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How Matt Hazel Fits with the Miami Dolphins

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How Matt Hazel Fits with the Miami Dolphins
Michael Conroy/Associated Press
Catching ability is clearly a focus for the Dolphins

The last two rounds on Day 3 of the NFL draft is the best time to take a gamble on small-school prospects that need some refinement or fit a team's scheme well, allowing them to contribute early in their career.

With the No. 190 overall pick, the Miami Dolphins went back to the wide receiver position, selecting Coastal Carolina's Matt Hazel. When I evaluated Hazel, I saw shades of James Jones, a receiver coach Joe Philbin utilized when both were with the Green Bay Packers.

 

Upside

As Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network notes above, Hazel is another sure-handed receiver for the Dolphins to count on. He is a great route-runner, displaying impressive polish that is rarely seen at the FBS level, let alone the FCS level.

That type of polish is what makes an impact as a rookie, although Hazel won’t be forced into a bigger role than necessary at first.

According to NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki, here is the bottom line for Hazel: "A smooth, fluid, athletic small-school receiver with the hands, body control and concentration to earn a roster spot and develop into a solid contributor."

He also brings the ability to adjust in midair to difficult passes. He routinely dealt with erratic quarterback play, so he’s used to contorting his body every which way to make the catch. It’s easy to love his passion for catching the football.

For a sixth-round pick, Miami did well to find another offensive piece that can be insurance in case the receivers returning from injury, Armon Binns and Brandon Gibson, don’t return to form.

 

Downside

Hazel isn’t an explosive athlete, as he has to rely on “old-man” skills, such as hands, body control and precision, to get open. Due to this, he might not ever become more than a No. 3 receiver. For a sixth-round pick, one could argue that Miami should’ve taken a shot at a better athlete with much higher upside.

Here is what Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com had to say about him:

Hazel isn't sudden or explosive and lacks the speed to be a consistent deep threat, but he is decisive and polished in his routes - very seasoned for a FCS prospect. He is a determined, natural hands-catcher who is dependable when the ball is in his area, but he needs to spend considerable time in the weight room.

Too much finesse to his game, but his reliability catching the ball gives him a chance in the NFL, likely as an underneath possession target.

Hazel also has to adjust to the NFL life. Coming from a small school, the speed of the game and intricacies of the system would be challenging for any rookie. He must also adjust to an NFL locker room in one of the country's most tempting cities

 

Final Thoughts

With Hazel needing to add strength, 2014 might be a redshirt year for the rookie. His inability to impact the Dolphins roster could be viewed as a negative, but most sixth-rounders are either cut or never make an impact, so we cannot judge this entire class based off the immediate returns of this pick.

With the Dolphins' depth chart, Hazel might not have to play right away. But if he does need to, I’m confident he can match the production of Rishard Matthews. So Miami did well to add another player that will compete for playing time as early as his first two seasons.

 

All combine results and height/weight information courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.

Ian Wharton covers the NFL draft for Bleacher Report, specifically focusing on defensive backs. He also covers the Miami Dolphins for DraftMecca.com and FinDepth.com. You can follow and interact with Ian on Twitter: @NFLFilmStudy. 

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