The Miami Dolphins, somewhat surprisingly, doubled down on wide receivers during the 2014 NFL Draft by selecting LSU‘s Jarvis Landry in the second round and Coastal Carolina‘s Matt Hazel in the sixth round.
Contributing as a rookie, with productive veterans like Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson already in place, will be a tall order for a high-draft choice like Landry, much less a late-round pick like Hazel. Being a late Day 3 prospect might not be quite the indictment as normal in Hazel’s case, however.
The 2014 draft class was one of the deepest and talented receiver groups in the history of the league — at least on paper. Hypothetically, Hazel would have been selected much earlier in a typical class, even as a product of a relatively obscure program like Coastal Carolina, which also limited the ceiling of his stock.
On film, Hazel displayed many translatable attributes playing in the Big South Conference of the FCS. With decent size, Hazel often showcased superb body control to make difficult catches and the fluidity to make clean breaks in and out of his routes. He’s capable, at any level, to contribute on the perimeter or in the slot. His rookie training camp will be telling, though.
Can Hazel make an effortless jump from the FCS to the NFL? Few do, but it’s far from impossible. The aforementioned depth of Miami’s receiver corps will make Hazel’s first camp and preseason essential to his prospects of cracking the 53-man roster.
If he gets erased at practice and in the exhibitions when covered by speedy, NFL-caliber cornerbacks, Hazel will likely be relegated to the Dolphins’ practice squad. However, if he makes plays as a receiver and, perhaps more importantly, becomes a reliable contributor on special teams, Miami will make room for him on its regular-season roster.
Cody Strahm is an NFL Senior Writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.