After a week and three day hiatus, it’s finally time to continue our Q&A series that puts one of the Dolphins’ draft picks under the microscope by a blogger/writer that followed their entire collegiate career.
I had a hard time tracking down someone that covered fourth-round pick Edmond Gates to that extent, as there aren’t exactly blogs that cover D-II football teams like Abilene Christian. But I finally found someone that fit the bill with Joey Richards from Reporter News in Abilene, Texas.
Gates is probably the only selection Dolphins fans can agree on. Not every fan was fond of the front office’s conservative approach with the Pouncey pick and Daniel Thomas fills a need at running back, but lacks the big-play ability many were hoping for. Everyone is excited about the speed Gates will bring to an offense that was boring, predictable, and slow in 2010.
But of the Dolphins’ first three picks, Gates is probably the only player most of us never had the chance to actually watch in college outside of YouTube clips. I think it’s time we all learned a little about the guy who is supposedly going to open up the offense in 2011.
Phins Phocus: When you turn on the highlights, Gates made defenders look like they were standing still at times. Those draw-dropping plays were against D-II competition, however. Do you think that Gates has what it takes to be a playmaker in the NFL?
Answer: I think, in time, he can be a playmaker in the NFL. Maybe not as often as in DII, but he'll still make some big plays. He's still developing, and it'll take time to learn at the NFL level. But he's a fast learner, and I think he'll do fine.
Phins Phocus: Some scouts have suggested that Gates is a bit raw as a route-runner. How do you assess his rout-running ability? Do you predict he will have a steep learning curve trying to become accustomed to a full NFL route tree?
Answer: He will have a lot to learn in the NFL, and I expect the Dolphins will bring him along slowly and give him some simple routes early. Remember, this is a guy who basically never played high school football, since he quit playing the game after his freshman year. But he's a fast learner, and he's eager to succeed in the NFL. I'm sure the Dolphins will find a way to get the ball in his hands.
Phins Phocus: Besides route-running, is there anything else about Gates' game that might hold him back from making an immediate impact for the Dolphins?
Answer: Well, the lockout could impede his development. He also doesn't have much experience returning punts or kickoffs, which I think is where he'll help the team the most his rookie season. He'll work hard to do both.
Phins Phocus: The Dolphins have had a receiver with elite speed before, but unfortunately Ted Ginn was soft, afraid to get hit, and had suspect hands. Is Gates the type of receiver that shies away from going over the middle? Does he have a pair of consistent hands?
Answer: I don't think he's afraid to get hit, and he'll go over the middle. I think the speed of the game might be a challenge at first, and the guys are much bigger and hit a lot harder in the NFL, but he'll adjust. It might just take some time, and I think the Dolphins know this. They know what they're getting, and I think they'll take their time developing him as key part of the team.
Phins Phocus: Even if Gates doesn't challenge Brian Hartline for the Dolphins’ number two receiver role opposite Brandon Marshall, there is hope that he can at least make an impact as a return man. Did Abilene Christian ever let him return kicks or punts or was he simply too vital to their offense to risk him getting hurt?
Answer: They didn't want to take a chance on him getting hurt, plus it's not something he has a lot of experience doing. Again, his lack of high school experience meant he had a lot of learning to do just a receiver. But he's a smart guy, and he learns quickly. I think the key for him will be how he handles failure in the NFL, because it's going to happen. You're going to fumble. You're going to drop an easy pass or a big one when the chips are down. Everybody fails, but the true measure of greatness is how you handle that failure. If the team, the fans, and Edmond himself give him a chance to succeed, I think he'll be just fine.