With the 59th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots selected Aaron Dobson, a 6'3", 210-pound wide receiver from Marshall. Dobson is tall wide out that immediately fits the X-receiver (split-end) role that the team needs. While he is raw in certain aspects of his game, he has flashed the ability to be a potential star in the NFL.
Position: Wide Receiver
Aaron Dobson is tall, athletic receiver that will bring size to an otherwise short New England wide receiver crew. Overall, he has very good route running abilities, can beat the press, and is able to create separation from the defender. He has great footwork, with the ability to sell the play action by using double moves. Dobson rarely drops passes and has made some of the most stunning catches in the history of college football. Dobson was a three-year starter at Marshall and a team captain his senior season.
Dobson isn't a burner but was timed in the low 4.4-range in the 40-yard dash. Due to his absence of breakaway speed, there are some concerns that he won't be able to consistently create separation in the NFL like he can with ease in college. Dobson needs to develop his technique with his in and out routes despite running otherwise quality routes. He also needs to improve on coming back to the ball when breaking out of curl or hitch routes. Despite his size and physicality, he is a below-average run blocker. Playing in the Conference USA, he hasn't faced much stout competition.
Be sure to take notice of the text with hyperlinks, there are over 20 links to video clips to give a visual representation of Aaron Dobson.
At 6'3" and 210-pounds, Aaron Dobson has the prototypical size that you would want in an outside NFL wide receiver. He's quite a good athlete, with a unique mixture of muscle and finesse. Dobson has both speed and power, which makes him a threat in the open field. He can put his shoulder down and overpower undersized players or he can utilize his agility to try and beat linebackers.
At Marshall's Pro Day, he ran a 4.42 40-time, proving that he has very good speed for a player his size, but it also confirmed the fact he still doesn't have elite speed. In this clip, he shows off his acceleration, quickly reaching his top-speed. While he won't blow past a lot of players, he still has the ability to break a tackle and then utilize his speed to get more yards on the play.
Aaron Dobson has the ability to catch passes that not a lot of players can come close to catching. With his 33" arms, Dobson has made some of the most incredible catches in the history of college football, including this one-handed snatch from last season. Though, his most famed highlight is this one-handed-backhand catch for a touchdown from 2011. From a technical standpoint both of these catches show the strength of his hands, which allows him to hold onto those types of passes.
However, Dobson isn't just one of those receivers that only shows up on the highlight reel; he has very sure hands and rarely drops a ball. Dobson is one of those special players that make a lot of difficult catches look routine. In that clip, he's able to catch the ball without breaking his stride and he also has the defender all over him.
Dobson doesn't have speed to burn past many cornerbacks or safeties -- which could hurt his ability to get open versus some teams - but if the ball is thrown up to him down the field, he is terrific at tracking the ball and leaping up to grab it.
Aaron Dobson's greatest strength is his hands and it's difficult to pinpoint any deficiencies, unless you are purely nitpicking: For example, he scarcely lets the ball come to his body instead of catching it with his hands. Regardless, there really isn't a whole lot of improving he can do in this category considering he already has amazing hands.
Aaron Dobson is an exceptional route-runner 15-to-25 yards down the field. He has very good technique on his hitch-and-go, slant-and-go, and post-corner routes, among other routes down the field. Dobson is creative when utilizing head fakes and hip movements in order to create room between him and the defender. In this footage, Dobson sells the play action with a very nice slant-and-go route. He does a great job of showing run before cutting and accelerating up the field to be in position for a catch.
In this video from the Senior Bowl practices, take note of the subtle movements he makes in order to create space. Dobson uses those moves quite often to make up for his lack of breakaway speed. He high-steps his route to keep the defensive back on edge and then makes a beautiful head fake to his right to create just enough room between them. The ball was underthrown but there was enough room for Dobson to go in for a touchdown had the pass been on target.
Though Dobson's route running down the field is very good, he could work on refining his in and out routes. He lacks footwork technique when coming out of his break, which "rounds off" the route. In the NFL, quicker and shrewder defensive backs might be able to jump the route due to his inability to create separation. Considering his abilities with other routes, this should be easily revisable with experience.
