Who are you people again?
Sorry about the brief absence, folks (or you're welcome if you happen to be one of the "MNchiefsfan is the worst" crowd. Hi guys!). I'm experiencing technical issues outside of my control. As in, my laptop charger essentially exploded when I plugged it in. Which I can't imagine is a good thing. Fortunately, my computer is fine. But it won't work without a charged battery (who knew?), and so I'm stuck with a phone, a work computer I don't use for football, and a Mac desktop that I'm rarely able to use without my 85 children attempting to maul me.
The new charger is due any day now, at which point I'll be back on track. For now, though, we do what we can with what we have.
Speaking of doing what you can with what you have (I know, my segues remain off the charts), Phillip Dorsett has speed. And not normal person speed. Like, "I'm absolutely going to run away from you and there's nothing you can do about it" speed.
That's Dorsett at the top of the screen blowing right past a defender. Note that the defender was playing off man coverage. He TRIES to turn and run with Dorsett. And by the time the ball arrives Dorsett is far enough in front of him that he slows down (waiting for a slightly underthrown ball) and STILL has 4-5 yards to spare.
There's fast. Then there's really fast. Then there's DeSean Jackson fast. Dorsett falls into the third category.
Full disclosure before we get started; I didn't walk into Dorsett's film review as unbiased as I've been with the other WR's we've looked at. But it wasn't my fault. I blame Matt Bowen for writing an exceptional article on Dorsett's abilities at receiver. Any time Matt Bowen says things about football, I listen.
So I came into this believing that Dorsett is likely a player. That said, even when you've been told about his speed it takes you by surprise. I assume the corners he was matched up against felt the same way, because time after time Dorsett would run past them.
And it doesn't take long for Dorsett to get away from a defender. quite often it was just a matter of a couple seconds before Dorsett was able to separate from a defender down the field. This belies the oft-repeated (and wrong) thought that in order to make intermediate-to-deep throws a quarterback needs a clean pocket for 4-5 seconds. This simply isn't true. You can absolutely have deep passing plays where the ball is released within a couple seconds. However, you need to have a receiver you trust to get separation that quickly.
Simply put, the Chiefs didn't have anyone who could do that last season for the majority of the year (Albert Wilson flashed that ability down the stretch. We'll see). It's a pretty rare trait for a wide receiver to be able to outrun corners that quickly. Dorsett can do it, and that makes him extremely valuable.
Another aspect to having genuinely unique speed is that it allows a player to take short passes and turn them into long gains. Dorsett is able to accelerate immediately upon catching the ball and often leaves defenders grasping at air or simply left in the dust. Even if a defender is close to Dorsett when he makes the catch he shows the ability to just... run away.
With the offense Andy Reid has been running, it's invaluable to be able to take short passes for long gains. De'Anthony Thomas showed more than once why this ability allows a team to stretch defenses horizontally with quick WR screens outside that defenses have to respect if they don't want to give up a 20 yard scamper (or worse).
Speed isn't the only skill Dorsett brings to the table. He shows a knack for tracking the ball over his shoulder while it's in the air, an absolute must for a wide receiver who wants to stretch defenses vertically. A receiver doesn't do any good if he's able to create separation but can't adjust his route to follow where the football is going to land. This is a HIGHLY underrated skill that should get more attention when gauging deep threats. It's also a lot more difficult than fans seem to realize.
Have you ever fielded a punt, or played outfield, or (obviously) run a go route? Tracking a ball traveling through the air at a high speed is really, really tough. Some players never seem to develop a knack for it. Dorsett is a natural, able to maintain his speed while adjusting where he's going to meet the ball.
Dorsett isn't without his weak spots, though. His hands are inconsistent. He isn't Donnie Avery, but he doesn't always meet the ball with his hands and can be seen double-clutching it at times. After watching more sure-handed receivers like DeVante Parker this really stuck out. Is it a fatal flaw? No. Dorsett didn't have too many drops, and also displayed solid concentration to make tough catches when asked to do so.
I'm personally not too worried about Dorsett's hands. He shows decent technique often enough that he'll be fine, and it's not a serious enough problem that it even comes close to outweighing his speed. A more serious issue (for some) is that Dorsett is just bad at blocking. I mean really bad.
Dorsett shows effort a lot of the time, but just simply isn't physical enough to hold up as a run blocker. He also will avoid contact when he can. It's clearly not his game. Some fans aren't going to be able to overlook this and will say something to the effect of "if he can't block, he doesn't fit in Andy Reid's offense."
Let me be the first to remind you that the comparison I've used with Dorsett is DeSean Jackson, a guy who has all kinds of issues blocking. Reid put up with it because Jackson has genuinely unique speed. Dorsett has that same trait. If Reid believes Dorsett can play the same roll Jackson did, he's not going to hold off because of run blocking issues. Most receivers are pretty bad at blocking. I'm of the opinion fans make a bigger deal out of this than it actually is. If a receiver is willing to put in the effort to get his body in the way of a corner and slow him down, that's enough for me.
The hands and the run blocking are two of the three red flags fans are going to see with Dorsett. The third is his size. He's not a big receiver, measuring at 5'10 and weighing around 180 pounds.
Once again, this is a place some fans are going to immediately reject him and say "We need a real number one" or "We need a red zone threat." To them I say, pshhhh. Go take a look at the top 15 receivers in the NFL last season. Eight of them were six feet tall or under. Seven of them were 5'11 and under. Antonio Brown is a small wide receiver. Beckham Jr. is a small wide receiver. So are Emmanuel Sanders and T.Y. Hilton. So is DeSean Jackson.
You know what's way more important than height? Being able to get open. If you can get open, you can play in the NFL (barring absolute boards for hands and/or poor concentration, neither of which Dorsett has). We've got to stop with the myth that height is something that is a necessity for a wide receiver. When Reid's offense was at its peak in Philly, he had Maclin and Jackson at wideout. Nobody had mentioned to him that you need a 6'4" guy to have a "real" number 1 receiver.
All else being equal, height matters in a wide receiver. But all else is never equal. Dorsett has speed you just don't find in other players, and much like Jackson (that is so, so, so who he looks like running out there. Natural, incredibly fast strider) he'll be able to use that regardless of his height "problem."
But what about when he faces press coverage, you ask? How is he ever going to get off the line of scrimmage?
It's pretty simple, actually. He does what every other wide receiver who isn't an Andre Johnson or Dwayne Bowe does; he uses his quickness to keep defenders' hands off him and then makes them pay for being too close to the line. Watch Dorsett at the top of the screen here.
Dorsett didn't see a lot of press coverage (most college wide receivers don't), but he's got more than enough speed and quickness to get off the line when he does.
Additionally, the idea that defenders are going to constantly press Dorsett ignores the simple fact that corners can't afford to do so all game. When you press, it's inevitable that you're going to miss on occasion and the receiver will get a free release. Now you're in a footrace without a head start and your momentum carrying you the wrong way.
Corners in the NFL are fast enough to recover in this situation in most cases. With Dorsett, that's simply not the case. His ridiculous speed means if you miss on the press he will outrun you VERY quickly. It's a risk vs. reward situation, and teams aren't going to be willing to press him constantly. Because one mistake and he's gone, and you've given up a huge gain or a touchdown. Holding a guy to three catches doesn't matter if he goes for 170 yards and 2 TD's on those three catches.
I have no idea what the Chiefs are planning on doing come draft day. But they could do a lot worse than a receiver who makes defenses pay for mistakes the way Dorsett does. His speed is something that only a handful of players in the NFL can match, and it's more than enough to make him an extremely dangerous weapon at the next level.
One mistake, and he's gone. That sentence sums up Dorsett.