Jason Vinlove

Miami Dolphins Must Keep Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo

Even though Miami Dolphins WR Leonte Carroo struggled last season, Michael Hernandez shows why Carroo will be worth the investment.

The Miami Dolphins need to remain patient with WR Leonte Carroo.

Last week’s report by Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson left the NFL community panicking on wide receiver Leonte Carroo’s status with the Miami Dolphins.

Jackson’s report considered the former Rutgers prospect as “not absolutely certain that he will make the team”. This would be highly disappointing considering the 3 picks(2016 - 6th rounder, 2017 - 3rd and 4th-round picks) the Dolphins traded to the Vikings in order to move up to draft Carroo in the 3rd round of the 2016 NFL Draft. But is this report based on Barry’s opinion or did this come from a source inside the Dolphins organization?

According to Jackson’s article, this did not come from a source. Knowing Jackson’s writing, if he has a source, he usually mentions it. So as far as I’m concerned, this is his opinion. Which is fine, Jackson is a fabulous writer and media member, and has been following the team for years and his opinion is more than credible along with his sources. However, I do not think there is a reason to panic (not yet, anyway) and there are plenty of reasons for the Miami Dolphins to stay patient with their second-year receiver.

Talent                                                                                      

The fact that the Dolphins invested 2 mid-round and 1 late-round pick in order to move up is enough to show how much they liked Carroo and the playmaking potential the team thought he could bring to the offense.

As a part of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Leonte Carroo played in 30 games, and totaled 122 receptions, 2,373 yards, and 29 touchdowns with a yards-per-reception average of 19.5 (most impressive). In 2013, he only made 3 starts in his sophomore season, but made the most of his opportunities ending the season with 28 receptions, 478 yards, 9 touchdowns. As a junior in 2014, he started all 13 games and had a breakout season with 55 receptions, 1,086 yards, 10 touchdowns with a 19.7 average per catch. His final year, he only played 8 games due to his arrest and suspension for his involvement in an altercation that occurred after the Scarlet Knight’s game against Washington State. But when he was on the field, he performed again: 39 catches, 809 yards, and 10 touchdowns. He also improved his average yards per reception at 20.7.

When the Miami Dolphins selected the former Scarlet Knight with the 86th overall pick in the 2016 draft, analysts had high praise for the receiver…

"This is a really competitive kid. When he gets the ball into his hands, he's angry." -- Mike Mayock

NFL Network’s draft analyst Lance Zierlein also gave props to Carroo’s football skills.

Has desired NFL size. Targeted by his quarterbacks at a high rate over last three seasons and was up to the challenge. Consistently productive. Averaged over 20 yards per catch over last two seasons and 31 of his 122 catches went for 25-plus yards. Finished with 29 touchdowns over three seasons. Strong ball tracker who can adjust to off-target deep balls and run under them. Can sell cornerback on the vertical route and then break it off suddenly while working back to the throw. Natural, reliable hands catcher who snatches the ball away from his body. Able to make contested catches. Uses plus balance and footwork to accelerate out of his breaks and create separation. Improved his release against press coverage by varying approaches and improving initial footwork. Gets upfield immediately after the catch and has size to finish with an extra yard or two tacked on. Played in scheme that required him to be a willing and competitive run blocker. Team captain. Willing to play with pain. Missed two games due to high ankle sprain, but came back early and played hurt over final three games of the season.

Runs a 4.5, physical, tough, strong route-runner, run-blocker, team captain, and great hands? Sounds like a slightly taller and faster version of Jarvis Landry.

Work Ethic

Leonte Carroo may have some character concerns due to his altercation in college, and his struggles as a rookie for the Miami Dolphins. But none of these are concerns over his work ethic when it comes to the football field.

Back in March, Adam Gase had good things to say regarding Carroo’s mentality and approach to the game.

“When you have a guy who is smart, an extremely hard worker and does have a desire to be a guy that ends up starting for us at some point in his career—that’s a tough lineup to crack, but the fact that that’s his mindset, I feel like we have a great opportunity to get him better this year.”

 That does not sound like the 2nd-year reciever’s position on the team is in jeopardy.

 Gase also took some of the blame for Carroo’s rookie struggles. Gase, who was a first-year head coach, admitted he may have asked Carroo to do too much too soon as the backup for all three receiver spots.

“I think sometimes I personally lose track when a guy is your fourth/fifth receiver,” Gase admitted. “The reason why they’re in that spot is either they’re behind really good players and they’re probably a little more limited as far as what you want to do.”

Financially

Carroo is still on his 4-year/ $3.1 million rookie contract that he signed after the Dolphins drafted him. According to Spotrac, Carroo is costing the Dolphins a cap hit of roughly $735K in 2017.

The 2 remaining years of his contract will be costing the Dolphins an estimated $825K in 2018 and $915K in 2019… yeah, that’s nothing.

 

Buried Under Strong WR Core

While slowly developing due to his former task of learning all 3 wide reciever positions, Carroo’s biggest fault is that he is buried under a strong Miami Dolphins receiving core.

The Dolphins have Jarvis Landry(2nd Round pick in 2014), Devante Parker(1st Round pick in 2015), and Kenny Stills who the Dolphins traded a 3rd Round pick and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to the Saints to acquire. Essentially, this makes Kenny Stills a 3rd Round pick.

Not to mention the Dolphins recently re-signed Stills to a 4-year/$32 million contract and are expected to financially re-invest in Jarvis Landry at some point this year. And where the money is tied up, is who the Dolphins are going to play. You don’t want to see a highly-paid player sitting on the bench.

But being buried on the depths of the WR chart is not such a bad thing for Carroo. It buys him time. As of now, Carroo is expected to be the #4 receiver on this team, and is only expected to receive a bigger role in the event of an injury to one of the  Dolphins Top 3 receivers. It’s not like the Dolphins have a weak WR core and desperately are relying on Carroo to save them.

So basically, there is no panic and there is no rush to get him on the field despite his draft pedigree. Carroo has time. All Carroo needs to worry about is learning the positions, and practicing hard on the field.

Overall

Based on the picks the Dolphins invested in Leonte Carroo, his talent, mentality, the peanuts he is making for his remaining 3 years on the team, and the time he has to develop—I truly believe Carroo will make the Dolphins roster in 2017.

FINS UP!


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