bridge year with Ryan Fitzpatrick, these two young studs are actually a top-tier tandem in the league…potentially.
In my mind, there is no need to draft top-end talent at receiver when those drafted players play the same position that Miami’s top pair already play. Parker and Williams will control the outside and the sidelines up and down the field and there is ample depth in those jobs with players like Allen Hurns, who is vastly underrated in terms of what he can bring to a unit, as well as young up-and-comer Isaiah Ford.
Ford had a very solid last quarter of the season, and Hurns has proved tough and gritty in a workman like role as opposed to having to be a go-to guy. Adding to these four are slot and speed specialists Jakeem Grant who was recently extended as well as Albert Wilson whose exact future in Miami is not a certainty at the moment.
That math equates to six receivers, and while top-end talent like Jerry Jeudy, Laviska Shenault Jr., CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs III, and Tee Higgins to name a few exist out there early, those guys are simply already owned in a sense by Miami. Excellent prospects for sure, but if you already have a few “Beamers” in the driveway, use your money to fix the infrastructure of your house and not something else shiny and excessive.
With this Miami room being as quietly solid as it is, and you can toss in receiving minded tight end Mike Gesicki to this group. Miami can certainly use one of their picks on a pass-catcher in rounds 3 and on, because there is simply too much talent at more needed areas on the football field to be enamored with weapons you already have in your arsenal.
With this being mock draft season, of course there are going to be names to be familiar with, so if we are playing that game, I am looking at round 3-plus players who could fit the bill for excellent situational spots like red-zone targeting if you are looking for a big-bodied specialist like a Chase Claypool, Collin Johnson, Michael Pittman, Jr or Denzel Mims. Even later rounds can see a player like Antonio Gandy-Golden called, who is a 6’4’’ nightmare for defenders, from small school Liberty.
How about a speedy slot guy if they go the slant-route of replacing Wilson? Look for later picks such as Ohio State’s K.J. Hill, coached-up by former Buckeye and Dolphin receiver Brian Hartline. Other players in that mold to watch for are Kalija Lipscomb of Vanderbilt, Joe Reed of Virginia and Florida Gator, Van Jefferson, all of whom can assume immediate, or future slot duties, pending on Wilson’s future with the team.
The point is, Miami’s wide-receiver room is stocked like a frat boys mini-fridge. There simply isn’t enough room for more premium items. With six or even seven options to throw to next season the Dolphins, again, would be very wise to focus elsewhere in rounds one and two come April in Las Vegas.
The next position to tackle is, naturally… Linebackers. To be continued...