Better Know A Texans Draftee: Dorin Dickerson

The principal thing is to have tight ends on the very lips, ready to issue when summoned. This makes a coach free, not by right of McClain criticism, for Toby Gerhart is always close to him, but by right of nature. He is the true freeman who has escaped from roster confines. Those confines are constant, from them there are no deliverance ; they press us day and night alike, without pause, without respite. To be a slave to the roster is the most grievous kind of slavery; yet its fetters may easily be struck off, if you will but cease to make large demands upon your players, if you will cease to seek players who have played but one position, and if you will set clearly before you your tight ends and former tight ends, even though it be the bloom of youth; if you will say to yourself, Why do I rave, and glare, and shout? Why do I call the play-action? Why do I need the safeties? Man needs little but tight ends, nor needs that little long.

Naturales Quaestiones, book 3.

Dorin Dickerson doesn't have a real position.  And he never has.

In high school, we have a playmaker who lined up at quarterback, running back, receiver, defensive back, and kick returner.  

2006 saw him play as a wide receiver and a kick returner.

2007 saw him play as a backup SAM linebacker and a continued role returning kicks.  

Finally, in 2008 and 2009, he was a tight end.  The kind of tight end that didn't offer much in the way of blocking in the opinion of virtually any scout you talk to.  

So basically, we have a kid that the baseball scouts would call "a toolbox."  4.4 40, amazing vertical leap, 24 reps at the combine.  Just 22 years old, and with only one season of decent production under his belt.  In many ways, this is the anti-Texans pick.  Sure, he's a hard worker, but the Texans often go for polish, and Dickerson is one of the rawest prospects in the draft.  

While I don't think the Texans staff is defiantly lying to us about trying him as a wide receiver, I believe the path of least resistance is going to force him to be a tight end, and I'll explain why after the jump.

First of all, lets be honest with ourselves about his potential as a wide receiver.  The Pittsburgh Panthers, who have brought wide receivers like Larry Fitzgerald and Antonio Bryant into the league, have been almost completely barren at wide receiver throughout Dave Wannstedt's tenure.  Derek Kinder was a seventh round draft pick last year, one who has never played a game due to injuries, and that's really all she wrote for them thus far.  Yes, Jonathan Baldwin has a chance to be a high pick next year, and Wannstedt isn't in MENSA, but it's not like Dickerson was fighting off the Arizona Cardinals wideouts to get on the field.  I have to believe that the staff at Pittsburgh just didn't think he could play on the outside for the same reasons that several of the draft sites I've been looking at point out, and something that is clearly obvious even on Youtube highlights:  He just doesn't run good routes.  The most complicated route I've seen him run is an out-and-up, and most of the time they had him running simple out patterns.  

Another legit criticism is that he doesn't get separation from defensive backs.  This goes hand-and-hand with his poor route running.  He just doesn't seem to have great instincts without the ball.  The few long catches that I was able to watch of his were either of the short catch-and-make-them-miss variety or the completely blown coverage variety.  He scored 10 touchdowns, but did it with only a 10.8 yards per catch average, which is pretty low for a pure receiving tight end considered an NFL prospect, let alone a wide receiver .  

I have a healthy amount of respect for NFL coaching staffs, and I'm not saying the Texans couldn't succeed in making him a wide receiver, but it seems to me that he has a LOT of factors going against him as a wide receiver.  While he's got terrific physical tools, he hasn't had any success at it since high school, he didn't have to beat out any NFL quality competition at the position when Pittsburgh did try him there, and by all accounts, he has no natural ability to separate from corners or run routes.

Meanwhile, his resume as a tight end looks much more enticing.  He's a mismatch for 90% of the linebackers in the league, who can't keep up with his speed.  Going over the middle, he'll usually be facing smaller nickel backs who he'll have a size mismatch on.  Separation won't be as big of a deal, just finding zone holes.  He has the power to break some tackles if he gets in open space.  He's only been at the position for two years and has shown improvement, even if he's never going to be able to do more than a bump someone on a run play.  They can call him a wide receiver all they want, but I don't think he's ever going to play further out than the slot.  Semantics sure are fun.

As far as the pick itself, I can't find anyone who dislikes it  Guys with tools like this don't grow on trees, no matter how raw they are.  Throw in that he was projected much higher than this by draftniks and it's hard to find anything to criticize the Texans for here.  I guess if you really want to be snippy, you can point out that they left Kavell Conner on the board.  But they'd already drafted a linebacker, so that person isn't going to be me.  Texans director of scouting Dale Strahm also noted on the mothership that he could come in and make all the special teams, so even if he isn't ready to play on offense, he could make the active roster right away.   

Call him a wide receiver, call him a tight end.  Whatever he is, he was a good seventh round pick.

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