With the NFL Draft taking place in April, teams have shifted their focus to those players leaving college after declaring for the draft.
Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing a series of these 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 later rounds of the draft.
Edmund Gates, Abilene Christian (Third/Fourth Round) – 6’0’’ (height), 192 lbs (weight), 4.31 (40-yard dash)
The fastest man at the NFL Draft Combine. Gates has decent height, long arms and exceptional speed. He is a real deep threat, and gets off the line quickly, meaning very few cornerbacks stand any chance of staying with his in a foot race. Despite being only average height for a receiver, his long arms allow him to win jump balls, and he tracks balls over his shoulder or head to make the catch.
He is quite elusive despite his lanky frame and has a good sidestep, which he uses to escape coverage and to avoid defenders after the catch. However, his hands can be inconsistent and if he feels a hit coming he is liable to drop the pass. Despite this, he is a physical receiver on jump balls, and most of his drops come on passes over the middle. He is also a willing blocker, and useful on screens, but he will struggle to sustain blocks without more strength and effort.
Despite good awareness, and an ability to get his feet in-bounds when making a sideline catch, he is not a great route runner. His routes are too rounded, and he is a very raw player with not a lot of experience. He also turns 25 this year, which is old for a rookie. He played at Division II level as well, which means he didn’t face many tough cornerbacks in college.
Gates is physical and fast and would complement Brandon Marshall nicely. He has the attributes that Miami likes, but he will need to work hard to improve his route running. Could he be a pick in Miami? It is possible, although his stock has risen a lot since the combine, so he may now be overvalued. If he begins to fall down the draft, he could be a candidate for the Dolphins. Jeff Ireland says he wants speed; why not select the fastest man in the draft?
Greg Little, North Carolina, (Third/Fourth Round) - 6’2’’, 220 lbs, 4.56
As a former running back Little has good size and speed and, although his hands are inconsistent, has potential as a receiver. He is a long-strider, his speed is good for his size and he is capable of making some spectacular catches. His size means he is dangerous when competing for jump balls although he is inconsistent as a route runner.
He has the attributes that can be developed to make him a dangerous receiver, but currently his routes are not crisp enough and he does not get good separation. His hands are also inconsistent, as he lets too many passes into his chest, meaning he drops some easily balls. Little is most dangerous after the catch though, where his running back experience plays dividends. He is patient and allows blocks to develop, and his vision helps this. He is very physical as a runner and fights for extra yards. He possesses a good spin move to break tackles.
Despite his size he isn’t a great blocker and he needs to put more effort into this area of his game. Right now he is little more than an irritant who gets in the way of defenders. However, he does have potential as a receiver and his size and speed make him a deep threat. Unfortunately, he may be a little raw for Miami’s taste and he is not the explosive receiver that they are looking for. With the right guidance he could become a quality wideout though.
Austin Pettis, Boise State (Fourth Round) - 6’3’’, 205 lbs, 4.49
Pettis is a reliable receiver with good hands and a tall frame which makes him a good red-zone target. Unfortunately he only has average speed, his acceleration isn’t great and he is not explosive, which makes it difficult to escape defenders and means Pettis isn’t a big deep threat.
He works well over the middle and has good hands in traffic. While his route running is not perfect, he is good against zone defense and also sells defenders well with fakes. After the catch he has the power to break tackles for extra yards, but lacks the speed to break away for the big one. Pettis possesses good concentration and fights for jump balls, and while his anticipation is good he lacks speed to makes him little more than a possession receiver.
His route running still requires work and he isn’t elusive enough to be a danger in the open field. Due to his lack of strength and quickness he can also be jammed easily at the line. While Pettis does have an upside it probably isn’t suited to the Dolphins, who require more speed at the position. Could become a good possession receiver, but will most likely not end up in Miami since he is not a real deep threat wide receiver.
Jeremy Kerley, TCU (Fourth Round) – 5’10’’, 189 lbs, 4.56
Kerley is quick off the line but lacks real speed, and as a result isn’t a great deep threat. While his route running is nice, and he creates good separation, the lack of speed or size means he will likely amount to a slot receiver in the NFL. He is undersized, and although he has good hands, he can lose concentration when he sees open field before securing the ball.
