I took a brief little hiatus from the blog as I went out of town for Memorial Day weekend, but fear not, we are back in business and ready to continue our break down of the All-Time Miami Dolphins. With absolutely nothing going on Dolphins-related or NFL-related for that matter, hopefully our all-time roster series has become your Dolphins’ fix as we continue our descent into the offseason doldrums.
We can only hope that Friday’s hearing will get the ball rolling in ending this lockout, but with so much uncertainty in the present, we will continue to take a look back at the proud tradition of this franchise by unveiling the top five wide receivers to ever play for the Dolphins.
Before I break down the depth chart, keep in mind that what these players accomplished in Miami is one of the biggest factors in the selecting process. For example, Wes Welker, Chris Carter, and Brandon Marshall may be three of the most talented wide outs to franchise history, but Welker has enjoyed the bulk of his success for the rival Patriots, Chris Carter played five games here on the tail-end of his career, and Marshall, who could be the best when it’s all said and done, is probably still a productive season away from being considered.
Here are my top five receivers in franchise history, factoring in talent, production, and what era they played in.
1. Paul Warfield (1970-1974): Warfield may have only spent five seasons in Miami, as opposed to eight with the Cleveland Browns, but he was a big part in this franchise’s greatest run that included three consecutive Super Bowl appearances, two Super Bowl titles, and the renowned 1972 undefeated campaign. Looking at stats alone wouldn’t do Warfield justice. Playing for some of the most dominate power running offenses in NFL history, with the Jim Brown led attack in Cleveland and the three-head monster of Csonka, Kiick, and Morris in Miami, in an era where teams only threw to keep the defense off-balanced and in desperate times anyway, Warfield didn’t get anywhere near the same amount of opportunities today’s receivers get. But he sure made the most of every opportunity he got.
He totaled 427 receptions, 8,565 yards, 85 touchdowns, six All-NFL selections, and eight Pro Bowls in his Hall of Fame career. He also possesses one of the highest yards-per-catch figures in NFL history with 20.1 yards-per-reception. But looking beyond the numbers, Warfield played a crucial role in opening up the Dolphins’ power running offense. Defenses new the Dolphins were going to line up and run the ball right down their throats, but they also were forced to respect Warfield’s speed on the outside. It’s impossible to judge to what extent, but you could argue that Csonka, Kiick, and Morris wouldn’t have been as dominate without Warfield commanding so much attention as a big-play receiver. If true, Warfield’s value to this franchise goes well beyond what the numbers say.
2. Mark Clayton (1983-1992): When it comes to production, there is no receiver who laid a bigger stamp on this franchise than Mark Clayton. As Dan Marino’s all-time favorite target, Clayton enjoyed great success in the Dolphins’ pass happy attack. He racked up five 1,000 yard seasons in his career, which is the most of any Dolphin. He also holds franchise records for touchdowns (81) and receptions (550).
It’s no coincidence that Dan Marino’s greatest season (1984), was also the year that Clayton put up one of the best individual years a receiver has ever had. Clayton broke an NFL record with 18 touchdowns and set a franchise record with 1,389 receiving yards. His touchdown mark has since been broken by Jerry Rice and now stands as the third-highest total in NFL history, while no Dolphin has surpassed that many receiving yards in a season to this day.
Before Rice and Montana, Marino and Clayton were arguably thought of as the greatest QB-WR tandem the league had ever seen. Although Paul Warfield is widely considered to be one of the greatest players in franchise history, Mark Clayton isn’t too far behind for that number one spot on this depth chart.
3. Mark Duper (1982-1992): Marino and Clayton may have been one of the best connections in NFL history, but Mark Clayton and Mark Duper have to be considered one of the league’s most productive receiver duo’s as the famous “Marks Brothers.” Duper was also of the small, speedy mold, and was nearly the receiver Clayton was statistically. He didn’t score as many touchdowns (81-59), but Duper actually accounted for more receiving yards than Clayton as a member of the Dolphins with 8,869.
4. Nat Moore (1974-1986): When Nat Moore called it quits in 1986, he was the most prolific receiver in franchise history. At the time, he held nearly every team receiving record, most notably with career marks of 510 receptions, 7,546 yards, and 74 touchdowns. His records have since been surpassed by Clayton and Duper, but both benefited from having Marino for nearly their entire careers, while Moore was only around for his first two seasons.
Moore is one of the only wide outs in league history that can say he was a primary target for two Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Before being the veteran receiver Marino could count on early in his career, Moore become Bob Griese’s go-to option when Paul Warfield bolted for the World Football League in 1974. Today, Moore still has an impact with the team by overseeing the Miami Dolphins Alumni Association and providing the color commentary with Bob Griese for Dolphins’ preseason games.
5. Chris Chambers (2001-2007): Once again, I was faced with a tough decision at the bottom of the depth chart. My first four choices were rather obvious, but this is where the debate begins. I considered guys like Irving Fryar, O.J. McDuffie, and Oronde Gadsden, but Chris Chambers is actually the next in line as far as production goes. And to just think what kind of player Chambers could have been here in Miami if the Dolphins had a little more consistency at the quarterback position.
Chambers is only 5-11, but he played like a big possession receiver by showcasing outstanding leaping ability and reeling in circus catches. Chambers gave the Dolphins four 800-yard receiving seasons and two 11-touchdown campaigns. He hit his peak in 2005 when he caught 82 balls for 1,118 yards and 11 touchdowns and was selected to the Pro Bowl in the process. But when recalling Chambers’ days as a Dolphin, it’s always a little disappointing to think that despite all that talent, he was just never able to take that next step as a receiver and become a true go-to threat and perennial Pro Bowler.
What do you think of our list? Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments. Up next, Daniel Eliesen breaks down the tight ends.