Despite being forced to run through three quarterbacks in 2022, the Miami Dolphins‘ offense was still among the most efficient units in the league. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle give Miami a dynamic set of pass-catching weapons atop their wide receiver depth chart, but who else will contribute next season?
The Miami Dolphins’ No. 3 Receiver Battle
Few teams ran a more pass-heavy offense than the Dolphins last season. Miami finished seventh in pass rate over expectation and was one of 10 clubs to have two pass catchers receive at least 100 targets.
The Dolphins were also one of just five teams to have two receivers with at least a 19% target share. Meanwhile, only the Minnesota Vikings (291) had more total targets go to their top two receiving options than Miami (287).
This is an offense centered around Hill and Waddle, and that’s unlikely to change as Mike McDaniel enters his second season as the Dolphins’ head coach and play-caller. But Miami will have to find tertiary options behind their star wideouts.
Last season, Trent Sherfield was the Dolphins’ third wide receiver with 51 targets. After receiving 112 targets in 2021, tight end Mike Gesicki was virtually removed from Miami’s offense, but he still garnered 52 looks.
Neither of those players will return to the Dolphins in 2023. Both joined divisional rivals, with Sherfield landing with the Bills and Gesicki heading to the Patriots.
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With Sherfield and Gesicki gone, it could be time for Cedrick Wilson Jr. to become Miami’s No. 3 WR. He was supposed to fill that role last season after defecting from the Dallas Cowboys and inking a three-year, $22 million deal with nearly $13 million guaranteed. But despite remaining healthy, Wilson never assimilated into the Dolphins’ offense and finished just ninth on the team with 18 targets, fewer than fullback Alec Ingold and backup tight end Durham Smythe.
As such, whether Wilson will remain on Miami’s roster into September remains an option question.
“We’ve had teams call and ask about him,” Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said in April. “We’re not shopping him, but teams have called … He’s a really good guy, and I’m trying to do right by him because of how he’s handled himself on and off the field.”
If Wilson is traded (or even if he isn’t), free agent addition Chosen Anderson will likely have an opportunity to compete for Miami’s third receiver role. Anderson’s 2022 campaign was highlighted by discontent with the Carolina Panthers and a midseason trade to the Arizona Cardinals, but he topped 1,000 yards as recently as 2021.
Anderson doesn’t have quite as much slot experience as Wilson, but he’s played inside at roughly a 25% rate over his career. Both players offer wide/slot versatility, which would allow McDaniel to continue deploying Hill and Waddle inside, too.
The Dolphins also added former Jets receiver Braxton Berrios on a $3 million pact this offseason. While Berrios probably won’t rack up many targets in Miami’s offense, he’ll be featured as a return man and jet sweeps, while McDaniel said he could be used in the red zone.
“You guys know I feel like we have an elite distributor in Tua (Tagovailoa),” McDaniel said in April. “So if you have scorers, to use a basketball reference, I see Braxton as a scorer, a guy that can make plays with the ball in his hands.”
Veteran River Cracraft and 2022 fourth-round pick Erik Ezukanma could also be in contention for more work next season, but they’re likely behind Wilson, Anderson, and Berrios in the pecking order.
Will the Dolphins Throw to Running Backs More Often?
Miami threw to its wide receivers on 67.1% of their dropbacks in 2022, the second-highest rate in the NFL behind the Eagles. The Dolphins’ passed to running backs at a roughly league-average rate, but there’s a chance that percentage could increase next season.
Jeff Wilson Jr. has never been much of a pass catcher throughout his career, but Raheem Mostert managed a career-high 42 targets and 31 receptions last year. While Mostert could potentially become a more critical factor in the passing game in 2023, those duties might fall to third-round rookie Devon Achane.
At 5’9″ and 185 pounds, Achane is unlikely to ever become an early-down grinder or a goal-line back. But his home-run speed allowed him to become a weapon in Texas A&M’s passing attack. Achane caught 60 passes and scored four receiving touchdowns over his final two collegiate seasons, and he sees himself as a receiving threat in the NFL.
“In this league, you can’t just run the ball,” Achane said before the draft. “You have to be able to catch out of the backfield. Thankfully, I can catch from the slot or the outside, and it was good to show that I can do both.
“I like looking at Christian McCaffrey. I feel like his game is very unique, and he’s a great route runner, and I feel like I can do that as well.”
However, PFN’s James Fragoza called Achane a “liability in pass protection” in his pre-draft scouting report, so the ex-Aggie might not get as many opportunities on third downs as he’s hoping for. Still, McDaniel pounded the table for Miami to draft Achane, and he might provide the most playmaking ability of anyone on the Dolphins’ roster not named Hill or Waddle.