Kerley is a dangerous runner with the ball in hand though, where he is elusive, and can make players miss all over the field. While he gets up the field quickly, he is more suited to running underneath and not deep routes. He is tough too, which will appeal to scouts, and will happily make catches over the middle in traffic. His acceleration is good for the slot, as he gets to top speed quickly, but his lack of great speed means he is not a home run threat on every ball like some receivers in the draft.
He has extra value as a fearless and strong punt returner, and his hands are reliable for this job, but it is likely Miami will go in a different direction due to his lack of elite speed. Kerley could become a quality slot receiver, but the Dolphins already have this in Davone Bess. As a result, Miami will likely pass on Kerley in favour of a speed receiver who offers more as a deep threat.
Darvin Adams, Auburn (Fifth Round) - 6’1’’, 205 lbs, 4.52
The tall, thin Adams has great length. This makes him a threat on jump balls and gives him a great advantage over smaller defenders. He has decent speed, but lacks a second gear, although his burst out of routes allows him to get good separation. After the catch he is not a huge threat due to his adequate speed, but his route running is good and he offers a decent vertical threat too. He tracks the ball well and makes catches without slowing.
Due to his frame, Adams may struggle to fight off stronger cornerbacks and could get pushed off his route. However, the biggest concern is the number of passes he drops. He can lose concentration and lets balls go through his hands. He tries to catch too many passes in his body. This will be a concern to most NFL teams and will likely rule Miami out of the running since they need a reliable deep threat.
Although he works hard to win balls on the sideline, and is a willing blocker downfield, he does not have the strength to sustain blocks and he benefited at college from playing alongside Cam Newton. In the NFL Adams might lack the intangibles to become a good receiver. His lack of straight line speed, and unreliable hands are a big concern, and as a result Miami might be better passing on him.
Ryan Whalen, Stanford (Fifth Round) - 6’1’’, 205 lbs, 4.56
Whalen is an intelligent, hard working prospect who offers a decent deep threat and fights for jump balls anywhere on the field. While he lacks the speed and explosiveness to consistently gain separation, which limits him on vertical routes, he reads zone coverage well and is a reliable receiver in the middle of the field. Whalen has a good frame with good bulk and he uses his size to shield defenders with his body.
Despite his size, he struggles to break tackles and he is not elusive after the catch meaning he is limited in yardage after the catch. He can also be redirected by defenders, and he lacks the speed to get back on his route in time. However, he is a willing blocker and controls defenders well in this area. In addition, he gives full effort in both the passing and running game which will please scouts.
He sometimes loses focus and drops catchable balls, particularly if he has room to run after the catch. However, he generally has good hands and holds on after contact. He is a very coachable player, which Miami will like, and this also means Whalen has the potential to work hard and improve. He might be a decent prospect in the lower rounds of the draft, but he perhaps lacks the speed Miami wants to be a consistent deep threat.
Cecil Shorts III, Mount Union (Fifth Round) – 6’0’’, 205 lbs, 4.50
Cecil Shorts III has good speed and great elusiveness which might appeal to Miami. He makes hard catches look simple and can adjust to poorly thrown balls. Shorts also has great ability after the catch, which can lead to long gains, shows good quickness off the line and is very elusive in the open field. He is versatile and can line up outside, in motion, or in the slot.
However, his hands are inconsistent at times and his route running can be a little lazy on occasions. Defenders are able to knock the ball out of his hands too easily and he is inconsistent catching the ball in front of his body. There is also a concern that he played in a lower-level league and he has to prove he can play if he is lined up outside against a physical pro-corner.
Shorts does have the ability to get to jump balls and has good sideline awareness, which will make him a deep threat along with his speed. He is also happy to get physical with smaller corners in the run game, but his lack of strength could be an issue when blocking in the NFL and he occasionally gets his blocking angles wrong. Scouts will be impressed with his character and discipline. He is known to be very coachable, which will appeal to Miami. In addition, he has solid hands, great straight-line speed and good elusiveness when he is a punt and kick returner.
Shorts could be a mid-late round pick for the Dolphins and has the tools to develop into a solid receiver in the NFL. If he can work on securing the ball safely after the catch then he has good potential for a later round draft selection. Miami may be interested in Shorts due to his character, potential and versatility, but he will have to show teams that he has the ability to play against special teams and defenders at a higher level that Division III. That is a big question for scouts, and it could cause his draft stock to drop if some teams do not believe he has enough talent to do this consistently.
