The Miami Dolphins desperately need help at wide receiver before the start of the 2021 NFL season has been a common refrain from quite some time.
How often have we heard that the passing game struggled, particularly with Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback, because the receivers simply weren't good enough.
That's partly why so many mock drafts have the Dolphins taking any number of wide receivers in the first round, either at number 3 or number 18 or anywhere in between, and it doesn't matter if we're talking about DeVonte Smith, Ja'Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle or Rashod Bateman.
But is the Dolphins wide receiver corps as much of a mess as the perception seems to suggest?
Let's examine the group more closely.
The key to the group without question is DeVante Parker because had he been able to duplicate his performance of 2019, chances are we're not having the same conversation at this point.
But instead Parker battled injuries a lot of the season, even though it wasn't until late that he was forced to miss a couple of games.
Parker was a bona fide No. 1 receiver in 2019 and he was far less than that in 2020, because his reception total went from 72 to 63 but more significantly his yards went from 1,203 to 793 and his touchdowns from nine to four.
A lot was made of the lack of separation created by the Dolphins wide receivers, starting with Parker, who was tied for dead last among 132 qualifying NFL wide receivers or tight ends with A.J. Green with an average separation of 1.7 yards.
But here's the thing: That wasn't much worse than Parker's average of 2.1 yards in 2019, and that didn't stop him from leading all AFC wide receivers that year in yards and touchdowns.
Then we get to the supporting cast, and obviously we have to start with Preston Williams.
The 2019 undrafted free agent sensation has had his struggles since the first half of his rookie season when he arguably was the team's best offensive player — yes, even better than Parker.
But then came the ACL injury against the Jets in Week 9, which was followed by a slow start in 2020 that no doubt was related to the knee injury. Then Williams started coming on a bit in the middle of last season, only to go down with another serious injury, this time a foot injury sustained while he was tackled into the end zone after catching a touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa at Arizona.
Williams now has to be considered somewhat of a question mark moving forward because of the two serious injuries in each of his two NFL seasons. But there is talent there.
Now, the big problem for the Dolphins last season is that they lost both Albert Wilson and Allan Hurns in August with each opted out because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While neither is a Pro Bowl player, each is a solid complementary wide receiver and having them in 2020 no doubt would have made a difference.
As it was, the Dolphins were left to try to find solutions after Williams went down with his foot injury and ended up using rookies Lynn Bowden Jr. and Malcolm Perry, Jakeem Grant, Mack Hollins and Isaiah Ford after they traded him to New England and then brought him back after he was signed.
Ford and Hollins both are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in March, but neither should be a major factor in the wide receiver corps.
So as it stands right now, the Dolphins have Parker, Williams, Wilson, Hurns, Grant and the other 2020 rookies as part of their wide receiver corps.
Let's remember that this wide receiver corps, with Wilson and Hurns, is pretty much the same one the Dolphins had in 2019 when Ryan Fitzpatrick averaged 291 passing yards over the past nine games.
Of course, that could change if the Dolphins decide to cut any one of them to gain salary-cap space — Parker's name has even been mentioned in some circles as a potential post-June 1 cut — but as currently constituted this wide receiver corps isn't nearly as bad as it's made out to be.
What it's got are a lot of question marks.
-- Can Parker ever again be the wide receiver he was in 2019?
-- Can Williams avoid the injury bug and pick up where he left off in the first half of 2019?
-- How much can Bowden and Perry develop in their second season?
-- How effective will Wilson and Hurns be after sitting out a year?
Yes, those are a lot of questions. And, yes, it absolutely would make sense to have a difference-maker early in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft.
All we're saying is the wide receiver just might not be the disaster zone it's being portrayed to be.