With a little down time between the 2017 NFL Draft and organized team activities, this – and another blog post in the near future – will allow the Miami Dolphins fans to reminisce on former players throughout the history of the team.
This week we’ll take a look at the current skill players on the offensive side of the ball for Miami and which former Dolphins they compare to and share similar skill sets with.
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Current Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill
Comparison: Bob Griese
Theory: Before you begin to say that you can’t compare Ryan Tannehill to the only Dolphins starting quarterback who has ever won a Super Bowl, consider the following.
Like Tannehill, Griese struggled with turnovers throughout his career finishing with 172 interceptions compared to 192 touchdowns, a 1.12:1 touchdown to interception ratio.
When you compare this to Tannehill’s current numbers, 106 touchdowns compared to 66 interceptions, the current Dolphins signal caller owns a 1.61:1 touchdown to interception ratio which is more favorable than the two-time Super Bowl champion and Hall of Famer in Griese.
Will Tannehill be recognized in the same class as Griese when it’s all said and done? Most likely not. However, Tannehill is the most talented quarterback the Dolphins have had since Dan Marino and gives the team their best chance of getting the most production out of the offense of any quarterback since No. 13.
Current Running Back: Jay Ajayi
Comparison: Lamar Smith
Theory: Despite Lamar Smith playing just two seasons for the Miami Dolphins, he had one of the most memorable playoff performances in team history in the Wild Card round of the 2000 NFL Playoffs against the Indianapolis Colts.
The same way Jay Ajayi rushed for over 200 yards three times during the 2016 season, Smith finished the Wild Card game against the Colts with 40 carries for 209 yards and two touchdowns including the game-winning 17-yard touchdown run in overtime.
While Ricky Williams had multiple 200-yard games during his time in Miami, it wouldn’t be fair to compare Ajayi to Williams after just one productive season in the NFL.
Smith finished with a career-high 1,139 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2000 and followed it up 968 yards and six touchdowns the next season, his final in Miami. Ajayi showed potential in 2016 to be the team’s long-term solution at running back – and should easily eclipse Smith’s career totals with the Dolphins – but for the time being, it’s too early to compare Ajayi to the likes of Williams, Ronnie Brown or Larry Csonka.
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Current Wide Receiver: DeVante Parker
Comparison: Oronde Gadsden
Theory: This was the hardest current player to find a comparison for as the Dolphins haven’t had many receivers with the size, speed and potential that DeVante Parker possesses. While Brandon Marshall has the dominant body type of a receiver like Parker, the former Louisville Cardinal isn’t in the same class as Marshall when it comes to producing in the NFL.
This leads to the comparison of Oronde Gadsden. Yes, Parker is more skilled and has a much higher ceiling than a receiver such as Gadsden who never eclipsed 900 receiving yards in a single season; but you must remember Parker’s career high is just 744 yards so he hasn’t exactly set the world on fire thus far during his time with the Dolphins.
Entering just his third season in the NFL, Parker has plenty of time to improve and warrant the 14th overall selection Miami used on him in the 2015 NFL Draft. His ceiling in terms of statistical production should rival the likes of Mark Clayton who finished his Dolphins career with multiple 1,000-yard and double-digit touchdown seasons while his floor shouldn’t be lower than the likes of a receiver such as Gadsden.
Current Wide Receiver: Kenny Stills
Comparison: Paul Warfield
Theory: If you look at Paul Warfield’s single-season statistics for the Dolphins you won’t be overly impressed because of the style of play back in the 1970’s and the fact that the Dolphins featured a three-headed monster in the backfield in Csonka, Mercury Morris and Jim Kiick.
In 1971, Warfield’s best season in Miami, he finished with 43 receptions for 996 yards and 11 touchdowns which goes to show his impressive yards per catch – averaging 20 yards per catch throughout his career – and leads to the comparison of Kenny Stills. Stills is also a player who doesn’t record a high number of receptions, but compiles solid yardage totals as he has averaged 16.7 yards per catch so far in his career.
The comparison isn’t flawless by any means as during that 1971 season, Warfield finished second in the NFL in receiving yards and first in touchdowns; two statistical categories that Stills will most likely never finish near the top of.
However, the unique blend of speed and ability to get behind defenders matches the two players together nicely and the potential for Stills to continue to rack up solid yardage and big-play touchdowns draws the Warfield comparison.
Current Wide Receiver: Jarvis Landry
Comparison: O.J. McDuffie
Theory: Besides the coincidence in nickname, Jarvis Landry’s comparison is former Dolphins receiver, O.J. McDuffie. Never a big producer of touchdowns – career high of eight in both 1995 and 1996 – McDuffie hauled in several clutch receptions, moved the chains and provided Marino with a security blanket the same way Landry does for Tannehill.
As the league has become more pass friendly, Landry’s reception totals somewhat dwarf what McDuffie was able to produce while playing with one of the best quarterbacks of all-time in Marino. However, McDuffie was asked to do similar things the Dolphins currently ask of Landry which leads to a very low yards per reception.
Landry has just a 10.6 career average in yards per reception while McDuffie finished his career at 12.2 yards per catch.
Considered one of the top slot wide receivers in the game today, Landry will most likely never reach the touchdown totals of a receiver like Clayton or Nat Moore, but he’ll continue to be a focal point in the offense and should easily finish his career as the franchise leader in receptions, by quite a wide margin.
Current Tight End: Julius Thomas
Comparison: Charles Clay
Theory: It’s difficult to find a player comparison for Julius Thomas because of the fact that he hasn’t played a single snap for the Dolphins. However, this comparison is based on the projection of Thomas performing marginally better than he did in Jacksonville but not to the level of his days in Denver.
Known mostly as a dynamic pass catcher who could create mismatches and produce after the catch, Charles Clay made a name for himself his final two seasons in Miami. Clay averaged 64 catches, 682 yards and four touchdowns over the course of his final two seasons with the Dolphins, and that stat line would be deemed successful for Thomas in 2017 for Miami.
Both players receive most of their in-game action on passing downs and possess the ability to successfully work the seam for big plays down the middle of the field. While Clay may be more nimble after the catch, both players are above average in regards to athleticism at the tight end position.