Denarius Moore, Tennessee (Fifth/Sixth Round) - 6’0’’, 191 lbs, 4.49
A consistent deep threat, Moore made a name for himself with a good senior season where he showed his ability in a very poor Tennessee offense. Although his speed and shiftiness is not elite, it is still good, and he runs a good 40-yard dash. He is a very well-rounded prospect with soft hands, which allows him to catch high passes and snag balls in traffic.
His thin build means he can struggle to beat press man coverage, but his route running is solid and his anticipation is excellent. Moore adjusts his routes instantly to catch passes which are off-target and he seems to know where the ball will end up. He has good discipline as a route runner and gives good effort on plays. Because of his thin build he is not a dominant blocker, but he gives good effort and his blocking technique is good.
There were concerns that Moore was shut down by better opponents while at college. In his defense, the entire Tennessee offense was very disappointing. They were shut down often, and there was little Moore could do when his quarterback was under constant pressure immediately after the snap.
Moore is a good late-round prospect. His stock may have dropped as a result of his team’s disappointing performance last year. He is a solid, consistent deep threat, with good hands and must be considered one of the more well-rounded receivers in the later rounds of the draft. He would be a good selection for the Dolphins in the fifth or sixth round, and might have the tools that Miami would like to see in a new receiver, which is why Dolphins’ scouts are taking a very close interest in him pre-draft already.
DeAndre Brown (Fifth/Sixth Round) - 6’5’’, 239 lbs, 4.52
Brown is a very big, fast receiver, whose stature and speed means he looks like he will become a top receiver. However, injuries appear have derailed Brown’s college career and his inconsistent hands continue to be an issue. He has long strides, speed and has quick feet for his size, which allows him to make nice cuts to get open. However, he eases off the line too often and has only average acceleration, so it takes him time to get to full speed.
He can make some yards after the catch, but won’t elude most top corners in the pro game. He is more suited as a red-zone threat due to his size. He also finds ways to get open by working his way back to the quarterback or running deep when the quarterback extends the play. His height and leap means he has a chance on every jump ball, although he should maybe win more considering his size. Sometimes his size works against him too, as he plays almost in fear of attracting pass interference calls, particularly against smaller corners.
His inconsistent hands are an issue and he drops when he feels a hit coming. He has good size for blocking, but again his size hinders him as smaller corners can escape his blocks. He also plays with a lot of attitude and some scouts may believe he is a little too cocky. His injuries are a big concern though, including a broken leg in 2008, a shoulder injury in 2009 and a lower leg strain which kept him out of seven games in 2010.
Brown would be a good late round selection, but his injury worries will be a big red flag for some teams. His hands need some work, but he has great size and speed to be a dangerous receiver with the right development. He would offer another huge target if he played opposite Marshall. He is not the most explosive player, so Miami may go after a smaller, quicker receiver.
Aldrick Robinson, Southern Methodist (Seventh Round) - 5’10’’, 182 lbs, 4.42
An excellent deep threat, Robinson possesses great speed and acceleration, meaning he can gain separation of shorter routes, but also offers a threat on deep balls. He is quick away from the line of scrimmage and effective on slant routes. His hands are reliable, and he has a good leap, making him a threat on jump balls. Miami is known to be interested in Robinson, and have sent scouts to watch him field punts, so clearly his speed is what the Dolphins are looking for.
His awareness is good. He knows where the ball is and where zone coverage is. His route running is also excellent and he uses his speed well to create separation, although his long frame allows defenders to out-muscle him too often, sometimes for the ball. His lack of physicality also sees him run around defenders on his routes which can cause problems.
His speed and agility allows him to make gains after the catch,and he is dangerous on the screen pass. His ball security leaves something to be desired and he fails to tuck it away when on the run. Robinson is also a patient blocker and is good technically in that department, however, he doesn’t sell the pass well on running plays.
Robinson is a danger on deep balls and this might appeal to the Dolphins’ staff. His speed is a danger to opposing defenses, but his frame means he is not the most physical receiver. There are also a few concerns about his character, following a 2008 suspension for violating a three strikes rule by missing classes or being late to meetings. On the whole, Robinson would be a good pickup in the seventh round if available, but Miami will likely choose to select a receiver with a much higher pick than this.
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