Ohio State Bust-Eye: First Round Pick Deserves First Round Criticism

By PFC Writer Ricky Bartle

The stars seemed to align in 2007 for the Miami Dolphins.  Following the Daunte Culpepper experiment turned disaster and a subpar 2006, the Miami Dolphins found themselves with the ninth pick in the draft and a quarterback in the green room.  Brady Quinn sat waiting.  This was the smart pick, the pick all the draft gurus saw the Dolphins making.  But before Quinn could say South Beach, the Miami Dolphins selected Ted Ginn Jr.  Jaws dropped and heads spun, not because of Ginn’s moves, but because of the surprising selection.  By all accounts, Ted Ginn was an immediate threat on special teams but a work in progress as a receiver.  Both Ginn’s height and weight (5’11” 180 lbs.) were not your typical make up for a number one receiver.  Could a raw talent like Ginn warrant a ninth overall selection, or was it too soon and too high to draft an unknown? 

In his rookie campaign, Ginn left Dolphins fans’ scratching their heads.  The big play threat on offense and special teams at Ohio State had failed to materialize in the NFL.  Ginn suffered through a tough first year that saw him bring in only 34 receptions for 420 yards and just 2 touchdowns.  The big play threat in Columbus, Ohio was non-existent in Miami.  During his rookie year, Ginn only had one reception over forty yards.  On special teams, there was nothing special.  Besides an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown, Ginn averaged only 9.7 yards on punt returns and appeared indecisive.  On kick return, Ginn’s 22.7 yard average was pedestrian and was outside the top ten for NFL returners.  This was not the start to his career that would erase the doubters; it only seemed to fuel the critics who questioned the draft pick.  A rough start seemed magnified by the success of first round selections Calvin Johnson and Dwayne Bowe.  Johnson and Bowe quickly emerged for their teams as go to guys, and both seemed poised to become number one targets.

After a 1-15 season, the Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller Era was over in Miami. This meant the coach and General Manager who thought so highly of Ted’s skills were out, and he would have to impress a new regime and solidify himself as a go to receiver.  The 2008 campaign brought more head scratching.  While Ginn improved as a receiver, his performance as a return man was bad enough to find himself replaced by an undrafted rookie receiver and an undrafted running back.  The receptions, yards, and touchdowns all went up for Ginn in his sophomore season, but consistency seemed to be an issue.  Early on in 2008, following a seven catch performance against Buffalo, many believed Ginn would emerge as the number one target of Chad Pennington, a quarterback who had found success with undersized receivers Santana Moss and Laveranues Coles in the past.  Instead of a step up, Ginn took a jump back and followed up a career high in catches and yards with one catch for negative one yard against Houston.  Ginn seemed to be an enigma and as he struggled to find his stride.  While Ginn struggled, both Greg Camarillo and Devone Bess flourished.  Sure-handed tight ends and big plays from the running backs also provided more players for Ginn to share catches with this year.

Bill Parcell’s teams have a certain persona and attitude.  Head Coach Tony Sporano seems to share his theory of toughness and hard work.  While no one questions Ted Ginn’s work ethic, it is easy to doubt his toughness.  Several passes sailed over the short arms of a receiver anticipating a hit.  While Ronnie Brown and company fought for extra yards, Ginn seemed to shy away from contact, ducking and diving under tackles and speeding for the sideline content with modest gains.  The Dolphins made a conscious effort to get Ted the ball, but drops and lack of big plays made that hard to understand.  There is no doubting that Chad Pennington’s arm strength makes it hard to stretch the field with Ginn, but the Dolphins did a good job of getting him the ball in space.  While making an effort to create big play opportunities for Ted, the big play results were few and far between.  The Dolphins, who were in desperate need of a playmaker, looked to Ginn to fill the role in 2008 and came up short. Although 2008 saw an improvement in statistics and a step in the right direction, it wasn’t the jump that many expected from a player of his caliber.

The early results aren’t pretty for Ted Ginn Jr, but there is a history of success for players with Ginn’s particular skill set.  Players like Terry Glenn and Joey Galloway were able to develop into deep threats in the NFL.  Both Glenn and Galloway didn’t rack up receptions but they did rack up big plays. What these players did with their receptions is what made them special.  Glenn and Galloway both racked up big plays (receptions over 40 yards) averaging between 3 and 4 big plays a season over their careers.  Ginn can also watch players like Wes Welker, Steve Smith, Laveranues Coles and Santana Moss. These four players lacked size coming into the NFL, but their toughness made them special.  Moss, Smith, Coles and Welker all make the best of their receptions by yards after catch.  These small receivers will take a three yard pass and turn it into a 50 yard gain.  By securing the football and making a linebacker miss, these players are able to slip into the secondary with a full head of steam.  If Ginn can develop the toughness to come across the middle and take the occasional hit, he can emerge as a real threat for the Dolphins.  Continuing to develop confidence is key.  Receivers take the next step in the NFL when they become comfortable in their skills.  As Ted Ginn continues to develop and becomes more confident, look for him to take that big leap.

The NFL is a now league and it’s important for players to make their impact now.  The jury is still out on Ted Ginn Jr.  It’s time for Ginn to take that next step in his development.  Playmakers are hard to come by, and busts are a dime a dozen.  There is still time to be part of the Dolphins foundation.  Let the early criticism be a footnote in a great career.  First round picks don’t have the luxury of growing in the shadows, they must rise in the spotlight.  But for a player who was a high school and college All-American and a YouTube sensation, the spotlight shouldn’t be a problem.  There are two kinds of busts in the NFL, the players who never make it and the players who make it to Canton.  Ted Ginn Jr could still be both.