Posted: 11:45 am Saturday, April 30th, 2011
By Post Staff
The Miami Dolphins accomplished their goal of improving team speed when they drafted receiver Edmond Gates from Abilene Christian in the fourth round of the NFL Draft (111 overall).
Gates ran the fastest 40-yard dash time among all receivers at February’s NFL Combine, clocking a 4.37. He said the fastest 40 he ever ran was a 4.21 on a track surface.
“This guy takes the lid off a zone,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said. “He’s a legitimate 4.35 kid.”
Gates, who stands 5-foot-11 and 197 pounds, could be the vertical threat and speedy punt returner the Dolphins desperately need. The Dolphins were 27th in the NFL with just four passing plays over 40 yards in 2010, and punt returner Davone Bess, while effective, has never returned one for a touchdown.
Gates never returned a punt at Abilene Christian and was a primary kickoff returner in 2007, but the Dolphins worked him out as a punt returner during a pre-draft workout, in addition to receiver.
“In the NFL, it doesn’t matter, I’m going feel like I’m the fastest guy on the field,” Gates said.
Gates, 24, took an unusual route to the NFL. Gates quit football after his freshman year at Vernon (Texas) High to concentrate on basketball, where he was a standout point guard. He walked on the basketball team at Tyler Junior College, but he left school after not appearing in any games in 2004-05. His high school coach set up tryouts for him with Georgia Tech and Georgetown, but Gates could not afford the airfair and he returned home to Vernon.
While home, he met the secondary coach at Abilene Christian, a Division II school, and he enrolled there in 2007 with his cousin and an old junior college friend, Johnny Knox, who now plays receiver for the Chicago Bears. Gates walked on the football team despite not having played for six years, and became a full-time starter in 2009, his junior year. In two seasons as a starter, he caught 105 passes for 1,884 yards and 18 touchdowns (13 his senior year). Abilene, Texas also happens to be the hometown of Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland.
“It’s a blessing. It’s just part of a plan. I really had no control over (my situation),” Gates said. “I was just trailing my cousin. They talked me into it, and I just went for it, and it kind of worked out for the better.”
His speed is undeniable, but he still is a project at receiver. When asked what he needs to improve the most, Gates said, “Being an every down receiver and knowing the defenses and reading coverages.”
“Is he raw? Yeah, he is,” Mayock said. “But so was (receiver) Michael Wallace when the Pittsburgh Steelers took him.”
Gates said he had a feeling the Dolphins were going to draft him.
“I don’t know why, but I did,” he said. “Then I got a call this morning from one of the scouts telling me to be ready, I was like, ‘Alright.’”
Gates’ addition could mean trouble for Dolphins second-year receiver Marlon Moore, an undrafted rookie last year who was supposed to be the Dolphins’ vertical threat. Moore caught just six passes for 128 yards and a touchdown in the 2010 season.
The Dolphins have used all three draft picks so far on offense — center Mike Pouncey, running back Daniel Thomas and Gates. They have three picks remaining in the draft – a sixth-rounder (179th overall) and two in the seventh (218, 235).