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DeVonta Smith. Ja’Marr Chase. Jaylen Waddle. Rashod Bateman. These are the kinds of names Miami Dolphins fans will know well be the time the end of April rolls around — if they don’t already. These are the perceived top wide receiver prospects for this year’s 2021 NFL Draft, which will serve as a critical swinging point for the Dolphins’ immediate future and long-term success. With a successful draft in 2021, Miami can push themselves from a young, aspiring contender and transform into a legitimate force in the AFC.
Many Dolphins fans believe that the team must secure a top wide receiver prospect in April’s draft. They’re probably not wrong. But it is the secondary opportunities for Miami that may spur the most immediate success. Because for as good as the top of this year’s wide receiver class is, one must remember to see the trends across the league. For rookie wide receivers, success isn’t limited to just top-20 picks. And, as a matter of fact, some of the better young wide receivers across football weren’t 1st-round picks at all.
Washington’s Terry McClaurin – 87 receptions, 1,118 yards, 4 touchdowns
Seattle’s DK Metcalf – 83 receptions, 1,303 yards, 10 touchdowns
Tennessee’s A.J. Brown – 70 receptions, 1,075 yards and 11 touchdowns
Brown was drafted 51st overall. Metcalf? 64th. McLaurin?! 76th. The NFL’s receiving king in 2020, Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs, was a 5th round selection out of Maryland in 2015. The list goes on. As a matter of fact, of the 18 NFL pass catchers this season to surpass 1,000 yards on the year, just seven of them were 1st-round selections.
The Dolphins, with this in mind, would be wise to double dip at the wide receiver position and secure not just an elite talent via a top pick but also a complementary player; which history suggests may be the more immediate contributor to the cause anyway. Names like Ohio State’s Chris Olave, USC’s Amon-Ra St. Brown, Michigan’s Nico Collins — these are the kinds of names to watch for the Dolphins. If Miami tackles the position like they did the offensive line in 2020, we’d see a big money free agent signing and half of the team’s first four picks invested in the receiver room; an exciting proposition for a team that needs all the help it can get. And so look for the Dolphins to not be complacent here but to legitimately invest in the receiver room. With a little luck, the next Davante Adams, Terry McLaurin or D.K. Metcalf can be the end result. But even if it isn’t; a polished technician would offer the Dolphins something they’re currently missing.