As the Miami Herald first reported during OTC, Ernest Wilford, last year’s disappointment at wide receiver whose struggles allowed opportunities for Greg Camarillo and Davonne Bess, is trying out for the Dolphins third tight end spot on the roster.
There are a couple reasons why this development lacks both potential and promise.
For starting points, the three tight ends currently ahead of Wilford on Miami’s depth chart combine for an average of around 263 lbs. Right now, Wilford is generously listed at 240 after finishing last year under 225.
The health implications to quick and massive weight gain will combine with the rugged blocking duty Miami demands of its tight ends to create a lethal barrage of factors working against Wilford’s durability. Just ask Greg Jones, David Boston, or Mark Bavaro, who all went through similar transformations to little avail.
The likely reason Wilford is hanging around at all following a three catch season as a wide receiver is that he does work extremely hard. But he is no tight end.
Wilford showed poor route running abilities down the stretch of ’08, when he saw increased playing time for Greg Camarillo after his ACL tear, but his atrocious numbers only spawned more team faith in rookie Davonne Bess. That trend will grow this year.
Now, we’re honestly supposed to believe Wilford has a shot at winning a job playing a position that requires more blocking than it does receiving?
I don’t think so.
As Wilford put it himself, "They (defenses) don’t know if they’re going to play me at receiver or tight end."
In other words, he’s being used to peak the linebackers’ athleticism in practice.
If anything, the new breed of tight end is a guy like current third-stringer, Joey Haynos, a 6’8” 270 lb. beast on the line.
These kinds of attributes are especially viable considering Miami is a run-first offense. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning is not looking to get smaller on the offensive line.
Of course, Anthony Fasano is still the team’s starter at tight end, fresh off a seven touchdown season.
His backup, David Martin, is currently dealing with the after effects of a sports hernia surgery in late May, but is expected to be fine for opening weekend.
As for Ernest Wilford, the hasty progress of undrafted rookie Anthony Armstrong in mini-camp does not bode well for his chances of receiving the team’s sixth and final spot on the wide receiver depth chart. Plus, third-round draft pick Patrick Turner just signed a four-year deal last week. But, of course, we are still “pre-preseason.”
The other current development to watch before training camp begins in just under a month is the contract status of the two cornerbacks Miami selected within their first three draft picks.
Both are currently unsigned, as they’ll naturally wait for other first and second round picks to dictate the market.
The issue is that both Vontae Davis (chosen 25th overall) and Sean Smith (taken with pick no. 61) are expected to compete for at least the dime and nickel-formation third corner spots, or perhaps even unseat one of the Allens.
These rookies do hold a heavier bargaining chip than most rookies if they do want to hold out. The quicker Jeff Ireland gets their John Hancock, the better off the team is.
In fact, reports from mini-camp had Sean Smith and recently added journeyman Eric Green both lining up at times as the starting right corner. Not often does a guy without a contract occupy such a huge vacancy. The Dolphins pass defense ranked a dismal twenty-fifth in the league last year.
Let’s take that segue and conclude with some fantasy football.
Of course, most people’s drafts are right around the corner and there’s some question as to how integral Dolphins will be to this year’s various leagues, after not mattering much, as a whole, in ‘08.
Well, compared to division rivals Buffalo and New England, the Miami players certainly won’t be as much of a fantasy factor and it’s still a wonder how much the aforementioned secondary will be able to slow down the Tom Brady’s and Marshawn Lynch’s when they come to town.
I’ll begin with the quarterback position.
Chad Pennington holds backup quarterback fantasy potential at best (assuming you’re in a standard ten or twelve team league) as the team will maintain their run-first incentive, and, likewise, Ted Ginn doesn’t see nearly as many throws his way as the Moss’ and Owens’ of the league.
Therefore, you should consider Ginn a third starter or flex no. 2/reserve if you’re in an abnormally large league.
However, tight end Anthony Fasano finished eighth among all NFL tight ends in fantasy production last year (according to NFL.com), and ranked even higher in touchdown catches. Considering this is a contract year for the 24-year-old, expect big things and plenty of looks from Pennington once again. Draft Fasano confidently.
The word from Tony Sparano that we should expect to see Patrick Cobbs receive more carries this year does not bode well for Ronnie Brown’s fantasy value, and of course Ricky Williams is in the mix, too.
Its likely Sparano wants to get a good look at Cobbs now before Williams retires after the 2010 season.
Regardless, Brown is still the anchor of a team that can run the ball upward near 40-times a game. I still expect them to win in excess of ten games again, so certainly draft Ronnie Brown in one of the first two rounds as a virtual every week starter.
Davonne Bess could be a real sleeper at wide receiver should he impress enough in the preseason and/or Greg Camarillo’s healing ACL keeps him out longer than expected.
Camarillo, himself, remains a risky fantasy play after his 2008 numbers as a part-time starter were quite mediocre at best, sans the 11-catch performance on November 2 in Denver.
As for Ricky Williams and Patrick Cobbs, neither really receives enough touches on a week-to-week basis to constitute a viable fantasy threat.
Kicker Dan Carpenter has potential, but his mere 27 attempts last year were not enough to make him a weapon in Fantasyland. Of course, this wasn’t his fault.
Considering the rather difficult schedule Miami plays, Carpenter isn’t worth drafting, but should be available via your free agent wire should you need a one week fill-in for a bye or something.
Lastly, and to end on a positive note, Miami’s defense, in summary, is ever much worth your draft pick somewhere in the middle rounds after the top tier defenses (Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, New York Giants, and Baltimore) are off the table.
For their secondary inaccuracies, you know how much I’ve raved about the front seven and the re-signing of Jason Taylor for depth’s sake.
It really depends on when you’re looking for your own team to peak, and when you think you’ll have the option of keeping a flexible roster spot open for last second starters to pick off the free agent list.
The reason I say this is because Miami’s schedule starts with Atlanta, Indianapolis, New Orleans and San Diego, as they may very well be integrating up to three new starters in the secondary. Remember, in addition to the rookie cornerbacks, the team also picked up Gibril Wilson at free safety.
The first month’s schedule could be a real baptism by fire, and could set back your fantasy team if you rely to heavily on Miami’s defense. Later in the year, things open up a little bit more for them and they should develop expectedly as a top ten unit in your league.
All in all, I recommend you don’t carry more than one offensive player from Miami on your team.
They are a run-first offense that scored fewer points than ever other division champion in 2008. This synopsis does not affect their upside or my expectations for them in real life, and works toward again separating fantasy value (like Drew Brees’ 2008 season) from actual value (Pennington’s division winning 2008 season).