NFL Draft 2011: Miami Dolphins' Early-Round Wide Receiver Targets
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With the NFL Draft taking place in April, teams have shifted their focus to those players leaving college having declared for the draft.
Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing a series of articles looking at the potential prospects available for the Miami Dolphins to select. The focus will be on positions of need for the Dolphins and will not look at those areas where there is already good depth.
The aim of this article is to look at the strengths and weaknesses of players declaring for the draft and analyse whether they are a potential fit for the Dolphins.
The following players are wide receivers available for selection in the early rounds of the draft.
AJ Green, Georgia First Round 6'4", 212lbs, 4.49 40-yard dash
First things first, if the Dolphins want Green, they will have to trade up to get him. That seriously decreases the chances of the Georgia wideout playing for Miami next year, but he would have to be considered if he began to slide on draft day for whatever reason as he is clearly the top wide receiver in this year’s draft class.
Green is the complete package. He has excellent size and speed, but it is his hands that are his best attribute. His long arms and soft hands allow him to haul in any pass close to him, and he is capable of pulling off the highlight-reel catch.
He holds onto the ball when hit and has good vision to make gains after the catch. Although his long frame does mean he is not the most elusive receiver when running with the ball, he has great acceleration and will make yards on the ground.
His impressive acceleration lets him escape man coverage quickly, and he runs an excellent route, which will help him make the transition to the NFL quickly. He was well respected by teammates and coaches in college, and he helps out his teammates by securing blocks downfield, even if he lacks the physicality to do so.
Although suspended for four games in 2010 for selling a jersey to an agent, he was voted Team MVP following the season.
Green would be an excellent addition opposite Brandon Marshall, but the two players are quite similar in style. The Dolphins may choose to go for a smaller, more agile receiver, but Green would be out of their reach anyway unless they chose to trade up.
Julio Jones, Alabama First Round 6’4’’, 220lbs, 4.39
He may still be on the board when Miami pick at 15, although it would be a surprise to see the Dolphins select a receiver this early. However, he deserves consideration due to his excellent route running and ability to make big gains after the catch.
Partly due to his strength which helps him break tackles, and partly due to his acceleration which helps him generate separation between himself and the opponent and escape defenders in the open field.
He has a good burst off the line, and his great size helps him escape press coverage. He is willing to run routes across the middle and take a big hit making a catch, but he drops too many passes due to a lack of concentration, and the Dolphins may have seen enough dropped passes following Ted Ginn’s spell in South Florida.
His excellent Combine performances have seen scouts raving about his potential, and he has likely risen up the board due to this. As a result, he might be out of Miami’s reach, but he showed the athletic ability that Miami would want opposite Marshall.
His good 40-yard dash time helps him too, and if Miami fail to trade back in the draft, then Jones would be a serious target if on the board as he showed he possess the speed to be a deep threat.
However, while he showed his abilities at the Combine with a broken foot, and although that is admirable, his foot now requires surgery; the Dolphins could be worried about "wear and tear" on a player who has already suffered, and played with, so many injuries.
Despite this, the front office may appreciate his toughness, as he played through injuries during college (including a broken hand) and is involved in a number of local community projects which demonstrate his good character. He is also a quality blocker due to his size and attitude and has good vision setting up blocks downfield having returned kicks and punts in college.
Jones showed at the combine that he may have the explosive speed to pose a constant deep threat opposite Brandon Marshall. If on the board he would warrant consideration due to his ability, and he would offer a tantalizing partnership with Marshall that would be a definite success.
Despite this, it would be a surprise to see Miami go in this direction in the first round; anyway, most mock drafts have him going to the Rams with the 14th pick of the draft.
Jonathon Baldwin, Pittsburgh First Round to Second Round 6’5’’, 230lbs, 4.48
Baldwin has great potential as a receiver, but has a number of areas on which he needs to work. His stock might also suffer due to a number of concerns over his off-field behaviour.
He comes from a family of NFL players, with both his cousin and father playing in the league, and has excellent size at 6’5’’ and 230lbs. His speed is similar to that of Green and Jones, but he is less polished than the top two wideouts.
He drops catchable passes on big plays, and his hands are consistent, although he is capable of making outstanding catches too and is particularly dangerous on high passes. His size helps him get good release off the line, and he runs good routes, although some areas of his route-running could improve, such as footwork and quickness on stop-start routes.
Baldwin does struggle to make yards after the catch though, as his size means he is not very elusive. As a result, he is most dangerous going for jump balls. He also has promise as a blocker due to his size, although currently lacks the flexibility to hold off quicker defenders.
The concerns about his attitude will not go away either, and in May 2009 he was charged with indecent assault, harassment and disorderly conduct following an incident with a female student, although charges were dropped.
Most people would not expect Miami to take Baldwin with their first- or second-round picks. His size is his greatest asset, not his speed, and this would make him a similar player to Marshall and not someone who can challenge consistently on deep balls.
