After the Dolphins traded Brandon Marshall to the Bears and chose not to select a receiver in the early or middle rounds of the draft in 2012, their outlook at the position was about as bleak as it gets.
Lacking playmakers on the outside was far from ideal after the Dolphins drafted Ryan Tannehill 8th overall and eventually started him right out of the gate, essentially throwing him to the dogs.
Brian Hartline putting the unit on his back and producing over 1,000 yards was the last thing anyone expected. But that’s exactly what Hartline did, proving that he was more capable than even the most biased, aqua sunglasses wearing Dolphins fan would have told you.
The Dolphins were impressed enough with Hartline’s performance to re-sign him to a five-year, $30.7 million deal. But not impressed enough to pass on Mike Wallace in free agency to be Tannehill’s new number one target, signing the former Steeler for twice as much as Hartline.
Will Hartline’s numbers suffer as the number two? Or will he continue to thrive with Tannehill at the helm and defenses shading their coverages more towards Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller? Let’s play over/under.
Brian Hartline’s over/under: 69.5 receptions, 1,000 receiving yards, 1.5 touchdowns
My take: Under on receptions and receiving yards, over on touchdowns
I still expect Brian Hartline to be productive in 2013, but not as productive as he was last season when he was force-fed as the Dolphins number one receiver. He’s clearly the number two receiver now with Mike Wallace in town, and his numbers should reflect that.
But Hartline will benefit from not having to face the opposing team’s top corner week in and week out. The attention new weapons like Wallace and Dustin Keller will draw should free up Hartline in ways he couldn’t have dreamt of a year ago. Throwing Hartline’s way could see a higher rate of success than even 2012 for the Dolphins. I just expect Ryan Tannehill to target him less now.
Brian Hartline’s hands are as reliable as they come. He knows how to contort his body in ways that help him make spectacular catches, particularly along the sideline. He’s also a crafty route runner who utilizes a variety of gimmicks to get open.
But Hartline simply lacks the top end speed to provide consistent separation and he doesn’t have the size or leaping ability to be a factor in the red zone. He’s not a legitimate number one receiver and never will be. He may never surpass the 1,000-yard milestone again.
If Tannehill becomes the franchise quarterback many think he will develop into, anything will be possible for Hartline and the rest of Miami’s receiving corps. But Hartline’s numbers were slightly inflated a year ago.
My expectations for Hartline’s season are still relatively high. Over 60 receptions and 800 or 900 yards would be an excellent season for him.
And after three consecutive one-touchdown campaigns, I think Hartline finally strings together multiple scores this year with less attention and an improved Tannehill. A career-high four touchdowns is my official prediction for Hartline, breaking his previous high of three as a rookie.
You know the drill. It’s your turn to tell me if you see 70 receptions, 1,000 yards, and at least two touchdowns for Brian Hartline in 2013. State your case in the comments!