2013 NFL Draft: Dolphins should keep WR in draft plans
Signing Brian Hartline would be a starting point, not a selling point for the Dolphins.
A No. 1 receiver? By default.
Starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill's favorite receiver? Sure, he was targeted on 131 of Tannehill's 484 pass attempts (27.1 percent).
It is worth noting that Hartline's production declined in the second half of the season. Without Reggie Bush to help dictate what defenses show presnap, Hartline hasn't proven to be an elite receiver. Of his 1,083 receiving yards in 2012, 42.1 percent -- 455 of that total in Weeks 2 and 4 against Oakland and Arizona -- and his only touchdown of the season came against the Cardinals.
Signing Hartline helps the Dolphins, but it doesn't cure any of the many ills on offense.
Stack the Dolphins' wide receiver depth chart alongside that of coach Joe Philbin's former team, the Packers. Even without free-agent Greg Jennings, the Packers are a peg or two above with Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones. And yet, the Packers consider wide receiver a need if Jennings and tight end Jermichael Finley don't return.
Nelson is arguably a No. 1 receiver; Hartline is arguably a solid No. 2.
Second fiddle is the ideal role for Hartline in Miami. He can win mismatches against No. 2 cornerbacks regualrly. He's not the elite lead receiver for a developmental cornerback because he thrives on speed. Hartline's 4.49 40 time at Ohio State's Pro Day translates to the field. When he rolls off the line without a jam, he can get over the top and split bracket coverage. At this stage of his career, Tannehill isn't confident -- or consistently accurate -- enough to get him the ball at the ideal time.
Their timing should develop rapidly. Even if the Dolphins believe Hartline can be their lead receiver -- many scouts don't view Stevie Johnson as a No. 1 receiver, but he holds the role with the Bills -- Miami can't ignore that it needs to add weapons to support Tannehill's growth in his second season.
The wide receiver market in free agency offers deep-threat Mike Wallace and sure-handed, skilled route runners such as Jennings, who is a familiar chess piece to Philbin from their time in Green Bay, Wes Welker of the Patriots and the Rams' Danny Amendola. Welker (age) and Amendola (injuries) could still work out deals to stay put, but aren't risk-free investments.
But with Dwayne Bowe and Hartline signed, the market could dictate overpaying to land a veteran in free agency.
The Dolphins last drafted a wide receiver in the first round in 2007, but Ted Ginn never became more than a modest deep threat whose primary strength was in the return game.
If free agency doesn't turn up a main option outside, the Dolphins will consider Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson at No. 12 overall. He's a blue-chip prospect with the highest upside of any receiver in the draft. He's not completely without a bust factor with only one season against FBS competition.
It's what he showed in that only season with the Volunteers -- a school-record 1,858 yards from scrimmage -- as an unpolished 6-foot-2, 216-pound receiver with 4.42 speed and a 37-inch vertical that should lead GM Jeff Ireland to target the future No. 1 receiver.
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