As a result, the Dolphins will likely pass on Baldwin, but if he slides down the board, they might still be tempted.
Torrey Smith, Maryland First Round to Second Round 6’1’’, 205lbs, 4.37
Smith could be a target for Miami due to his excellent straight-line speed and agility. Although not the most elusive in the open field, he is a threat to score from any point on the field due to his speed, and that will be of real interest to the Dolphins’ front office.
He has a good release off the line and is a reliable receiver with good vision to track the ball over his shoulder, which will help on deep passes.
Although his route running is still improving, he needs to work on this area, as he was only asked to run a few different routes for the Terrapins. However, vertical routes were a big part of his game, and this experience would benefit Miami. He gets separation from coverage due to his speed and would be a good complement to Brandon Marshall.
His blocking is questionable, as he does not have great strength, although he is a willing blocker. He also set an ACC record as a kick returner having racked up nearly 3,000 yards (just 17 short of the mark).
His personality fits perfectly with the Dolphins too, as he is dedicated and humble. He was the first man in his family to leave college with a degree and helped raise his younger brothers and sisters in his tough childhood while his single mother worked two jobs.
Clearly learnt well and has a great work ethic as a result. (Note to Jeff Ireland: Do not ask any questions about his mother’s professions).
Smith could be a target of Miami as his speed would nicely complement Marshall’s size. He could stretch the field running deep, and his good hands would help him be the deep threat that the Dolphins are looking for. He was even a special teams’ captain in Maryland, which will also appeal to the front office.
He would be a reach at 15, but if Miami trade back, he would be a real possibility late in the first round; if he fell to the second (possible but unlikely), he would be a great pick as many believe he is only just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. He may be a better pick than the previous three players for Miami, as he is not as similar to Marshall.
Leonard Hankerson, Miami First Round to Second Round 6’2’’, 205lbs, 4.52
Miami Hurricanes’ own Leonard Hankerson made a real name for himself in the Senior Bowl with an excellent performance to top off some terrific practices. As a result, he might push himself into the first round of the draft, although his Combine showing might determine that.
His hands are much more reliable than in his early career at college, and his good leaping ability allows him to contest the jump ball, and he has become more physical in the last two years also.
While he doesn’t have great speed, his long legs help him reach top speed quickly, and he is fast enough to offer a good deep threat. His cuts on routes are not overly smooth, but he has enough speed to escape defenders when he is in full flow.
However, he is not very elusive due to his long frame. He is not a consistent blocker but does look to help out downfield when he sees a chance. Blocking is an area he can improve on, and he has the work ethic to do so and has improved consistently on varying areas of his game while at college.
He struggled with drops in the past, which would be a concern, but received on-field tutoring from former Dolphin Mark Duper, which helped him impress in 2009.
He continues to rise up the rankings at the moment, having been a third-round prospect in the New Year. Miami could take a shot at Hankerson with a second-round pick, as he would be a good complement to Brandon Marshall.
Unless the Dolphins trade back, he won’t stay on the South Beach though; should Miami trade back, he will warrant serious consideration.
Titus Young, Boise State Second Round 5’11’’, 174lbs, 4.43
Titus Young’s explosiveness and speed would be exciting to watch, and that is what Miami are supposedly looking for in receivers this draft. He runs routes smoothly and has good acceleration which allows him to escape defenders with apparent ease. His speed means he is a real deep threat, and he is also a big threat after the catch due to his speed and elusiveness.
His hands are good, which means he makes tough catches, but he does drop catchable balls often as he looks to run upfield before securing the ball. His height means he struggles on jump balls too, and his slight frame means physical defenders can stop him at the line, and he will also be overpowered when run blocking.
His tall, thin frame also may leave him open to injuries in the NFL, particularly due to his willingness to catch passes over the middle.
In addition to his receiving ability, Young is versatile and offers a threat in the return game due to his elusiveness, toughness, and straight-line speed. While he has a reputation for being a little arrogant and has been rumoured to resist coaching, his game has enough about it to interest Miami.
It will be interesting to see whether the Dolphins would take a chance on a player with Young’s physique and talent, but based on talent alone, he is already interesting Miami according to some reports.
Jerrel Jerrigan, Boise State Second Round to Third Round 5’9’’, 190lbs, 4.34
Another athlete with excellent speed is Jerrigan, who is fast and elusive and a threat from anywhere on the field. He has good hands too and is capable of making some tough catches. His physicality also allows him to hold on after taking a big hit, and his reliable hands and explosiveness make him a candidate for kick returns.
His route running needs work, but he can create separation solely based on his speed. If he can avoid being held up at the line, he can easily get behind cornerbacks for a big gain, and he is a big threat on vertical routes.
He is very dangerous on screen routes and explodes out of cuts, so with work there is potential for him to become a very good route runner. However, some scouts argue that he may struggle with a tough playbook, and he wasn’t highly recruited out of high school, partly due to his ability to qualify academically.
