Miami Dolphins 2011 Draft Board: Speed Receivers

On Sunday we took a look at a few highlight videos of some of the fastest receivers in this year’s class. Like I said on Sunday, I’m not as high as some on the Dolphins drafting a speed receiver.

I think having an explosive playmaker at receiver would go a long way for this offense, but at this point, I would consider having one a luxury, not a necessity. Getting some consistency out of the quarterback position would mask the lack of speed of the current group.

The way I see it is, picking up a speedy receiver isn’t going to make Chad Henne a franchise quarterback, but finding a franchise quarterback would turn the Dolphins’ receiving core into one of the league’s best.

There is already so much talent there. Brandon Marshall is arguably a top five receiver. If not, he certainly has the talent to be. Davone Bess has quickly emerged as one of the league’s most productive slot receivers. Brian Hartline was quietly in the midst of a breakout season before he was lost to injury.

I would even argue that Hartline could be a legitimate deep threat for the Dolphins’ offense. He will never be an electrifying home run threat on the level of a Desean Jackson or a Mike Wallace, but he flashed good separation last season on deep routes. If only Chad Henne would have been a little more accurate on some of those deep bombs.

Having endorsed Hartline, though, there’s no denying the Dolphins could upgrade here. I’m not sure it would be worth the sacrifice of putting off a more pressing need by using a high draft choice on a speed receiver, but if Jeff Ireland’s priority this offseason is to make the Dolphins’ offense more explosive, here are a few prospects that could potentially do the trick.

1. Titus Young
School: Boise St.
Size: 5-11, 175
40: 4.53
Projected Round: 2
Disappointed many scouts by running a 4.53 at the combine and consequently has been jumped by Torrey Smith on many of the experts’ draft boards. But when you turn on the film, Young is one of the most explosive playmakers in this year’s class. I don’t want to totally discount the slower than expected forty, as that could very well mean that some of those big plays against WAC competition won’t translate to the NFL. But I still believe Titus Young has outstanding football speed, no matter what the stop watch says. For that reason, I have him ranked above Torrey Smith. If I’m the Dolphins, though, I’m not considering using a second of third round pick on Young, who could be a slower Ted Ginn as an undersized prospect.

2. Torrey Smith
School: Maryland
Size: 6-1, 205
40: 4.43
Projected Round: 2
It’s easy to see why Torrey Smith’s stock was on the rise after the combine. Smith has a great combination of size and speed. But unlike Titus Young, when you turn on the film, you just don’t see the same type of separation from Smith. He does have quality straight line speed, not elite, just very good, but he doesn’t possess the quickness to be an ideal playmaker. There have also been knocks on Smith’s route running ability. All in all, I find it a little off the wall that a few mock drafts, including Omar Kelly’s first mock, have the Dolphins selecting Smith 15th overall. If the Dolphins are able to trade down and recover a 2nd round pick, maybe Smith becomes a possibility in round two.

3. Leonard Hankerson
School: Miami
Size: 6-3, 205
40: 4.43
Projected Round: 2-3
Some may be puzzled as to why I have Hankerson listed as a speed receiver, because if you have to give the guy a label, he’s of the possession mold. But truth be told, Hankerson has the speed to stretch the field at the next level. His frame may say otherwise, but he was able to create consistent separation at Miami and confirmed the fact that he’s a very balanced receiver when he ran an impressive 4.43 at the combine. Now, he may not have the lateral quickness to be much of a run after the catch guy, but he at least has the potential to be threat on go-routes and deep posts. Combine that with his size and possession skills and Hankerson may be one of the most underrated receivers in this year’s class and could challenge Hartline for that number two role if the Dolphins were to roll the dice on him in the second or third round.

4. Edmund Gates
School: Abilene Christian
Size: 6-0, 190
40: 4.37
Projected Round: 3-5
Ran the fastest receiver forty at the combine with a blazing 4.37. Gates was able to break off big play after big play at Abilene Christian, but there are concerns about whether or not he would have been the same type of playmaker against tougher competition at a bigger school. Some also knock Gates for his technique, as a raw route runner who may not be able to run a full route tree at the next level. To me, though, Gates may be the only receiver with elite speed in this year’s draft, and would be my ideal solution as a fourth or fifth round pick to the Dolphins’ lack of speed at receiver if they are set on addressing the need.

5. Jerrel Jernigan
School: Troy
Size: 5-8, 185
40: 4.46
Projected Round: 3-5
Is the type of shifty receiver that could potentially cause defenses fits. His lack of size, though, means he will have to find a home in the slot at the next level. The Dolphins are pretty set at the slot with Davone Bess, so they probably wouldn’t consider Jernigan outside of being a possible solution to their return game woes if he slipped to the fifth or sixth round.