When running hitch or curl routes, Dobson has great footwork and is able to create consistent separation. However, he is not very good at coming back to the ball; he often lets the ball come to him instead of attacking it. This makes it harder for him to make the catch and it occasionally results in a drop, like in this clip and this one. In the second video, a flag could've been thrown but it would've been an easy completion for a first down had he just come back to the ball. The way he makes a play at the ball in this footage is much more preferred.
Dobson seems to drift off towards the sideline once he turns his head back to the quarterback. This can make him a bad target on sideline throws since there isn't enough space between his body and the out of bounds line. In this video, Aaron begins to drift even before the ball is thrown. The pass isn't perfect, but his positioning still didn't give the quarterback a large enough window for the throw. Because of his tendency to drift, he sometimes lands out of bounds, like in this clip here. If he progresses his sideline footwork technique, he will become more of a threat at all parts of the field.
Aaron has shown the ability to efficiently beat the press. Considering his size and strength, he is very difficult for the majority of cornerbacks to press. This also makes him difficult to defend in the red zone. At all points of the field, Dobson does a very good job at finding the first down marker, but he is even better at adjusting his route to find open space in the back of the end zone.
Aaron Dobson was a three-year starter at Marshall, so he brings a lot of experience to the NFL. He was named a team captain for his senior season and has been praised by his teammates and coaches for his high work ethic and camaraderie. Listening to Dobson speak in interviews, it's obvious that he is a high-character individual. He also proved himself as a team player by openly accepting a diminished role during his senior year since Marshall began to integrate some younger players.
As a run blocker, Aaron Dobson can occasionally lack aggressiveness. When contact is initiated, he is very good at prolonging the block. But there are other instances where he fails to create contact and allows the defender to get by him, like in this video. He is too "bouncy" and doesn't mirror the defender well enough. Dobson is no doubt a willing blocker considering his team attitude, but his technique must be improved upon. He has the size and strength to become an effective run blocker if he finds the consistency with his technique.
Dobson always fights for yardage after the catch. He shows competent agility in tight spaces with the talent to make moves. An example can be seen here, as he takes a pass and aggressively jukes two defenders to get a first down.
Dobson seems to enjoy the spotlight since he is always pumping up the crowd after touchdowns and big plays. When interviewed about his most popular one-handed catch, he seems to appreciate the attention that he receives. However, this doesn't lead to a cocky attitude, as he seems like more of a quiet, confident type of player.
How He'll Fit
Dobson will immediately compete for the starting X-receiver job this season. He's got all the talent to jump right into that role and truly it's all a matter of being able to quickly learn the playbook and being able to build chemistry with Tom Brady. In a press conference, Bill Belichick had a lot of good things to say about Dobson in regard to his abilities to pick up an offense:
"You talk to him about what he did and he can explain the techniques, his assignments, what other guys are doing at Marshall. We'd look at things that we did, then come back and talk about them. He remembered how we did them, how we call them, things like that. He's a pretty intelligent guy. He has good recall of what [Marshall] did. He had a good understanding and grasp of learning, taking new information, processing that and being able to understand it and apply it. Tell him something and then see a play a few plays later and say, ‘What would you do on this play if they did this, they did that'? There's different ways to measure all that, but he's a pretty impressive kid. He's a mature kid. He's pretty smart." - Bill Belichick (Transcript, 4.26.13)
It's not often you see Belichick speak so highly of a proven player, never mind one that was just drafted. If Dobson is able to quickly grasp the offense, he'll easily grab the starting wide receiver job over both Donald Jones and Michael Jenkins. New England's offense would suddenly become a nightmare to defend at all parts of the field, especially close to the end zone.
A lot of scouts seem to think that Aaron Dobson is too raw to become an impact player in his rookie season, but being drafted by New England is the best thing that ever could've happened to him. He has enough talent and is most certainly ready to be a #4 option on the team. With Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez being the top 3 options, Dobson is 100% ready to slide right into that #4 option role. He presents another large body that will be a threat in the red zone that will only help out other player on the team.