After the catch, Jerrigan is a real threat. He has lateral agility and great balance which allows him to elude defenders in open field and in traffic. His burst allows him to accelerate through gaps, and he allows blocks to develop, before hitting the gap and pulling away from defenders with his speed.
He is also a willing blocker, although he is inconsistent in this area. Although he helps when he sees the play, he often ignores this assignment, while his size means he will struggle to become a solid blocker in the pro-game.
However, despite his flaws, his speed and elusiveness will be of real interest to Miami. With work he can become a good route runner too, although there is the possibility that he only plays in the slot due to his size. Despite this, he is a real deep threat and may be considered by Miami on this basis.
Randall Cobb, Kentucky Second Round to Third Round 5’11’’, 190lbs, 4.52
Cobb is a smaller prospect with good hands and a quick first step. Despite his size, he is physical, and he is good at getting open quickly, which was one reason he played in the slot a lot for the Wildcats. As a result, Miami may not see him as their chosen receiver, as Davone Bess occupies the slot, and they may want more speed and size opposite Marshall than Cobb possesses.
However, he has very good hands and rarely makes drops, while running excellent routes which help him get open, and his small frame is deceptive as he is happy to take a big hit. He fields punts and kickoffs cleanly too, although he lacks the speed to be a real threat in the return game.
The most intriguing prospect to Miami is Cobb’s excellent leadership skills, and he is a well-respected teammate who plays hard on every snap. He is a true leader off the field too and received a lot of praise from coaches at college for his reliability.
However, as the Dolphins have Bess, it would be unlikely that they look to Cobb as well. He does not really possess the speed or size to be a true No. 1 or No. 2 receiver, and as a result, the Dolphins will likely go another direction in their search for another quality wideout.
Niles Paul, Nebraska Third Round 6’1’’, 225lbs, 4.50
Explosive and dangerous, Paul can turn any play into a big gain. He can become a No. 1 receiver, so would take a lot of pressure off Brandon Marshall if the ‘Fins turn to him, but he will need to improve his hands as he does drop too many passes at the current time.
He offers an excellent deep threat as he can track the ball over his shoulder, and he fights for balls in the air successfully due to his great strength.
He is a good route runner and has quick feet too, which allow him to make nice cut moves. This benefits him after the catch, although he isn’t the most elusive ball-carrier. He has good acceleration though and is a solid kick and punt returner.
He is an effective blocker too, but not strong enough to stop linebackers, although he will try and help a scrambling quarterback if he has a chance.
Paul has been compared to Dez Bryant on the field, but the off-field comparisons will be a concern. His maturity has been questioned, following two alcohol citations in 2009 and 2010, and that is a worry for some scouts.
His DUI in 2009 saw him suspended for spring practice, and his underage consumption/urinating in public charge in 2010 saw him fined. However, he earned respect for his work ethic in 2009 once back in practice and has admitted to past mistakes.
Now scouts have seen players with perceived personality issues, like Bryant, succeed on the field, and keep their nose clean off it, Paul might begin to rise up draft boards. However, those concerns will not go away before he is drafted, and moving to an area like South Florida could give rise to more worries.
Regardless of these issues, Paul is a potential No. 1 receiver and would be an excellent addition opposite Marshall due to his deep-threat. Having been criticised for overlooking Bryant, it remains to be seen whether the Dolphins will continue that policy and pass on Paul, or will his talent be too great to ignore?
Terrence Toliver, LSU Third Round 6’4’’, 211lbs, 4.49
Big, powerful and surprisingly quick, Toliver does offer a deep threat and could be a dangerous player opposite Brandon Marshall. He is capable of dropping easy catches, and that will be a worry for any team who used to play Ted Ginn, but he also makes some good catches and adjusts well to poorly thrown balls.
His speed will allow him to challenge deep, and he is also quite elusive in the open field.
Toliver doesn’t always secure the ball after the catch, which is a concern, and he is considered a one-speed runner, which means he may struggle to escape cornerbacks in the NFL. His size is a big plus though, and he is a physical player, who likes to fight for extra yards and is not worried by contact (unlike Ginn).
His reliance on size can be an issue on some occasions, as he tries to use it to gain an advantage, instead of running a route or making a cut to gain separation.
There are also character concerns surrounding Toliver. He was arrested in March 2010 on charges of disturbing the peace, public intoxication and interfering with a police officer having got involved in a fight outside a bar near LSU’s campus.
The reports suggest that police used a taser on Toliver twice to subdue him, suggesting that his maturity is questionable, but his strength and determination could be a real handful for defenders.
Toliver could be a nice third-round pick to play opposite Marshall, but he is not as explosive as some of the smaller receivers, despite being a good deep threat. His arrest will also concern the Dolphins, due to the Miami nightlife, but there could be a chance to see him in aqua and orange if he is available.
His hands are a concern, but a decent pro-day would help Toliver solidify his status as a third round selection.
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