Protecting the Future: Can Leonte Carroo Do Enough to Justify the Picks Used to Draft Him?
The Dolphins have spent a large portion of the offseason trying to retain their own players. The two biggest names on the list are Kenny Stills and Andre Branch, as they were both about to hit free agency.
With that in mind, the Dolphins want to lock up Jarvis Landry long-term before the 2017 campaign begins. That means the Dolphins are going to have two starting receivers locked up until 2020. Keep in mind that DeVante Parker will be under contract until at least 2018, with a fifth-year option for 2019. Odds are the Dolphins are going to try to keep Parker if he continues to develop consistency.
The Dolphins receiving core looks set in stone. These three guys put the Dolphins into the discussion of having one of the most explosive receiving corps in the NFL. With the addition of Julius Thomas, the Miami offense has an extremely high ceiling and the potential to be one of the top receiving corps in the NFL.
But, we are forgetting about someone. The Dolphins have a player on their roster who scored nine touchdowns in a four game span during their college career while averaging over 20 yards per reception all season.
Carroo’s senior season was so impressive that the Dolphins traded last year’s sixth round pick, along with their third and fourth round picks in the upcoming draft, to acquire him. At the time there were plenty of people that argued against this move. With the draft quickly approaching, people are starting to question the trade again and rightfully so.
In his rookie season, Carroo was held to just three receptions on six targets for 29 yards and a touchdown that came against the San Francisco 49ers. When he first arrived with the Dolphins, plenty of people believed he could be a potential replacement for Jarvis Landry as a slot receiver.
This would make sense seeing how Carroo is only an inch taller than Landry and weighs 14 more pounds than him. The problem with that is the fact that Carroo isn’t a slot receiver. When the Dolphins’ receivers were healthy he would often only find the field as a fourth or fifth receiver lining up on the inside or as a Z receiver (who wouldn’t line up on the line of scrimmage).
The thing is, Carroo’s college tape shows a completely different side of the 23-year-old from New Jersey. He is much more of an X receiver. An X receiver is someone who always lines up on the line of scrimmage and will often be facing a corner in man coverage. These receivers would rarely find themselves in the middle of the field, unless it was a deep/skinny post move down the field.
While his height and weight say he is like Jarvis Landry, he is actually more of a DeVante Parker type of receiver, even though he is three inches shorter than him. Let’s take a look at some of his college film to get a better idea of what this means.
At Rutgers, Carroo was a dominant force on the outside. Even though he isn’t the tallest receiver, he plays big. According to Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback, the average cornerback in the NFL is 5’11”. So while one usually thinks of an outside receiver (or an X receiver) as being tall, it is not necessary.
Carroo displayed an excellent ability to adjust to a ball in the air. Here he fights over the corner and can walk into the endzone for an easy touchdown:
He may lack the quickness to beat someone deep, but here we see Carroo execute a perfect slant-and-go to get by the cornerback and get open down field. He finishes the play off with an excellent one-handed catch while remaining in bounds:
Finally, Carroo can take advantage of his speed and— at 217 pounds— he turns into a bowling ball that can’t be tackled by a member of the secondary. Playing on the outside is a great mismatch for Carroo where he can compete against smaller cornerbacks and use his size as an advantage:
Carroo’s Rookie Season:
“Hopefully we can get Carroo put in a better position than I did last year,” said Adam Gase last month. “I thought I did a poor job as far as using him to his strengths.”
“He was trying to figure everything out. With a rookie, I probably should have eliminated a little more of what he did and specialized him.”
What is interesting about Carroo’s play is that the one time he was put in a position that he thrives in, he scored his only touchdown of the season. While he is lined up on the inside at the snap, a quick out-route allows him to get outside of the hash mark and go 1-1 with Jimmie Ward.
The result shouldn’t be a surprise because he did it for years in college. He makes the catch and uses his strength to push Ward right off with a strong stiff arm and walk into the end zone.
Outside of that, Carroo didn’t get much to go with his other two receptions. Here we see him as a safety outlet in which he is easily tackled as he catches the ball. This goes back to what Gase said about playing to his strengths. He isn’t a shifty receiver that can make people miss. Instead, he needs to catch the ball on the run and make people have to bring him down.
Based on the evaluation of last season, it is easy to feel discouraged about the Carroo pick and how much the Dolphins gave up to get him. Not to mention how Rashawn Scott was active over him the last two games of the season, but that is because Scott has been impressive on special teams.
Carroo will be Miami’s fourth receiver but should get more opportunities in his sophomore season. Especially with Parker’s concerns with injuries throughout his career, there is a good chance Carroo will get his opportunities. It will be up to Adam Gase to put him in a position where he can thrive and show off his skill set.