The Miami Dolphins wide receiving corps has undergone an epic turnaround in just 18 months as the team selected Jaylen Waddle with the sixth pick in the 2021 draft, made a blockbuster trade to acquire Tyreek Hill, and used free agency to add Cedrick Wilson Jr.
These changes have put a lot of pressure on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to turn the offense around. This is a critical season for the third-year passer, because there can’t be any excuses since the front office has given him the talent to succeed.
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Few players demand double coverage more than Hill. He is the most dynamic receiver in the league with the ball in his hands and can take any reception to the house if he gets in space. The trade for Hill (and signing him long term) was a huge statement by the Dolphins that they want to win now and not build over a couple of years.
He immediately changes how defenses approach the Dolphins, and Hill’s value will be just as great on plays he isn’t targeted if he consistently takes two defenders with him. Tagovailoa is no Patrick Mahomes, but he has never had a receiver of Hill’s explosiveness. Just get him the ball.
Waddle broke the all-time rookie reception previously record held by Anquan Boldin when he caught 104 passes for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns in 2021. Because the Dolphins didn’t have a player who could blow the top off of defenses, the majority of Waddle’s receptions came close to the line of scrimmage and didn’t allow to run a full route tree.
The arrival of Hill changes everything, and Waddle will have the opportunity to make more big plays in single coverage with No. 2 cornerbacks. Expect a significant expansion in his second- and third-tier route patterns, but there will be plenty of work around the line of scrimmage, especially if Tua doesn’t improve at pushing the ball down the field.
Cedrick Wilson Jr.
After being mired as a special teams player who caught just 22 passes in his first 22 games with Dallas, Wilson emerged last season as the No. 3 receiver, catching 45 passes for 602 yards and six touchdowns.
The Dolphins stepped up with a three-year, $22 million free-agent deal this spring – an investment with a purpose. Wilson will be used in the short-passing and screen game and over the middle when Hill and Waddle are clearing players away from the area with deep routes.
Williams was one of the few bright spots for Miami as an undrafted rookie in 2019. In seven games as a starter, he caught 32 passes for 428 yards and three touchdowns. Injuries have wiped out much of the last two seasons; a torn ACL (suffered in 2019) and a foot injury kept him out of action for half of both 2020 and 2021, respectively.
At 6-foot-5, 220, he has the frame to be a mismatch nightmare, but he caught just 50 percent of the career passes thrown his way – a number that needs to improve significantly. Some of that is due to quarterback woes, but being mostly reserved as a 50-50 jump-ball target doesn’t lend a high conversion rate. His primary role in 2022 figures to be as an occasional target in the red zone.
A replacement quarterback at Kentucky who put up impressive numbers, he was drafted by the Las Vegas Raiders to be a running back. However, when he struggled in training camp, he was quickly traded to the Dolphins. He showed promise late in the 2020 season, catching 23 passes in the final four games, but missed all of 2021 with a severe hamstring injury. Bowden now has to start over with a new coaching staff and a vastly different receivers room. He will have to prove himself all over again and needs to step up or step off. Special teams may be his best path to a roster spot.
A fourth-round pick in this year’s draft, he has similar size and physicality to former Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker. Ezukanma was a jack of all trades at Texas Tech in numerous formations as a receiver and runner. However, he is diamond that will need time to shine in this pecking order and has relevance only via injuries opening the door.
Fantasy football outlook
Even with reservations about Tagovailoa’s ability, Hill has to be a WR1 because of his big-play ability. He may not be as lethal as he was with Mahomes, but he is still a threat whenever he touches the ball.
Waddle has a ton of PPR value, but overall is likely a low-end WR2 or high-end No. 3 without tremendous growth from Tagovailoa.
The Dolphins committed to Wilson to be their No. 3 receiver, and he has a value in the WR5 range. Count on inconsistent returns, making him much better suited for best-ball formats as a late-round flier.
Williams, Bowden and Ezukanma each bring a unique skill set to the table, but they will need injuries to happen to give them any fantasy value.