Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dolphins add playmaker in fourth round with WR Edmond Gates

The Miami Dolphins added some much-needed speed to their receiving corps today, adding Abilene Christian wide receiver Edmond Gates in the fourth round (111th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft.

Gates joins first-round lineman Mike Pouncey and second-round running back Daniel Thomas as the team's third consecutive pick on the offensive side of the ball to begin this year's draft.

Currently, the Dolphins have no fifth-round selection (dealt to Washington in the trade up to select Thomas). The team is scheduled to pick again in the sixth round (179th overall) and twice in the seventh round (218th and 235th overall).


Background

A Texas native, Gates grew up in a rough neighborhood with his father serving 18 years in prison for murder. He initially took a scholarship to Tyler Junior College to play basketball, but was dismissed after one season.

After being recruited by Abilene Christian to play football, Gates caught 12 passes in 11 games as a freshman at while racking up 402 yards on 14 kickoff returns as an honorable mention all-conference pick.

Despite missing two games as a sophomore with a leg injury, Gates started 10 games for the Wildcats and caught 31 passes for 716 yards and eight scores.

With the departure of Johnny Knox to the Chicago Bears and the NFL, Gates emerged as his team's top receiver. He earned first-team All-Lone Star Conference honors after catching 49 passes for 702 yards and five touchdowns.

Gates exploded as a senior, starting 12 games and racking up 66 receptions, 1,182 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Measuring in at 6-feet and 192 pounds, Gates ran a 4.37 forty at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.  He was widely regarded as a potential day two selection, and was the best overall player available on Mike Mayock's board when the Dolphins selection.

Analysis

More so than with Pouncey and Thomas, this is the first pick the Dolphins have made this weekend that I really like in terms of need, potential and value. The Dolphins didn't reach for Gates, they didn't trade up to get him, and he's just the kind of player the team's passing game has been lacking.

Mentioned in my Dolphins wide receiver offseason preview in March, Gates has blazing speed and good body size and strength. He has long arms, good hands, and is a willing participant as a blocker.

In terms of question marks, Gates' rough childhood and dismissal from junior college are things that likely concerned NFL teams, although he seems to have found his path and didn't have any issues at ABU.

Gates also carries all the concerns of a small-school prospect, although fellow Wildcat Johnny Knox hasn't had any trouble making the transition. He's also pretty raw and will need to refine his route-running, which will limit him to simple go routes and crossing patterns early on.

Dolphins fans should also temper any hopes of Gates being a dynamic return man simply because of his blazing speed. While he averaged nearly 29 yards per kickoff return as a rookie, he didn't handle those duties during his final three seasons in college and it's still unknown whether or not the Dolphins will try him there.

Gates should step in immediately as the Dolphins' No. 4 receiver as a rookie, seeing occasional time on offense as Brian Daboll will look for a few big plays bombs or end-arounds and reverses. Bottom-of-the-depth-chart types like Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore will have an even bigger battle on their hands to make the roster in 2011.

In the long-term, Gates has the upside to be a quality starter and could eventually supplant Brian Hartline as the team's No. 2 receiver alongside Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess. His potential to stretch the field and garner attention from the safeties could drastically help the underneath passing game.
 
Many have compared Gates to the Steelers' Mike Wallace, who has racked up over 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns on a 20.3-yard average in two pro seasons. If Gates can become anything close to that type of player, the Dolphins' offense could really take the next step.


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