Thursday, March 4, 2010

Miami Dolphins 2010 Offseason Preview: Wide Receiver

The offseason will officially kick off with the signing and trading period March 5, and as I always do prior to the mayhem, I'll be looking at each position on the Dolphins' roster in depth.

I'll look at the team's strengths and areas of need, who is under contract, who are the free agents and their prospects for being re-signed, and who they might look at via trade, free agency, and the draft.

This article focuses on the wide receiver position.


Under Contract
  • Greg Camarillo (through 2011) — Camarillo wouldn't start on a lot of teams, but he's got great hands (zero drops in 2009) and hasn't lost a step after tearing his ACL in 2008. He's an ideal slot receiver and should remain a factor on offense in 2010.
  • Ted Ginn, Jr. (through 2012) — Ginn's received a ton of flak from the Dolphins fan base, and a lot of it was deserved as he had some key drops and really regressed in 2009. His lack of physicality makes it seem likely that he'll never be a No. 1 receiver, but he's worth keeping around as a situational deep threat and kick returner.
  • Ryan Grice-Mullen (through 2011) — A poor man's Davone Bess, Grice-Mullen arrives in Miami after two years with the CFL's BC Lions. He offers little upside and doesn't stand much chance of making the roster.
  • Brian Hartline (through 2012) — The second receiver Miami drafted in 2009, Hartline was a pleasant surprise as a rookie, displaying good hands, route-running, and the ability to stretch the field. I'm not sure how high his ceiling is, but right now I'd say he has the potential to be a solid No. 2 receiver in the NFL.
  • Taurus Johnson (through 2011) — Johnson wasn't very productive at South Florida and bounced around practice squads after going undrafted in 2009. He won't make the Dolphins' roster in 2010.
  • Julius Pruitt (through 2011) — Undrafted out of Ouachita Baptist in 2009, Pruitt was picked up by the Dolphins due to his 4.4 speed and size (6-2, 206). He's extremely raw and won't make the Dolphins' roster in 2010, though he could vie for a practice squad spot again.
  • Patrick Turner (through 2012) — One of the biggest disappointments of the 2009 season, the Dolphins' third-round pick appeared in two games as a rookie and didn't catch a pass. He'll have to battle just to make the team in 2010, and the acquisition of a No. 1 receiver could push him off the roster.

Free Agents
  • Davone Bess (exclusive-rights) — Although he isn't much of a punt returner, Bess has been a solid and reliable pass-catcher since joining the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2008. He's not really starting material, but he's your ideal slot guy. As an ERFA, Bess must re-sign with the Dolphins or not play.

Strengths
  • The Dolphins have three receivers (Bess, Camarillo, Hartline) that are adequate No. 2 receivers and quality slot receivers. Any combination of two or all of them would make up a solid receiving corps if combined with a true No. 1 receiver.
  • While he'll probably never live up to the pick he was chosen with, Ginn has on occasion shown that he can use his speed to get past defenders and make the long catch. He's also good on end-around plays and reverses, adding another element to the offense. Although he's shown a propensity for running out of bounds or falling to the ground, there's no denying Ginn has the physical tools to be a home-run threat on offense and special teams.

Areas of Needs
  • Quite simply, the Dolphins need a true No. 1 receiver. It appears as if they've found their quarterback of the future in Chad Henne, and to get the most out of him, the Dolphins need a big target that can stretch the field, make pays, and instill fear with opposing defenses.

Free Agency Outlook
  • The creme of the free-agent crop is with the restricted free agents, where various Pro Bowl-caliber receivers are available. Miles Austin (Cowboys), Braylon Edwards (Jets) Vincent Jackson (Chargers) and Brandon Marshall (Broncos) headline the list, and Miami could use a player like any one of those players. However, all of them except Marshall would cost the Dolphins their first- and third-round picks in the 2010 NFL Draft (Marshall would cost only a first), and I don't think Miami would be willing to make that deal. I also don't see the Dolphins being interested in a head case like Marshall.
  • Terrell Owens, Antonio Bryant, and Laveranues Coles top the list of unrestricted free agents, although none seem like long-term options and this point and two of them (Owens and Bryant) have problematic personalities that could turn the Dolphins off.
  • More likely, I expect the Dolphins to heavily pursue a trade for Arizona Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin, who could possibly be had for a third-round pick.

Draft Outlook
  • Bill Parcells typically doesn't take receivers in the first round, though you have to imagine he'll at least consider Dez Bryant (Oklahoma State) if he falls to No. 12. Bryant does have some maturity issues, but he's a great talent with all the tools the be the No. 1 receiver Miami needs.
  • Assuming the Dolphins go defense in Round 1 and/or Bryant doesn't fall, it seems quite likely the Dolphin will explore taking a receiver in the second round. They'd especially like it if one of the borderline first-rounders like Arrelious Benn (Illinois), Brandon LaFell (Louisiana State) or Golden Tate (Notre Dame) fell to them at No. 43. Benn and LaFell are the two I'd prefer, though any of them would be great picks in the second round.
  • The Dolphins also could consider Demaryius Thomas (Georgia Tech), Jordan Shipley (Texas), Taylor Price (Ohio), Carlton Mitchell (South Florida), Mardy Gilyard (Cincinnati), Dexter McCluster (Ole Miss) or Mike Williams (Syracuse) between the second and third rounds. Shipley and Mitchell would get my votes if I had to pick. Gilyard, McCluster and Jacoby Ford (Clemson) could also contribute in the return game.
  • Mid-to-late round prospects that I like are Eric Decker (Minnesota), Riley Cooper (Florida) and Joe Webb (UAB). A college quarterback, Webb is raw but has good size (6-3, 220) and provides some intriguing wildcat possibilities.
  • I also wouldn't mind if the Dolphins picked up either Trindon Holliday (LSU) or Brandon Branks (Kansas State) as an undrafted free agent. Though 5-foot-5 and 5-foot-7, respectively, both have 4.2 speed and could be impact players in the return game if their bodies can hold up in the NFL.

Conclusion

The Dolphins have one of the worst overall receiving corps in the league, but they aren't that far from having a pretty decent one. They have a handful of serviceable slot guys and a deep threat in Ginn. The missing piece is that No. 1 receiver, and that's what they desperately need to acquire this offseason.

Whether the Dolphins give up picks for one of the big-time RFAs, acquire someone like Boldin via trade, or draft a top receiver in the first two rounds of the draft, there is plenty of talent to be had. The Dolphins need just one of them.


How do you feel about the Dolphins' wide receivers heading into the 2010 offseason? Share your thoughts on the forum here!