After year one of the Brian Flores era in South Beach, the Dolphins have an idea of who is going to be around for the long haul. Players such as Nik Needham, Eric Rowe and Davon Godchaux all put together 2019 campaigns that make them prime candidates to return as meaningful parts of Miami’s 2020 squad. While the Dolphins may have found some future assets while combing through undrafted free agents and other teams’ leftovers, there may not have been a more promising discovery than the potency of their future receiving duo.
DeVante Parker, a receiver whose pro career had been labeled bust-worthy through his first four seasons, finally lived up to the hype that enticed the Dolphins to trade up to the 14th pick of the 2015 Draft to select him. Parker put together what was by far his best professional season in 2019, racking up 1,202 yards and 9 touchdowns. The former Louisville Cardinal averaged 75 yards per game this season, 24 yards more than his previous career high of 51 in 2017. FootballOutsiders graded Parker as having the 8th best season of any receiver in the NFL, ahead of peers such as Deandre Hopkins and Keenan Allen. Ryan Fitzpatrick and his style of play obviously played a role in Parker’s career year, too. Fitz is, and always has been, a true gunslinger who loves the 50/50 ball as much as any quarterback, and Parker’s size and skillset meshed perfectly.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) January 16, 2020
Miami clearly made the right decision when choosing to extend Parker for 2 seasons prior to the 2019 campaign, even though at the time it was far from a certainty that Parker would be back for his fifth season. Up until this past season, Parker had looked like an uber-talented player who was never really going to put it all together. The former first rounder was frequently mentioned in trade scenarios due to his lackluster performance and the depth that Miami had on its roster with players such as Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson, Allen Hurns, Jakeem Grant, and Isaiah Ford. Instead of giving up on their investment in Parker, the Dolphins dealt Kenny Stills to Houston in the Laremy Tunsil deal and made a conscious effort to extract #11’s talent. Parker put it together, and his 2019 production garnered him another extension from Miami in December when the two sides agreed on a $40 million deal to keep the wideout in aqua and teal through 2023.
Chris Grier and Brian Flores deserve credit for making the decision to keep Parker around going into the 2019 season, because it displays a different mentality in place under this new regime. Previously, under the tenures of Joe Philbin and Adam Gase, the Dolphins frequently gave up on talented players whom they couldn’t seem to reign in. Jordan Phillips comes to mind, as does Jarvis Landry. However, this duo of power seems more inclined to give second chances and work to find solutions before giving in. Dolphins fans, be honest, did you not expect DeVante Parker to eventually depart from Miami and go on to blossom into the number one receiver we had always hoped for? I know I did, and the fact that it didn’t happen should say something about the Dolphins’ decision-makers. The commitment to DeVante Parker is not the only example of Grier/Flores taking chances that the previous regime(s) wouldn’t have. That’s where we come to Preston Williams.
Preston Williams played two seasons at Tennessee in 2015 and 2016 but transferred to Colorado State where he wouldn’t see the field until 2018 due to various issues. Williams was caught up in legal issues related to domestic violence, but he was given his chance at Colorado State. In his one season there, Williams put up 1,345 yards and 14 touchdowns on 96 catches. His talent was undeniable, but his off-field problems led to him not being invited to the NFL combine and his subsequent non-drafting. The 6’4” athletic freak was sure to cling on somewhere due to his talent, but that someone had to be content with the potential baggage he brought with him. As an undrafted free agent, though, there was not much risk for a team like Miami to at least bring him in. Though it appeared to be a low-risk, high-reward sort of move, I am sure it is one that neither Philbin nor Gase would have made. I am even more sure that neither of them would have had the ability to help him evolve into the player that Flores has appeared to.
Williams was putting together an incredibly solid 2019 season prior to suffering an ACL injury in week 9. Until then, he had secured 32 catches for 428 yards to go along with 3 touchdowns. Williams was beginning to look like a serious threat for opposing defenses, especially when alongside a blossomed DeVante Parker. The Unicorn, as Williams calls himself, showed a promising ability to be a focal point in the Dolphins’ offense for years to come, . He is expected to make a full recovery from his ACL injury after undergoing surgery in time to pair up with Parker as the Dolphins prepare to launch an air raid on the 2020 NFL season.
DeVante Parker and Preston Williams have the potential to be the most dynamic and productive receiver duo in the league, especially with a franchise quarterback at the helm, which I believe most Dolphins fans are hoping to see in 2020. While Parker and Williams man the outsides of the field, Miami has no shortage of options underneath and in between either. Albert Wilson looked to be getting stronger as last season progressed, Jakeem Grant brings Olympic-level speed to the table, Allen Hurns is an established, professional wideout, and Isaiah Ford showed that he can contribute meaningfully as well.
With the right signal caller in place, the receiving corps in Miami could make some real noise across the league in the new year.
Uncle DeVante & The Unicorn, 2020.