In 16 games last season, Brian Hartline of the Miami Dolphins caught 35 passes for 549 yards and a touchdown. He has never exceeded three touchdowns catches in a season and has never caught more than 615 yards in one year.
Yet, against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 4 of the 2012 NFL season, Hartline has caught 10 passes for 165 yards through just three quarters. Perhaps even more significant for fantasy owners, his longest catch on the day is for 57 yards.
There are several factors that make Hartline's big day significant for the remainder of the regular season. The first is that he is playing with rookie Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. The second is that the Miami Dolphins entered the regular season thinking Chad Johnson would be the No. 1 receiving target on the team before he encountered personal problems.
Rookie quarterbacks are unfamiliar with the NFL game, so relying on a stable relationship with a top receiver is crucial to acclimating a young passer. Quarterbacks need a receiver they feel comfortable with to turn to when the pressure sets in. Tannehill was robbed of that when Johnson was cut from the squad.
Many had expected Davone Bess to step into the role of primary receiver, but Bess could only muster 13 catches and 174 yards through three games. So, is Hartline filling the role? It sure seems that way.
Not only has Hartline run great routes all day, but he has also been dangerous in various parts of the field. Tannehill has looked for him across the middle for short gains as well as deep down the field.
For fantasy owners, this means great potential. Every year a wide receiver comes out of nowhere to create a bond with his quarterback, and Hartline may be that man this season. He provides a threat all over the field. Tannehill has looked comfortable looking for him all day, and Hartline will become very dangerous for fantasy teams if that trend continues.
Many thought Stephen Hill was going to the breakout receiver, but perhaps they were looking at the wrong AFC East team.