It was no secret the Dolphins had three starting positions along the offensive line to fill, and the draft was their outlet to fill those positions of need.
However, no one expected Miami to draft a wide receiver within the first two rounds of the draft. With the 63rd overall selection in the NFL Draft, the Dolphins selected LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
There is no doubt Landry is an excellent prospect. Although he was overshadowed by the flashier Odell Beckham Jr. while at LSU, Landry was a highly accomplished player in his own right — he caught 77 passes for 1,193 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
The reason the Dolphins’ selection of Landry was such a puzzling decision was due to the fact that wide receiver was not a position of need for the organization – in fact, many people would have considered the Dolphins’ depth at wide receiver to have been one of their greatest assets entering the draft.
Not only does Miami have Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline set up as the team’s starting receivers, they had three receivers primed to compete for the slot position – Brandon Gibson, Rishard Matthews and Damian Williams.
Gibson served as the team’s slot receiver after signing a three-year, $9.78 million deal with the Dolphins in the 2013 offseason. Before his 2013 season ended due to injury, Gibson played the first seven games as Miami’s slot receiver and was solid. He caught 30 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns.
Matthews took over the position for the remaining nine games of the season following Gibson’s injury, and arguably performed almost as well as Gibson did. Matthews caught 34 passes for 355 yards and two touchdowns over the last nine games of the season.
Williams was signed as a free agent this offseason, and served as a starting receiver, slot receiver and reserve receiver during his four-season tenure with the Tennessee Titans. In 2011 as one of the team’s starting receivers, Williams caught 45 passes for 592 yards and five touchdowns.
With the drafting of Landry, add one more receiver to the group of receivers who have a legit chance at Miami’s slot receiver come Week 1 in 2014.
The question is, will Landry end up being that guy for the Dolphins?
It’s not a secret that the Dolphins could easily release Gibson. If the team were to release Gibson before the season starts, it would only result in a $2 million dead money hit over the next two seasons, while saving the franchise $7-8 million in cap money over the next couple of seasons.
In the case of Williams, it’s a no-risk signing. Williams is owed just $800,000 in 2014 after signing a one-year contract. He is owed zero amount in guaranteed money, so if the team were to release Williams before the season starts, it wouldn’t cost the franchise anything.
The selection of Landry demonstrated the Dolphins weren’t comfortable with their current wide receiver situation. If Landry proves that he can be the Dolphins’ slot receiver during training camp, the Dolphins won’t hesitate to release the likes of Gibson and Williams.
After the selections of Landry and Matt Hazel in the 2014 NFL Draft, the wide receiver battle during the preseason should be the Dolphins’ most interesting as we enter the 2014 season.