"SPEED…RIDICULOUS SPEED…FASTEST GUY ON THE FIELD."
That's exactly what I wrote in my notes on the first day of Senior Bowl workouts this past January when watching former Miami wide receiver Phillip Dorsett run routes, accelerate out of his cuts and eat up defensive backs in one-on-one drills.
This guy could fly. Like he was shot out of a cannon or something. He played fast and could change directions. He could run past anyone on that practice field down in Mobile, Alabama.
And it wasn't just the deep ball that stood out with the former Hurricane in competitive drills.
Dorsett displayed a lightning-fast burst at the top of the break on the quick slant, and he could win inside on the option route by pulling away from a defender's leverage or snap back to the ball on the curl route.
At 5'10", 185 pounds, Dorsett isn't going to overpower cornerbacks at the point of attack or use his size/frame to go get the ball like an Alshon Jeffery or Vincent Jackson. Plus, he isn't a finished product. He needs to be more consistent catching the ball, and his overall route running can come off as a little raw when you study his game.
That's why I see him in that second phase of wideouts to come off the board on Day 2 of the NFL draft. Dorsett isn't in that group with West Virginia's Kevin White, Alabama's Amari Cooper, Louisville's DeVante Parker or Arizona State's Jaelen Strong at the top of the class.
But the speed and the lateral movement that allow him to separate versus coverage is legit. They flashed every day on the practice field when I watched Dorsett at the Senior Bowl, and they absolutely jump off the screen on the game tape.
At the NFL combine in Indianapolis, Dorsett put on a show with an official 4.33-second 40-yard dash time, and he also recorded a 37" vertical jump and 6.70-second three-cone time—the top time for a wide receiver. That's where you see the immediate, quick and sudden change-of-direction speed along with the explosive ability in his legs.
Now, a 4.33 40 time is moving. That's fast. But Dorsett topped that at his pro day on campus in Miami when he ran in the mid-4.2 range. That's crazy speed, a number that can put straight fear into opposing defensive backs when Dorsett gets up on their cushion.
Here's an example of that speed and sudden burst from the Miami-Florida State matchup this past season:
Running a post route versus cornerback Ronald Darby, Dorsett has a straight release up the field. He makes a slight stem at the top of the route that forces Darby (playing from a bail technique) to overplay the break. Because of that, Darby has to use a baseball turn in order to recover to the post. But look at the speed and the acceleration from Dorsett as he works inside to separate to the ball for six points.
Darby is an excellent corner, a solid prospect that should carry a high second-round grade into the draft. He has man-coverage ability and ran in the 4.3s in Indianapolis. But when you fail to play with the proper footwork and technique versus the speed of Dorsett, it's going to cost you.
At times, the deep ball is a layup for Dorsett because of his ability to just blow past a safety over the top or beat a cornerback who fails to open and run when the wide receiver continues to press the route down the field.
Take a look at Dorsett in the Miami-Arkansas State game when he aligns in a reduced split (tight to the core of the formation) on the deep go route:
With this split, Dorsett gets a free release off the line. And that's all it takes with the defensive back failing to open versus speed. This is a true matchup issue for the defensive back, and his initial alignment puts him in a nightmare situation versus the speed of Dorsett.
Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya can put some air under this ball and lay it out down the field. Let Dorsett take advantage of the poor alignment/technique from the defensive back, track the ball and then finish for a score. That's just too easy.
Let's check out one more example because I want to highlight the ability of Dorsett underneath as a receiver that can produce after the catch on a basic shallow crossing route from the back side of the formation.
In this matchup versus Cincinnati, the Hurricanes align Dorsett in another reduced split, but this time he is the X receiver in the 3x1 formation (Doubles Slot). I call this a Seattle concept with the offense essentially clearing out the front side of the formation to bring the X receiver (Dorsett) underneath to get him the ball in space:
This is where we see the speed and acceleration after the catch from Dorsett as he turns a shallow crossing route into an explosive gain. Catch the ball and get up the field. That's a luxury to have on offense when the quarterback can throw a high-percentage ball (inside breaking route) with the wide receiver flipping the field.
If you are looking for a pro comparison on Dorsett, ">Bleacher Report's Matt Miller compares Dorsett to T.Y. Hilton. That's a fair comp, and it also speaks to Hilton's ability in the Colts offense as a receiver who can run the vertical game and also create issues for opposing defenses underneath because of his ability to produce chunks of yardage after the catch.
The way I see it, Dorsett is the type of prospect who brings the same type of big-play ability to the next level. He has the speed to beat defenses over the top, the lateral quickness to win at the line of scrimmage versus press and the open-field burst to turn a slant or option route into an explosive play by eliminating angles from the secondary.
Remember, this isn't just a track guy in pads who runs the occasional go route. Dorsett played in a pro-style system down in Miami, averaged over 20 yards per catch and can win on a variety of route concepts from outside the numbers or in the slot.
Yes, his size can be a concern for some NFL teams, and like I said above, he is still developing as a pure route-runner. However, the type of speed that Dorsett displays on tape can't be coached.
You want a receiver that can blow the roof off the secondary? Then take a look at Dorsett.
Seven-year NFL veteran Matt Bowen is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.