Phillip Dorsett experienced a John Ross-like rise in draft stock after an impressive combine. With a 4.25 and 4.27 unofficial times, his 4.33 logged 40 yard dash fueled his rise to the first round. The upside was apparent, but so were his flaws. As a young receiver in Indianapolis, Dorsett struggled mightily, and has been viewed as another one of Grigson’s busts. As we inch closer to the 2017 regular season, Dorsett’s days in a Colts uniform seem to be numbered. Around the league, it was revealed to teams that Phillip Dorsett was on the trade block.
Colts have made former first round pick WR Phillip Dorsett available for trade, per multiple reports.
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) August 20, 2017
Now, what does this mean for Colts fans? Well, there are certainly a few things to remember first. To start, Indianapolis spent a first round selection on the former Miami Hurricane. The return will be in no way similar to what they spent. If anything, a conditional day three pick is the most likely compensation. Players are not normally traded for much draft capital, and a player as underwhelming as Dorsett will not warrant a top pick. Since he is no lock to make the 53 man roster whatsoever, his price is not very high and teams know that a trade is not necessary. If someone is just going to be cut, it makes more sense to sign the player later than give up anything more than cash. With a low price tag, a seventh round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft would be both an addition to the rebuild and an ample price for this speed demon. Moreover, it is next man up for the Colts’ wide receivers. If Dorsett does leave, a slot presence will have to show up in order to improve this offense. A multitude of candidates will be ready to fight for this role. These include: rookies JoJo Natson and Bug Howard, along with veterans Kamar Aiken and Chester Rogers. The two front runners in this race seem to be Aiken and Natson.
Aiken has found success in the past in Baltimore, his old stomping grounds, so the free agent acquisition may fill in. On the other hand, if JoJo “the flea” Natson makes the roster, it would not be surprising to see him step up. Severely undersized, his small frame limits him to the slot, but he has impressed, being extremely reliable and secure this preseason. A target Natson would have to surpass to pass the cuts, Bug Howard, is another option. Currently, he is listed above Natson, though I and many others, both in and around the Indianapolis organization (per reports) feel Natson is the better player. He will have to improve his performance if he wants that slot job. Chester Rogers is a longshot to say the least, but he is still a possibility. If Aiken performs better as an X or Z- outside- receiver, and Natson/Howard either are buried in the depth chart or off the roster, Rogers would see snaps as a slot receiver.
Furthermore, whoever ends up as this team’s slot receiver will have a significant impact on the offense. Dorsett has amazing speed, but his flaws in route running and simply catching the ball leaves more to be asked from him. If Aiken wins the job, Luck will probably feel most comfortable, with another quality veteran catching his passes. Chester Rogers and Bug Howard seem to have a low ceiling in the slot, and a low floor as well. JoJo Natson provides large upside, but Hilton and Natson are not great in terms of measurables, so matchup conflicts may appear more often. Each option has its own positives and negatives for the Colts organization to figure out as they attempt to find the best option in the slot.
Moving on, if Dorsett is traded, the short term future may become a bit rocky. However, in a year where the Colts look like a third place team, this is not necessarily a problem. Whether it be chemistry issues, performance problems, or an overall underwhelming endeavor, conflicts will most likely arise from this situation. Though no major problems are foreseen, growing pains are expected for a rebuilding team, and this may be one of them. Getting rid of Dorsett is most likely the best option moving forward, as a long term approach outweighs any short term conflicts.
Whether the Colts find their next slot receiver on their roster, through free agency, or from the NFL Draft, moving Dorsett is the key to figuring this out. The flexibility this gives the Colts is yet to be seen, but mixing and matching different receivers does not seem like a horrid option. Cutting their losses only helps the Colts, as it lets them go down a new path with new players as they attempt to fix a hole. By the time this team is ready to contend again, the slot receiver position should be successfully filled if Dorsett is pushed out.
Personally, I feel cutting ties with the former first rounder is the best option. Trade him away for a late pick and move on. This helps Ballard’s rebuild, as another impact player could be added with this selection. It gives guys like Natson and Howard an opportunity to play and showcase their skills as a starter. Also, it lets the Colts know if they will have to pursue another slot receiver, or if other issues are more daunting of a task. It is presumed that Dorsett will not make an impact in Indy, so moving on may be the best option for both the team and himself.
Finally, it is yet to be known where Dorsett will be taking snaps this season. As it stands now, Dorsett is the starting slot receiver in Indianapolis, though a trade, or release, may occur sooner rather than later. If he does stay, it will certainly be put up or shut up for him, as he will most definitely be put to the test. A deal may be reached though, and if the flashy receiver is traded elsewhere, the Colts will be able to continue their search for a Cole Beasley-like receiver that their franchise quarterback can trust for years to come. While we do not know how this situation will end just yet, we do know that Ballard and the Colts’ front office is working hard to build a competitive team, and moving Dorsett may help the Colts reveal future options.