Former Miami star Phillip Dorsett, a speedy wide receiver, could make an immediate impact in the NFL as a returner.
Dorsett, who’s not related to Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett, returned kickoffs and punts for the Hurricanes. He also caught 121 passes over his career. Because of his versatility, he’ll be one of the top targets in the NFL draft, which is set for April 30-May 2 in Chicago.
“We knew he was fast,” NFL Network draft analyst Charles Davis said. “He ran 4.33 at the combine. Going 4.33 to 4.26 (at his Pro Day) gets our attention.”
Dorsett may need some time to work on his route running. But, while he’s working out the kinks in the passing game, he can return punts and kickoffs.
“I still say he has first-round talent, but I’ve always had him in the second round, and that’s where I think he will go,” Davis said.
In addition to Dorsett, there are several other accomplished return men in this draft. USC’s Nelson Agholor, West Virginia’s Mario Alford, Utah’s Kaelin Clay, Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett and UAB’s J.J. Nelson.
Agholor, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds at the combine, returned punts over his final two seasons for the Trojans. He averaged 14.6 yards a return and scored four touchdowns.
The converted running back is a fearless returner who doesn’t worry about getting injured.
“It’s the game of football,” Agholor said. “You just play. You prepare, train and condition your body so you’re healthy, and you play from there.”
He’s an aggressive returner. “I’m trying to score every time I touch it,” Agholor said.
Alford, from Greenville, had 945 yards and 11 touchdowns his senior season as a wide receiver for the Mountaineers after converting from defensive back. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns last season.
“Just basically my speed,” said Alford, when asked about his main asset. “I have great speed. I can stretch the field throughout plays. I can be a special teams player — punt return, kick return — and do all of that type (of stuff).”
Lockett led the nation in punt-return average last season (19.04 yards) and returned two for touchdowns. He returned four kickoffs for touchdown over his college career.
Nelson turned some heads by running the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds at the combine. He had six return touchdowns — five on kickoffs, one on punts — over his college career. He led the nation in kickoff returns last season, averaging 38.3 yards on 22 returns. He also ranked 15th in punt returns as he was the only player in the top 15 in both categories.
Louisiana-Monroe kicker Justin Manton could get drafted and become the highest selected specialist since the Eagles picked Alex Henery in the fourth round (120th overall) in 2011.
The strongest leg in the draft may belong to Oregon State punter Kyle Loomis.
He started his career with the Beavers nine years ago. After making all-American as a freshman, he joined the Army.
After a four-year stint, at age 27, Loomis returned to college and continued to possess elite punting skills. He averaged 46.5 yards per punt in 2014 and 46 yards last season.
Also, Texas A&M punter Josh Lambo was invited to the combine. Before punting for the Aggies, he played Major League Soccer and now has a chance to play in two pro leagues.
“It’s awesome to have a chance to get back on a national platform as far as athletically,” Loomis said.
He originally signed a three-year guaranteed contract FC Dallas, which had the fourth- and fifth-year options. When Dallas didn’t pick up the fifth-year, he returned to college.
“I went and met with my kicking coach, Taylor Mehlhaff,” Loomis said. “He is a friend of my brother’s. He kicked at Wisconsin and got drafted by the Saints in 2008. I worked with him for a weekend. He made a couple of slight tweaks to my soccer swing, and it worked pretty well, pretty quickly.”
They made some tapes and sent them out to a bunch of colleges. Texas A&M followed up.
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