Monday, May 03, 2010

Brian Hartline is Pretty Freakin’ Good

What do Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson, Carolina’s Steve Smith, Ocho Cinco, and Andre Johnson have in common? They all averaged fewer yards per catch than Miami’s Brian Hartline.

The Dolphins held onto the tragic hope that Ted Ginn would emerge as a playmaking wideout for much of 2009. What did they have to show for it? 454 yards (11.9 per reception) and a single touchdown. In fact, in his entire tenure with Miami poor Teddy caught just five touchdowns. Count ‘em. Five. Thank heavens the Trifecta pulled the plug on #19. It will be a much needed fresh start for both the Dolphins and Ginn.

Davone Bess was his sturdy, slot receiver self last season, hauling in a team high 76 passes for 758 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Greg Camarillo added 50 catches for 552 yards. However, neither of them averaged more than 11 yards per grab. It was Brian “Crazylegs” Hartline who emerged as the receiving corps biggest playmaker with four total touchdowns and 16.3 yards per reception.

With all the receivers fighting for receptions last season, Hartline never caught more than four balls in a game. It’s what he did with those catches that was impressive. Brian proved that he was more than just a good hands guy. He showed good speed, and a knack for the big play. He recorded the two longest receptions of all Miami’s receivers, with catches of 67 and 57 yards. Hartline also scored four times (one TD on the ground). And though 506 yards may not sound like much, when you look at the limited targets he received it hints that bigger things are in store for #82.

Obviously Brandon Marshall is coming in as our undisputed #1 wideout. So let's take a look at a pair of the NFL’s rising #2 WRs, and how Brian stacks up. I’ve chosen Pierre Garcon (wingman to Wayne), and Jeremy Maclin (wingman to Desean).

Maclin 55rec, 762 yds, 4 TD in 90 targets
Garcon 47 rec, 765 yds 4 TD in 92 targets
Hartline 31 rec, 506 yds, 3 TD in 56 targets

The key stat here is targets. With so many receivers looking for the ball in Hartline’s rookie season, he had only 56 chances to make a play. Both Maclin and Garcon were cemented into their roles in the #2 slot on their respective teams. Both had over 90 balls thrown their way, and both averaged about 8.4 yards per target.

Let’s assume that Hartline becomes the “Bake” to Marshall’s “Shake”. If Hartline reaches 90 targets he would have 813 yards and 6 receiving touchdowns, outperforming both Maclin and Garcon. Not bad, right?

But looking at the target numbers around the league is even more eye opening. If Hartline was targeted as much as Donald Driver (1b to Jennings) he would also be a 1,000 yard receiver. If he received the same targets as Anquan Boldin (1b to Fitzgerald) Brian would have 1155 yards and seven TDs. Boldin only managed 1,029yds and five scores.

Of course none of this is an exact science, but the numbers indicate that if Hartline was given a more prominent role, he’d be more than up to the task. Hell, if we really committed to him opposite Marshall he might put up Pro Bowl numbers. Math is fun, isn’t it boys and girls?

This offseason the Trifecta needs to decide if Hartline is a wingman or a 1b. Either way, it looks like the front office “done good” finding him in 2009′s fourth round.

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