Adding Some Juice: Leonte Carroo Brings Depth & Familiar Skill Set to Dolphins
Many felt that the Dolphins would not need to address the wide receiver position in the 2016 NFL Draft. However, the area was actually one of the team’s more understated issues on the roster. They lack depth outside of the top three, which includes players like DeVante Parker who have struggled with injuries.
The Dolphins saw an opportunity to fill this need when Leonte Carroo, one of their top rated receivers, was still available in the third round. The team’s decision to trade up for Carroo could be viewed as curious by some, but actually helps the team add playmakers while filling an area of their roster that required an infusion of depth.
Background & Stats:
Leonte Carroo grew up in the shadow of Rutgers University, playing high school football at New Jersey powerhouse Don Bosco. He was a 4-star recruit who helped bring his high school’s quarterback, a 5-star player, with him to Rutgers.
Carroo wanted to stay close to him and was able to help restore some of the lost glory in Rutgers’ program. No, they did not become a powerhouse, but Carroo’s consistent effort and tenacity helped instill an err of confidence in a previously stagnant football team.
The Senior Bowl helps many players heading into the draft, Carroo included. He attended the event and impressed scouts. He was given a late-second round grade by many evaluators.
This section is going to paint an interesting picture of Carroo for most readers, as they will in all likelihood be able to draw parallels between him and someone already on Miami’s roster.
Carroo plays with a great deal of tenacity, both in attacking the football and in putting himself in the position to make catches using his route running. He exhibits a great understanding of how opposing defenses are attempting to cover him and relies on a great deal of chemistry with his quarterback to be thrown open.
Possessing excellent hands, Carroo is known for being able to come down with contested catches. His smaller frame means he is not a “go up and get it” receiver like DeVante Parker, but someone apparently hasn’t told him that yet. He strikes towards the football and is perfectly content to wrestle around defenders to come down with it. Every time it is in the air, whether or not his height allows him to attack the ball, he feels like it belongs to him.
On both of these plays, despite standing at only 6’0”, Carroo attacks the ball as if he were a tight end. He has no qualms about being physical with defensive backs, and plays every single snap in attack mode.
Leonte Carroo also exhibits outstanding focus when catching the ball in difficult scenarios
Here, Carroo manages to secure the ball even when he is separated from it by a defender. He is not bothered whatsoever by the defensive back’s presence and simply secures the ball through contact and holds onto it as he goes to the turf.
Carroo’s ability to track the football is also a product of his exceptional focus and ball skills.
Here, he is able to see the throw coming over his shoulder and adjust his route slightly without breaking stride. These are the types of plays that show NFL talent evaluators that a player has true instincts on the field. Anyone who has tried to catch the football while running full speed, covered, without breaking stride understands how difficult it is. Carroo does so with ease.
Leonte Carroo is also able to block very well, making him a strong option on 3rd down when teams could ask their receivers to drive defenders downfield in running situations.
Against Ohio State, Carroo faced some of the country’s top defenders (a team that just broke the record for most players drafted in the first three rounds). When asked to block, Carroo was clearly up to the challenge. He drove defensive backs off of the line frequently, as displayed in the play above.
One of the best things that Leonte Carroo has to offer the Dolphins will be his hands.
So, you understand the idea. Carroo is a tenacious receiver who plays as if he were 6’6” even though he stands at 6’0”, attacks contested passes with full confidence, and runs routes that allow him to compensate for his lack of long speed. Does this skillset sound familiar to you?
It should, because it is eerily similar to that of Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry.
Expectations of Carroo should not be set to the level of Juice, but it is fair to expect him to learn how to be successful in the NFL from someone who has experience doing so in a similar fashion.
Leonte Carroo is not a truly explosive player. He fights for the football, but is only forced to do so because he does not possess a great deal of breakaway speed. He doesn’t hit a second gear when going downfield to separate from cornerbacks. He gains separation through route running and physicality.
That brand of creating production is often concerning for NFL talent evaluators. Essentially, you want players who can create opportunities even against the most physical corners, and when faced with those who can keep up with them down the field. Carroo might struggle when defensive backs are not as easy to out-muscle or fool with route running. He will have to be creative when generating separation with NFL defensive backs.
While Carroo does run routes well, he needs to refine his technique in this area if he wants to be truly effective in the NFL. He exhibits a great understanding of the conceptual element of using a route tree against coverage, but needs to improve his footwork and technical aspects of his game. This will also help Carroo deal with the aforementioned issue of beating NFL-quality corners.
One thing that surely separates Leonte Carroo from Jarvis Landry? Landry came without any baggage off of the field. At Rutgers, Caroo was suspended for two games following a domestic dispute with his girlfriend, which resulted in an assault charge. Charges against Carroo were later dropped, but the program still felt more comfortable handing down discipline. In a more minor incident, Carroo was suspended for the first half of the team’s season opener after a curfew violation. This alone is obviously not a red flag, but having multiple incidents in college should force the team to keep an eye on Carroo as he is handed greater responsibilities as a professional athlete.
How He Fits in Miami:
The Dolphins’ hierarchy at wide receiver is set for the 2016 season. Jarvis Landry will be the clear number one option, with DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills immediately behind him on the depth chart. After that, the group is barren.
Outside of Matt Hazel, Leonte Carroo is the only viable receiver on the roster. It would not be surprising whatsoever to see Carroo supplant Hazel as the fourth receiver.
Leonte Carroo should be viewed partially as an insurance policy. Kenny Stills is a free agent in 2017 and DeVante Parker struggles with foot injuries. So, it makes sense to have an extra weapon for Ryan Tannehill in the team’s back pocket just in case of emergency. I do fully believe that Leonte Carroo will make an impact consistently and not merely be a reserve option, but the team’s intentions were clearly to make sure they have options and security at the wide receiver position going forward.
The Miami Dolphins have not stayed true to their “best player available” commitment during the 2016 NFL Draft, but this is a clear case of a player being too high on their board to pass up. The front office saw a player they liked fall to a point where they said enough is enough.
It is unfair to compare Leonte Carroo to Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry, but the skillset makes it an easy parallel to draw. Landry was more refined as a receiver out of LSU, played against higher-level competition, and came with no baggage off of the field. So, what does this mean in terms of Leonte Carroo?
Well, he has a mentor for starters.
It is often helpful for a young player entering the NFL to latch onto a veteran who can help teach them what it takes to be successful as a pro. Landry should be able to do that with Carroo.
In his own right, Carroo brings a unique ability to the team. He is creative in his methods of gaining separation, he has outstanding hands, and he fights for the football in a way that shows you he wants it more than any other player on the field at any given moment. While Carroo lacks the speed to be a deep threat and is far from a finished product in his route running, his instincts and attitude make him worthy of the high price Miami paid to bring him to South Florida.
Is it fair to expect Carroo to match the level of success held by similarly-equipped player Jarvis Landry? No, it is simply a matter of seeing if he can harness his raw talent, stay out of trouble, and follow in the footsteps of a current Dolphins receiver who managed to carve out a role as a young player through hard work, focus, and unmatched tenacity.